Ted Cohn

Should You Move to Chicago?

For many years, Chicago has had a reputation for being decrepit and dangerous. However, some housing experts predict this is all about to change. 

Should you move to Chicago? Chicago’s vibe is heavily dependent on the neighborhood you pick. Whether you prefer cozy, working-class neighborhoods or trendy, modern areas, the city has a neighborhood for you. What people generally like most about the city is its affordable living, reliable public transit, and access to big-city perks such as fine dining and great entertainment.

Chicago History & Job Opportunities

Known as the Windy City due to its unusually breezy weather, Chicago has an enormous population of roughly 2,690,000 people with most being middle-aged, working-class folks. The region has an energetic feeling created by the residents’ can-do attitude.

Chicago is known for being the largest city in the Midwest. Starting out as an industrial town in the 1830s, it was the main source of shipping, manufacturing, and packaging in the region.

Post WWII, the city’s economy dropped drastically as residents fled to the suburbs. It only began to pick up again in the 2000’s when people became interested in big-city living.

Today, the most common jobs are laborers/materials movers, fast food workers, corporate management, registered nurses, and cashiers.

Note that Chicago’s startup scene is exploding and is home to emerging unicorns. Forbes reports startup valuations have topped $1 billion this year, so there’s been big demand for software developers, salespeople, project managers, and related jobs.

Chicago Real Estate & Home Prices

Chicago Real Estate & Home Prices

The median list price of a single family home in Chicago is $299,900, while the median list price of a condominium is $339,00, with the average number of days on the market at 63.

According to Altos Research, Chicago is in a slight seller’s market as of December 2021.

The average rent for a 750 sqft apartment in Chicago is $2,059 according to RentCafe.

Three of the top neighborhoods in Chicago are Lincoln Park, River North, and Wrigleyville due to their upscale environment and proximity to great dining and entertainment. However, if you’re looking for more of a suburban experience not too far from the city center, you might want to investigate Clarendon Hills, Long Grove, and Buffalo Grove.

The kinds of homes you’ll find in Chicago are a blend of luxurious new construction projects and historic homes in need of a bit of TLC.

Chicago has strict rules for short-term rentals, requiring all short-term rentals to register with the city. There’s a ban on 1-night stays, annual licensing fees, taxes, inspections, and hefty fees for non-compliance among other things.

High speed internet is available at speeds up to 1000 Mbps from Xfinity, AT&T, and Earthlink starting at $20 per month.

Utility costs for electricity, gas, water, sewer, trash are generally lower than national averages, typically costing roughly $130 per month.

Chicago rates an F on cost of living (it’s expensive!) and scores 111, which is 11 percent higher than US averages. AreaVibes gives Chicago a livability score of 59 on a scale of 0-100, which is below the national average but better than surrounding areas.

Chicago Food, Drink & Entertainment

Chicago has plenty of fantastic restaurants all over town ranging from Mexican to Japanese to tapas. Popular spots include TopolobampoRoka Akor, and Girl & The Goat. It also has plenty of great places for drinks including Dollop CoffeeDovetail Brewery, and The Charleston Bar.

Due to its long history, Chicago is home to iconic establishments like The Green Door TavernSchaller’s Pump, and The Berghoff.

For nightlife, try options like doing a bar crawl along Clark Street, catching a show at The Chicago Theatre, or dancing at Tao Chicago.

Grocery stores like Albertsons, Cub Foods, Meijer, and Treasure Island Foods are easily accessible in every neighborhood. When shopping for items besides food, try exploring the shops along Michigan Avenue.

Chicago Attractions & Things to Do

Chicago Attractions & Things to Do

Chicago has many fascinating tourist attractions including The Art Institute of ChicagoNorth Avenue Beach, and Lincoln Park Zoo.

There’s also a vibrant art scene in the aptly-named Chicago Arts District where you’ll find numerous galleries, studio rentals, and retail spaces. Local artists like Anna MurphyDavid Heo, and Louis Barak are featured at festivals like the Fine Arts Fair.

If you’re a sports fan, Chicago is home to the BullsCubsWhite Sox, and Bears. Since the city is one the few metro regions to have two Major League Baseball teams, there is an avid rivalry between the Cubs and White Sox.

Chicago has some of the largest amount of park space in any major city. Some of their most notable spots are Millennium ParkGrant Park, and the Lakefront Hiking Trail.

Chicago Transportation

Chicago Transportation

Chicago is served by O’Hare International Airport, which is one of the largest airports in the nation. Unfortunately, it tends to get bad reviews due to a confusing layout and high wait times.

On the bright side, the town does have a very popular and effective public transport system. The CTA has a bus and train system that goes all over town at convenient times. 

You can also rent electric scooters or order a rideshare from Uber or Lyft.

Most Chicagoans skip owning a car, but if you have one, expect to pay up to $30 an hour for public parking. Chicago also has a unique tradition of calling “dibs” on free residential spots. According to neighborhood etiquette, if a person shovels a spot and puts a lawn chair or other belonging in it, they get to reserve the spot for personal use.

Chicago Schools

Chicago Schools

Chicago is home to The University of Chicago, one of the world’s leading research colleges. There are also many other prestigious institutions like Loyola University Chicago and Northwestern University.

