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The Big Move: I’m sick of the Arizona heat. I want to move to a place with low humidity and a low cost of living — and I don’t want to move to a blue state

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Dear MarketWatch,

I am 52.5 years old, live in Scottsdale, Ariz., and currently make approximately $72,500 per year. I pay rent on a home of $1,600 a month, and aside from utilities I am debt free. I have some credit cards, but use them and pay them off every month (for the airline miles/points). 

My father passed and left me approximately $400,000 — $200,000 of it is tied up in a fund that my financial adviser set up. My adviser is the same one my stepmom has used for years, so I do trust him. 

I have an additional $210,000 in a jumbo money-market account, and I have just under $200,000 in my 401(k) at work.  When my stepmom passes, her will states that my brother and I will each inherit a home.

She has two homes, one in Michigan and one in Alabama — I kind of know who will get which one. Also, my stepmom has indicated that she will leave my father’s 401(k) to the both us, and at the time of his passing, there was $88,000 in there.

My question is this: I’m sick of the Arizona heat. I want to move before the summer of 2022. I know I need to work until at least age 62 for the health insurance, and I really want to move to a place with low humidity and a low cost of living.

I would love to purchase a parcel of land, at least one acre on a body of water, but not necessarily the ocean. I prefer a small lake, river, or stream, and in an ideal world it would have an awesome view, where I can build a 700 to 800 square-foot tiny home and have a two-car garage with a ‘woman cave’ in the top. 

I have a dog, which is why I want to leave the brutal summers here in Scottsdale. Where can you suggest I move? Additionally, I do not want to move to a “blue state.” I would love to take the money from my 401(k) to purchase the land and build the tiny home, and leave my father’s inheritance alone and let that grow.

Am I living in a dream world? I keep using the “Where Should I Retire” feature on MarketWatch, but I am just not sure of the results.  Oh and one more criteria, I would love to be in a small town with an awesome ‘Main Street’ with less than 50,000 residents.

I pray you can help me.

Respectfully,
Super Confused

The Big Move’ is a MarketWatch column looking at the ins and outs of real estate, from navigating the search for a new home to applying for a mortgage.

Do you have a question about buying or selling a home? Do you want to know where your next move should be? Email Jacob Passy at [email protected].

Dear Confused,

Wow — it really does sound like the world is your oyster. Often, when I hear from people, they are in a more tenuous situation. Maybe they need to move to care for a loved one on short notice, or they’re finding it tough to pay the monthly bills.

It sounds like you are very much set up for success. Even before we take into account the inheritance you received from your father, you’ve already amassed a significant sum in savings. You’re doing all the right research, and asking all the right questions when considering such a big move.

By the way, I’m glad you are using the “Where Should I Retire” tool my colleagues at MarketWatch developed. This tool allows you to select parameters on what attributes you want out of a retirement destination. Then using that information, it generates a list of the most suitable locations for you.

As you discovered, while designed for retirees, it’s a great tool to use for anyone who wants to move across the country without a particular destination in mind.

In your case, there are a lot of items on your wish list — and it’s naturally going to be difficult to get all of them. For instance, it’s often more humid close to bodies of water such as lakes and oceans — or swamps — since the evaporating water creates the humidity.

You also mention not wanting to move to a “blue state.” I take that to mean that you may have concerns about taxes, since you also mention wanting a low cost of living.

But do remember: No state is a monolith. There are 5.3 million people in California who are registered Republicans — that’s larger than the population of 28 states. Whether all those Republican voters enjoy living in California is a separate issue, but do remember that in a country as diverse as the U.S. it’s not hard to find pockets of like-minded individuals wherever you live. And — who knows — you may even find common ground with those who do not share all of your political views.

As for your choice of location, start by looking for parts of the country where tiny-home living is embraced. TV shows like “Tiny House Nation” and “Tiny House Hunters” may make it seem easy to build a tiny home no matter where you live, but that’s not entirely the case.


TV shows may make it seem easy to build a tiny home no matter where you live, but that’s not entirely the case.

Zoning regulations vary widely from state to state, and even county to county. As the American Tiny House Association proclaims on its website, “Too few legal places to live is the biggest problem in going tiny.”

Plus, if you’re going about building a tiny home of your own, you want to have your pick of the litter when it comes to contractors and architects who are familiar with constructing a tiny home. If you move to an area that still hasn’t embraced this living concept, that may prove more challenging.

I combed through various analyses, including from Architect Magazine and HomeAdvisor, to see which states are best for the tiny-home lifestyle. Two states in particular stood out as meeting a lot of your wants: Texas and North Carolina.

Texas has embraced the tiny-house movement, and is generally regarded as having very friendly zoning laws that encourage new-home construction. There are scores of lakes across the state, giving you a wide range of options in terms of where you live. Spur, Texas, prides itself as being the “first tiny-house friendly city.” Places like Quitman or Mineral Wells might make for good fits, or towns along Texas’ Gulf Coast.

When I put in your parameters into the MarketWatch retirement tool, a number of counties in North Carolina pop up. And the state has a growing tiny-house industry, which received the green light from state regulators in recent years.

Neither Texas nor North Carolina would be considered blue states, though heat and humidity might be an issue. For cooler locations, I would turn to the Upper Midwest, and places like Washburn, Wis., or Wabasha, Minn. From the Great Lakes to the many in-land, smaller lakes across this region, your desire to live near the water should be easily satisfied here, without the high summer temperatures of the South. This part of the country isn’t known for its tiny-home living per se, but like many other states there is increasing openness to the concept.


Test drive a new city, if you can, before setting more permanent roots.

And while these aren’t deep red states, I suspect that you would nevertheless feel at home in this neck of the woods.

My final piece of advice: I gather from your letter that you have some freedom to relocate wherever irrespective of work. Maybe your job is remote or has skills that would easily transfer to work elsewhere. Whatever the case, given that you are not wedded to one location, I would give it a test drive. You might even consider renting out a tiny home in one of these areas to be sure the lifestyle suits your needs.

Good luck on this exciting new chapter in your life. I hope you find comfort and happiness wherever you end up living.

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