Other than AskMe, How Do People Find Their Spot?
April 13, 2017 2:55 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for articles, services, commonly used search terms etc.

There used to a site called "Find your spot" which seems defunct where you could, in theory, put in info and get a list of cities back for where you "should" live. Places Rated or Best Places type articles and websites are perennial favorites, but they seem to not really work in some sense. Other than posting a question to AskMe, how do people go about looking for such information?

I see these sorts of questions all the time, and not just on Metafilter. What search terms do people use? What do people do, other than Random Question on Whatever Forum they participate in?
posted by Michele in California to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might like Where2Roost, which reminds me of the sites that help you pick which national candidate is the best fit for your beliefs. It's not exactly perfect -- it didn't match me with where I live now (hmmmm) but one of the two results provided a place that might be ideal for me in retirement. Also, you might like looking through Livability, which lets you find narrowed categories within "best places" for specific types: top 10 small towns, best cities for moderates, etc.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 4:00 PM on April 13, 2017

Best answer: If you have an idea of where to look, the City Data forums are helpful to narrow things down.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:12 PM on April 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Areavibes, Spirlings Best Places.
posted by notned at 4:23 PM on April 13, 2017

Response by poster: To be clear: I am interested literally in how YOU did this for yourself. I do appreciate links to existing services and articles, but I have a Certificate in GIS and I have done a lot of this sort of research. I am trying to find out what other people do.

I am trying to understand a particular problem space. That problem space is not "Where Should Michele Move?"

posted by Michele in California at 4:24 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I haven't moved yet, but I'm planning to go to western Oregon or at least the west coast (north of the SF Bay Area).

Politics and civil rights are very important to me so I looked at which areas voted strongly blue. I looked at which states had strong protections for LGBT people (LGBT mapping project). I wanted mountains and/or an ocean nearby (no special research needed there). I knew I didn't want to live in a big city so that eliminates Seattle and Portland. I picked a few smaller cities and asked my social network if they knew anyone who lived there. Finally I wanted to know how the cost of living compared to my current city. Here are two calculators: Bankrate and Best Places. Eugene OR and Olympia WA are the front runners right now.
posted by AFABulous at 4:40 PM on April 13, 2017

Best answer: I moved for work. But! I didn't apply for jobs in places I didn't want to move to.

Weather was a key factor: long cloudy cold seasons make me depressed. Bitter cold, been there, done enough. So I did look up average temps and rainfall in places I considered. I love being near the ocean so if I wasn't too sure about the location I'd check it on a map. East coast US because all of my kids and almost all of my cousins are in the east. Racially diverse, that wasn't always easy to determine, but I was applying for jobs at colleges so I looked at their websites. Religiously heterogeneous: mosque and synagogue and UU and Quaker Meeting in addition to the usual, I remember just googling these. This last criterion seemed to me to indicate at least some liberal progressive people. I've also never in my life lived in suburban middle America - I have either lived in large cities or in rural areas- so I didn't want to land in a place that was just endless suburban sprawl. That was a bit harder to determine, mostly I did it by looking for historical stuff and at houses for sale.

Of course at the time the economy had just tanked and I was unemployed and wasn't sure I'd ever find a job... I got lucky and ended up living in an interesting city with a job I love (shit pay, but oh well). My kids, other relatives, and old friends enjoy coming here to visit.
posted by mareli at 5:12 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One thing I plan to do is research infrastructure spending and problems.

I'm also planning to do a general search for articles about corruption/dysfunction in city council, state government, school boards, and elections. Not sure that's going to be a huge factor with all the other stuff, but I'd like to go in with my eyes open.