The public school system can be a little rough. A larger than usual number of Chicago private schools have poor ratings on GreatSchools

However, there are some well-reviewed options like Lenart Elementary and Canty Elementary as well. If you prefer private schools, there are also some highly-regarded options like Brehm Preparatory School and Saint Luke Academy.

The library system in Chicago is very good, with locations around town featuring programs like computer classes, tutoring programs, and free ebooks for both adults and kids.

Chicago Community Groups

Chicago Community Groups

If you’re religious, you’ll find a vast array of organizations to choose from in Chicago including Soul City ChurchSt. Michael Catholic ChurchChicago Mosque, and Central Synagogue.

And if you’re LGBTQ, there are great places like Center on HalstedHoward Brown Health Center, and the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.

Chicago also has numerous neighborhood and community organizations that you can become involved in, including RANCH Triangle Community Conservation AssociationDiversey Harbor Lakeview Association, and ABJ Community Services, just to name a few.

Other good places to meet people as a newcomer are local Facebook groups and at Meetup.com.

Chicago Health & Wellness

Chicago Health & Wellness

As for Covid restrictions… The Chicago Department of Public Health requires that unvaccinated travelers be tested for COVID before and after travel from any state that is on their advisory list and quarantine upon arrival in Chicago. Currently that list includes about 40 states. The quarantine and testing recommendations do not apply to fully vaccinated travelers.

In response to the Omicron variant, all travelers arriving in Chicago from international destinations (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) need to get a negative COVID-19 viral test no more than 1 day before travel into the United States.

The city seems to be strongly encouraging all residents to get vaccinated, even giving out $100 gift cards to those who comply.

Chicago is currently open for business with no capacity limits, no social distancing requirements, and businesses able to operate at normal hours. However, masks must be worn indoors in public places.

The city recommends that large event organizers require vaccination or negative tests for attendees, but so far it looks like the ultimate decision is up to the organizers.

When you need healthcare, try highly rated options like Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Rush University Memorial Hospital. You can also find assisted living at spots like Symphony Residences and Belmont Village.

If you like to stay healthy through fitness, there are plenty of well-known gyms, like Planet Fitness, to choose from. Or you can also try local favorites like River North GymNamaskar Yoga Studio, or Mode Gym.

For pet health, there are clinics like Chicago Pet Clinic and West Loop Veterinary Care.

Chicago Climate & Safety

Chicago’s weather is generally cold and windy. In the summer, it’s often an enjoyable 83°F. However, winter lasts for months, and temperatures can drop to 5°F. WeatherSpark rates the town’s weather as cold from October through May.

One concern to be aware of is crime. The city routinely makes national news for many crime problems including gang warfare. Crime rates are 164 percent higher than the national average, and theft and assault are particularly common, so check neighborhood police data on any area of interest to learn what the risks are.

Approximately 80,0000 Chicagoans are unhoused, but due to the freezing temperatures, the city doesn’t really have tent cities or other common homeless issues. 

Somehow they manage to find places to stay when temperatures drop—in addition to shelters, warming centers or stay with friends, many duck into coffee shops, hospital waiting rooms and trains to escape the cold.

In terms of pests and predators, Chicago doesn’t have many wildlife issues, other than some roaches and rats in poorly maintained buildings.

Chicago Politics, Government & Taxation

Chicago Politics, Government & Taxation

Research from the University of Illinois found that Chicago is America’s most corrupt city. Furthermore, they have a very high amount of debt and very little income.

Politically the entire area around the city tends to be quite liberal. 74 percent of voters vote Democrat while 24 percent vote Republican.

Chicago sales tax is fairly high at 10.25 percent, much higher than the Illinois sales tax rate of 6.25 percent. The average tax rate for homes is 2.1 percent of assessed value, also high.

Illinois income taxes are 4.95 percent, which isn’t that bad compared to other states.

The top corporate tax rate is 9.5 percent and ranks 36 out of 50 states, so not that business-friendly compared to other options.

The region’s infrastructure is generally decent-quality. First responders are adequately staffed to serve the needs of the city, but they consistently have response times a minute longer than state averages.

Police response time statistics were harder to come by, so if you happen to know, let us know in the comments. We came across several local articles complaining about slow response times, so it’s something to look into. 

But the police department does provide an online map showing crime data by neighborhood, so look there to better understand the risk in whatever areas you’re interested in.

The Bottom Line

If you’re single and like big-city living for less in a place with nightlife, restaurants, and job opportunities that may not require a 4-year degree… Chicago may be the place for you. 

If you’re a couple without kids looking for nightlife, fine dining, arts, and entertainment… Chicago may be your place. But if you worry about crime and corruption, you might want to keep looking.

And if you have a family and want affordable housing with walkable neighborhoods… this town may work for you. But if you need a super safe environment with great schools, you may want to consider another location like Clarendon Hills or Buffalo Grove.

Where to live in America is a personal choice, because what’s important to us may not be important to you.

To help you find your perfect place, we recommend using a spreadsheet with weighted scores to help you clearly prioritize your choices. Our free template below can save you hours of time as you weigh your options.

Realtors — Heaven Versus Hell

Buying or selling a home can be one of the biggest financial transactions of your life. Some agents are amazing, and some are stinkers. How do you find the right one for you?

