01 December 2023

There are a myriad of reasons why people move to new towns or cities, ranging from retirement and lifestyle choices, to transfers and employment opportunities. Whatever the reason, the key to making it work for you is in your homework. Like so much in life, the 80:20 principle applies. In this case, the 80% is your research (homework) and the other 20% is the actual relocation.

In this article we’ll look at what you need to do, and the steps you need to take before moving to another city so that you can make it feel like home. Once you have done your research, you can then spend time planning the logistics and costs of moving between cities.

Find out general information about the town or city

Each city will have important facts and figures on its municipal website. You’ll also find important demographic information, like population size, etc., from websites like StatsSA or the local country equivalents. Many towns and cities also have tourist information offices which are veritable mines of useful information, often much more than the average holidaymaker needs to know. In addition, many neighbourhoods also have virtual communities on social media platforms: this is where you’ll get the “inside track” on the real-life community you’re thinking of joining.

Finding out about more than “the place”

Once you’ve established what your prospective new home city looks like, how many people live there, the socio-economic profile, etc., there is a range of other factors to consider. We’ve divided them into some general and specific categories…

Money matters

When we move to a new place, finances are a major consideration. By this we don’t just mean how much you can afford to spend on your new home, but the cost of living in your new hometown. For example, things can often be more expensive in metropolitan areas than they are in the countryside. In South Africa, property prices (as well as the cost of many goods and services) are generally higher in the Western Cape – and Cape Town – than in other parts of the country. In addition to your accommodation and groceries, you’ll need to consider what your rates, utilities and services will cost in the new town.

Safety and security

Crime is a fact of life everywhere in the world. It is best practice to find out which parts of your new hometown are the safest. Find out what types of crime dominate in the area. Is it a petty and opportunistic crime, or of a more serious nature? Often people don’t like discussing crime, because of its impact on property prices, but if you look carefully around a neighbourhood, you’ll get a good idea about how safe people feel. For example, do homes have high walls, electric gates and fences? Are there signs of an active neighbourhood watch and/or private security? Joining local community groups on social media can also help in this regard.

Animals and pets

If you have pets or are inclined to keep chickens or rabbits, some cities have by-laws that restrict or control how many animals you can have on your property. These by-laws may also extend to the minimum requirements for care, as well as where and with whom dogs can be walked.

Friends and family

Moving to a new city, town or village can be lonely. So, when you consider relocating, and you’re leaving family behind, are there other family members where you’re going? Do you have friends and acquaintances there? If not, are you the kind of person who will go out of your way to make friends? If you’re moving to a new place where you don’t know anyone, your research is critically important, and once you’re settled in your new home – if not before – get out there and explore the new places you found interesting when you did your “pre-relocation” homework.

Surrounding factors

When viewing homes in a new town, it is useful to take time to explore the suburb and to be aware of all the external, surrounding factors that might have an impact on how much you enjoy living in the area. This could include things such as:

  • Air, road and/or rail traffic noise or other noise pollution that would annoy you
  • Traffic congestion either in or adjacent to your neighbourhood could impact your daily routine
  • Are there any green spaces and parks nearby? Will the noise of children and animal life be a perk or an irritation to you?
  • Are there any plans for future developments in the area that might impact your views or quality of living?
  • Find out if the area is governed by any special regulations. For example, some suburbs are considered important, historically, and are protected, which could impact your plans to renovate or alter your house.

Life stage considerations

Our priorities and needs change at different stages in our lives. This, too, influences how we go about moving to a new city and where we choose to live...

Just starting out

When you’re young and starting out, you usually want to be closer to coffee shops, nightlife, and other entertainment options. Usually, these bustling enclaves are found in the CBD and/or close to universities and cultural centres. The snag is that property is not cheap in these areas, meaning that you have to decide what is more important – the lifestyle or the accommodation? If you can, and before you make your final decision, try to spend some time in your chosen neighbourhood to make sure it is all it's cracked up to be.

Family- and into mid-life

Priorities change radically once we have children: not only do you have to make your budgets stretch more than ever before, but you also tend to look for a bit more space, stability and a quieter, more suburban lifestyle. So, in addition to finding an affordable property, and taking the children’s age(s) into consideration, the location of creches, schools and universities could come into play. In addition, you’ll be considering accessibility to health care (a GP, dentist and hospital) as well as to supermarkets. If you use public transport, and/or you travel out of town on business, look at proximity and access to the relevant routes and the airport. Finally, you might also consider how family-friendly the neighbourhood is: are there play parks or establishments that offer activities and experiences that suit the whole family?

Word to the wise: If you can, and before you make a final decision about uprooting the family and moving to a new city, do some on-the-ground exploring. Go and see the schools in the area: will your children fit in and be happy there? Visit the local library or museum and spend some time finding out about locals’ regular haunts and popular spots and what keeps them going back for more.

Empty nesters approaching retirement

Once the children leave home, and it’s time to downsize, lifestyle considerations are usually top of mind, closely followed by health and medical matters. Assuming you’re hale and hearty and enjoy an outdoor lifestyle and you’re planning to travel, a lock-up-and-go on an estate that comes with an established community may suit you best. Alternatively, you might be hankering after a move to the country, leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind. Either way, it’s smart to find out whether, and what level of medical care is available, and how easily you can get to it. If you’re looking at an estate or country village, spend time there, not just over weekends, and explore the hiking and cycling trails and check out the birding.

Work with a Real Estate Agent

Relocating is difficult and when you don’t have local knowledge, there’s nobody who will know more about your new hometown than a resident estate agent. Because RE/MAX has both a national and international footprint, reach out to your nearest RE/MAX office and ask them to refer you to an agent in your new hometown. Not only will they have local knowledge, but their experience and expertise will help you navigate your new territory - in South Africa and/or in a new country.

Have more unanswered questions? Here are some related questions – and answers – that might help…

How do you make a new city feel like a home?

After you’ve unpacked and started turning your new house into a home, become a tourist in your own backyard and make this town you call home, your own. Visit local coffee shops, join community groups, and get stuck in as soon as you can.

How do you declutter before moving?

The best way to declutter is to be systematic about it and to take your time. As soon as you know that you’re relocating, work room by room, deciding what you will need, what you won’t and then ruthlessly getting rid of what you don’t.

What are the negative effects of relocating?

Probably the most negative effect of relocating other than the strangeness of a new town or city, is the potential for loneliness because of leaving friends and family behind. Prepare yourself for this by looking for hiking, sports or social clubs that you can join and where you can meet like-minded people.

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