If you’re among the estimated 31% of employees who switched to remote work due to COVID-19, your company leadership may now be discussing whether or not to transition to a fully distributed employee model. If your company does go remote, you may find yourself considering whether it makes sense to relocate now that you no longer need to live near an office.
Relocating once you’re remote can be a smart financial move. Traditionally, the demand for housing is higher in places where job markets are most concentrated and, as a result, prices in those places are higher. (In fact, even if your company utilizes a traditional office structure, you may benefit from negotiating a work-from-home arrangement to save time and money.)
It can be difficult to decide where to move when your only true limitation is Internet access because most towns and city rankings still weigh proximity to job markets heavily in determining a location’s desirability. That’s why we created a calculation that evaluates locations by quality-of-life standards but not job opportunities to create a list of the best places to live in the United States for those whose jobs are remote.
These 20 locations were selected by evaluating 100 towns and cities in nine categories, each assigned a weighted percentage that was then used to calculate the ranked list below. The nine categories and their respective weights were:
- Internet coverage (20%)
- Cost of living (15%)
- Life expectancy (15%)
- Housing costs (10%)
- Overall economic health (10%)
- Average weather (10%)
- Proximity to green space (10%)
- Walkability (5%)
- Quality of education (5%)
For purposes of our evaluation, we determined housing costs based on the fair market rent price of a two-bedroom home. We did not use the median cost of a house because data shows that most working-age people rent rather than own their home. Using a two-bedroom rent gives larger or smaller households the opportunity to estimate their own housing costs using the given data.
Best Places in the U.S. to Live & Work Remotely
1. Madison, Wisconsin
Coming in at No. 1 on our list is Madison, Wisconsin. With a medium-sized population of just under 260,000, Madison offers the cultural appeal of a city without sacrificing the authenticity of a slightly more rural lifestyle.
Cost of living here is slightly higher than the nation’s average but still significantly lower than the cost of living in any of the country’s more populous cities. And given how close the city’s restaurants are to the farms that supply them, it’s no surprise the organic cuisine here is top-notch.
2. Rogers, Arkansas
With a population of just 67,000, the town of Rogers, Arkansas is overlooked more than might be expected given its high number of downright delightful quality-of-life factors. Cost of living is low here, the number of great weather days is high, and though it might feel rural to a former city-dweller, it boasts a Walk Score of 70, putting it on par with places like Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, or Seattle in terms of walkability.
Rogers is especially appealing for families thanks to its high-quality public education, low crime rate, and number of kid-friendly activities, like minor league baseball games and a network of dedicated bike lanes.
3. Des Moines, Iowa
Des Moines, Iowa is gaining popularity among even traditional job- and home-hunters, and it’s not hard to understand why. With a population of 214,000, it’s large enough to feel metropolitan but relaxed enough to give its residents the space to enjoy walking around.
There’s no shortage of recreation to be found year-round, with a formidable college football rivalry dominating televisions in the fall and a full calendar of festivals hosted regularly downtown. And the cost can’t be beat: Expenses are significantly lower than average, and you can snag a two-bedroom home for less than $1,000 per month.
4. Grand Rapids, Michigan
Certain major cities like Austin and San Diego have gained reputations for cultivating a perfect combination of art, music, and craft beer — at what is, unfortunately, still a prohibitively high cost of living. Grand Rapids offers a similarly creative cultural scene for less than half the price. Renters can snag a two-bedroom home for less than the cost of a studio in many more-popular cities, and they’ll find that “Beer City USA” has just as much culture and craft brew on tap.
5. Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Another great beer city in a rougher climate is Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where months-long deep freezes are actually a selling point. The town consists of about 68,000 citizens who spend the cold season communing in cozy taprooms over warm, welcoming comfort food until the spring thaw. For their endurance, Eau Claire citizens are rewarded with 62 days of perfect weather per year, not to mention low cost of living and even cheaper market rent.
6. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
When it comes to eastern cities, Pittsburgh is often overlooked in favor of Philadelphia, Jersey City, or New York City. But though the Steel City was once considered less-than-favorable for its congested industrial environment, local authorities have made great strides to improve the ’Burgh’s quality of life, and now 92% of residents live within walking distance of a local park.
Additionally, those looking to buy property may find themselves with a surprisingly high return on investment. The city’s cost of living and market rent are both significantly lower than average, but they’ve been trending upward in recent years, indicating Pittsburgh could see a remote relocation “boom” in the future.
7. Omaha, Nebraska
You may not think of Omaha as one of the nation’s more metropolitan destinations, but Nebraska’s capital is surprisingly bustling with life despite its comparatively low costs. With nearly half a million residents, Omaha is known locally as the “Silicon Prairie” for its role as the headquarters of a number of young tech startups and eight Fortune 500 companies.
Though you may not be planning to job hunt anytime soon, Omaha’s solid economy and thriving tech market mean the city provides a network of well-accomplished peers, ensuring you’ll have plenty of friends or potential business partners to pick from.
8. Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Lancaster is best known for its Amish population, but it’s also a beautiful town in its own right that offers rolling hills, great weather, ample park space, and low housing costs and expenses.
Despite its economy being largely dependent on dairy farms, Lancaster is highly walkable. It has a Walk Score of 81 and, if you settle toward the town center, you can get by for the most part without a car or even a bike. For those with a vehicle, Lancaster is also well-placed for visits to more bustling cities; both Baltimore and Washington, D.C. are two hours away or less by car.
9. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
It should come as no surprise that Minneapolis-St. Paul has the largest population on our list since it’s technically two cities — the Twin Cities, to be more precise. This Minnesota metropolis offers the best of all possible worlds.
Residents get the benefits of both snowy winter sports and balmy summer sun, as well as a healthy balance between country and city life. The downtown regions of both cities are brimming with world-class food and culture, but an abundance of hiking trails, downhill and cross-country skiing, and even ice fishing opportunities are never far away. For access to all of the above, the region’s costs — which are slightly above average but much lower than most coastal cities — are a bargain.
10. Camden, Maine
Winter weather lovers who prefer their water a little more salty may find what they’re looking for in the small seaside town of Camden, Maine, which is home to less than 5,000 residents in the offseason. But things pick up when the weather turns and tourists flock to enjoy Camden’s charming boutique shops, fresh seafood restaurants, and abundance of hiking and sailing opportunities along the Penobscot Bay.
As is the case with most locations on the east coast, cost of living here is a little higher than average, but you can find a two-bedroom home for less than $900 per month, which more than makes up for slightly inflated expenses.
11. Port Chester, New York
If you’re part of the mass exodus of New Yorkers who are giving up city life but not looking to go too terribly far, the town of Port Chester offers a refreshing small-town vibe and plentiful green space — all just an hour by car or train to Manhattan.
This Westchester County neighborhood is by no means cheap, but the opportunity to snag a two-bedroom home
for less than $2,000 per month will feel that way to anyone coming from the five boroughs or an equally expensive metro. Given the easy city access, great weather year-round, and abundance of outdoor activities, the benefits of this Empire State gem far outweigh its costs.
12. St. Augustine, Florida
If you’re looking for an affordable way to enjoy vacation-caliber weather year-round, St. Augustine could be the perfect place. The weather here is lovely more than 90 days out of the year, and nearly 70% of residents live within walking distance of a park — many of which are located alongside the ocean, river, or any number of other water features that wind through this coastal city.
Living expenses and rents are on par with the national average, making them incredibly cheap by beach town standards. What’s more, St. Augustine also hosts a wealth of historical architecture, as well as a protected wildlife sanctuary.
13. Traverse City, Michigan
Though it has “City” in the name, this northern Michigan location has only 15,000 residents. For those looking for a more laid-back pace without sacrificing the cultural staples a city has to offer, Traverse City could be the perfect match.