I’m going to share some personal stories with you about our experiences with Realtors over some of our 14 transactions to date. We’ve had one from heaven, one from hell, and a whole bunch in between. By the end, I hope you’ll learn better how to recognize the good from the bad, gain the confidence you need to hire a great Realtor, minimize the stress, and actually enjoy the experience.

First, who are Realtors and real estate agents and what do they do? 

The name “Realtor” is a trademark of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in the United States that refers to agents who are members of this organization. You can still work with many good agents who are not members of NAR. 

All real estate agents or Realtors are licensed by the state where they do business. There are approximately 1.5 million Realtors and 500,000 agents nationwide today. Many are full-time, some are part-time, and others are dormant, working only occasionally with friends, family, or for their own investment transactions. For the sake of brevity, I’ll refer to agents and Realtors interchangeably.

What do Realtors do, and are they really necessary to help buy/sell homes?

Realtors work with buyers to help them find a home to purchase, they work with sellers to find qualified buyers, and during escrow, they help pull all the people and pieces together to ideally close the transaction quickly and efficiently. This is no easy task since there’s usually a lot of emotion and stress involved on both sides, but they do their best to shepherd the deal to close. 
Of course, you can go it alone, which is like defending yourself in a legal fight, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have years of experience in the industry.
We didn’t realize how important Realtors were until after our first purchase. You don’t know everything they do and how much value they bring to the table until after you’ve been through your first transaction. Even if you fancy yourself as a deal maker or real estate smarty pants, I urge you to find a great agent to work with, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. 

There’s a lot of money at stake, and it’s helpful to work with someone knowledgeable about the laws, rules, and market conditions, with practical experience.

Good Realtors can save you not only time and frustration, but they can save or make you thousands of extra dollars.

In the US, you don’t typically pay Realtors directly out-of-pocket as a buyer. They earn a commission when they close a deal, traditionally paid from the seller’s side of the transaction. Today’s commissions generally range from 2 to 6%, sometimes more for specialty properties.

Okay! Let me tell you our war stories.
silicon valley apple campus

Silicon Valley

Diane and I were newlyweds back in 1990 renting in Silicon Valley for about two years before we decided to buy a home in 1991.

We visited open house after open house and met numerous Realtors over the next year. We narrowed our search to a few suburbs, including Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and Santa Clara. Palo Alto would have been a great investment, but it was one of the priciest towns to buy real estate even back then.

We worked with several decent to mediocre Realtors starting out, names changed to protect the marginal:

The first was Janet. We met her at an open house in Sunnyvale. She was salivating for the business, she gave off a weird vibe, and she was kind of pushy. It was easy to tell after just a few outings with her that she was hungry for money and didn’t care what we bought. She always asked if we wanted to make an offer on every house we saw with her.

The second was Debbie. She was the niece of a friend, who showed us condos in Palo Alto one day. After seeing three places, she pretty much said to “call her back when we’re serious.” It came off quite rude, given that we thought we were pretty serious, if maybe uncertain about the exact area we wanted to live.

The third was Stacey. We met her at another open house in Sunnyvale, saw a lot of properties with her, found one we liked, and she helped us make an offer on a house in a multiple bidding situation that we lost. Oddly, she disappeared after that! Was she too busy?

So we had some initial bad luck with these Realtors over nine months.

But it wasn’t a complete waste of time. It was helpful to get to know the market and learn what we liked and disliked in a home, as well as a Realtor.

One day we went into another open house in Saratoga that we seriously wanted to make an offer on, but it had some issues. Unable to get a hold of Stacey, the agent who had helped us make the prior offer, and after hearing about our frustration, my mom called a local real estate office and randomly found our gem, Judy Tucker.

She was an angel, heaven-sent, a Realtor’s Realtor. After discussing the issues with the Saratoga house with Judy, we opted not to make an offer and soon after bought a house in Sunnyvale, with her help, that turned out to be a better deal, a better fit for our lifestyle, and free of major issues.

A few years later, when we decided to move up to a larger home in Cupertino, we instantly hired Judy. 

On the sell-side, she coached us on how to get the house staged, ready, and what to expect. 

On the buy-side, she helped us win against another bidder. We, along with the other buyers, were bidding up to our last pennies, and we could not quite come up with the cash difference required by the seller, so Judy threw in a bit of her own commission to get the deal done! That simply blew us away. She was a true partner in getting our deal done.

Seven years later, we sold our Cupertino house, and as usual, Judy was invaluable, guiding us once more on how to prep the house for buyers and navigating through a difficult, sudden downturn in the market.

She brought incredible savvy to the negotiation, helping us close the deal with a difficult buyer of a certain culture, who she knew would likely, after being agreeable throughout the transaction, come back right before close and try to beat us down on price for numerous repairs and fixes, etc. To nip this in the bud, Judy advised us to make the purchase agreement “as is”. 

It worked. The buyer tried and failed, and we never would have known to expect this without her.

Judy did well financially, earning four commissions with us buying and selling two homes, and she deserved every penny. We wish we could have engaged her for all of our future transactions, but we left the area and couldn’t take her with us.

What Makes a Rockstar Realtor?

