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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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Like everything else, small towns come in many shapes and sizes.  To have a successful experience, it is important that you correctly match up your family’s needs and interests to the town that best meets those demands.

The following is a list of the small town types, and their basic pros and cons:


This is a small town that has a significant component of its economy based on tourism.  The tourism can be seasonal, such as in Nantucket or Maine, or it can be year-round, such as near national parks.  Because of this tourism, the town can support, and may have more restaurants and shops than the locals would be able to utilize, and additionally have many types of amusements that can only exist due to tourism (such as wineries).

Tourism towns can make exceptional living experiences since they have these additional amenities, while skill keeping the same high-quality of life advantages.  It’s fun to have a nice French restaurant in town for when you want a fancy dinner out with your wife without driving to the city.

There is a certain magic to the tourist town.  There are always activities every weekend (designed to draw tourists), and a wide assortment of visitors, always keeping things fresh and relatively inexpensive, as is the cost of living.  Frank’s small town is a tourist town.


This is a small town where a college or university dominates and permeates everything that goes on.  It is the number one employer, and the students are the largest population segment.  Like the tourist town, there are events constantly, including sports, arts and theater.  There are band and symphony concerts.  There are often sophisticated eateries that cater to this crowd, but are equally enjoyed by the locals.

College towns also have a certain magic.  It’s just exciting having so many people around from different backgrounds, but who share a common purpose.  They also have a safety net, as colleges seldom go out of business.  There is a certain security you feel in living there -- that things will never go downhill.

Another advantage of the college town is the aspect of “summer break”.  At that time of year, the town takes on a different feel, with less congestion and a time to regroup.  Even those who are not in school feel refreshed after a summer.

The one big downside to the college town is that professors, and student’s parents, are fairly prosperous, and that leads often to a higher real estate prices, especially in-town.



This is a small town that is really a large subdivision, built for those who want to escape the big city, and live in a rural area, but with the feel and security of a big-city suburb. 

Normally, there are amenities such as community pools and golf courses.  There is often a manned security gate that only allows in residents or there registered visitors.  This type of town is very sterile compared to many of the other types --  it has only one type of resident, and town functions are normally social gatherings.  However, this appeals to many people.  It is not normally a very good environment for children, however, as it appeals more to seniors and older adults whose children are grown. 

Since it is filled with folks from the big city, normally the real estate prices are fairly high, and their range of offerings is limited.


This is a small town that has seen better times, and has nothing on the horizon to bring back its faded glory,  most of the businesses in town have shut down, there are a lot of houses for rent or sale, most of which are abandoned, and those businesses that do remain are Harley shops and thrift stores. 

Although real estate is very cheap in this type of town, it is more or less to be avoided.  The future is bleak, the residents are on welfare or social security, and crime is on the rise.  This is not a good environment for kids (just wait until you see their classmates) and not good for adults either (just wait until you meet your neighbors).

Even if you can live out in the country, by yourself on a farm, and you have no kids to worry about, it’s a depressing environment to call home and every day it just seems to get worse.


This is a town that is prosperous and healthy, but is not very sociable with strangers.  Everyone pretty much keeps to themselves, and hangs out with family members which, if you just moved there, you don’t have.  You always feel like an outsider since it takes decades to break into the social pipeline, through marriage.

These towns normally have a lot of agricultural interests, which help prompt the family farm feel.  Many generations of family are always seen together, it is just that you aren’t included in their return to Walton’s format.

Many people, who prefer their privacy, thrive in this environment.  They enjoy not having a lot of social interaction to contend with, and you can focus on their own interests.  It especially appeals to seniors who do not want to go through the motions of networking when they really have no interest in it.



This is a small town that is rapidly on the way to becoming a large town.  If your goal is to live in a small town, this could be risky, as it may lose its small town allure in the near future. 

Signs of the boomtown are the sudden emergence of two of the least attractive symbols of big city progress -- the opening of every franchise in the world, from Home Depot to Taco Bell, and the construction of large-scale apartment.  When you see this, it means that big city developers have arrived and you may see a lot of the small town charm go out the window. 

If you want to live in an area of rising property values, this is a good situation.  As the town gets bigger, there are more people who need housing, so the price should jump.  Of course, the boom often brings new subdivisions -- and that can drop prices of older historic homes.

Which is the best type of town for you?  That is something that only you and your family can decide. 

One additional criterion you should consider, before you begin your research, is how far from the big city you should be.

Some small towns are conveniently located only about an hour from a major metropolitan market.  Others can be two, three, or more hours from the city.  This distance is extremely important to consider.   If you will miss some of the big city amenities, such as professional sports and live theater, you may want to consider limiting your search to only those towns within a 60 mile or so radius of a city. 

If you don’t have any regrets about leaving the big city, then you may prefer to be farther out.  As a general rule, the farther out you go the less density and lower home prices.  Always remember, if you are older, the necessity of healthcare access.  If you select a town far from the city, make sure that it has a decent hospital near by.

While on the subject of distance from the city, you must also consider the type of road that separates the town from the city.  An interstate highway at 70 miles per hour is a lot different trip than a farm market road at 45 miles per hour.  You should test drive the distance to make sure you are not too far out to meet your needs. 

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