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Relocation: Do You Know The 5 Things That Will Make You a Savvy Mover?

Aug 17, 2007
Relocation is stressful. Make it easier on yourself by using the power of the Internet to your advantage. Inform yourself for one of the biggest decisions you'll make. Here are five things that can you help you decide where to live.

1. Cost/square foot. Median home price is commonly reported, but home sizes can vary greatly among neighboring communities. Unit cost is the best way to maximize the value of your housing dollar. Whether you're looking at residences in multiple areas or want to determine if a specific residence is a good deal, unit cost is the way to do it.

For example, you are looking at two homes. One is a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom home with an asking price of $279,000. The other is a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom home with an asking price of $264,000. Sounds more affordable, right? Should you really spend another $15,000 for the extra bedroom?

Well, the first house is 2,400 sq. ft. and the second is 2,000 sq. ft. That makes the second house 14% more expensive on a unit cost basis.

Your home is generally your biggest investment. Make sure you maximize that investment.

2. Age range of residential real estate. Different styles of homes were prevalent in different periods. Prior to 1940, the Victorian, Farm House, and Bungalow styles were dominant. After the war, the Ranch, Split-level, and Cape Cod came into vogue. In the 70's, the Colonial and Modern styles became popular. Which do you prefer, or prefer to avoid? Look for locales where the most of the housing was built during the time your favored style was dominant. You'll be more likely to find homes you really like.

Residential real estate age distribution can often tell you something else about a locale. Different community planning and development customs were prevalent at different times. Look at when most of the housing was built and you'll see when the community was actively being developed. Before 1940 dependence on the car was not firmly established and you're more likely to find the quaint town center and homes within walking distance of small business districts.

From 1945 through 1970, we were spreading out, so communities developed then are more likely to require a car to get most places. However, developers were still laying out streets in grid patterns, or something close to that. Thus, traffic congestion is less of a problem in these locales.

Since 1970, the cul-de-sac and large building lots have reigned supreme. The increased lot size caused communities to spread out, making a car absolutely necessary for anything. The cul-de-sacs feed traffic onto a limited number of main roads, creating traffic congestion.

3. Median Property Tax Rate. Don't just compare tax bills. Look at the tax rate. In many states, it can vary greatly in a small distance if you happen to cross a county or town line. Equalization formulas and mill rates can get complicated. Make it easy on yourself. Just divide the annual tax bill into the asking price to get an idea of the effective tax rate. Compare it across all properties you may be considering purchasing. If the rate seems really high or low for a particular property, ask your real estate agent to help you find out why.

Keep in mind, if you move into an area with lower taxes but a higher tax rate, you may find yourself struggling to make the tax payment if there is an unexpected surge in property values. In today's real estate market, anything is possible, so beware.

4. Expenditure per student has nothing to do with quality of education. School expenditures are largely driven by teacher salaries, so they are higher where it costs more to live. Student performance is most affected by parental involvement in the school system and their children's educational experience. Get local district info and contact them to get a sense of how involved parents are in the local schools, and what options you have to be involved in your child's education.

5. Use the web to get the facts on locales across the U.S. After all, the Internet is an information channel. Use it to inform yourself about what is one of the biggest decisions you'll make. There are lots of sites with helpful information and relocation advice (including the one my company operates). Get the facts and you'll have a quicker, easier relocation process. Get an idea of which locales are right for you before you start working with a real estate agent. It will save you time overall, and make it easier for them to help you find your dream locale.
About the Author
Glen Franklin is a partner in Community Insight LLC, which operates www.MyDreamLocale.com.

MyDreamLocale.com helps you find the best place to live and provides real estate, school, demographic data, cost of living comparisons, by city, town, neighborhood or zip code for relocation/moving.
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