Want to move to rural location
January 9, 2009 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Resources for determining a rural location to move to within the U.S.

I am looking o move to a different part of the country but I need to find more information on housing prices, taxes, and such. I am fortunate in that I work from home so I can really move anywhere that has a broadband internet connection. I have a list of states that I am interested in (Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, etc ..) but I am not sure how to find examples of housing and tax costs. I also need to find out information on broadband capability in perspective areas. Any suggestions on good places to start looking? Thank you.
posted by DerekTheGeek to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You don't even need a broadband connection, not really.

Internet via satellite is not regularly available. My sister, who lives in rural northern Michigan, gets her internet through the same dish she gets her satellite TV.

You could live 40 miles from the nearest town with a broadband infrastructure and still be able to get your work done.
posted by camworld at 8:07 AM on January 9, 2009

Thanks for the suggestion. Does satellite internet allow for good upload and download speeds? I always thought it required a telephone modem in addition to the satellite. It's been a while since I looked into it though. Perhaps it has changed a lot since then.
posted by DerekTheGeek at 8:14 AM on January 9, 2009

Re: the broadband question, and I hope this doesn't derail your other questions. But I did use WildBlue in 2005-2007 in an area where there was no traditional broadband, and I was pretty happy with it, though the 1-2 sec latency would have made it impossible for any kind of gaming or VoIP; also there are some bandwidth caps which would prohibit tons of YouTube viewing or movie/P2P downloads. So to me the broadband question would not rank very high. The site "broadbandreports.com" used to have a great system where you could check if an area had broadband service, but I think the asshat telcos pulled the plug on this -- also said telco asshats have all their systems set up for searching availability by phone number, not by address, and don't publish maps, so it's close to impossible to figure out how far DSL or cablemodem spiders out into a rural area.
posted by crapmatic at 8:15 AM on January 9, 2009

My husband works for a company that provides high speed internet to most of South Dakota and North Dakota. MeMail me if you are looking at those areas and have a specific location in mind. We live in the country (Minnesota) and will be getting fiber internet within a month. It's getting much easier for rural customers to get quality internet connections.
posted by bristolcat at 8:15 AM on January 9, 2009

Latency with satellite connections would probably get on your nerves if you are used to traditional broadband via DSL or a cable.
posted by chunking express at 8:28 AM on January 9, 2009

Thank you very much everyone for the comments on broadband in rural areas. I don't use broadband for gaming much but do use it to control remote servers/computers or to use meeting services such as GoToMyPC.

@bristolcat - Thank you very much for the offer. I will definetly contact you via MeMail should we (my wife and I) decide North and South Dakota. :)
posted by DerekTheGeek at 8:38 AM on January 9, 2009

You can MeMail me with questions about Montana. I live in "the big city" of Billings, but am familiar with the rest of the state.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 8:56 AM on January 9, 2009

It sounds to me like you're looking to live as inexpensively as possible. You may want to research "seized and/or foreclosed home auctions" and auction websites if that's what you're up to. I've worked on a couple of these auction websites and have seen enormous single family homes go for very, very low prices (usually because of remote location).

True, I wouldn't want to live in an ex-meth den in rural Wyoming but maybe you're hardier and less discriminating.

Also, if you're looking for ideas, tell us what kind of place you like -- hills, forest, proximity to people, etc.
posted by metajc at 8:57 AM on January 9, 2009

Well we are pretty much looking for space. We would like to find a place that gives us a fair amount of land (~5 acres) without neighbors right along side of us (currently we rent with 1/4 acre). Winter weather is not a problem as we are used to that. It would be nice to be within a one hour drive to a Walmart or similar "mega" store but not a requirement. We are not looking to be involved in the local community so no need for a town with lots of activities. In the end we would like to end up paying no more than $1200 a month in mortgage and property taxes. Thanks again.
posted by DerekTheGeek at 9:19 AM on January 9, 2009

I attempted to use WildBlue a couple of years ago in Colorado and it was impossible for tasks such as remoting to machines or services such as Web-Ex. It's that latency that kills.