  1. Proactive. Judy jumped on opportunities and had a sincere desire for us to win. She gave us homework and brought lots of energy to the table.
  2. Strategic. Judy knew the market cold, how to get the best deal, and how to avoid problems.
  3. Communicative. Judy always kept us informed, never kept us guessing, coached us through the entire process.
  4. High integrity. Judy wasn’t afraid to share the good, the bad, and the ugly with us. She was not a yes-man, always honest with her opinions. She never pushed us, respected our decisions. She was fun to work with and very supportive.
  5. Professional network. She had a full cadre of excellent handymen, inspectors, lenders, peers, helpers, title and escrow officers.
truckee northstar winter


Once we sold our Cupertino home, we turned our focus to Truckee, where we wanted to move. 

Judy helpfully referred us to a top agent in the Truckee market, who I’ll call Sally. She knew the market cold, but we ended up clicking better with her younger assistant agent, Denise, and spent more time with her. 

We originally wanted to roll profits from our expensive Silicon Valley home into a Truckee dream house, but after not finding anything we liked for the money, we ended up buying a small temporary house and bought land with the intent to build.

Sally had been in the business for over 20 years, which she constantly reminded us of to reaffirm her qualifications. 

We quickly discovered that she was pretty set in her ways. Denise seemed much more open-minded and helpful.

When we wanted to make an offer on a home for less than the asking price, Sally resisted. The home was in her neighborhood, where values generally held, but our internet research suggested the seller might be open to dealing, and he was. 

She was genuinely surprised that he came down in price. It seemed like she was a big fish in a tiny pond who didn’t want to see neighborhood values fall. That was my impression anyway. We got through the transaction, but her resistance to our making a lower offer (that ended up saving us $44,000) left a bad taste in my mouth.

The truth is, every agent is on trial all the time. If you’re not getting a good vibe, try someone else on the team, try someone else from the same brokerage, or try another Realtor entirely. Years of experience don’t guarantee great service.

When it came time to sell our Truckee home, we went with a new agent, Lil, who we had come to know socially. She was super savvy, a lot like Judy, but lower-key. We sold that house in 4 days.

mammoth lakes ca


A couple of years later, we fell in love with the Village at Mammoth when it was under construction and decided to buy our first second home there, a condo. 

We liked the sales agent, who was very helpful, so we worked with her again a few years later when we sold it at a good profit. She was straightforward, competent, and professional, keeping us reasonably informed without drama.

Look for low-drama agents who stay neutral and communicate in a timely fashion. High-drama agents who always blame others can be difficult.

downtown reno riverwalk


In 2004 we discovered a brand-new development on a golf course in NW Reno called Somersett. We asked a lot of questions, read the contracts carefully, and bought directly from the developer without a hitch.

While the home was being built, we bought a temporary house in Reno nearby. This time, we worked with our contractor’s wife as our agent. 

She was proactive, kept us informed, and was willing to show us anything, a high-volume agent who had a solid work ethic—all the qualities you want in a Realtor. 

Most importantly, she managed to find us an in-office listing in a very competitive market. These are insider listings that come up and aren’t yet entered in the MLS for the public to see. You absolutely want agents with these kinds of intel opportunities.

A year and a half later, we sold that house to a colleague, with Diane as a new Realtor representing our side, which went well.

After living in the new house for several years, we, unfortunately, had to short-sell it after the 2008 crash. This was a tough one, but our next Realtor was a trusted colleague and friend who was patient, diligent, honest, communicative and got it done for us.

Okay, so far these have been good to great Realtors, but what about the Realtor from Hell?

old san juan puerto rico

Puerto Rico

In 2014 we were at a point in life where we wanted to live overseas and decided to move to Puerto Rico. This is when we encountered the Realtor from Hell.

At the time, Diane was still a Realtor and worked for a well-known international luxury brokerage in Lake Tahoe with an office in San Juan. We contacted them and ended up working with a pleasant, fairly new agent in their office. After several showings, we found a fantastic townhome in Dorado with other buyers interested as well. 

After thinking about it for a day, we called our agent and left a voicemail saying that we wanted to write an offer—but she didn’t call back! 

We called again but could not get a hold of her, which was really odd. What agent doesn’t want to make a deal? 

So I called the listing agent to let her know that we wanted to make an offer and that we were trying to reach our agent to write it up. The listing agent tried to contact our agent, but she couldn’t reach her either.

The listing agent then called the managing broker of the luxury firm to find out what was up. The managing broker informed the broker-owner, who turned out to be a real piece of work. 

This dragon lady immediately called Diane and proceeded to chew her out for letting me “get out of control” by calling the listing agent directly—treating Diane like some wayward housekeeper who had just dropped her favorite, expensive vase on the floor. 

Diane was stunned speechless and told the dragon lady that she should talk to me. 

It’s still kind of a man’s world in Latin America, Puerto Rico’s cultural roots. This woman was buttery sweet to me over the phone, unlike with Diane, and told me that she’d take care of us and that we were going to get the “white glove treatment.” I would expect so just as a normal client, but especially given that Diane worked for the same international brokerage. 

20 minutes later, Dragon Lady calls back and says she can’t work with us, tells us we’re on our own, no further explanation. We were floored and furious. I’m guessing it’s because our budget was less than $500K. 

It’s too bad because the agent who helped us spent a lot of time and effort setting up appointments, showing us around, and would have made a nice commission from the deal. 

We ended up representing ourselves with the help of an attorney and bought the house. 

