If you’re contemplating a move, it’s a safe bet you’ve spent time online researching locations to try to identify your best prospects.
You’ve also probably noticed that navigating your online research is not as easy as you’d like it to be. With so much information (both valid and bogus) haphazardly strewn about online, what should be a walk in the park is instead a walk in the dark.
Online research is a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, you have access to a limitless vault of information on just about any location in the world. On the other, you’re left to your own devices to figure out which information to rely on and how best to use it to move your search forward.
Without a navigational system, it can be challenging to get to where your research moves efficiently and purposefully and easy to succumb to overwhelm and confusion, which can lead to over- or under-thinking. (No! Not that!)
So, how can you tell if your search for a place to move is out of whack?
Here are 5 red flags to watch for, along with trusted strategies to get your search back on track.
Your online research is not giving you clear results.
It’s easy to get sucked into the online vortex of discussion posts, lists, rankings, and livability scores when researching prospective locations–an abyss where time, space and most of the information you’re getting is distorted.
This approach to research may feel productive, but it’s actually counter-productive to a successful move. It’s like gorging on junk food. What you’re consuming makes you feel full but it isn’t healthy–and could even be harmful–to your search.
How can you turn this around?
Imagine you need to figure out how to get someplace in your car. You don’t just start driving, you consult GPS or a road map first. But, these navigational tools are only useful if you know precisely where you are and where you want to go.
The same is true of your online research.
Once you get super clear about what’s most important to you and what you need to be happy where you live, you’ll have the necessary criteria to smoothly and successfully navigate your online research.
You’re overwhelmed by advice from family, friends, and even strangers.
Where you choose to live is a deeply personal decision that affects all aspects of your life. Interestingly enough, it’s also a decision that the peanut gallery feels all too happy to weigh in on.
When you mention to a friend or relative that you’re thinking about moving, they’ll likely suggest places they think you should check out.
And it’s tough to get far with your online research without tripping over complete strangers and random lists telling you where to move.
Advice from family, friends and strangers is provided with the best of intentions. But, it actually contributes to the very background noise you want to tune out when embarking on your search.
To reduce overwhelm, take outside advice with a grain of salt. Instead, focus your attention and energy on defining and prioritizing the features of your dream location.
You’re focusing on the house instead of the location.
“Where should I move?” is a complex question that requires a certain amount of big-picture perspective to tackle properly. But it can be challenging to achieve a bird’s eye view of your situation on your own.
In times like this, the lull of real estate websites like Zillow and Trulia can be especially strong.
While it’s fun to look at houses in different locations, you’re putting the cart before the horse in a way that could have dire consequences.
Where you live is about so much more than the house. You may find your dream house, but what if you can’t stand the location?
That’s why it’s a good idea to hold off on house-hunting until you know where you want to move. You’ll be glad you did!
You’re caught in spreadsheet hell.
If you’ve been researching prospective locations for a while, you might have a spreadsheet that looks something like the Winchester Mansion. (That’s the house Sarah Winchester built and kept adding rooms to over 40 years.)
It’s massive and overflowing with criteria. But it’s too much. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it and you feel overwhelmed and discouraged every time you look at it.
The first step is to make your spreadsheet more manageable by picking the top 10 criteria you want to use to guide your search.
It’s essential to prioritize and organize the information you collect in a way that it’s easy for you to compare and evaluate how locations measure up (from a data standpoint at least) and to identify which ones rise to the top of your short list.
Google Street View is your go-to online research tool.
Scouting out prospective locations in person is crucial to a successful move. But it can be tempting to bypass this step to save time and money. After all, with Google Street View you can virtually “walk” all over a given city without leaving the comfort of your own home.
The problem is that it gives you a false sense of knowing what a place is like. You need a lot more than visual information to make the best decision.
Scouting visits allow you to interact with the people and surroundings, to get a feel for the “vibe” and to use all your senses to evaluate if a place is a good match. And, with a solid short list of prospective locations and a clear scouting visit plan and budget you can have peace of mind knowing your money and time will be well spent.
Is your search for a place to move showing any of these signs of being out of whack? Which one(s)? Were the strategies helpful to getting your search back on track? I’d love to hear your story! Please share in the comments below.