Hello from North Carolina :)
posted by amtho at 5:28 PM on April 13, 2017

Best answer: We moved for work, so the first thing was "has a law school with a library." Also housing prices that were reasonable, not too rural, not too conservative, not too hot. Cleveland rocks!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:41 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If I had to move again, I'd definitely check Walkscore and their related TransitScore & BikeScore.
posted by mhum at 7:04 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Michele in California, the lack of first-hand search terms (especially in my post) could be because you're describing a situation I suspect few people have the luxury of experiencing, so they're focusing on the "services" request you made. I'm trying to imagine deciding where to live (out of all possibilities) and then moving there, as opposed to finding a job or academic program and moving to wherever that job or program is. I'm delighted to know that there are people who first pick a specific place (rather than, at best, a region). I marvel at the idea of designing one's life with this level of investigative search, rather than a result that is more serendipitous or stuck-with-it.

No place I have ever lived since college would tick any of the search terms for any place I'd want to live, but I suspect I'd (separately) search for "liberal enclave," "temperate climate," and "good bagels." I'm not sure that helps you (and it doesn't help me -- tomorrow's going to be 84° and people here voted for Panera as having the best bagels).
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 9:29 PM on April 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My boyfriend and I worked remotely and could live anywhere. So we moved based on a bunch of things that were very important to me. Number one being: The weather and geography. I looked up the weather. Averages. And record highs. And record lows. And snowfall and rain. And sunny days. If they had tornados and severe weather and how often. This was followed by geography. I looked at google earth to see how hilly a place was and how far away mountains were (and how tall the mountains were) and how much water was around and how green it looked. I require a lot of trees. I wanted all of those things. Then I looked at populations to see how many people lived in the bigger cities that met my weather and geography criteria and how they voted in the last few Presidential elections. After that, I looked at cost of living calculators and home prices. Once I narrowed it down to two cities, I literally "drove" around these cities using Google street view. I then googled thing like "best neighborhoods in x city" and from there I narrowed it down to the exact neighborhood I wanted to live in, before I'd ever set foot in the city. And today I live in a house in that neighborhood and that city I choose just from Googling. Ha. And I still say at least once a week, "OMG I LOVE ALL OF THE TREES!!"
posted by ilovewinter at 10:23 PM on April 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've done 2 cross-country moves. Each one was job-related, first and foremost. Weather and lifestyle factors came in after that. I was a young professional when the 2007-08 recession began, and it greatly affected me. I saw many coworkers get laid off, either due to downsizing or because their skill set was expendable and out-of-date.

So I decided I would never move without a job offer in-hand, and that I also would never move to a city where I'd have a hard time finding a job. If unemployment is my #1 biggest fear then #2 is definitely being stuck in a toxic work environment, and not having any other options. For me, the most informative sites were Indeed and Craigslist.

Most mid and senior-level professionals have a sense of where the job market is best for their respective title and industry. In my case, I know that there are 6 metropolitan areas where I could find a job. Out of those 6, there are 3 which, due to climate and lifestyle factors, have more pull than the others. Out of those 3, there was 1 where all of my job-hunting efforts fell into the right place at the right time so that it became the obvious choice.
posted by invisible ink at 11:53 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've moved three times for specific jobs, and once for graduate school (although, one factor in picking my school was location, and I definitely only applied for jobs in places I wanted to live!). I decided to apply for jobs in cities I already knew I liked, and where I had close friends, and once, where a boyfriend lived. When we finally wanted to select the actual place to settle down, we knew we didn't want to stay in the city we lived in, and we wanted to be near one set of parents (for help with kids). For us, the decision was made by cost of living. We of course considered job market, weather, type of city, risks associated with climate change, lifestyle factors, etc, but the final decision was made by the fact that regular people houses in one location cost over a million dollars, and in the other, a quarter of that. We couldn't fathom moving somewhere that insanely expensive, and the two places we were considering had some similar factors that are very important to us (access to outdoors, political views, etc).