Situated on a sheltered bay enclave of Lake Michigan, the city provides easy access to year-round outdoor activities, as well as upscale waterfront dining and cozy boutique cafes and shops. Cost of living is comparatively cheap, and two-bedroom homes rent for less than the price of a studio in many larger cities.
14. Seattle, Washington
Seattle is perhaps best known for its job market as it’s home to big-name companies like Starbucks, Nordstrom, Amazon, Costco, and Microsoft. But even when you take career out of the equation, Seattle still ranks as one of the most livable cities in the United States.
Seattle’s strong economy has attracted a population of diverse and talented people who can be found milling about Pike Place Market on the weekends or congregating in upscale whiskey bars and funky dives for happy hour. The drawback here is the cost, but anyone who can make the financials work will be rewarded with Seattle’s great weather, interesting people, and rich art and music scene.
15. San Francisco, California
The most expensive city on our list and in the country, San Francisco makes up for what it lacks in affordability with an unusually high number excellent weather days per year, park access within walking distance for 100% of its residents, a thriving economy, excellent schools, and an average life expectancy that’s more than five years higher than the national average.
For those who can afford it, San Francisco is worth every cent. With access to parks as well as beaches on both the ocean and the bay, delicious seafood restaurants and sourdough bakeries, a rich cultural history, and an exciting tech market, it offers plenty, no matter what your interests are.
16. Greenville, South Carolina
Just shy of the halfway point between Charlotte and Atlanta lies an underappreciated gem of a southern city called Greenville, South Carolina, where residents can enjoy the convenient walkability of a city whose locally owned shops, restaurants, and breweries give the community picturesque down-home charm.
You don’t necessarily need a car in Greenville, but cheap rents make owning one affordable. And those who do drive can take in an Appalachian forest hike, spot a waterfall or two, and be back home for a craft beer and live music all in one day.
17. Berlin, Maryland
Small-town charm and historic Chesapeake vibes make the town of Berlin, Maryland an idyllic option for those interested in slowing down a bit. Downtown offers landmark architecture, sweet cafes and restaurants, and eclectic antique shops and art galleries.
Despite the town’s upscale appearance, both rent and expenses in Berlin are relatively low. Four out of five residents live within walking distance of a park, and just a few minutes’ drive takes you to the Atlantic Ocean, Newport Bay, and miles of estuary wetland to explore. Beyond that, Ocean City, Rehoboth Beach, and even Washington, D.C. are all within reach for the perfect weekend getaway.
18. Huntsville, Alabama
What originally put Huntsville on the map was being the location for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command. However, the Rocket City is now the fastest-growing city in the state, with over 200,000 residents and an impressive array of restaurants and breweries to sate its population’s appetites. The community of engineers built around Huntsville’s early air and space demands has also expanded to attract modern tech and science companies, so the city is populated with college graduates, young professionals, and families in a diverse and thriving community.
19. Wilmington, Delaware
For a small city in a small state, Wilmington punches far above its weight class in both quality of life and affordability. Much of its vibrant lifestyle is due to the fact that several major banks, such as J.P. Morgan and Barclays, have offices here, so there’s money flowing into the economy that makes community resources plentiful.
Though the city itself offers everything a resident could need — lovely weather, plenty of parks, historical landmarks, locally owned restaurants and breweries — it doesn’t hurt that Philadelphia is just a 40-minute drive away as well.
20. Clinton, New Jersey
The last spot on our list is also the smallest with less than 3,000 residents. The tiny historic mill town of Clinton, New Jersey is located on the Raritan River, where it was originally built around an industrial mill established in 1810. The small quarry village has preserved much of its heritage in the form of covered bridges, 18th-century buildings, a one-room schoolhouse, and a handful of original carriage sheds.
Life here is relatively expensive — a two-bedroom home will run you around $1,800 per month — but those with a penchant for the simpler life will find it’s worth it.