Life can be messy and the allure of newness often makes moving a path for those seeking a fresh start. A complete change of scenery, new friends, house, job, community and weekend hangout spots, can bring a sense of excitement for those who’ve come to associate their current city with a feeling of malaise. Then there are others who’ve fallen on hard times and want to break the cycle with a change of environment. Regardless of the reason, for those who decide a new beginning is right for them, they will face the question: Where should I move to start over?
In this post, we’ll look at recent trends, the reasons people move for a fresh start, how they can determine if it’s the right decision, where to move, and how to consult with experts on what should be considered first.
The rise of greater work from home flexibility, the trend of people swapping their urban environments for suburban or rural locations and low mortgage interest rates have made this decade the era of relocations spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida real estate agent Jose Calvo, who completes 27% more home sales than the average area agent, says he’s never experienced the kind of influx of people coming to Palm Beach County from all over the country as has taken place during the pandemic. Many are seeking to take advantage of the shift in the real estate market to sell high-priced homes and downsize in a state with lower taxes, he says.
Others, like small business entrepreneur Jordan Hobfollhere and his family, got fed up with the way the pandemic was being handled in Iowa and decided in August to move from Des Moines to Burlington, Vermont. “My general philosophy is change is good and new places allow us all to grow,” he says.
This desire for change seems to be driving unprecedented moving trends. In a survey conducted during the pandemic by Neighbor.com, 56% of Americans reported that they planned to move in 2021. This represents a substantial increase from just 35% that moved in 2020.
Yet, moving can be a stressful experience, especially with children and, starting over somewhere new can have a long-term impact on one’s life trajectory as well as mental health implications. Thus, a hefty amount of personal reflection and research to ensure the best outcome is a prime ingredient for a successful relocation.
Why do people move to start over?
There’s the realm of needs and the realm of wants, and moving to a new place doesn’t necessarily fall neatly in either category. The idea of moving for a fresh start may arise from nuanced situations, or from emotionally charged life changes. These might include:
- Failed relationships
- Death of a loved one
- Untimely or unjust job loss
- Personal safety concerns
- Criminal conviction (against you or a family member)
Scenarios like these can prompt a flight response in someone wanting to flee a negative situation and turn over a new leaf in a new community. However, according to licensed clinical psychologist Angel Faith Psy.D, unless it’s an unsafe or unhealthy situation, it’s better to conduct an assessment to ensure that the move is about finding positive change in a new place and not just about trying to escape from something.
Is a fresh start really necessary?
Determining whether starting over in a new place is the right decision takes a great deal of inner work, especially if there are complex factors at play. For example, moving to create distance from a troublesome ex-partner might mean you’ll never accidentally run into that person while running errands again, but if you have children together you’ll have to consider how the decision will impact them. It’s also possible that by next year you’ll no longer be bothered by chance encounters.
In addition to getting therapy, Faith advises individuals weighing difficult relocation options to write their thoughts and feelings in a journal, create a list of pros and cons, and get feedback from trusted loved ones for a clearer assessment of the situation.
“It’s important to be careful about expectations, and make sure that the reason for the move is not to run away from something but instead to create something new and desirable,” Faith says. “The goal is to be intentional rather than having too high expectations that moving will be a quick fix.”
Moving can present new life opportunities
Once motivations and expectations are clear, moving to a new place can open up opportunities for people in multiple areas of life. For example, if you love nature but have always lived in an urban environment, moving to a less populated area could give you more access to the great outdoors and result in increased happiness and stress relief.
If live music is your passion but shows in your area are a rarity, setting up in a new city with a lively music scene could add the desired melody that’s been missing, leading to a well-rounded life. On a more somber note, if the death of a loved one has filled your current location with the constant specter of loss, a fresh environment could help lighten the grieving process.
Whatever the circumstances, and for better or worse, people are moving more than in the past. However, it’s not a light decision but one that needs thorough analysis. Otherwise, a chronic internal issue just may end up following you to the next destination.
What to consider when deciding on the best place to start over
Wes and Gerrie Akau used to think that they would spend the rest of their days in the San Jose house they purchased in 1998 for $287K. Originally from Hawaii, they’ve called Northern California home since 1974 and have deep roots in the community. But Wes Akau’s perspective began to change once he and his wife retired and had to live on a fixed income. Last year the couple paid over $7K in property taxes with the tax rate escalating even more in 2021.
After lengthy deliberations, the couple explored the possibility of living in places like Colorado, Utah and Arizona and ultimately decided to put down retirement roots in Las Vegas, Nevada, known for its abundance of Hawaiian cuisine and reputation as the “9th island.” They reached out to Scott Fuller, founder of Leaving the Bay Area, who helped them get the ball rolling on selling their San Jose home and finding their next one.
“It was a hard decision but one that was probably necessary,” Wes Akau said. “We’re both retired and I decided that we weren’t going to be able to continue to afford our house in the Bay Area because we’re on a set income, and property taxes were gaining pretty quickly. It’s very expensive in San Jose.”
