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Where Should I Live? A Guide To Deciding The Right Place For You

Miranda Crace5-minute read

February 18, 2022


If you’ve started asking yourself whether you should move and where you should live (not to mention how you even begin the search), we congratulate you on starting an exciting adventure. It’s empowering to realize that you are the architect of your life and your future.

Start by asking yourself these important questions:

  • What do I want my life to look like?

  • What are my life’s goals?

  • How do I set myself up financially in order to achieve them?

  • What does community mean to me?

Although there’s no personality quiz that can give you answers that you can figure out yourself, we’re here to help you ask some important questions in order to help you figure out where to buy your next home so you can actually start living.

Step One: Calculate Your Living Budget

The first step to finding the right location is figuring out what you can afford. You can use the Rocket Mortgage® Home Affordability Calculator to find out the right home price for your budget.

According to Ali Berry, Rocket HomesSM 1,2 broker and owner of Quest Realty, the price point for a certain area is perhaps the biggest factor in determining location for many buyers. It’s important to ask yourself how much home you can afford in one community compared to another, as well as what property taxes are like. Find out what the current mortgage rates are and what type of mortgage you may go with. Once you've determined your monthly payment and estimated escrow, you’ll be more prepared to buy.

Here are some other important financial factors to consider:

Cost Of Living

Beyond the price of a home, you have to consider your cost of living, which refers to how much money you spend to cover basic living expenses, such as groceries, entertainment, gym membership, dining out and so on. Cost of living is an important consideration in determining how much home you can afford and where you choose to live.

For example, if you’re early in your career, choosing a city with a high cost of living, such as San Francisco or New York City, might be worth the long-term career gains. Alternatively, having more disposable income to travel, invest in hobbies or build a nest egg for your real estate investment dreams may be more important and available to you than living in an employment hub.

Cost Of Transportation

When evaluating your budget, take into consideration the commute and any public transportation you may need to take. Don’t only include the cost of gas; you also have to consider the wear and tear on your car and any potential repairs.

If you’re planning on commuting, take into account what it will cost you to get to a train station or bus depot and what your weekly costs for that commute will be. You may also want to budget in some extra money for rideshares in the instance you miss a bus or train or if your car is in the shop.

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Step Two: Choose A Location To Call Home

Here’s the thing: If you’re considering a move, there are likely several places in the world where you could enjoy a better quality of life than where you’re living right now. So, consider your location when buying a home, especially if you're moving to a new state or region. You’ve already set realistic limitations in Step One by acknowledging your budget. Now, how do you select which location is right for you?

Consider The Climate

If your search is wide open, narrow down the region by asking some important questions about your climate preferences.

  • Do you prefer noisy, big city living or do you love the quiet of nature?

  • Do you prefer cold temps with 6 months of winter and sweaters or are you more of a warm weather year-round kind of a person?

  • Do you love being able to surf in the mornings or do you want to be able to hike in the evenings?

Also, consider elevation. Are you moving to a city in the mountains? Although the scenery is gorgeous, it may take you awhile to get used to breathing at that elevation, and you may never get used to it (many don’t). If your region of choice is below sea level and/or next to a large body of water, there’s a possibility of flooding, as well as other climate change challenges that could affect real estate prices. When the time is right and you’re seriously considering an area with potential flooding, ask neighbors or a real estate agent about it and make sure your home insurance covers flooding.

"Are you a skier or a cyclist or a beach-goer? What you enjoy doing should be a consideration if it’s possible to make that choice,” advises Emily Restifo, a real estate agent with Houlihan Lawrence in New Canaan, Connecticut.

Live In Line With Your Lifestyle

Before you start house hunting in your dream city or neighborhood, think about the important factors that influence your life. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is it important to live near family members or close friends?

  • Do you want to be close to an expressway or far from busy roads?

  • Do you want to live near grocery stores, retail establishments or a coffee shop?

“Maybe it’s important to live in close proximity to schools, shopping, entertainment and medical services that you’ll use frequently,” says Rosanna Rivera, the broker-owner of Rosanna Real Estate Group in Altamonte Springs, Florida.

Research The School District

If you have children (or are planning to), the school district is an important factor for choosing a new home. Good schools make a neighborhood shine, and families flock to areas with thriving local schools. Great schools can also raise property values and can be the glue that helps people come together.

Many families prefer early exposure to kids from different incomes, cultures, religions and backgrounds, which can help their children build empathy, kindness and a more inclusive and global approach to life. To get a full picture of the local schools, talk to parents whose kids attend any nearby schools, reach out to teachers and administrators asking for their perspective on the neighborhood, look the school up online and see if you can set up a tour before making the decision about where to live.