Most agents are good, some aren’t, and some are downright crazy. We’ve learned over the years not to engage crazy. This was by far our worst experience buying a home. Bar none. 

This brokerage came highly recommended, so how it all turned out was a complete surprise, but sometimes that happens. Just resolve things as quickly and cleanly as possible and move on.

How do you find good agents?

Like many things, when you start looking for them, they tend to pop up everywhere. Most agents are anxious to be found.

  1. Asking friends and family. This can work if they know you well and make introductions to good professionals they’ve actually worked with, but it’s not a guarantee. Preferably you want someone who has experience in your price range, in the area where you’re looking, with a compatible personality.
  2. Google, Zillow, Realtor.com, and agent websites. Agents themselves may have nice websites, paid ads, testimonials, but you need to call them, discuss the market, and judge for yourself. This is time-consuming.
  3. Agent reviews. Reviews can work, but they’re not 100% reliable. Agents get busy, they have assistants, they build up teams, you may like their assistants better, or you may not, or agents get busy, or tired. There’s a certain amount of trial, error, and chemistry going this route.
  4. Agent matching services. These are sites that search databases and return suggestions for you to interview. This can work, but suggestions are not personal, they are data-driven, and you still have to set up calls, interview, judge, and decide for yourself. Personal introductions, however, can work well.

Where to live is a very personal, sometimes complicated choice, and there’s no one right answer for everyone. 

To help you find your perfect place, we recommend using a spreadsheet with weighted scores to help you clearly prioritize your choices. Our free template below can save you hours of time as you weigh your options.

Should You Move to Seattle?

Every year, thousands of people move to Seattle, cementing its position as one of the five fastest growing cities in the United States. While some cities are easy to characterize by a single trait that draws people in, that’s not true of Seattle.

Whether you’re looking for a thriving tech scene, dynamic neighborhood cultures, or a highly rated higher education scene, a move to Seattle is a wonderful option for you.

With a population of just under 777,000, most of whom are couples without children, Seattle is a rapidly growing city that is incredibly appealing to young professionals and other people who are drawn to a city with a thriving cultural scene.

One of the most appealing aspects of life here is the mild weather. 

While the city has a reputation for non-stop rain, that’s simply not the case. In fact, on average, there are only 92 days of precipitation every year. Additionally, many people are drawn to the area because of the thriving tech industry, creating jobs in one of the most popular industries in the United States.

There are plenty of interesting historical notes about Seattle, but one of the most fascinating is the fact that it was home to one of the first gas stations in the world. This station was opened near the corner of present day Western Avenue and Holgate Street in 1907.

Seattle Economy and Job Opportunities

When settlers first came to modern day Seattle in 1851, they actually referred to the area as New York. However, these settlers quickly recognized the viability of a protected deep water harbor on the other side of Elliot Bay, and shifted their plans towards that area. In honor of Duwamish Indian Chief Si’ahl (1780-1866), the settlers named the area Seattle.

Built in 1853, Henry Yesler’s lumber mill was the most important part of the city’s early economy. In fact, much of the lumber that went to the rapidly growing San Francisco, California, was milled at Henry Yesler’s.

It’s also interesting to note that even though the lumber industry was thriving, Seattle would not incorporate as a city until 1869, and Washington wouldn’t even become a state until 20 years later, when it officially became the 42nd state in 1889.

While timbering and the lumber industry still have a presence in Washington, Seattle itself has become one of the most important areas for the technology industry. 

Though many people recognize Seattle as the home of Starbucks Coffee and the grunge-rock music scene of the 1990s, it is also home to Amazon, the largest online retailer in the world.

However, Amazon isn’t the only tech business that is based here, as the city’s proximity to Silicon Valley has encouraged the growth of multiple technology-based companies. Obviously, as technology continues to become more prevalent in every other industry in the world, the demand for jobs in the tech sector will continue to grow, making the city a long-term hub for jobs in the United States.

Finally, there is a thriving startup scene here, ensuring that entrepreneurs, especially those who are focused on the tech industry, can connect with likeminded business owners to start their own companies.

Seattle Real Estate and Cost of Living

Seattle Real Estate and Cost of Living

The median list price for a single-family home is $854,500, while the median list price for a condo is $599,950, with the average number of days on the market at 64 for houses and 80 for condos.

According to Altos Research, Seattle is a strong sellers’ market as of December 2021.

The average rent for a 692 square foot apartment is $2,169 per month, according to RentCafe.

Three of the top neighborhoods are Fremont, Belltown, and Pioneer Square, thanks largely to the number of cultural attractions ranging from art to music in the areas. The allure of these areas is only increased when you realize how close they are in proximity to virtually all of the job opportunities in Seattle. 

However, if you’re looking for a more suburban experience that isn’t too far from the city center, you might want to investigate Clyde Hill, Redmond, and Sammamish.

The kind of homes that you will find here include Victorian, Tudor, and Craftsman Bungalow. However, there is also a type of architecture known as Seattle Box that is very common in the area and provides a modern look with two stories and a nearly perfectly square shape.

Short-term rentals are heavily regulated. In fact, if you plan on offering a property as a short-term rental, you will be required to obtain a business license tax certificate and a regulatory license for short-term rentals.

High speed internet is available from Xfinity, Wave, and CenturyLink starting at $19.99 per month.