We used zillow and similar sites as well as Best Places and google to research the two places, but it helped that we were each familiar with one due to family.
posted by john_snow at 7:15 AM on April 14, 2017

Best answer: " I am interested literally in how YOU did this for yourself"

I've never actually moved myself like this, but I've played the parlor game a few times. The criteria are usually something like large university, population under ~150k (depending on how small-towny I feel at the time), frequent snow, at least one public ice rink, and a Trader Joe's within a 45-60 minute drive. Sometimes I'll throw in an Eastern time zone requirement. And NOT Ann Arbor, LOL (although my wife just considered applying for a job at UofM). It's pretty easy to get that Venn diagram - you can probably name most of the places that qualify off the top of your head.

When I have actually moved, it's been because of school, either for myself or my girlfriend at the time. Work, of course, would be the same thing. Or family.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:52 AM on April 14, 2017

Best answer: I think a lot of people pick a place to live (given that luxury) on the advice of friends/family. So, say my best friend lives in Los Angeles, I go visit her in LA, I love the city, I consider moving there.

Once I am interested in "could I live in this city", then I start looking at Zillow to see where in that city I could afford to live, then try to figure out if that part of the city is a place I would enjoy, etc etc.

Similarly, I would start looking at job prospects in that city.
posted by freezer cake at 10:09 AM on April 14, 2017

Best answer: Like kevinbelt above, we've played this game a few times too. We look at Zillow, Great Schools, and Walkscore. But the bottom line comes down to job situation (our jobs are niche and do not translate outside of California, and very little within California, outside of Los Angeles) and, seriously, weather. Having been raised on the West Coast, the idea of being landlocked just does not sit well with me. Plus, I am that annoying person who will say "I'll take earthquakes over tornadoes and hurricanes any day".

The people that I've known who've moved out of California in the last, oh, 15 years or so, if they didn't move specifically to follow a company that was leaving the state, then they moved for political reasons. And every single one of the people who moved for political reasons moved to Texas.

Are there websites that account for where to live solely based on politics? I've never looked into it. This year is the first year that I would ever had thought to add politics to my list of criteria, and it's not even because of the election of Trump, but more because the increasingly oppressive atmosphere with regard to personal sovereignty in California (I'm looking at SB277 and SB18, specifically). Maybe Fox News and NPR have got this covered, for their respective audiences.

Interestingly, despite all of the families with small children that we know, and being in Los Angeles the majority of those parents are from somewhere else, none of them have left due to the lack of affordable housing here. Most of them live in impossibly tiny apartments as near to the beach as they can possibly get, or they are house poor and living in an 800 sqft, 2 bedroom, $1.5 million dollar house with a postage stamp sized yard.

Affordable housing is the number one reason why we play the moving game, but we've owned our house for a long time and the house itself is affordable for us, while moving anywhere else in LA County (anywhere with a better school district) is not. Then we circle back to lack of mobility due to niche employment and end up putting the game back on the shelf.
posted by vignettist at 10:09 AM on April 14, 2017

Best answer: I did some of it by trying things out -- that is, grad school took me one place, and then for a post-doc I liked the idea of being somewhere quite different. surprised myself when my "3-5 years in the big city" turned out to be "I'm a city person!" and even "this location seems more important to me than my current career track"!

often different types of places/ways of living can have have characteristics we can't really anticipate without experiencing them -- if you live in a suburb, you may have no idea why so many folks are crazy about a walkability score; if you've lived only on the coasts, you have have no idea how great it is to go out to hear cheap live music every night in the midwest or south or whatever. you have to be willing to have a few trial runs.
posted by acm at 10:57 AM on April 14, 2017

Best answer: We've done this a few times now. If we were putting info into a "find your spot" page, our priorities would be good schools, weather, distance to outdoor recreation, distance to culture, and affordable real estate. For schools, we mostly just google around.

We generally used city-data.com to learn some broad info about what a place is like, and the climate visualizations at weatherspark.com - for example, here's San Diego.

We also used Trulia Maps and walkscore.com for local data.
posted by mmc at 9:20 PM on April 14, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers. Lots of food for thought here.
posted by Michele in California at 6:19 PM on April 15, 2017

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