Anyone who's seriously thought about moving to a different city knows there are a number of factors that ultimately sway you to pack up your belongings. For most of us, it comes down to job prospects, affordable housing and whether you could see yourself putting down roots in your new potential city. Now there's a new consideration to weigh before making a leap to a new ZIP code: How much will they pay me? In an effort to retain and attract a talented labor pool, an increasing number of states and municipalities have begun offering an array of incentives in the form of tax breaks, discounted moving expenses, help with student loans and more.
Who's paying you to move?
In St. Clair County, Michigan, members of a local foundation decided to take action against the exodus of bright local students who left the area for college, never to return except for the occasional holiday visit. "There was frustration about 'brain drain,'" said Audrey Sochar, who works with the Community Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to community building within the county. The foundation started offering recent graduates "reverse scholarships" of up to $15,000 to live and work within St. Clair's borders. Since its inception in 2016, 10 people have received the "Come Home Award," with two more pending.
For one graduate, the scholarship was enough to convince her to return to the area. "[Moving home] was always in the back of my mind," said Kim Deland, 27, who now works as an athletic director at a local high school. "But it wasn't a sure thing. This award helped."
It's not just small towns and rural areas that feel the need to attract new residents. The city of Baltimore, for instance, offers financial incentives to people who choose to settle there, including the Buying Into Baltimore program promising a $5,000 forgivable loan toward buying a home in the city. "Being right between Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, we get lost in a lot of that chatter," said Lindsay Machak, communications manager for Live Baltimore, which manages the program. "We're a great place to live, and we want people to at least consider us."
Baltimore also touts a Live Near Your Work benefit, in which employers and the city of Baltimore together fund incentives people can use toward a down payment or closing costs on a Baltimore home. Incentives range from $2,000 to $18,500.
Not all programs are strictly for outsiders moving in. For Carmen Williams, 49, Baltimore's city incentives allowed her to purchase a newer, more expensive home there—a step up from the house she bought in 2006. Without the incentives, her move wouldn't have been possible. "I was able to use the incentives for the down payment and the closing costs," said Williams, an attorney.
Live in-state, work out-of-state
Not all of the states and cities offering financial incentives to move there care if you actually work in the state. For example, a new program in Tulsa, Oklahoma, offers remote workers $10,000 to relocate—plus a housing stipend and space at a co-working community. The program launched in mid-November and has already had 8,000 applications."One thing we found is that if you'd asked somebody who's never been to Tulsa whether or not they'd consider Tulsa, there's usually a consistent 'probably not,'" said Aaron Bolzle, program manager for Tulsa Remote. "But when people see this town and see how energetic it is, the overwhelming majority would consider moving here."
Vermont is doing something similar, offering up to $10,000 in moving costs and other expenses to remote workers who want to make the Green Mountain State their new home. The program will start in 2019.
Lots of land—for free
There are several midwestern areas that offer free lots of land, provided you're willing to build a house there. Sometimes the appeal of these programs surprise its architects, which is what happened in Marne, Iowa, population 120. "We were really expecting local people who already had jobs in the area, and that's probably who will eventually fill up the two residential lots still available," says Kenner Baxter with the Marne Housing Committee.
Whether offering free lots of land, scholarships or other financial perks, many of these programs are small but gaining steam. At the very least, they're giving people who might never have given a first look at Oklahoma or Vermont a reason to reconsider where to settle their roots. "I personally hope people of all ages take advantage of this," said Bolzle. "I began this program thinking most of the people reaching out would be younger millennials, but the ages have ranged all over. We've gotten, 'I'm 57 years old, are you interested in having me?' And the answer is, 'Of course!'"
A sampling of the cities and states that'll pay you to live there:
The program offers $10,000 cash, space at a co-working community and a $300 monthly housing stipend to people who can move to Tulsa within six months and have full-time jobs or are self-employed outside of Tulsa. You need to be at least 18 and eligible to work in the U.S. Plus, the city of Tulsa expects you to stay at least a year to receive your full cash stipend.
Remote workers who work for a company based out of state who become Vermont residents after Jan. 1, 2019, are eligible for up to $10,000 in moving expenses and other costs.
New Haven, CT
New homeowners may be eligible for up to $10,000 as an interest-free forgivable loan, which they can use as a home down payment or to cover closing costs. You may also be able to score up to $30,000 toward home renovations and up to $40,000 toward college tuition. To qualify, your income must be below 120% of the city's median family income (which, according to the most recent Census numbers, is about $38,126).
The program runs a lottery each year in which people may receive a $5,000 forgivable loan to use toward buying a home there. The mortgage amount must be $517,000 or less, and winners must close on their home within 60 days of being selected.
St. Clair County, MI
Students with a degree in a STEAM-related field who move to St. Clair County and work within its borders are eligible for a "scholarship" of up to $15,000. You must have graduated with a two-year, four-year or graduate degree in the last 10 years and still have student debt.
You can apply for a free lot of land in this small town on which to build a house. The catch: You have to break ground within 120 days and finish construction within a year.
Niagara Falls, NY
Recent graduates of a two- or four-year college or those pursuing a post-graduate degree can get up to $6,984 in student loan repayment if you agree to live in a targeted neighborhood in downtown Niagara Falls.
If you've graduated within the last seven years from a STEAM program (preferably) and you don't currently live there but plan to move there and work within Hamilton or Butler County, you can apply to receive up to $5,000 over 25 months.
North Platte, NE
The city will match any local employer incentive (such as relocation expenses, down payments or help with student loans) up to $5,000 to entice new hires. Jobs must be full-time and pay at least $20 per hour within three years.
If you want to move to Curtis and build a single-family home, you can score the lot for free.
If you want to build a new home here, you might qualify for a cash rebate of $5,000 to $12,000, based on the final estimated market value of the new home.
Grant County, IN
Graduates with an associate degree or higher who choose to live and work in Grant County are eligible for a $5,000 forgivable loan to use as a down payment on a home or use toward closing costs. Not looking to own? Grant County will give you a 20% discount on your monthly rent, up to a limit of $2,500.
The state offers a break on state income taxes equal to the money that recent graduates put toward student loans that year, as long as they live and work in Maine. The specific break depends on your degree, when you graduated and whether you were a Maine resident while attending college.
Seventy-seven counties in Kansas are authorized to offer new full-time residents either income tax waivers for up to five years or student loan repayments up to $15,000 over five years.