You’re Moving Across the Country (or World)…How Do You Find Your New Home? Part One

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With 20+ moves in my adult life (a move being where I unpacked the suitcase and had mail delivered), I’ve been asked how I choose where to buy or rent.  Since it’s coming up on the big moving season, I thought this would be a good time to explain my strategy for narrowing down where we live.

The first step is one that is taken because of a new assignment (but the steps work the same for a civilian relocation).  Since we move all around the country, and the world, as soon as we know what base we’re moving to, I look on the map to start getting an idea of the geography of the area.  Where is the base located? (this is where my husband will work)   Where’s the nearest town?   (look at living there)  Where’s the nearest city? (maybe work there)  Where’s the nearest airport? (for when family and friends come to visit)
The second step is to talk to anyone and everyone who has lived there.  I ask where they lived and why.  I let them talk and listen to everything.  You never know what you’ll find out that you never knew to ask.  Remember to consider everything, but take it all with a grain of salt.  There are people who will be unhappy where ever they are.  At this point you’re just taking in as much information as you can.  You’ll start to find a pattern emerging.  You’ll find that most people will have been concentrated in 2 or 3 general areas.   Your goal at this point is to narrow the entire map down to 2 or 3 towns to focus on.


How to Decide Where to Live When You Move
Simple Checklists to help you decide where you want to live when you're moving to a new city, state or country.
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As you consider which towns to focus your search on, consider factors that are important to you.   Those factors will be different for you depending on your personal needs and what stage of life you’re in.  Only you can decide which factors are most important to your family, but some to consider are:
1.  How long a commute will each of you be willing to make?  Will you be looking for a job or be staying home with your family?  Do you want to live near the base or near the city with the most employment opportunities?  One of our first assignments was at Little Rock AFB, AR.  The base is located about 30 minutes from downtown Little Rock.  I knew that I’d be working in Little Rock not closer to the base, so we chose to live in a town half-way between Little Rock and the base. 
2.  Will you be a stay-at-home parent?  When my husband was assigned to Leavenworth for 11 months, I knew I’d be staying home with my 6 year old and 3 year old, so we chose to live on post where there would be a lot of stay-at-home moms and LOTS of children for mine to play with.
3.  Are your children school-aged?  You need to look at the schools in your target towns.  Are the public schools good?  Is there a private school you’d consider?  How long is the bus ride to the school?
4.  Do you have medical issues you need to consider?  I know of a family who rented a house a 50-minute drive from base because it was closer to the hospital where the wife would need to go frequently for medical tests.
5.  Do you have pets that will affect where you will live?  Military housing limits the numbers and types/breeds of pets you may have.  You should check with the specific base for their guidelines.  If you’re looking at civilian housing, be sure to check if the town has any restrictions on exotic pets or the number of pets. 
6.  Do you have sports or activities that are important to your family?  Consider whether the sport or activity is close to the towns you’re considering.  My husband likes to play both ice and roller hockey.  We have considered where the nearest rinks are when we look at our focus areas.  I’ve known families that chose a certain town because it was closer to hiking and outdoor activities that were important to them.
7.  Where is the nearest airport or major interstate?  Going to visit family and friends is important to us, as well as having them visit us.  If you or your spouse will be doing a lot of travel for  your job, consider the location of the airport or route they will travel.
8.  Is being close to shopping important to you?  I’ve lived on-base in the States where it was 30 miles to the closest civilian shopping and that was Wal-mart.  Now, I like Wal-mart just fine, but wasn’t  too crazy about driving an hour round-trip with toddlers to go shopping.
9.  Is a more rural setting important to you? 
10.  How will you commute to work?  Can you tolerate the traffic during your commute?  Can you tolerate the traffic in the area you’re considering?
We’ve done spreadsheets on towns to help us process all the different factors we consider.  Like the one {here}
If I can give you one piece of advice, just remember that there’s not one right answer with all the other answers being wrong.  There are several better answers and you just have to figure out which ones are the better answers for you.


Other posts in the series:     You’re Moving Across the Country (or World)…How Do You Find Your New Home?   Part Two  and   You’re Moving Across the Country (or World)…How Do You Find Your New Home?  Part Three


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  1. Thanks for this great advice! I am moving soon, and the whole process can be overwhelming. I will print the spreadsheet and use it as I navigate all of the considerations 🙂

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