Leaving the City? Here’s What to Look for in a New Community

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Author of The Blackout Book and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted

There has been an unexpected side-effect of the COVID-19 pandemic – single-family homes listed for sale outside of cities are seeing multiple offers almost immediately.

The mini real estate boom comes as city dwellers begin to emerge from mandatory lockdowns in places like New York City. Many residents have found that there’s not enough space or freedom to suit them in their downtown apartments, particularly when a second wave of the virus appears to be likely.

Between March 15 and April 28, moves from New York to Connecticut increased 74 percent over the period a year ago, according to FlatRate Moving. Moves to New Jersey saw a 38 percent jump, while Long Island was up 48 percent.

Also, suburban towns not really known for their rental stock have had huge spikes in activity, which is being driven in part by escaping New Yorkers, according to brokers in those areas. (source)

Other sources suggest that the migration might not be out of the cities, but into other states or even other countries.

People are not moving just because they want more space, either. In an uncertain economic climate with the forecast that many more businesses are going to take their offices online, there’s nothing holding people in expensive urban areas. After all, they may soon be able to do their jobs at any place with a good wifi connection.

With an investment like real estate, it’s very important to make sure you’re not jumping out of the frying pan perhaps not into the fire, but laterally into a slightly larger frying pan.

This isn’t an article about creating a bug-out location in the boondocks complete with a bunker. Plenty of those exist out there on the internet if that’s what you’re looking for. For the purposes of this article, we’re discussing moving from a current urban location to one that is in suburbia or even more rural.

Here’s are a few things you should look for when leaving the city.

Think about what you want to be able to do in your new home.

What is your goal when you leave the city? Do you just want more space without paying big city prices? Are you looking for a yard so the kids can play outside? Or are you planning on becoming more self-reliant due to the supply chain problems we’ve witnessed?

Think about whether you plan to grow things like vegetables or fruit trees. Maybe you’re hoping to have some backyard chickens for your own fresh egg supply. Perhaps you want to go further than that and raise larger livestock to produce your own meat supply. Whatever it is you hope to do, have a clear idea of this in mind when searching for your new location.

Avoid communities with HOAs.

Ask any prepper or wannabe homesteader and they’ll tell you that Home Owner’s Associations are the banes of their existence. HOAs are put in place to keep neighborhoods from dealing with declining property values due to a neighbor’s uncut grass or noisy pets. They can have a wide variety of restrictions that could a cramp in your sustainable style. Not all HOAs have all of these regulations, but it’s important to note that it only takes a vote of the association to change the rules that apply to your property.

Some HOAs monitor the following:

  • The length of your grass
  • The height of your fence
  • Whether you can have backyard chickens
  • Where your vegetable garden is allowed to be
  • Banning water catchment systems
  • Restrictions on outbuilding types and sizes
  • Whether you’re allowed to hang your laundry outdoors
  • What percentage of your yard must be grass and what can be flower beds or gardens

The list of potential restrictions goes on and on. Needless to say, if you’re moving in order to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle, you’ll want to avoid HOAs.

Check out the city by-laws.

Different cities have different by-laws that can affect many of the same things as an HOA. Some cities bylaws limit the number of dogs, pets, and livestock you’re allowed to have, and others tell you where you may or may not have a garden. There are even some cities that ban water catchment.

This could also put a damper on your self-reliant dreams.

Locate a water source nearby.

While we can’t all have a pond or stream in our backyards, one thing I always look for is a nearby source of water. (I consider nearby about a quarter of a mile.) If a really bad situation occurs and the water from your taps is no longer flowing, you’ll want a place to collect water. (Remember that water you collect from creeks, streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds needs to be filtered and purified.)

If you live in a place that gets plenty of rain, a water catchment system can provide you with quite a lot of water. We have used this for all our outdoor watering in the past.

Look for areas with like-minded people.

It’s a lot more pleasant to live in an area where people are similar to you. So as you’re driving through a potential neighborhood, see if the bumper stickers on the vehicles make you shudder. Be observant and pay attention to the folks you see out walking. Spend a little bit of time walking around yourself and see if the vibe of this potential neighborhood matches your goals.

When I first moved to northern California for a job, many of the rentals we looked at had barns, chicken coops, and pens for livestock already in place. This was a pretty good sign that the area would be one that worked for us. Also, check the demographics online, including voter demographics. If you lean heavily one direction or another politically, you won’t may not want to plant yourself in a place where 85% of the residents voted for the other guy.

