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.
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 Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.