Moving to a new country can be exciting but also a daunting experience, especially when it comes to finding accommodation in a city or suburb you are unfamiliar with.
It’s worth keeping this mantra in mind when looking for a place to live:
Location, location, location!.
Whether you are looking to rent, share an apartment with roommates or purchase a house or condominium, here is a list of 7 tips that can help you in your search.
1. COST OF LIVING
The cost of living in terms of gas prices, public transportation, food, entertainment, and housing should be on the top things to keep in mind when looking for a place to live in.
Costs can vary from one city to the next and could affect your day-to-day life and long term financial goals.
It’s important to determine if your cost of living of the city or suburb you are looking at is in line with your budget. This Living Wage Calculator from MIT tells you how much you need to earn to be able to support yourself and your family based on typical expenses in your area.
Driving is nearly essential in the United States, especially in suburban areas or urban areas other than New York and San Francisco. If you have recently moved from overseas and are unable to drive because you haven’t obtained a U.S. state driver’s license yet or you don’t have the budget for a vehicle or to pay the registration fees, OR if parking is scarce and/or the parking costs are prohibitive then you need to dig in and research public transportation.
In the case of not having a driver’s license or vehicle, it’s imperative to find a residence that is close to public transportation, preferably walking distance. Also, find out how efficient public transportation is in the city or suburb that you are planning to live in. In the U.S. there are many areas where public transportation is almost non-existent or very limited.
Checking the neighborhood’s overall safety ratings and crime rates before deciding to move should also be at the top of your priority list when looking for a residence.
There are a number of apps and websites that you can use to find out about crime in the area where you want to live.
Neighborhood Scout, Area Vibes, SpotCrime, Family Watchdog are some websites where you look at in-depth information about crime rates. Some of their sites also have neighborhood reviews and forums where you can ask the neighborhood residents pertinent questions.
If you have kids or plan to have kids in the future, it’s important to look into the quality of the schools in the neighborhood.
Very often, if you don’t like the schools in your neighborhood and want to send your kids to school in another district, you may have to apply for an intra-district transfer or a lottery. Also, neighborhoods with good school districts often tend to be safer and can have a major impact on real estate values.
Websites such as Education.com and GreatSchools.net allow you to search for schools by ZIP code, city, district or school name.
When deciding on a neighborhood to live in, it’s helpful to know the neighborhood vibe, demographics and if it’s in keeping with the kind of person you are and the lifestyle you want.
Are you an introvert and like to keep to yourself?
Or would you like to live in a neighborhood where you can meet like-minded locals and make friends who can help you adjust to your new surroundings?
Or do you have kids or planning to have kids and want to live in a family-friendly neighborhood’ maybe in a cul de sac, where your kids can run around and ride their bikes or scooters with a minimized fear of traffic incidents.
In recent years ‘walkability’ has become a key factor in finding a neighborhood to live in.
“What is ‘walkability?’ you ask.
‘Walkability’ is an area or neighborhood that is pedestrian-friendly and within walking distance to stores, coffee shops, parks, schools, work and public transportation.
Studies have shown that walkability offers surprising benefits to our health, the environment, our finances, and our communities. Whether you have a car or not, finding a neighborhood that is pedestrian-friendly and is within walking distance to living essentials and conveniences is something to seriously consider.
When you go to an open house, it’s often on a Sunday afternoon, which may not be a good indicator of the traffic or noise levels in your potential neighborhood.
Try to visit at rush hour during a weekday or at night during a weekend to get a sense of what it’s like living there.
Other things to keep in mind are the proximity to busy intersections, freeways, train stations and tracks, schools, parks or public areas that regularly host events like concerts, farmers markets, sports meets, etc.