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Articles on Living in Small Town America

Introduction to Small Town Guide

Why Move To A Small Town?

Financial Advantages

Quality Of Life Advantages

Choosing a Small Town

Making the First Impression on the Family

Shopping For a Home

Looking At Schools

Looking At Amenities

Career Considerations

The Art of Commuting

Finding a Mover

Moving Considerations

First Days in Town

Expanding Out

Leveraging the Town Advantages

Staying In Touch With Old Neighbors


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The first thing you will notice when you look at small town real estate is how much more your money can buy in the small town than it can in the big city.  Depending on the town that you are looking in, the differences can be astounding.  In Frank’s town, for example, $300,000 will buy you the best house in town  -- a 7,200 sq. ft. colonial masterpiece, or a 5,000 sq. ft. new house with direct lake frontage with its own boathouse.  In the big city, this same amount will buy you a 3,000 sq. ft. tract house with no excitement to it whatsoever. 

Small town houses come in two basic categories:  1) houses in town and 2) houses on farms or ranches.  Each is a very different living situation, and has its own pluses and minuses.  Let’s examine first these two types of housing so you can decide which is right for your family. 

An “in-town” house in a small town offers the same dynamics as living in a neighborhood in the big city.  You have neighbors near-by on at least three sides of you, with a yard for the kids to play in.  You often have streetlights at night, so there is always some degree of ambient light.    Normally, the kids can walk to school, since everything is pretty accessible.  Unlike the big city, small towns do not have different neighborhoods based on demographics.  There is not one large “rich guy’s” neighborhood, gated or not gated, at one end of town, nor is there low income neighborhood.  The entire town is one big melting pot of incomes.  This is because there are not enough people to establish individual neighborhoods, as well as the non-exclusionary nature of small town living.  Nobody thinks twice as to what the neighbor does for a living or how much money he has or makes.  That’s just not a part of the culture. 

The closest you can come to demographic neighborhoods in the small town are certain themed streets -- maybe a block of big, Victorian mansions for example.  But even then, you still have small houses right behind them, so there is no unified wealthy neighborhood feel.

What that means is that the attorney in town may live next door to the plumber, and the doctor may live next door to the postman.  There is certainly nothing wrong with this, but it does take some adjustment since you are probably used to having neighbors who are all similar to you and with the same hobbies.  The good news is that “keeping up with the Jones’” just went out the window.

The other option with small town housing is to live on a farm or ranch.  Traditionally, you start seeing this type of housing only about a mile outside of town, so you don’t have to live too far from the town’s services to have your own farm or ranch.


A lot of people love living on farms or ranches.  They offer complete privacy and serenity, and kids really enjoy them.  Often, they offer a chance to have horses or other livestock, and create you own little world.  Of course, there is a big difference in this type of living based on where you are geographically.  If you dream of a “New England” type bucolic existence on rolling acres with mature trees -- you won’t find that in the southwest.  If you dream of flat mesas with nothing but tall grass and some longhorn cattle, you won’t find that in New York State.  You have to match the geography to the type of farm or ranch you are seeking.

The biggest difference between living in-town and on a farm occurs at night.  On a farm, night time is a pitch-black affair.  There is no ambient light.  This takes some adjusting, since city people are not used to this.  In town, people are used to hearing the occasional car go by, and crickets and cicadas chirping.  In the country, you have the additional noises of cows mooing, coyotes howling and the like.  If you have never lived on a farm or ranch, you might try spending the night at somebody else’s -- even a dude ranch -- for a weekend to see if that works for your family.

Once you have established whatever you are seeking in-town or out-of-town home, it’s time to hit the MLS listings to see what is available in your price range.  You are probably going to be very pleased with what you find.  In Frank’s town, housing prices are 50% of the national average.  In Dave’s town, they are right on the national average.  This means that your purchasing power has increased from 50% to 100% in Frank's town and is the same in Dave's town.  Now, everyone can have their own bedroom, or that game room you always wanted can now be reality.

Of course, there are certain things that you need to be aware of even in small town real estate:

    Most homes are older and need a rigorous structural check-up before buying.  A property inspector is a must.  Look for all the classic issues with older homes -- termites, foundation issues and asbestos.

    Stay away from train tracks.  In small towns, trains run constantly, and the noise will drive you crazy if it’s in your back yard.

    Stay away from mobile home parks, or other areas that are the lowest cost housing in town.  This is just too big of an adjustment for your family to make, and not one that will benefit you.

    Asking prices, like everywhere in America, are negotiable.  Do forget the art of negotiation, even if you really love something. 

Once you have found some homes to make offers on, be sure to visit those properties at different times of the day and night.  Often, a property that looks great at 2 pm, will take on a whole different feel at 10 pm, when the look of the town changes for the night.  Being on a major street may seem fun during the day when everyone is at work, but will drive you nuts when everyone is racing their cars down in the night.  Frank went and slept one night in the house during his diligence period, just to get a full spectrum idea of what it would be like.

If done correctly, finding a home in small town U.S.A. is a very exciting moment, as the options and prices are so much better than the big city.


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