In the past, where people choose to live has traditionally been closely tied to where they work. Whether you’ve been toying with the idea for a while or the current pandemic has brought it to the forefront, the rise in remote work has increased opportunities to choose where you want to live. A new survey from Zillow finds 75% of Americans working from home due to COVID-19 say they would prefer to continue the work-at-home routine at least half of the time after the pandemic eases, if given the option.
Housing is a large item on any person’s budget. It’s important to be thoughtful about how your living situation impacts your financial plan — especially if you’re contemplating a big move. Could leaving behind the hustle and bustle of a big city improve your way of life?
Before you start packing up, ask yourself these four important questions.
1. How will you fill your days?
Traffic, street noise, crowds, pricey restaurants and shopping — yes, city life can be exhausting. On the other hand, cities provide tremendous opportunities to stay stimulated, connected with other people, and explore new things.
Are you a foodie or a lover of the arts? In a larger city, you can choose from anything from Italian to Thai to sushi and beyond. The same goes for entertainment; maybe all the big music acts or Broadway shows come to your city.
Some of that variety might trickle out to the nearest suburbs but at a slower pace. Suburban or small-town life can be less costly, but with fewer things to choose from, make sure that unplugging from city life won’t take you away from all the things you love.
2. What is wrong with your home now?
Change can be good. Newlyweds wanting to buy a home in an excellent school district might be following a long-term dream for their family. Another couple may have always wanted to live on a Florida beach in retirement.
There are certain things about your living situation that moving can’t “fix.” If you’ve become too much of a homebody since retirement, you need to put more thought into creating a schedule that revolves around your passions, your skills, and the people you love. Is moving going to help you do that? Or will you feel even more isolated in a new place?
Moving to a home with nicer amenities sounds appealing. Think about why you really want to trade your downtown condo for a house with a theater in the basement and a Jacuzzi in the backyard. Is it because you love those things, or do you need somewhere to collapse after another week of working too hard at a job you don’t like? Is your housing problem really a career problem?
3. Will it be difficult to visit loved ones?
Our friends and family attend our weekly dinner parties. They show up at our kids’ concerts. They babysit at a moment’s notice. They provide care as we age. They are our first line of support during the moments of life.
Who is going to fill those roles for you if you move away? Are you moving closer to your loved ones? Will you be so far away that you could be in danger of losing touch?
4. What makes you happy?
They say home is where the heart is. Ultimately, where you live should make your heart feel full. As your life changes, your definition of fulfillment might change along with it. When you’re young, a studio apartment next to the subway might feel enormous. Maybe your life will fit in that apartment forever. Maybe your family, your career goals, and your financial means will redefine happiness and lead you someplace new.
If a major move is on the horizon, it’s vital to consider the all-in costs of moving. Working with a financial planner can help you consider not just the difference in what a pizza costs, but the differences in taxes, insurance, and health care. In some ways, cities with widely available public transportation can mean you actually save money. Being able to discuss the impact on your financial future can get you thinking about all the pros and cons as you prepare to stay or move.