TaxesTaxes are especially important when comparing the overall cost of living in one area to another.
"Property taxes will be estimated on each home listing, but everyone should also review sales taxes and state and local income taxes," Luetjen-Keeler says. "Some states also have personal property taxes on items such as cars and boats which can add to the cost of living."
Bankrate provides a list of state income and sales tax rates.
Insurance and utilitiesLuetjen-Keeler recommends people contact their insurance agent to receive an estimate of the costs of car insurance and homeowners insurance in the new location. People moving to a flood-prone or tornado-prone area may find they need additional hazard insurance.
Car insurance costs depend not only on the car and driver, but also regional theft and accident rates.
Utility costs also can vary from region to region.
"Utility costs have a lot to do with the size of the property and the energy efficiency of the design and the systems," says McIlwain. "The best way to estimate them is to get copies of the utility bills from the owners."
Other costsEven the cost of basic groceries and medicines can vary from place to place. To compare these costs, try Bankrate's cost of living calculator by entering income and location along with a new location. This will give you an estimate of the cost of living difference.
For example, someone earning $200,000 in Washington, D.C., would need 30 percent more income to maintain his or her lifestyle in New York City. By contrast, that same D.C. resident could earn 33 percent less in Dallas and still maintain the same lifestyle.
Homeowner association fees are another variable cost.
"It's very important for people to know what the fees are and what they cover in terms of amenities and maintenance," says Luetjen-Keeler. "You need to look at the association's finances and ask about the rate of increase in fees."
Of course, costs are not the only factor in deciding whether or not to relocate, McIlwain says.
"I think the primary consideration should be quality of life," he says. "As long as they can afford to live there and still save for retirement, people should choose where they want to live."
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