Don’t shop at the top end of your budget.

One mistake that a lot of folks make is shopping at the top end of their budgets – they get the most expensive house they can possibly afford.  This could be a terrible mistake, especially in our current unstable economic situation. Instead, I strongly recommend looking for the lowest priced place that checks the boxes for you. Don’t get rid of your big city rent or mortgage and go get a McMansion in suburbia, keeping your payments the same.

It’s also important to include property taxes and insurance costs in your calculations. Property taxes can vary widely and in some states can add an extra thousand dollars per month or more to your budget. In places where natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, or wildfires are common, insurance can be exorbitant – or even impossible to get.

Check out the cost of living. There are all sorts of online calculators to give you an idea of the median expenses for your desired area. In most cases, you do NOT want to increase your cost of living. If you’ll still be working in the city, don’t forget to calculate costs for your commute.

How’s the internet?

The pandemic has meant that more people than ever are working from home, and this is likely to be a trend that remains, even after things are “normal” again. Having employees work from home means no more expensive office costs and overhead for employers. As well, if there are lockdowns or restrictions in the future, your children may be attending classes online.

Because of this, you’ll want to be sure that the internet in the area you’re moving to will do what you need it to do. I’ve run into the issue twice in rural areas where I had to get repeaters installed to get a decent signal. If you’re working online, internet quality is a primary concern. Hotspots can be expensive and unreliable.

Check out the crime rate statistics.

The website City-Data is a great place to start with crime stats. Remember that some crimes are really not a reflection of the neighborhood. If somebody gets scammed online, the report takes place with their address, but no criminal was actually there. So pay attention to the types of crimes. I always look for violent crimes, the sex offender registry, and property crimes.  Then look up the area where you currently live – how do they compare?

You can also often find crime-stat information on the local police department’s website.

What kind of climate are you looking for?

Take it from a girl who grew up in the Southern US and married a Canadian man in January – look into the climate before making a move. Check out the length of the growing season if you intend to garden and also the amount of rainfall.  Go here to check for agricultural zones. You want to be sure the things you want to grow will work in your new area.

It can also be tough for somebody who’s accustomed to a sunny climate to get used to living in a place where it’s gray and rainy all the time. If you are a person who is always cold, do you really want to move further north? If you can’t stand sleeping in a hot room, is the Deep South for you? Remember, it’s not a decision that is completely mathematical. Your happiness and comfort are also important.

Will you be able to find work locally or can you take your job with you?

If you’re planning to make a move, will you be able to keep your current job? Will it be remote or will you have to commute back and forth to the office?

If you can’t keep your job, what does the employment situation look like in your new location? Is there work in your field? In our current economy, a stable job is very important. There are millions of newly unemployed people, so competition for most jobs will be fierce.

Is there a way to start your own business? That can often provide you with income and flexibility, no matter where you live.

Does it have the amenities you want? If not, can you adapt?

We all have certain amenities we find important, and these things are very personal. It might be a certain activity for the kids, like gymnastics or hockey, that you want them to continue after the move. It could be a certain item that you want to still be able to purchase.

There are all sorts of amenities we use on a regular basis that we’d really miss moving to an area without them. Can you adjust to this? Sure. But the question is whether you want to make that much of a change.

What would you look for when moving out of the city?

If you’re a city dweller who is thinking about moving out of the urban environment where you currently live, what are you looking for in a location? If you’ve made this move, what advice do you have? Share your thoughts in the comments.

About Daisy

Daisy Luther writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com. Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and runs a small digital publishing company. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • As usual, I found your article interesting. Every one of your suggestions are important when looking to move. I’m in the process of finding a home right now. But it’s the reverse for me. I’m having to downsize due to my husband’s death. We left the city over 30 years ago & built our dream home with all the considerations you made in your article. We actually survived without electricity or running water many times during emergencies. We have 80 acres where we can do as we please, including hunting, fishing & chopping our own wood. But even though I’m having to downsize & move closer to town, these basic considerations are still part of my plan for my new smaller place. Here are some additional suggestions I’d make from our experience. 1-Choose to have your home face north-east. That way you won’t get the harsh cold or winter. Also be sure to have additional insulation on the north & south sides of your home, if you plan to build. 2-Make sure any property includes mineral & timber rights. 3-Choose a home that has a buffer of trees around it, to hold down on noise & provide privacy. 4-Do everything debt-free. Only purchase what you can afford & then go smaller. 5-Chose a good deep well over city-provided water in addition to the water suggestions above. 6-When landscaping, include good shade, nut & fruit trees, as well as medicinal plants & herbs around the house. 7-Invest in good tools & equipment, & learn how to use them, so that you don’t have the additional cost of paying someone (cutting firewood with chainsaw)(luggage rack & trailer hitch on car to be able to move things as needed).