MeMail me if you have questions about Alaska.
posted by GoodPuppy at 9:21 AM on January 9, 2009

Remember that being an hour from Walmart can mean being an hour from schools, the hospital, the sheriff's office... And what takes an hour on a June afternoon can take a lot longer in a January blizzard, something to keep in mind if you think there might be any chance of needing to call 911 for anything.

If you can articulate what else you might want in terms of amenities (eg schools? restaurants? airport access? registered democrats within 200 miles? tolerance for smoking pot on your porch? nearby national forests?) I think you might be able to reduce your search from six or more states to a handful of counties that you could go and visit in person, research the economic situations in detail, etc.

Just because they are both western and cheap, it is hard to emphasize enough how different, say, eastern Montana and southwestern Oregon feel -- the landscapes, economies, and cultures are strikingly different. Or, just in Wyoming, Rock Springs and Laramie both have Walmarts, but you wouldn't mistake one town for the other.

Finally, five acres is big in a suburban setting, but it's really small when your neighbors get drunk and start target practicing at midnight off their back porch. For privacy, you will probably want a lot more land than that, unless you can find land that is surrounded by public land (but then again you'll have the hunters, ATVers, highschool kids partying, etc -- public land does not mean untouched and unused in the west).
posted by Forktine at 9:52 AM on January 9, 2009

And... look for a WISP (Wireless Internet Service Provider) - if there are none for your area, then perhaps look at that as a business or co-op opertunity...
posted by jkaczor at 10:24 AM on January 9, 2009

You bring up some very good points. The truth is I don't know a lot about these areas. I made my choice of states based upon cost of living and regulations regarding homeschooling. I would love to have no neighbors in sight but my guess is that would be more money than we can afford. We homeschool our children so location to schools is not a concern for us. We are also in no rush. We would like to move in a a little over a year so no immediate rush. We are conservative but as long as Hillary Clinton doesn't make it a vacation spot we are good to go.
posted by DerekTheGeek at 10:28 AM on January 9, 2009

I would love to have no neighbors in sight but my guess is that would be more money than we can afford.

In my area of Montana, this can mean something very very expensive (lots of celebs - but not Hillary that I know of - have homes here) but it can also mean something very reasonable.

For example, a mobile home on a chunk of land without water (meaning you have to keep a cistern filled) can be very reasonable, but not very plentiful. In fact, some land owners put a mobile home on their property as a rental.

Also, since there is no urban sprawl, you can be "out in the country" but within 30 minutes of a city of 100,000 people.

As far as politics... Montana is definitely conservative, but Missoula and the university there are sometimes referred to by people here in Billings as "Berkley West."
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 11:10 AM on January 9, 2009

Finally, five acres is big in a suburban setting, but it's really small when your neighbors get drunk and start target practicing at midnight off their back porch.


In my area of Montana, this can mean something very very expensive (lots of celebs - but not Hillary that I know of - have homes here) but it can also mean something very reasonable.

Places I'm from (rural Nebraska, rural Kansas), five acres still means quite a bit of separation from the neighbors, since most of the surrounding land is dedicated to crops and (to a lesser extent) livestock. My folks are a quarter mile from their nearest neighbors on either side, and lots of people in the surrounding area are a couple of miles from the nearest houses. I imagine this is true in a lot of the West as well. Just make sure no one is planning to put a housing development just the other side of your property line any time soon...
posted by brennen at 11:35 AM on January 9, 2009

DerekTheGeek: 1) Re: jobs - Considering the state of the economy, consider what would happen if a year from now you moved to a rural area where there are no white collar jobs (if that's what you do), only service/labor jobs, and then you lost yours?

2) Have you lived in a rural area before? Forktine hit it on the head. Make sure you visit, and if you can, do it in the summer and winter. You may love it. Or it may be romantic until you see a rattlesnake. Or it's nice until a gas tax is passed, you have to have a 4 wheel drive, your youngest needs shoes, and you have to drive to Casper. Also, everywhere is pretty in the west at certain times of the year, and internet sites take advantage of that. Sometimes that certain time of the year only lasts 1 day. ;)

3) If you have any romantic notions, give them up right now or you'll be disappointed. That doesn't mean you won't be delightfully surprised, but you won't be disappointed.