Their Las Vegas choice was heavily influenced by finances. Having sold their San Jose home earlier this year for $1.13M, they wanted their housing dollars to stretch, giving them a comfortable life well into their golden years. They finally put a $669K offer down on a house in the greater Las Vegas area with more square footage and nicer surroundings compared to their San Jose home.
Yet, there were other factors to consider. Although the move will mean that they won’t see some grandchildren as often, other members of the family are also thinking about relocating to Vegas. Since the Akaus had community ties through their San Jose church, they expect to easily create faith-based relationships in their new city where they’ll keep busy with charity work. However, the Akaus are a bit apprehensive about the long intensely hot Las Vegas summers, especially since they’ve enjoyed the mild Northern California climate for decades.
Moving inevitably involves trade-offs, and there’s no such thing as the perfect place. Every city or town has its advantages and disadvantages, which are ultimately subjective. For the Akaus, despite being settled in a place they loved, changes in finances meant they couldn’t stay and needed to find a new place that would feel as much like home. Now they have a life ahead of them that’s much more affordable in a place that’s somewhat reminiscent of their Hawaiian origins, but will undoubtedly entail an adjustment period.
When deciding on the right place to settle down, like the Akaus, Faith advises people to think about their lifestyle and what places could accommodate it based on factors like:
- Weather that fits your lifestyle and health condition
- Availability of desired social activities
- Proximity to nature or parks
- Affordability based of your projected income
- Job and volunteer opportunities
- Distance from family support, friends and loved ones
- Distance from those that might be corrosive or harmful in their life
- Presence of preferred faith community
- Access to the things that make you feel happy or secure
- Presence of like-minded people
She encourages people to be proactive about finding community.
“I think it’s important to go visit the city for a couple of days,” Faith says. “Explore, go to some restaurants, talk to people, find your favorite coffee shop. Take notes or journal about the experience.”
It’s also vital to be proactive about finding a potential community. Harnessing the internet with social media and online meetup groups can offer a sense of the type of people you’ll meet in the city and help establish a network early in the process.
Give these cities a test run for a fresh start
Looking for a city with top mental health care? Consider:
- Denver, Colorado – named the best city for mental health care in a recent study, Denver has an abundance of quality providers, strong community well-being metrics and affordable therapists
Looking for a city that’s affordable? Consider:
- Huntsville, Alabama – if things have gone south financially, head to Huntsville for housing costs well below the national average. It’s also a fast growing metro with a robust job market
Want access to nature? Consider:
- Las Vegas, Nevada – has 21.9 acres of publicly accessible open space per capita within an hour drive including the scenic Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Seeking serenity? Consider:
- Green Banks, West Virginia – if you want to truly unplug Green Banks is a no cell phone zone with a quiet, rural atmosphere
Need safety? Consider:
- Hopkinton, Massachusetts – ranked the safest city in the U.S. in 2021, Hopkinton has a violent crime rate of 0.00 per 1,000 people
Looking for a city with great beaches? Consider:
- Haleiwa, Oahu, Hawaii – known as a surfers paradise, Oahu is nonetheless quiet offering an idyllic island charm
Want a city with a great overall quality of life? Consider:
- Ann Arbor, Michigan – a city that offers good schools, a diverse job market, many parks, low crime rates, an eclectic culture and relatively affordable homes
Deciding not to relocate
After itching for a location change to remedy some adverse challenge in life, deciding to stay put can demonstrate a high degree of self-awareness and fortitude. However, just because you’ve decided that moving across the country won’t necessarily solve your problems doesn’t mean you can’t get a fresh start. Simply moving to a new neighborhood in your current city could grant a needed change of scenery, make it less likely you’ll run into the ex or create some distance from undesirable influences.
After a lengthy process of vetting cities, there might be good reason to put off or cancel a move. The scenery and access to the great outdoors of Alaska may seem perfect during a summer visit, but if you have a history of Seasonal Affective Disorder, the long winters may be wise to forgo. If your desire to get out of dodge is rooted in a past trauma, you may end up finding a support group in your current town that provides lasting connections and a sense of community in shared experiences.
If you decide to keep your feet planted, Faith advises other ways to start fresh like picking up a hobby, finding a new job, expanding your social network, going back to school or just taking a class as some of the many ways to reset your trajectory.
Taking the next step to starting over
With all of life’s twists and turns, there comes a time when just about everyone seeks renewal. Moving to a new place is one of the most powerful ways to bring about change in life but it’s not the solution to all problems. And in today’s highly mobile atmosphere, it’s easy to conclude that there are greener pastures elsewhere. There are many sound reasons to live in a new place, however, the essential question is whether the motivating factor is truly something that can be addressed by starting over somewhere new.
If you’ve taken the necessary time to research and ponder the reasons and benefits of moving — and the decision to relocate feels like the right move — the next step is to partner with the right agent. HomeLight’s Agent Match tool analyzes over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs. The service is 100% free, with no catch. Agents don’t pay us to be listed, so you get the best match when you are ready to start your new beginning.
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