    • I am so sorry for your loss especially because this season is one in which having a partner feels more important than ever. What sagacious advice! I will copy and save it:). Many blessings—I lost my husband when I was pregnant and found God to be kind. I hope you have a good New Year:)

  • To be as safe as possible get as far away from ANY city as you can. The fewer people you are close to when the SHTF the better off I think you would be. Raise your own little garden of food so you can eat that food. I am a salad person (love my salads) and that is usually what I run out of the quickest. Running to the store for more lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions et…Would be very nice and wholesome if I could grow them at my own place…Would save me money and lots of trip to the store.
    I actually envy the people that have farm land and their own food and animals. Rather than a castle or a mansion I would take the farm life. IF one has to work and can’t do it from home I do believe it’s much better to LIVE out and DRIVE in than to live in or even near a city…When the SHTF those people are going to be the first one to be injected with the new vaccine and I am reading it will be forced by the military even at gunpoint and NOT voluntary so the farther away the better (maybe out of harms reach) … the more self-sufficient you can be the better off you will be…Just my 2 cents.

  • I would also add spend some time checking out your small town online. Go to the social media pages for the local rec departments, the schools, the “What’s Up Town Name, What’s REALLY Up Town Name? and so on. Do you see the same people posting frequently? If so, who are they? Do they own local businesses? How to they behave. Are they mean? Bossy? Do they bully other people who ask questions or do they seem generally fair?

    This kind of thing is particularly important if you have kids, and really might need to feel welcome where you are moving. Small towns can be really insular in some areas, and it can be very difficult to be accepted in the BEST of times, let alone when times are hard economically, and when people may be suspicious of outsiders bringing in a virus. Yes, *I* know the virus is everywhere, but trust me. I moved to a small town from a city more than a decade ago. Even though I grew up in a neighboring small town, have family here and knew people? I “ain’t from here.”

    It is OK now, but if I had to do it over again, I’m not sure I would have moved here…. Looked like a great little town, but the people are not welcoming. You were not born and raised? They will not accept you, no matter how nice you are.

    • P.S. And it goes without saying, if you move to a new place, you are the new one in town, so go easy. Do not expect everything to be like the place you left. There are a lot of good resources online for moving to a rural area that are worth checking out. They sound ridiculous when you’re coming from a bigger area, but the tips are super helpful .

    • I also moved from a large city to a rural area 14 years ago. I’m glad to be here and the locals have always been very welcoming. I have always asked for their advice on topics such as gardening. Many of them are obviously better at it than me and I believe showing respect for that expertise has helped win their acceptance. I’m sorry you didn’t get the same reception I did.

      I still telecommute for the same big city company as when I moved here. The internet speed & occasional electric outages are sometimes a challenge. Yesterday, the electricity was out for an hour for no known reason. However, my job does not have to be done within certain hours so the flexibility to work odd hours is nice to have. There are occasional Skype meetings and I keep the Skype meeting numbers written down just in case of power failure & I have to use my landline to call in.

      • Hi JB,

        I probably should clarify that I want people to really check out the town *they* are moving to. It sounds like you ended up in one that is a good match. I’m happy with my actual home and life, but the first few years were rough. I thought coming from a rural background, knowing people locally, being pretty relaxed, friendly, etc, everything would be great. It was really an adjustment to encounter the not-so-nice stuff that can happen in a tightknit (closed off?) small town.

        Anyway, might be subjective and hard to discern from afar, but Daisy’s suggestion to check out the neighborhood reminded me of it. 🙂

      • Wow! Amazing! I am a single woman and have been considering moving from California for obvious reasons:/. Would you mind sharing your state since it is rude for me to ask for specifics (and a state does not feel too personal:).

    • I had the same experience in a small town in North Carolina. Most people think that the south is friendly—-it is!—till you try to assimilate. Then nothing is said but the passive aggression feels ubiquitous.

