New Home / Town Advice?

Hello! We are probably looking for a new place soon, pandemic willing. So I am starting to tread into the waters of planning. Posting in parenting because I live with family and have lots of anxiety around moving into an unknown building and area with a small child, but welcoming input from all.

While these things may seem super obvious, I am in a bad place this year (SHOCKER) and my brain isn’t working well. I’ve lived in a tumultuous environment for 3 years and I badly want some stability and serenity in a new place to live. Any help is welcome.

Questions:
What should I look for as a parent moving to a new (rented) house and town?
What are some general human intangibles that you like about your town? CSAs, hiking trails, etc. that I can use for inspiration?

Relevant details:
I have a 2YR old who has a nanny, but will be considering daycare if we all don’t die of covid
There will be 3 remote working adults, 2 permanently, 1 temporarily
I live in a climate that still has 4 seasons (despite climate change~~)
We have 1 car, no 4WD

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School district is a common area of concern if you plan to do that, unless your state has a vibrant open enrollment system where you can cross districts for in-person and/or virtual schools.

Walkability score, if that matters to you.

Harder to sense until after you’re actually living there but seeing if there are a lot of other families with kids? It’s so much easier to have playmates on the same block or slightly further than arranging play dates.

Crime rates though again neighborhoods can often seem much safer (or less safe) after you live there for a while because of what specific crimes are common and what time of day they happen at

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I like how cheap my neighborhood is. Some crime but not super worrisome to us. Tends to be a lot of families with kids. Public schools are pretty bad except for some magnet schools but we’ve either done parochial (okay but not great for), homeschooling or (now for past 3 years) a virtual charter school run by a school district across the state from us.

Lots of small parks nearby, there are 4 playgrounds within a 15 minute walk. Sidewalks on all streets, but all the side streets were quiet enough to be safe to bike in once kids were older. Some wilder green spaces a short drive or long walk away, and many actual legit hiking trails within 30-50 minutes.

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All of that sounds so great! When can we move in? :stuck_out_tongue:

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Oh, not sure if you’re ever interested in gardening or something like small livestock (chickens, rabbits, quail, etc) but rules vary unpredictably around that. Rules here are somewhat lenient whereas almost all of the similar density communities nearby are much stricter around front yard gardens and allowing small livestock.

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Oh, and likelihood of natural disasters/competency of local government and utilities at dealing with extreme weather is another thing I like thinking about. Though for your case since you’re not changing areas completely that’s probably not a factor

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Access to a good library system - ideally without a car - is a huge key for me. Especially with youngins, it’s a good way to have a community (post-covid) and access to resources (even during covid).

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Ooh, yes absolutely

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A neighborhood with a lot of kid is helpful but might be hard to figure out in advance. With Halloween maybe you can find out where is good for trick or treating and either live in those neighborhoods or adjacent to them. The neighborhood next to mine is amazing for trick or treating but on my street it looks like any other night of the year, so we can walk over to enjoy it then go home to a quiet house.

Commute time? Commute time plus day care drop off/pick up? We used to commute to start work at 8AM, then shifted to starting at 7:30AM with 7AM day care drop off after we had Kiddo and, strangely, it took the same amount of time from home to work because we were missing congestion by going a little earlier. Plus our day care was really, really close to our route. Might be less of a concern with remote working adults.

Is there a sidewalk all the way from your home/neighborhood to the eventual elementary school (if you’re staying in one spot that long)? We realized that there’s a sidewalk most of the way but there’s also a major intersection and one of the most accident-prone in town because people tend to be driving east in the morning and west in the afternoons so the sun is in their eyes.

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I need a library, grocery store and swimming pool walking distance. Park so close it isn’t a walk. And I’m ethnic so I need to be able to ride the bus to ethnic food easily. These things usually come with young family areas oddly enough. But I needed them even without young or a family.

Oh, and I need a transit hub to get me to further friends and family.

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I am not a parent, but my best friend is and she lives in Colorado Springs which is where I used to live. Her neighborhood is basically the idyllic young family neighborhood. She has at least 8-10 neighbors with kids her age, so they trade off babysitting and hanging at each others houses. There is a park 2 blocks away that they can bike/walk to, a coffee shop and library in walking distance as well. In the winter there is a sledding hill that the kids spend tons of time on. There are 3-4 schools within 1/2 mile area, and the schools in general in COS are very good. There is a grocery store and pharmacy within 1/2 mile area as well, so she can run and pick up groceries quickly without it being an all day thing with the kids. For her I think it’s very important that everything she needs on a daily basis be easy to access, and not a 20-30 min drive…also having school/library/park walking distance away is great.

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We weren’t looking for it, but we realized after we moved that we have a trail behind our house that connects to another trail where you can go for miles without crossing a road. Where we lived before, there was nowhere to run/bike nearby other than on the suburban sidewalks. A nearby park or trail away from roads has been a HUGE boon to our mental and physical health.

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This is like #1 requirement for any place I live. I want to be able to walk out the door to either a paved or dirt trail where I can walk/hike/bike without getting in the car. Being able to just open the door and go makes it way easier to exercise when I’m not feeling motivated enough to load the car up and sit in traffic.

