Whether or not it’s your first time buying a home, we know you’re not moving out from under a rock.
We assume you’ve done your research and are well-aware of the long and sometimes complicated metaphorical receipt that can come with a new home. Taxes, home insurance, neighborhood association dues, realtor fees… Not to mention the price tag of that remodel you’re already planning. (Knocking down that wall will totally open up the ground level!)
Even if you’ve planned for all of these expenses, there is still one often overlooked factor that can be a little bit more difficult to put a number on: the cost of living in your new neighborhood.
Especially if you’re new to the area, how do you choose a good neighborhood and assess the financial implications? It’s a little more art than science, but we have a few ideas to help guide your search!
The Journey From Point A to Point B
Setting up a new home base typically means you’ll need to change up your daily travel routes, too. Start to think about the places you visit regularly and then ask yourself what route you would take to work, to school, to the gym, etc.
Do you expect to spend more time on the road?
It’s fairly easy to gauge whether the new location will make your daily commute(s) more or less expensive based on distance and traffic patterns. Even if you’re moving out of state and can’t do a road test yourself, you can use Google Maps or Waze to virtually test different routes and get an idea of what rush hour traffic is like in that area.
Can you take advantage of public transportation?
If you have the option to use public transportation, you can explore different transit options within Google Maps as well. Then, if you decide there is a convenient bus route, you can research the cost of a bus pass that would allow you to take that route. Public transportation can allow you to check emails, and save money, while you commute!
Will you be able to carpool or rideshare?
If you’re able to find carpooling or ride sharing opportunities in the area, this can help to lower your overall cost of commuting. Search for a nearby carpool lot, or any nearby coworkers, schoolmates, or friends with whom you might be able to organize a ride share.
And don’t forget to think through transportation for your children (if you have any). Does the school bus have pickup locations in that area? Or will you need to drive your kids to school every day?
A New Home for Your Second Home
For many of us, our vehicles are second on the list of places we spend the most time and can definitely be high on the list of items we spend the most money on. With this in mind, you might want to consider how your new locale could affect what you spend on your ride.
Will your insurance pricing change?
A good place to start is the cost of your personal auto insurance. In many cases, a change in address can raise or lower the cost of your insurance plan. This should be an easy question for your insurance company to answer if you have a new address in mind. So, we suggest giving them a call and discussing how the move could affect your pricing.
Beyond insurance, there could be additional factors that are a little more difficult to put a number on, but are still worthwhile considerations.
What is the condition of nearby roads?
Are you surrounded by dirt roads that could wreak havoc during icy and snowy conditions? Or, would have you have to use a freeway to get around? Both scenarios come with different considerations for your vehicle when it comes to gas mileage, wear and tear, and the costs that follow each.
Will the move require you to store your vehicle in a different way?
Do you have to park on the street, or will you have covered parking? If you have to park on the street, you might want to consider how prolonged exposure to the elements cold affect your vehicle.
If street parking is scarce or restricted during certain times, you might want to factor in the cost of a parking ticket here and there. Not to say that you would ever park illegally on purpose, but sometimes it can be wise to budget for the costs of human error.
The Cost of What’s Around
Even with the best intentions to drive a little further for a bargain, it’s understandable that we’re much more likely to buy gas and groceries close to home. Convenience is king after all.
It’s always nice to do business in the neighborhood. But, make sure that you can stimulate the local economy with your business, without having to blow your budget.
How expensive are gas and groceries?
Although these prices may be always fluctuating, you can get a sense of trends relative to the surrounding area. Are the local gas prices consistently ten cents cheaper than they are a few miles down the road?
Consider taking a trip to the local grocery store. How do the prices and selection compare to where you shop now?
What is the pricing of other local services you’ll need?
Check out the pricing of other amenities and services that you’re likely to take advantage of. This means researching local dry cleaners, child (and pet) day care options, lawn maintenance companies, etc. You could even go so far as to skimming through the menus of local restaurants and take-out spots.
The idea is to assess what businesses you might frequent, and then take a peek at their pricing to see how it differs from what you’re currently paying for those amenities.
Not So Upfront Upkeep Costs
You’re probably aware of the standard maintenance costs that can come along with owning a house. There’s landscaping, exterior repairs, major appliances to repair or replace, cosmetic updates like painting – and these all have associated costs.
A thorough home inspection can help you anticipate any major repairs that could be coming your way. For example, you can assess if your roof is starting to deteriorate, or if the insulation around your pipes is lacking. But even well-researched homeowners can be surprised by the upkeep their property might need a few years down the road.
Get to know the geography.
We recommend taking stock of the land itself and looking for any potential hazards or inconveniences. Does this house fall within a floodplain? What is the soil quality like? What was on this property before the house was built – was it a swamp, a rock quarry, or farmland?
If you know the home falls within a flood plain, then you can inspect the lower level with this information in mind and ask questions about previous flood damage. If you find out that the soil is dry and difficult, then you know not to waste your money on certain landscaping aspirations.
It might seem a little obsessive, or even pessimistic, but we think it could be well worth the research if it can save you a little money or at least help you plan ahead.
When it’s Time to Make a Decision, Be Sure to Take a Step Back
The takeaway is that where you choose to live can certainly impact your finances. But, that doesn’t mean that the right neighborhood for your wallet is necessarily the best place for you and your family to live, all things considered.
Your finances are only one aspect to consider among many. We encourage you to do your research and weigh financial impact against things like crime rates, local schools, and real estate trends. And at the end of the day, it’s important to find a place that you just love.
From your experience, how has your cost of living been impacted by a move? What factors did you consider before moving into a new neighborhood? We want to hear your stories in the comments below!