How to Pick a New City; or at least what worked for us

I’m finally letting the cat out of the bag; my husband and I are moving to Austin, Texas! While this is a simple enough sentence to write now, it has taken months and months to get to this point. We had so many questions. How do you decide on brand new city to move to? What are we supposed to be looking for? Below you’ll find one woman’s guide for how to pick a new city.

If you’re new around here, I currently live in Pasadena—a suburb of Los Angeles—and moved here five years ago after college in Cincinnati, Ohio. The move to Pasadena came from a job opportunity which made it very easy to say yes, pack up all of my belongings, and promptly move across the country. This time around my husband and I started thinking about what cities we would possibly like to live in before starting the whole job hunt process. Disclaimer: I have to acknowledge the privilege we have that my husband’s company lets him work from anywhere so we only needed to find one new job (mine!) between us. I know this is not the case for everyone.

How to pick a new city

Narrow down your options

To start we narrowed down our long list of possible cities. Where could I logically find a new job? (As a graphic designer, towns too small or rural were out). Where could we afford to buy a house? Could we get close to our parents but not too close? With that in mind we got it down to our top three options:

1. Chicago
2. Nashville
3. Austin

(If possible) visit your prospective cities

Even though we had been to all three cities before, going with the notion of possibly moving really changes how you view it. Does that traffic actually seem unbearable every day? Look out for the more mundane aspects of a city, does it have good transportation, does the airport seem easily accessible, things that will ultimately affect your life. We made sure to visit in less desirable times of the year. Chicago is the absolute best in the summer but have you tried a winter there? Yikes.

Rank your options

After talking to some family members about our upcoming move, they suggested we make a matrix to help identify what we wanted in a city and how they ranked against each other. For us the following were the most important factors in a new city. Feel free to tailor more towards yourself. Maybe you can’t possibly live without ocean access. You do you.

1. Cost of Living
2. Quality of Life
3. Weather
4. Work Prospects
5. Home Price
6. Home Availability
7. Proximity to Family
8. Airport Convenience
9. Outdoor Access
10. Access to Education

We then ranked them from 1-5 (1 being the lowest, 5 being the highest) and added them up for our total score. See how our three cities ranked. (We added Los Angeles to give ourselves a base line to start.)

how to pick a new city

While I don’t think the matrix is a perfect system, it did help us have important conversations about how much we weighted some aspects vs. others. Plus it gave us a great framework in which to compare and discuss the various cities.

So now that you’ve ranked and (hopefully) decided, it’s time to get going! Have you had to choose a new city before? How did you decide?

how to pick a new city


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