Utility costs such as electricity, gas, water, sewer, and trash are generally a little higher than the national average.

The overall cost of living score is 156 as compared to the US baseline at 100, while the livability score is 65 on a scale of 0-100 according to AreaVibes.

So, if you want to move to Seattle, it’s critical to have an idea about the city’s cost of living.

Seattle Food, Drink and Entertainment

If you’re planning to move to Seattle, you should know that there are tons of great restaurants all over town. From Cafe Juanita, to Addo, to Off the Rez Cafe, including coffee shops and breweries like Elm Coffee Roasters and Rooftop Brewing Company.

Some of the town’s most iconic eating and drinking establishments include Beth’s Cafe, Serafina, and Cafe Flora, known primarily for its expansive vegetarian menu.

Seattle has plenty of nightlife options, including Bathtub Gin and Co., which was transformed into a 1920s-era speakeasy in 2009.

Moviegoers also enjoy the Regal Meridian & 4DX as well as the SIFF Film Center when looking for somewhere to watch movies.

Grocery stores such as Ballard Market, QFC, and Metropolitan Market are easily accessible from every neighborhood.

The town is also home to a number of wonderful shopping options, including the Pike Place Market which is situated Downtown, Westlake Center, Elliot Bay Book Company, and Fremont Vintage Mall.

Seattle Attractions and Things to Do

Seattle Attractions and Things to Do

The city is home to a number of fascinating tourist attractions including Seattle Center, a gorgeous park with playgrounds and attractions where you’ll find the Space Needle, the Chihuly glass garden, and a fabulous collection of eateries.

There’s also the waterfront, Pike Place Market and the underground attractions in the Pioneer Square Historic District.

Planning to move to Seattle? then you should know that the city is home to a thriving art scene, including theatre, dance, and music. For theatre lovers, a show at the historic Paramount, or an improv show at Unexpected Productions are must-see. There are a number of live music venues, which have been a part of the city’s culture for more than 30 years.

Finally, there are plenty of art museums all around the city, including The Royal Room, Vera Project, and The Showbox.

If you’re a sports fan, the city is home to several professional sports teams. The Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League, the Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball, and the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer have called the Emerald City home for years. Most recently, the Seattle Kraken became the newest member of the National Hockey League at the start of the 2021-2022 season.

The city is home to more than 485 parks, so there is never a shortage of outdoor recreational activities if you want to move to Seattle. For instance, hiking trails, biking trails, jogging and more. Some of the most popular parks include Discovery Park, Seward Park, and Green Lake Park.

Seattle Transportation

The city is served by Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), which is incredibly easy to get in and out of while offering a number of international nonstop flights. Many travelers agree that the best part of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the number of dining and shopping options that can be found inside.

Getting around on public transportation is easy, thanks in part to the number of quality options available. In addition to King County Metro Transit bus lines, you can also take advantage of Link Light Rail, Seattle Streetcars, and the Seattle Center Monorail.

Of course, the city is also home to a thriving rideshare scene, allowing travelers the option to get around the city via Uber, Lyft, or another rideshare platform.

If you want to move to Seattle, you won’t necessarily need a vehicle, but if you have one, it’s important to note that parking varies depending on where you’re at in the city. In addition to limited parking options, some areas are more expensive to park in than others.

Also, keep in mind that car insurance rates here tend to run around 15% higher than the national average.

Seattle Schools

Seattle Schools

The city has numerous colleges and universities, many of which have rigorous admission standards to ensure that they can continue to offer another wave of highly intelligent, well trained professionals.

The public school system has been rated as exceptional by Great Schools.

There are also many highly regarded private schools to choose from including Villa Academy, O’dea High School, and Our Lady Of The Lake School. You can also find multiple high-quality homeschooling groups if you prefer to educate at home.

The library system is very good, with locations all around town that offer programs like Story Time, Museum Pass, and Job Resources for both kids and adults.

Seattle Community Groups

Seattle Community Groups

If you’re religious, you will find a vast array of churches and religious centers to choose from, including those who practice Catholicism, Protestantism, Scientology, Buddhism, Islam, and more.

If you are a member of the LGBTQ community, you will find plenty of resources and groups, including Capitol Hill, which has long been the epicenter of Seattle’s LGBTQ community.

Seattle also has numerous neighborhood and community programs and organizations that you can be a part of, including Salish Sea Expeditions, Valley Animal Partners, and Big-Brained Superheroes Club.

Other good options for newcomers who are looking to make connections with their new neighbors include Facebook groups and Meetup.com.

Seattle Health and Wellness

Seattle Health and Wellness

Currently Seattle has a vaccination rate of 82% with businesses now permitted to run full capacity.

There is a statewide mask mandate regardless of vaccination status. King County requires proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter certain indoor and outdoor events and establishments, including bars & restaurants, indoor events, and outdoor events with over 500 people.

As these rules are always changing, check with official sources before making plans for Seattle.

In addition to some world-class gyms such as X Gym, Pro Club-Bellevue, and Studio 3 Fit, there are a number of top yoga studios including Bindi Yoga, Modo Yoga Seattle, and Seattle Yoga Lounge.

Seattle is home to some of the best hospitals in the nation including the University of Washington Medical Center, Virginia Mason Medical Center, and EvergreenHealth Kirkland. For health issues that don’t require a hospital visit, there are urgent care clinics such as ZoomCare and Multicare Indigo Urgent Care.

