Relocation Research: Tips, tricks and resources, please!
November 3, 2014 1:01 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for online tools to help me profile cities to see what would be a good fit. I also welcome feedback on what is useful generally for profiling a city from afar and/or determining how good a fit it is.

I already know about and use city-data,, yelp reviews, google maps and locator widgets on the websites of major retailers/chains (and scorecard and a few other things). I am wondering if there is anything nifty I haven't yet heard about. I would be especially interested in hearing about any good walkability apps or tools and if there is a website where you can put in a list of stores/restaurants and get back an answer either telling you "Yes, this city you named has all of those" or "Here is a list of cities with all of those."

Things I am trying to find out about include:

Climate and cleanliness of environment.
Cost of living (and tax burden -- I know of a website for that though).
If a city has a specific list of stores, banks, and eateries.
Real estate/neighborhoods -- the usual moving concerns.

I can probably dig all this information up eventually, possibly slowly and painfully. If anyone knows of any shortcuts, tricks, websites that cut through some of the process, etc. I would be thrilled to hear.

I know that people commonly move somewhere because family is there or they got a job offer or they are going there to attend a particular college or to follow a spouse whose job is taking them there. My income is portable and none of those reasons apply to my situation. If you have any experience with just deciding you liked a particular place and arranging to move there, I would be interested in hearing from you.

posted by Michele in California to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Re: walkability, WalkScore is your friend.
posted by carmicha at 1:16 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I was looking at the same thing, I found it helpful to print out a map of the US and start crossing off any areas where I knew I didn't want to live. For example:

-Political/culture clash [deep south, upstate NY, most of the midwest, etc.]
-Prohibitively cold [ME, VT, NH, MN, MT, etc]
-Tornadoes common [AR, OK, KS, etc]
-Wildfires common
-Drinking water issues

This eliminated a LOT of the map. Then, I went more city-specific by selecting (and highlighting on the map) the cities in the remaining regions that had:

-International airport
-Neighborhood(s) with walkscore of at least 70%
-Voted for Obama in 2012 (NYtimes graphic)

This allowed me to narrow it down to a handful of contenders, which I threw into a spreadsheet listing:

-Average rents
-Public transit
-Local politics
-Farmers markets/local food options
-Violent crime stats

I used mostly used Wikipedia, Walkscore, and Wolfram Alpha ("compare FACTOR CITY to CITY").
posted by melissasaurus at 1:21 PM on November 3, 2014 [6 favorites]

That's a really great reply. I have done some of those steps already.

I am currently looking at some cities in California and Wyoming. If one of those cities works out, I might not look any further than those two states. If I am not finding something that meets ALL my criteria, the search would be opened up to Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Idaho and maybe also Montana, Utah and Nevada.

So if anyone knows of state specific resources or what have you, that's the short list.
posted by Michele in California at 1:27 PM on November 3, 2014

I know you already mentioned city-data in your post, but in addition to the compiled data you should make sure to browse their forums as well.
posted by doctord at 3:06 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Last year, there was this similar question, in which I suggested the then-new app from the Census, called dwellr. Good luck!
posted by zachxman at 3:27 PM on November 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

One thing I might add to the research is predicted impacts from climate change, although this is obviously difficult to know at this stage, and I can't recommend a specific resource. It does seem that California is likely to continue to suffer from issues like drought in the future, which is one reason I have considered leaving here myself (i.e. the state may not be able to continue to naturally support its current population).
posted by three_red_balloons at 4:21 PM on November 3, 2014

three_red_balloons: Do you have any opinion as to whether northern California is more sustainable in that regard than southern California?

My thinking is: Most of the precipitation in California is in the northern portion of the state and most of the population is in the southern portion, which has a lot of desert or otherwise arid land. (I am currently in the southernmost county of the state, bordering Mexico. The two California cities -- Chico and Redding -- that have made my research list so far are both in northern California.)

For sheer cleanliness of environment reasons, Wyoming is the hands down winner of all states. But I have some reservations about going there and mumblemumble hoping for a happy medium.
posted by Michele in California at 4:54 PM on November 3, 2014

I've relocated 4 times since 2005 and am currently considering another. For climate history I use I back-tested it for any place I've lived for more than a few years and it was accurate. There is a page for each 50 states, here is California with 29 different locations: has more detailed climate history. I use weather2travel for a quick analysis, weatherspark for an in depth look.
posted by Homer42 at 7:08 AM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Michele in California, my understanding is that northern CA is facing similar challenges as the south, like more wildfires, more heat waves (here's a map that shows how average summer temperatures are predicted to rise in different cities), and more drought. This winter, supposedly, the north will get even less rain than the south, and long term, I think we rely more on snowpack (which is more likely to melt as temps rise). All that said, California is supposedly doing a better job of preparing for climate change than most other states. Some cities are doing more than San Diego with its billion-dollar new desalination plant. Californians also have low per capita carbon footprints, while Wyoming actually has the worst of any state.

As far as I know, Wyoming will also have increased wildfires, drought, and heat waves, but if I had to guess, I would think that they're in a better position to deal with drought, because the population is so small.

One other place to consider, if you like the area, might be the Pacific Northwest, which is supposed to fare a little better over the next several decades.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:40 AM on November 4, 2014

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