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I’d +1000 on the walkscore thing, and luckily they have a great website where you can search for rentals based on walkscore (and even commute if you want to take that into account for future times).

Not sure if you’re planning on having another, but with a small baby it was so much easier for me to get out and about with a stroller than having to get in the car. Now we bike as a family and our reach has grown but I still find it so much more fun, quality family time than any time we have to get into the car. Being able to pop over to library, grocery store, farmer’s market, parks, etc is so so nice, as is walking/biking to school. Transit access is also really really nice. We’re not using transit much now but we do spend quite a lot of time waving to trains and buses on our walks, and I can’t wait to get back on them on a more regular basis when we’re actually able to go places.

A lot of info about school ‘quality’ really just reflects the socioeconomic and racial backgrounds of the students attending. All the schools in our neighborhood are rated pretty poor, but the parents seem really happy and we plan to use them too. So I’d take great schools with a grain of salt. Diversity is really important to us so we ruled out any neighborhoods that didn’t have a decent amount of racial and socioeconomic diversity.

I’d love to live in a cohousing community that’s set up for a slightly closer community and maybe someday we’ll retrofit something like that, but for now we have been able to build great connections with families in our neighborhood and that’s been really nice.

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That’s where neighborhood Facebook or Next Door groups might be helpful? In the groups for my neighborhood, certain public schools have a lot of happy parents but others…not so much.

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Here are some of the home & town conditions that help my sanity & mood in 2020.

We have a brand-new baby so some kid stuff is on the mind, but not in the experience bank!

Neighborhood/house:

  • Walkability to a mix of urban stuff & nature. We have an outdoor farmers market, riverfront trail, basically-outdoor coffee shop for takeout (former auto shop with big garage doors open on 2 walls), etc. within 10 mins walk and several typical & international groceries within a 5 min drive/10 min bike ride.
  • A tiny bit of personal outdoor space. Our backyard is about 16’x70’ and we planted it full of green things. It feels really relaxing and safe, and I imagine it will be fun to root around in the soil with Spore once he’s old enough to crawl & stand! Any bigger and it would be more of a chore.
  • Sound separation between 2 WFH office spaces. We are both on calls very frequently so working out of the same room would be a no-go. My office is in our finished attic & his is in the 2nd floor guest room.
  • Cost below our means, great for peace of mind & sense of freedom. We chose a relatively small house (1350 sq ft) in part due to this.

Town:

  • Access (30 mins mostly bike path, or 20 mins by car) to a 5,000 acre urban parks system
  • The sense that you could get involved if you had a burning desire to contribute. Spouse is on the local civic association board & I do stuff with a couple non-profits and gov agencies locally.
  • A state & city that takes covid seriously.
  • Ethnic/racial diversity. I’m non-white and don’t want to raise a kid somewhere that it would make them the odd one out.
  • Awesome community around our hobby (maybe you can poke around Facebook groups or meetups in the towns you’re interested in?)

Our kiddo was just born so we’re just starting to notice/look for kid-friendly resources, but there are 4 parks within 10 mins walk including a big riverfront one, a medium-sized one that’s a catch basin for kids of all ethnicities from the surrounding blocks, and a sprayground that is really popular with little kids in summer. There are 3 great daycares within short walking distance too. We avoid errands by car if possible, and I’m really looking forward to heading out the door with just a baby carrier or stroller and a dog leash.

In general this mix of walkability & space tends to happen 2-4 neighborhoods out from city centers/downtowns.

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We live walking distance from a library, small set of shops, nice school and many parks. We got lucky and a daycare was built here after we moved which has meant everything we like to do with our kid, we can get to without a car (when I’m well enough to walk). The library in particular is good because a lot of other community stuff happens near and within those (in non-covid) so that means its presence gives us access to a lot of other stuff, which I didn’t realise before living near one!

We are also walking distance from bus stops. I’d prefer a train line but those didn’t match our other requirements so we’re making do and are a <5 minute drive from a train station (or <15 minute bike ride).

In terms of our living space, I agree that you need enough spaces for the remote working adults to not hear each other on calls. We also like having an outdoor space we can take kiddo without getting out of PJs.

This has been on my mind a lot so thank you @nickybecky1 for describing it so well. My parents chose a suburb with a “good” school district. I loved school and my friends there, and used to think this was important. Then I met spouse who grew up in rural Appalachia. His parents registered him in the slightly “better” school district which was also more convenient – same town as where his dad worked. Even so, his high school graduated 100 seniors out of 400 freshmen. Spouse made 2 really close friends, loved his experience, and clearly didn’t suffer. His sister didn’t find close friends until ivy league college though, and had a much lonelier time.

As long as parents are happy and the school is physically & emotionally safe, we plan to send kiddo to the local public grade school. I think growing up in a city will bring some awesome experiences for both us & Spore that I didn’t get in a more sheltered burb. High school is an application system in my city, and includes some really cool specialized options and some of the highest ranked schools in the state. It will be interesting to see how my theoretical ideas of school funding & equity hold up in practice.

Sorry for the digression @Meowkins!

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