Commuting And Public Transportation

Time is money, and it’s important when considering where to live to ask yourself just how much time you want to spend commuting to and from work and how you want that commute to look.

In 2019, the average American spent 54 minutes round trip on their commute to work. If you work full-time, 5 days a week, that means you’re spending just under five hours per week getting to and from work. That amounts to 10 full calendar days per year, which is more than double the length of the average American vacation!

If you prefer to take public transportation, your options of where to live are more limited. Major metropolitan cities like Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C. and New York have commuter trains and public transit, but in most of the United States, there aren’t extensive train systems. Even in cities with well-run bus systems, your commute may be twice as long as those who drive.

Before making your home purchase, think about the impact that a long commute could have on your sanity. If driving in traffic adds a lot of stress or cuts into valuable free time and budget, take this into account. Then again, if you work from home or can unwind on the commute home by listening to your favorite podcast or calling a relative to catch up, your commute may not be as big of a factor.

Scope Out The Area

If you’ve been investigating an area solely online, consider this: Scoping out a new neighborhood on foot can change your perspective entirely. Check out the residential and business areas of a new location, and don’t forget the recreational spots, too.

“Visit the local parks and open houses, and stop at the coffee shop to get a feel for the community,” Rivera advises.

Experiencing a neighborhood in person can give you insight that you wouldn't notice otherwise, especially if you’re just driving through or reading about the area online.

“Don’t just go on Sundays at 3:00 p.m.,” says Kendra Barnes, a real estate investor and founder of The Key Resource in Washington, D.C. “Go in the middle of the week. Go late at night. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn about the neighborhood from just sitting and observing.”

Meet The Neighbors

“You’d be surprised how willing people are to tell you about the neighborhood, why the house is being sold and more,” says Barnes. Let the neighbors know you’re interested in buying the house and ask them what they know about the history of the home or neighborhood.

Meeting the neighbors can give you a better feel for the social climate too. Do they gush that it's a great neighborhood? Are there many families with young children, or is it mostly retired homeowners? Are new people moving in, or have most people been there for decades?

Plan For The Future

Research what the future holds for the area where you're house hunting by visiting the city planning board, which can tell you about new developments. Consider whether the area is experiencing population growth. Barnes recommends doing a quick web search to give yourself an idea about new parks or retail developments coming to the area. Knowing the agenda for your neighborhood can give you a better idea about possible changes in property value too.

Step Three: Work With a Good Agent

Finding the right real estate agent may take some time, but the value a great agent brings to the home buying process is worth the effort.

“Work with an agent who really knows the areas you’re interested in and who can help you understand why certain neighborhoods may be better than others,” advises Berry.

Wherever you decide is the best location for you to put down roots, Rivera says, know that your location will become a key factor again when you decide to sell. And a good agent will know the factors that make homes attractive to home buyers. Rocket HomesSM can connect you with a real estate expert in the area you’ve chosen to help you in your home buying journey, and Rocket Mortgage® is here to help you figure out which loan option best fits your financial situation.

Get Started: Find The Right Home For You

When buying a home, the location is often as important as the home itself. You don't want to wait until move-in day to find out the neighborhood has a high crime rate or that the nearby airport means noise 24/7. Do your research while house hunting, and list out the factors that are most important to you along with what you can compromise on.

Talk to your real estate agent about what matters most to you. Now get out there and find your perfect place! Already found your perfect place? Get preapproved for a mortgage today.

Get approved to buy a home.

Rocket Mortgage® lets you get to house hunting sooner.

1 Rocket HomesSM and the Rocket HomesSM Logo are service marks licensed to Rocket Homes Real Estate LLC. Rocket Homes Real Estate LLC fully supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act. Main office located in Detroit, MI. Contact: (888) 468-4735 

For Rocket Homes Real Estate LLC license numbers, visit RocketHomes.com/license-numbers.

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2 Rocket Mortgage® (also doing business as Rocket HQ) and Rocket Homes Real Estate LLC are separate operating subsidiaries of Rock Holdings Inc. Each company is a separate legal entity operated and managed through its own management and governance structure as required by its state of incorporation, and applicable legal and regulatory requirements.

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Miranda Crace

The Rocket Mortgage Learning Center is dedicated to bringing you articles on home buying, loan types, mortgage basics and refinancing. We also offer calculators to determine home affordability, home equity, monthly mortgage payments and the benefit of refinancing. No matter where you are in the home buying and financing process, Rocket Mortgage has the articles and resources you can rely on.