Online tools can help gauge the trade-offs.
To get an idea of how local incomes compare, enter a
query in Bankrate's cost
of living comparison calculator, which compares
the income required to maintain your current standard
of living in two different cities.
The contrasts can be stark. If you were
earning $80,000 in Atlanta, you could maintain the same
lifestyle on 9.79 percent less, or $72,167, in Knoxville,
Tenn., according to the calculator. A New Yorker earning
$200,000 could move to Toledo, Ohio, and support the
same lifestyle on 52.29 percent less income -- $95,417.
A San Franciscan would need $125,000 to enjoy the lifestyle
a Salina, Kan., resident could get for $60,523. All
these calculations are based on financial considerations
and, of course, do not take into account cultural variations.
Seek economic stability
Sometimes real estate is cheap for a reason. That's
particularly true in cities with high crime rates, a
shrinking job market or underperforming public schools.
Granted, economic turnarounds do occur.
And investors adept at spotting blighted areas primed
for transformation have done very well. But if you're
looking for a place to relocate and live in now, Sperling
says it's wiser to stick to locations with stable economies.
Capital cities and university towns tend
to be good picks, since they tend to have stable job
markets. It's prudent to avoid places where the local
economy is dependent on a single private employer or
industry. A cyclical downturn in that industry can adversely
affect the whole community.
Consider where you have a network: Moving
is stressful enough. Going to a new place where you
don't have friends or family can make it more difficult.
That's why many people looking to relocate from high-cost
areas start by looking at places where they already
That was the case for John and Alane Mastandrea,
who moved this year from a New York City suburb to a
Cleveland suburb not far from Alane's parents. Affordable
housing was a key motive. The Mastandreas, who have
two young sons, are buying a four-bedroom house in the
college town of Berea, Ohio, for under $200,000.
"In New York, I was too intimidated
to even enter the marketplace. The asking prices might
as well have been denominated in Monopoly money,"
John Mastandrea says.
He estimates that a house comparable to
the one he's buying in Ohio would be at least three
times the price in his old New York neighborhood. For
New York friends who also can't afford to buy locally,
he advises a course of action similar to his own:
"I tell people to exploit their own
special circumstances -- friends or family who live
in lower-cost-of-living locales."
is a freelance writer based in California.