  • Just remember that if you move to a more rural area, that is more conservative, and you still vote liberal, enough of you will eventually destroy the place you are moving by turning it into a copy of the place you just fled. Rural people are nice, but they definitely run conservative, and that’s not a bad thing!

  • As usual much food for thought. The DW and I moved from a “chilly” city 4 years ago to a small town in our home state of Florida. We would agree with most of what you wrote, but would not agree with you about an HOA. Sure some are run by wannabe Tyrants, but in general HOA’s pull a community together and according to Real Estate agents/experts INCREASE property values! Add to an HOA a Neighborhood Watch and life can be pretty good.

  • I just reread my post & found an error. On the 10th line it should read: That way you won’t get the harsh cold in winter or sunny heat in summer. Trees will insulate your home from lots of weather conditions.

  • What you forgot is what access to medical care is available where your going to relocate?
    Are there local services?
    Will your current medical insurance cover you and your family in that area?
    If you go to a rural area 911 medical may be 30 minutes or longer.
    As none of us are getting any younger, it is a serious consideration not cited in this article.

    Although if you are just going to the suburbs you shouldn’t have a problem.
    But you will have to put up with any HOA or any local restrictions that will restrict your use of your property.
    Just additional considerations not mentioned in the article (which I learned first hand)

  • The problem is a lot of city people move to the country to get away from the high taxes, crime, congestion and crowding then start pushing the county to bring in paved roads, sidewalks, street lights, city water sewage, more shops and restaurants and payer funded projects that create the problems they were running from.

    They complain about neighbors shooting firearms, hunters “killing Bambi, the smell of cows or chickens and cannot understand what No Trespassing means.

    If you move to a rural area don’t expect to be welcomed with open arms. Years ago the country friendliness was part of the experience but a lot of city people have become a nuisance, think they have the right to go where they please and have no respect for other people’s property or way of life.

    Stay in the hellhole you helped create and leave us alone.

    • I assume a lot of the people who are fleeing cities and suburbs now thanks to the Chinese coronavirus won’t be able to hack it for long and will be moving right back. That is fine, the last thing we need are pretentious city people buying up the property, driving up prices and complaining non-stop.

    • You are right on target. I see it all the time. An area Isaac Walton must close its shooting range that has served thousands for 60 years because of a new “law” stating that ranges cannot be within 500 ft. of a residence. Well, they built the homes knowing the range was there and began complaining about the noise immediately.

      The “newbies” infiltrate the school boards, city councils, and county boards and soon you don’t recognize the place any longer. I new transplant from NY once commented to me, “Oh, you’re from here? I don’t meet many like you.” Well, I meet too many like them!

      • I deeply respect why there is so much resistance to outsiders who devolve your communities. However at one point were all your ancestors were newcomers?

        Is there no possibility that some of us appreciate your values and share them?

    • I agree. We have some @$$ hats at the end of our gravel road that act like this. They run their 18 wheeler, 5 cars and trucks, multiple 4 wheelers and other electronic things up and down the road-tearing it up. I am waiting on them to be foreclosed on and move away. How else can they afford all that brand new junk?

  • I would add one more caution – don’t buy property on a private road governed by a ‘road association’. Lived on one for 23 years and it was almost constant turmoil about how best to maintain the road and having to deal with property owners who didn’t pay annual dues.

    Also, my state has been turned blue by (mostly northern liberals and government employees) moving into the state to escape or work and bringing their leftist-leaning politics with them. Seems like one of the first things they do is take over local government and changing rules to suit what they are accustomed to. Now we ‘natives’ are viewed as “rednecks”, “backwards” and “Trumptards”.

    The old saying “Yankee go home” has new meaning!

  • good article and suggestions!!! moved to wv, had nice home, 5 acres, sorry now I sold. had I any inkling of what was coming, I would have stayed! now I want to get outa where we are, we both are in 70s, unable to do a lot now, and wondering whether its wise to get out. dont even know where to begin looking……so….thats our dilemma….stay or go? and where? hmmm…..dont like fact of possible door to door crap…..!!! hope things change for better before it becomes everywhere……

  • Whether or not you can own chickens (called “livestock” in most laws) is a matter of municipal law, not HOA restriction. For example, I can’t own chickens here in Houston city limits. It has nothing to do with our local POA (property owners association), which doesn’t mention it in the by-laws.

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