The city is also home to several world-class assisted living facilities including Truewood by Merril, Queen Anne Manor Assisted Living and Memory Care Community, and Providence Heritage House at the Market.

Finally, for pet lovers, Mercer Street Veterinary Hospital and Aurora Veterinary Hospital provide high-end vet services, while Seattle Dog Boarding can take care of your four-legged family member should you be out of town for a while.

Seattle Climate and Safety

Seattle Climate and Safety

While Seattle has long had a reputation for constant rain, that’s simply a stereotype that isn’t true. In fact, it rains roughly 92 days per year here. Overall, the climate is considered very mild, as summertime temperatures average 75 degrees, and wintertime temperatures generally stay at or slightly above freezing.

Unfortunately, Seattle’s crime rate is significantly higher than the national average.

The city recently slashed police budgeting after protests to defund the police became more common, and now violent crimes and property crimes have both increased.

Additionally, homelessness is a serious issue in Seattle, as there are upwards of 11,000 homeless people in the city. Officials are planning to add 2000 more housing units by 2023 to help address the issue.

There are several naturally occurring pests and predators here, including raccoons, skunks, mice, rats, coyotes, and various types of snakes.

Seattle Politics, Government and Taxation

Seattle Politics, Government and Taxation

Based on a detailed study of anti-corruption laws, Seattle’s city government seems to be considered uncorrupt.

However, the fiscal condition is lacking, as the city struggles to overcome mounting debt.

Voters here skew heavily to the left based on data collected during the last election cycle. 75% of voters voted Democratic while only 22.2% of voters voted Republican. Additionally, 2.8% of voters voted Independent.

While Washington does not have a state income tax, it has a sales tax of 6.5% imposed by Washington State.

However, within Seattle, that sales tax climbs to 10.1% since the city adds 3.6%.

Seattle spends more than $650 million each year to improve infrastructure.

However, due to recent slashes to some first responder budgets, its police response time exceeded 60 minutes in recent studies.

Seattle City

The Bottom Line

If you’re single and looking for a rapidly growing city with nearly unlimited job opportunities… Seattle may be the right choice for you. However, if you want a small town with a more intimate feel, you may be better served by looking elsewhere.

If you’re a couple with kids looking for an opportunity to expose your children to cultural activities and some incredible educational opportunities… Seattle may be a good place for you. Conversely, if you’re concerned about crime rates and cost of living rates, you may want to keep looking.

If you have a family and you want to live in a community where there’s always something going on, unlimited sources of entertainment, and some world-class shopping… Seattle is a great choice. However, if you prefer a slower pace, you may want to consider another location such as nearby suburbs Clyde Hill, Redmond, and Sammamish.

Where to live in America is a personal choice, because what’s important to us may not be important to you.

To help you find your perfect place, we recommend using a spreadsheet with weighted scores to help you clearly prioritize your choices. Our free template below can save you hours of time as you weigh your options.

Top 12 Small Towns For Quality Of Life In America

There are many things that make small towns in America special—like their vibrant arts scenes or rich history—but what truly sets them apart is how excellent they are for individuals who want to settle down and start a family or simply get away from it all. You won’t find another list like this anywhere else.

If you enjoy nature, excellent food, and friendly neighbors, then these are our top 12 choices for the finest small towns in America for quality life. Beautiful beaches are available, as well as charming downtowns with local businesses and eateries. And the best part about it is that they aren’t too far away from big cities if you need them.



So what are you waiting for? Check out our list to find incredible small towns in America with great real estate, schools, restaurants, healthcare, and more.



Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City, with a population of 15,000 people, strikes a balance between keeping things small while yet making their community exciting. This city has a really lovely downtown area with numerous historical structures, including a Victorian theater and the City Opera House, where you may enjoy some culture.

Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, and it includes asparagus, cranberry beans, cucumber, tart cherries, Niagara grapes, and squash. Each year, thousands of people visit the National Cherry Festival to see all things cherry.

Also, there are several lovely parks in the town, many of which are on the water where you can go boating, fishing, kayaking, and flyboarding. It’s definitely one of the best small towns in America today.

Taos, New Mexico

If you enjoy art, this is the ideal location for you. Taos has several art colonies, and with just over 5,000 residents, it has 80 galleries and three art museums. Taos also boasts a sizable Hispanic and Native American community, which adds to the richness of small-town life.

The town is centered on a historic multi-story adobe structure, which is located on Taos Plaza, with stores, eateries, galleries, and live music. 

There’s also some fantastic skiing in the region, as well as some excellent hiking. Not to mention that there are several nice restaurants nearby.

Dahlonega, Georgia

This incredible small town was once a mining camp that boomed during the Gold Rush era, although it is now mostly recognized for its wineries.

Dahlonega is a wonderful location for people who want to participate in a variety of outdoor activities like hiking and fishing because it’s located in the southeast with mild weather. A number of beautiful drives and waterfalls are available, as well as a chance to prospect for gold.

If you’re running out of things to do, you may visit the historic city center to discover the boutiques, restaurants, and museums. Notably, with a median home price of $234,000, Dahlonega is also quite affordable.

Clinton, New Jersey

This lovely, picturesque small town in America was featured in films such as One True Thing.