As for resources: Wyoming Real Estate. (Stay away from Jackson, Cody, Pinedale, and Sheridan unless you've got money. I know a guy who lives in Sheridan proper. He makes $70,000+ and lives in a buddy's basement because he can't find a place to live that he can afford that isn't a trailer home. Many places are like that, i.e. outside of Pinedale, they have giant man-camps.) Chances are, mountains=expensive. There's still lots of places left, though.

The Wyoming Business Council has a good site on demographics, infrastructure, etc. The State of Wyoming also has information on relocation. (Remember all of the above are trying to sell something.)

If you buy a place, check to see who owns the mineral rights. There's a land boom going on here too for windmills. If you buy acreage, make sure it's not in the middle of a proposed subdivision - or that the farmer next door isn't going to make one. Check your water & your water rights. Great, you have your own ditch, until there's a drought and ag takes priority. Great, you have your own well, until you realize you have to haul water from town that's drinkable.

If you're not picky about having mountains and their homeschooling laws are great, consider one of the midwest states like Kansas & the Dakotas too.

You can MeMail me questions about Wyoming. I live in a rural part (not aware of any ex-meth dens though - geez).
posted by barchan at 12:10 PM on January 9, 2009

The forums at city-data.com are surprisingly informative if you are looking for relocation information and the insider scoop on various places. Seems like every resident of North Dakota posts there.

If your requirements are really as flexible as they seem -- don't need good schools, don't need a job market, prefer a conservative atmosphere, don't need warm weather and within 60 miles of a Wal-Mart then really your options are only limited by the Mississippi on the east and California to the west. I don't mean that sarcastically or critically at all, just that you have a *ton* of options.

You could also look at northern Michigan, I don't know what the home schooling regulations are like but the land is pretty cheap and there are trees. Trees make the neighbors a half mile away seem a lot further away than they would on the open prairie.

$1,200/month is what now, a $200k mortgage including taxes? That should buy you a whole heck of a lot. A quick look around Fargo, ND or Wheatland, WY shows 3+ bedroom houses on 10-25 acres for less than that. I'm sure if you move away from those built up areas it will only get cheaper. If you are willing to do a mobile home then your options are limitless.
posted by ChrisHartley at 12:22 PM on January 9, 2009

Great suggestion, Chrishartley, but a big reason why some land around Wheatland is so cheap is 1) there's a huge powerplant there and 2) because windmill farmers bought up lots of big acreages around there. :) Just a heads up to watch out for no matter where you are looking in the great windy west.
posted by barchan at 12:55 PM on January 9, 2009

My family is from Wheatland, I forgot about the coal plant. It does give the town a delightful big-city-maybe-LA look some days.
posted by ChrisHartley at 1:01 PM on January 9, 2009

Living in a more remote area is great (AK) until you get sick and you find out that all the medical facilities in the area couldn't think their way out of a paper bag and you have to spend gobs of money getting diagnosed and treated someplace else. If medical access isn't an issue, then I can put a big thumbs up for rural living. Internet access has never been much of an issue, unless you are REALLY remote, like bush AK. If the cold doesn't bother you, you could try northern Minnesota. With the decline of iron ore, land on the iron range can be cheap, on a lake, and close to the Boundary Waters. Yeah!
posted by Foam Pants at 1:06 PM on January 9, 2009

If what you are looking for is low cost, and you aren't worried about cultural amenities, have you considered looking into any of the dozens of towns on the Great Plains that are offering free or very cheap houses and/or land to try and counter declining populations? The downside is what comes with a declining population -- closing schools, limited tax base, limited employment, most of the young people moving away. But the upside is that land is cheap, crime is low, and there is a lot of space all around.

Here is a pretty typical article about the kinds of towns that are declining in population quite rapidly. Others aren't declining as fast, or are just more resilient, and so might offer more options.

This is an article (in a publication you'd want to start reading if you get serious about this move) about the phenomenon and someone who is working to help the affected areas.
posted by Forktine at 1:42 PM on January 9, 2009

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