What to consider when choosing where to live

choosing a place to live

Anyone who has relocated to a new city or state knows that finding the right place to live is complicated—logistically and emotionally. And as you weigh the many factors that influence your decision – from affordability and safety to schools, amenities and culture – it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

A list can help. Obviously, it won’t make the decision for you. But the process of systematically organizing your thoughts can make a big choice feel more manageable, while helping you weigh factors that you might not have otherwise considered.

And later, when you finally reach your decision, you can feel confident knowing that it’s based on sound logic. You’ll know that you aren’t missing anything, and then you can turn your attention to the process of moving (an equally overwhelming process… but that’s a different story for a different blog post).

To help you get started, we put together a list of some of the top factors to consider when searching for a new place to live. The weights of these factors vary for each person and situation, but these are some of the things that pretty much everyone should consider.

Along the way, we’ll show how our community – Altoona, a city in the Des Moines Metro that is considered among the best places to live in Iowa and arguably the best place to raise a family in Iowa – stacks up against each factor. Let’s take a look.

Can you afford to live there? And how much spending power will you have?

The true cost of living – which is shaped by everything from the average cost of local goods to real estate, sales taxes and more – not only determines if you can live in the community. It also determines how much spending power you’ll have when you get there.

If you’ve ever lived in a community where everything seems to be more expensive, you know that affordability is anything but an abstract economic term; it shapes your lifestyle, your freedom of choice and even your stress levels on a day-to-day basis.

One reason why so many families and individuals are relocating to Iowa is because the cost of living in Iowa is low compared to most other states. Taxes are less demanding, and the price of goods and housing tends to be lower – Altoona, Iowa real estate is among the most affordable in the region – meaning that a person who makes $55,000 a year would have more spending power in Iowa than a more expensive state, like Illinois. And that’s just one benefit of living in Iowa…

How will nearby transportation affect your mobility?

Transportation tends to be one of the last things people consider when relocating. But, as anyone who has lived in a place with really bad (or really good) transportation options knows, it makes a big difference, affecting where you can go and who you can visit.

Take Altoona, for example. Several major highways intersect at our city, which makes it easy to visit friends, relatives or business connections within the Des Moines Metro and anywhere in the Midwest, and it makes it easier for them to visit you. We also have the Des Moines International Airport just minutes away, which means that you can hop on a flight without any hassle or major expense. When you live at the center of a solid transportation infrastructure, everything feels that much closer.

Are there fun things to do?

No matter where you live, you shouldn’t have to travel far for the things you enjoy. Look for a balance of outdoor recreation, dining, retail and entertainment. A good rule of thumb? Think about where you’ll want to be on a Friday night, a Wednesday afternoon and a Sunday morning, and look for a place that offers access to all three.

But don’t just look within the community; look at the places surrounding it. Is it a short drive from a major city or a beautiful forest preserve? That could make a difference.

Our city offers a good balance of amenities. There are so many things to do in Altoona, Iowa: from the bigger, ‘louder’ Altoona, Iowa attractions – a casino, an amusement park, and a wide variety of Altoona, Iowa shopping and Altoona entertainment – alongside low-key places like trails, dog parks, a newly renovated golf course, community events, restaurants and breweries.

There are also plenty of fun things to do near Altoona, Iowa, from Easter Lake Park and Saylorville Lake to shopping, arts and culture in downtown Des Moines.

Is the community strong and stable?

When considering moving to Iowa or anywhere else, you should research not only how your top picks are doing today, but how they’re expected to change over the next five, ten years.

Gauging a community’s momentum can be difficult, but there are indicators. Start with population; healthy communities see steady growth over long periods of time. A recent drop in population can signal trouble.

It’s also good to look at key economic indicators like taxable sales – these are usually for site selectors or economists, but they’re useful for anyone trying to gauge the health of a community – as well as the local government’s investment in the community.

In Altoona, a city that has seen steady growth in terms of population and other key indicators over the past several decades, projects like the Olde Town Revitalization point to a promising future.

Before you make your move…

There are many factors you’ll want to consider before making your move, and we only scratched the surface here (violent crime levels, job opportunities, nearby professional sports teams and the quality of public schools are a few of the factors we didn’t get a chance to touch on).

As you make your own list, think about all the things that matter to you today. But keep in mind that people change and so do their circumstances, and a good list will account not only for your needs today but for your needs five years from now.

Is Iowa a good place to live? Of course it is—that’s why so many people from so many different backgrounds are moving to our state. But there are thousands of communities within Iowa, each one unique in its own right, and finding the right community comes down to finding the one that’s right for you.

If you’d like to learn more about life in Altoona – a community that offers a good balance of recreation, dining, safe neighborhoods and access to career opportunities – you can meet a local resident who’s lived here for 50 years or take a look at a brand-new Altoona park.