Retirement and Moving: Location Research 1

Rose covered cottageLast week’s post was about my rather unexpected decision to move to a new town in a new state last year. I’ve found that the more you know about a town before you decide to move there, the better your chances of loving it for the longterm will be. This week and next week, I’ll share the online resources that I used to find a wonderful town that had very nearly everything I wanted.

What follows are websites with in-depth info on: cost of living, climate, terrain and nature, local economy, crime rate and locations, road conditions and traffic, boundaries and characteristics of different neighborhoods, and forums where you can post questions and have them answered by people who live in the area where you want to move.

Next week in Part 2, I’ll share the sites where I found amenities, services, shopping, medical care, etc., in each town I was considering.

Take a look at the websites below, bookmark them and put the bookmarks into a folder so you can find them when you need them.

Cost of Living
These websites have quality info on cost of living in different towns and cities. The information is organized by type of expense, such as housing, food, gas and so on. I compared the info from each site and found that they were each a little different, but all were within a similar range.

I wanted to know how hot, cold, humid, sunny, overcast, rainy, snowy, pollen-y and windy it was by month recently and historically. Wunderground offers an amazing amount of well organized, easy to use info. I compared Wunderground to City-data’s weather info and they were similar. Since I was interested in towns in areas that experience earthquakes and forest fires, I found sites that offer historical earthquake and fire data. For those of you who may move to areas that experience hurricanes or tornadoes, offers current and historical data on them.

Terrain and Nature
I used Google Maps street and satellite views to check out the terrain and nature in and around towns.

Population and Local Economy
I was in smallish towns, so I looked at City-data and Wikipedia for population, local economy, local industries and jobs, how many people rented or owned homes, local political leanings and so on.

Crime Rates
I checked and compared CrimeReports, NeighborhoodScout and City-data for crime statistics. CrimeReports plots and frequently updates different types of crimes (property, assault, murder, rape, etc.) on a map, so you can see where the safer areas areas. The map was invaluable. One street can be quite safe and the next street over can have a much higher crime rate. The other 2 sites give you crime data by type of crime and month/year in tables and graphs. You can use them for comparison.

Road Conditions and Traffic
If you dislike getting stuck in traffic due to road work or drive time congestion as much as I do, you’ll find LocalConditions and Google Maps useful. LocalConditions also has weather info, but Wunderground is much better organized and easy to use.

Different neighborhoods have different personalities. You want to find the perfect one for you, but it’s difficult to know what neighborhoods are like if you don’t live in the area. NeighborhoodScout, BestPlaces and AreaVibes give you info on boundaries, livability, amenities, cost of housing, schools, shopping, crime and more, listed by neighborhood. Some info overlaps, but each site has info that the other sites lack. I found them very helpful.

Local Knowledge Forums
Information from people who live in an area makes it easier to find the perfect place. City-data has a large, well-used forum where you can post the questions you have not been able to find answers for and get useful info from people who live there and know the area well. You can ask how the weather really is, if the people are friendly, who the good Toyota mechanic is, where the best places to hike are, or whatever your concern is. Your questions may have already been asked and answered, so search the existing threads before you post a question. I found answers to many questions on the City-data forum. If you’re moving to the Berkeley/Oakland/Alameda area of, California, there is an extraordinarily helpful forum run by the Berkeley Parents Network where you will find everything you need to know about the area, from good neighborhoods to auto mechanics and doctors. It’s for students who are parent, so you’ll find babysitting information, but you can also find anything else you need there as well plus very honest reviews. (only for Berkeley and Oakland area, CA)

Have you found these websites useful in plotting your retirement or other move? Do you know other online resources that are helpful?

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