Americans are a mobile society. Long gone are the days when people resided all their lives in the same location. Employment needs, the growth of an aging population and educational opportunities are contributing factors to finding the perfect spot to call home. At least for a while.
For many families, the need to relocate is employment-based and parents want the peripherals of their lives to be as rich and rewarding as possible to benefit their growing family's needs for education, entertainment and affordability. Other considerations include safety and low-crime rates.
The 10 locales in this article reflect research and personal experience and should be used as a guide to complement other cities being considered.
- Bloomberg Businessweek lists Theodore, Alabama as an affordable place to live for families. Open spaces, accessibility to water sports and nearby Mobile are a plus. The median family income is under $50,000 a year, housing is affordable and universities are within a short driving distance.
- Montevallo was a runner-up to Theodore. One thing to notice in Montevallo is their university with a strong liberal arts program and a teacher-student ratio of 16:1 that ensures personalized attention and cooperation. Montevallo proximity to Mobile is a also a plus for students to experience a busier social life within a short distance and be able to retreat to a more sedate lifestyle at will.
Housing prices have stabilized but to find a real bargain a lot of research needs to be done online and in person. This is true of every city in California.
- Rowland Heights made Bloomberg's list because it has an excellent school system in a suburban setting that is not far from the hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angeles. The median family income is $75,000 and the community is a mix of Oriental and Hispanic cultures.
- San Diego - Great weather year-round, bike trails, proximity to maritime activities, excellent medical facilities and great colleges and universities are worthy of consideration. Encinitas is a family friendly community with a botanical garden and proximity to the coast line and farmland, however, the average three bedroom condominium is around $400,000.
- San Jose - Close enough to the Bay Area without the unrealistic home prices. That is not to say that San Jose does not enjoy high real estate areas. For instance, Mc Abee Road/ Redmond Avenue boasts million dollar homes and this is not one of the most expensive neighborhoods. Excellent universities and cultural diversity, entertainment, neighborhood parks and the impressive San Jose Flea Market that draws millions of people a year for its excellent barbecue, clothing and a farmer's market puts San Jose on the list.
The entire state is very expensive in terms of housing, but for families who can lower their expectations on house size in relation to price and consider condominium or apartment living, Hawaii can be a true paradise. The beaches belong to everyone, they are free, and they never close, so parents can enjoy fishing or crabbing with their children right off the shore any time of day or night. The melting pot that is Hawaii offers children the ability to absorb many different cultures all at once and appreciate diversity.
The unemployment rate hovers at eight percent and lifestyle can be as fast-paced or as mellow as the individual family wants it to be. Hawaii has Costco and Sam's Club to ease the pain of regular grocery shopping and lots of local fruits and vegetables can be had for free from friends, neighbors and co-workers or from the many places throughout the island that serve as impromptu farmer's markets. The seafood at local supermarkets cannot be beat for freshness and the prices are reasonable. Hawaii has an enviable health care system.
- Honolulu - Private schools should be applied to ahead of time. Public schools spend over $9,000 a year per student. Community colleges and the University of Hawaii are affordable for Kamaainas (residents), and everywhere one looks, there is natural beauty and excellent weather. For those seeking an active nightlife, Restaurant Row in Honolulu is hub of activity where locals and tourists party the night away. Nearby is the Ala Moana shopping center and the busy and energetic business district. Apartment living is the norm.
- Pearl City in Oahu is a family friendly area where crime rates are low. The neighborhood of Pacific Palisades is a well established community that borders with a forest reserve. Pearl City High School is nearby as well as the Pearl Ridge shopping Center and its landmark; the watercress farm. Pearl Harbor is within driving distance and beaches abound in any highway direction.
- Hilo is a town in what is commonly referred to as "The Big Island." Hilo's laid-back atmosphere, great outdoor vistas and activities, accessible beaches, great surfing and fishing holes and the University of Hawaii extension campus make this tropical paradise an ideal city to lead a relaxed lifestyle surrounded by friendly people that enjoy cultural diversity.
Nevada continues to suffer from an onslaught of bad news regarding high unemployment rates and foreclosures, however the numbers are misleading since the bulk of the brunt is born by Las Vegas and surrounding neighborhood communities. Northern Nevada is a different animal altogether and while the prices of houses have dropped significantly, the quality of life and safety and peace of some neighborhoods are worth highlighting. The health care system boasts several hospitals and many private facilities.
- Sparks - Located at less than 15 minutes away from Reno and a heaven for families who are looking for what passes for a mansion in other states at affordable prices. Homes that sold for $700,000 a few years ago, can be purchased at half the price. The average 2,000 square feet home boasting 4 large bedrooms and a minimum of two bathrooms with a two or three car garage ranges anywhere from $100,000 and up. The city of Sparks has many community celebrations on quaint Victorian Square on a year-round basis, from Hot August Nights, to Street Vibrations to the Italian Festival, the Rib Cook-Off and farmer's markets. No personal income taxes and low property taxes are worthy of note.
- The Spanish Springs neighborhood is part of the city of Sparks and known for its safety and friendliness. This community was built for families who love to walk to the many neighborhood parks, bike, hike and walk their dogs on a daily basis. The area is only 40 minutes away from Lake Tahoe and Mt. Rose sky resort. A four hour drive to the Bay area makes changing scenery a breeze. There are great open spaces everywhere that encompass major retailers, hospitals and medical offices as well as farmer's markets, and homes are within walking distance to most schools.
- Reno is known as "The greatest little city in the world" and for good reason. The neighborhoods run the gamut in terms of housing costs, but most affordable neighborhoods are safe, made for walking and enjoy fishing, rafting or cooling off in the Truckee river. Hiking trails, biking and a plethora of neighborhood parks make Reno a family-friendly town with lots of open spaces and good schools. Downtown activities and outdoor concerts that are family friendly abound such as The Reno Aces baseball team, Hot Balloon Races, The Reno Rodeo, Basque festivals and more. Adult entertainment in the casinos includes dancing, gambling and dining, but even the casinos keep children's entertainment in mind. Circus Circus is a major draw for out of town parents with children in tow.
Family friendly and community living make Reno and Sparks worthy of consideration as two of the best cities for relocating families. Use the resources from the Department of Labor to assess employment opportunities in any of these cities.