Walking around the area, you’ll find charming grist mills and vintage cottage homes. It has a fantastic historic downtown, as all of our other recommendations do, along with lovely tree-lined sidewalks, numerous parks, walking routes, and a lovely riverfront.

Despite its modest size, with only around 2,500 people, the city’s public schools are highly regarded, ranking in the top 20%. Only about an hour from New York City, it also has access to top-tier healthcare, entertainment, and dining.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Yes, the name gives it away—it’s a beautifully stunning seaside community. With an unrivaled concentration of art galleries in its charming cottage-themed core, it also has a picturesque harbor with ferries that depart frequently from both ends… Just bring all your black cards because you’re gonna need them!

This culinary paradise also has a variety of independent gourmet eateries, bakeries, and candy shops. You could spend days walking around the charming backstreets and courtyards, but you wouldn’t see everything that downtown has to offer.

There’s also that beautiful white sand beach just a few blocks away, and you can visit wineries, museums, historic Spanish buildings, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, and hiking in the hills above town all within walking distance.

Cooperstown, New York

Cooperstown, New York

Cooperstown was originally a summer retreat in the mid-nineteenth century, thus it is full of historical sites like the Otesaga Hotel and the Baseball Hall of Fame.

With a population of only 1,853 people, Brewster has a decent number of employment options in the tourism and healthcare industries.

It has a lovely downtown with several stores and restaurants, and it’s on the shores of beautiful Otsego Lake. With great schools and a wealth of parks, it’s ideal for families. They even have caves and goat yoga!

Beaufort, South Carolina

Beaufort, South Carolina

This beautiful small town is perfect for those who enjoy Southern living because it has a vast selection of antebellum, or pre-civil war homes. 

It’s situated on Port Royal Island, which means plenty of opportunities for boating, fishing, and other water activities. 

Beaufort has a population of over 13,000, so it’s also just big enough to have some great schooling and job opportunities. It also features a number of lovely parks, walking paths, and a picturesque historic center with boutiques and restaurants.

Naturally, this is a fantastic location to golf in the region, and it’s also highly regarded as a retirement destination. Another benefit is that living costs are about 2% lower than national norms.

Whitefish, Montana

Whitefish, Montana

The small town of Whitefish is recognized for its microdistilleries, which produce alcohol from local huckleberries in the summer and for being a skiing destination in the winter.

Central Avenue is one of Whitefish’s major attractions, where you can enjoy a small-town excursion down a picturesque road filled with local shops and restaurants.

Situated on a beautiful lake and also a gateway to Glacier National Park, you have access to incredible mountains, forests, lakes, and rivers…The hiking is divine.

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine is a fantastic place to live, as it is the oldest European-built settlement in the United States. A lively, historic metropolis, the town is densely packed with one-of-a-kind stores and eateries, although it does have a touristy flavor to it.

Beautiful Flagler College provides excellent educational opportunities. This small town in America has a low unemployment rate with plenty of jobs in hospitality, retail, and education. For its lovely waterfront location, warm weather, and beautiful parks, this town is particularly appealing to retirees.

(This is becoming a real theme, isn’t it? Beautiful waterfront, cute downtown, lots of parks.)

Spearfish, South Dakota

Spearfish, South Dakota

Spearfish, South Dakota, offers a lovely, small-town ambience with a lively and friendly Main Street for wandering, including the Matthews Opera House, where you can watch local performances.

This town of 11,500 people is nestled between beautiful canyons, waterfalls, and mountains—a great place to live if you like to play in the great outdoors, also featuring several historic attractions you can explore nearby.

Spearfish is clean, it’s safe, and it’s a college town. Which means there’s good beer.

In addition to being an enjoyable area to ski, golf, or dine out, Spearfish also has a lot of low-cost housing and interesting job prospects in health care, hospitality, and education.

Mystic, Connecticut

Mystic, Connecticut

Mystic, located in the Connecticut River Valley and known for being the backdrop of the film Mystic Pizza, is one of the finest small towns in America that was once a shipbuilding center but is now more recognized as an iconic New England community.

With its gorgeous waterfront, it’s an ideal spot to enjoy coastal attractions. 

There are numerous historic sites, a charming historic downtown, an arts center, an adventure park, nature preserves, and even an aquarium.

Mystic, with its low crime rates, numerous local festivals, and well-rated public schools, is an especially attractive community for young families.

Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge is a mountain town in Colorado’s high Rocky Mountains, located at 9603 feet above sea level. Breckenridge has a population of about 4,900 people, but it also draws 3 million visitors each year for its beautiful skiing and cultural scene.

Living there, you get to enjoy small-town perks like safe neighborhoods and local restaurants, and the town is also notable for being almost entirely walkable,with shops and galleries galore.

Nestled in a valley in the Rocky Mountains, it’s an outdoor paradise with hiking, biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, snowmobiling, snow shoeing, dog sledding, sleigh rides, and more.

Breckenridge has a number of specialty festivals every year, so there’s always something to look forward to!

The Bottom Line

We hope you’ve found some new small towns in America to add to your list of possible places to live in. 

To help you find your perfect place, we recommend using a spreadsheet with weighted scores to help you clearly prioritize your choices. Our free template below can save you hours of time as you weigh your options.