11 Places in the US That Will Actually Pay You to Move There
$10,000 plus a bike? Don't mind if we do.
Real talk, this might be the year you make a big move. That gnawing sensation at the back of your mind has been growing since March 2020: that somewhere out there, a different version of you is saving more money on rent (maybe even buying a place!), seeing more of the country, and having way more fun doing it.
You can shop for cool, actually affordable cities, or radically downsize to a travelin’ RV, or even live off-grid in the woods somewhere. But nothing beats when a place literally pays you to pack up the hatchback and scoot on over.
Cities like Harmony, Minnesota, (how delightful!) and regions like artsy Northwest Arkansas are attracting new residents with straight cash, tax breaks, or reimbursement. One couple we spoke to received $10,000, plus a coworking space membership, to relocate to Tulsa, Oklahoma (really, it sounds great).
To get started, the website MakeMyMove.com has a rundown of every US city that'll pay you to move there. Currently there are 37 listed, and you can get as much as $16,000 to realize a better life. But if you’re short on time, we dug up the best incentives currently on offer so you can be on your way to new adventures you can actually afford.
Get you a mountainous home without those mountainous loans.
If you’re between the ages of 12 and 70, you have already thought about moving there, either to climb boulders or shralp the gnar on heavy powder days or start a rad craft brewery tour or just get rich growing kine bud in your basement grow-op. The country’s least-square square state draws in outdoorsy types, retirees, space cowboys, and enough young professionals that Forbes rated Colorado the No. 1 state for labor supply. You know what that means: startups and venture capitalists and kombucha galore, in addition to the legal weed. Also, bonkers housing prices, especially in and near Denver, which is quite figuratively exploding.
Good thing, then, that Colorado offers dozens of homeownership assistance programs. The simplest one to explain: Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) covers up to 4% of your first mortgage, so long as you meet income requirements. Worry not -- you can afford the kombucha.
The Charm City seriously wants to give you thousands of dollars to buy a house there.
Like other Rust Belt cities, the overall population of Baltimore has steadily eroded in recent decades (down more than a third since 1950, in fact). But where others have left, houses remain. Sweet, sweet houses, at fractions of the prices you’d pay elsewhere in the region. And this rising arts and tech hub is now attracting droves of college grads—that population went up 32% in B’more from 2000 to 2012.
“We often hear from people now who are very young,” says Annie Milli, the executive director of Live Baltimore, a group that aims to get people to buy homes in Baltimore. “They’re interesting customers that are really pursuing their passions, finding these incentives, getting a roommate, living for little, and accessing the great amenities we have to offer.”
The median-priced home in Baltimore is $287,500, a bit more than half of what you’d pay in DC, Boston, or the New York metro. But you can get much cheaper, and on the lower end you can qualify for a bushel of discounts. (Baltimore really wants to help you find a place you can legally splatter paint.) Pen ready? Here come numbers:
The Buying Into Baltimore Program offers first-time homebuyers $5,000 toward buying anywhere in the city. The Live Near Your Work Program, also for first-time homebuyers, a $2,000-$5,000 grant or conditional grant (half from City of Baltimore, and half from employer) to be used toward down payment and closing assistance; to that end, city employees can receive up to $5,000 toward buying a home. And if you want to move into one of Baltimore’s abandoned homes, the city’s Vacants to Value Program will give you $10,000. Half of which you’ll probably spend at Home Depot in the first six months, but still.
Pay off your student loans while living in nature’s living room.
Washington State is more than one kickass, tech-fueled metropolis careening into the future. Get outside of Seattle, and you’ll find easily one of the most beautiful states in the country. You can spend a lifetime gawking at the bold Columbia River carving through ash blonde sedimentary rock, scope out the hills of the Palouse like a bubbling pot, and the purple assault of Jardin du Soleil lavender.
Believe it or not, a state this sexy is still so vast that many parts don’t have great health-care access. If you’re paying down a student loan in certain health-related fields and are willing to dig in for three years, the Washington State Loan Repayment Program is offering up to $75,000 in loan reimbursements. There are stipulations, of course. For starters, you can’t take too many sick days, or work too few hours, or be a Past Life Regression Therapist.
New Haven, Connecticut
Free money makes it easier to buy a home in the Ivy League's pizza capital.
Yale is the big dog in town, a swell neighbor if you’re into art galleries or library tourism. The city’s architecture is absolutely dynamite for a city its size, it rocks a bunch of annual festival, and supports park-loads of natural beauty throughout the city. And its vibrant restaurant scene includes enough excellent pizzerias to make it perhaps the best pizza city in the entire dang country.
Now that you’re stoked to move there, aren’t you piqued to hear that the Livable City Initiative will loan first-time homebuyers $10,000 interest-free (plus another $30,000 in free loans toward energy improvements). Slap on an extra $2,500 if you’re a city employee, teacher, police officer, firefighter, or member of the military.
You may have heard of Tulsa from your days as a Hanson stan, or of its history through Lovecraft Country and Watchmen. But in 2021 the city has much to offer (including a Hanson tour worth checking out). A massive new park called Gathering Place recently opened on the riverfront—just one of many green spaces throughout the city, which also boasts surprising street art, cool specialty shops, and a compact, navigable downtown.
They’re also incredibly dog-friendly, with furry buds welcome almost anywhere: restaurants, stores, sections of the Gathering Place, and breweries (at the Marshall Tap Room they may even get a lil’ treat of their own).
And all this could be yours through the Tulsa Remote program, an incentive to revitalize the city by attracting digital nomads. Participants— of which there were 375 accepted in 2020— receive $10,000, plus invites to community-building events and some discounts on housing. You’re also only committed to a year so if you don’t like it, just pick up and try one of the other cities on this list.
Handing out checks just for living there, since 1976.
A certain kind of person moves to Alaska and is never bored: snowmobiling, dog sledding, stargazing, crabs, nodding to a moose on your walk to the grocery store. Another type of person probably wonders what in the hell is so wrong with moving to San Diego. But everyone can agree that receiving a slice of oil money each year just to live there, Norway-style, has its perks. Since 1976 Alaska’s Permanent Fund has doled out dividends to Alaska residents that get as high as $2,000 a year. There’s no telling what next year will bring, but free money is free money, and little taste of Scandinavia right in America.
When your craving for brisket is as overwhelming as your student debt.
The band Kansas was first named “The Reasons Why.” Fitting, as there are reasons why Kansas is attractive to move to, even for a serial coastliner. There’s a ton to explore: the Great Bend Wild Refuges, to the Swedish culture of Lindsborg, or just Wichita, a stealthy-cool American city.
If you want some free money, though, set your sights on the capital. Topeka is offering a $15,000 incentive to make it your new home, whether you’re moving for a new full-time position or settling as a remote worker. There’s breweries and an Evel Kneivel museum, but if you choose your home in one of Jimmy John’s delivery zones, the hoagie joint will add a $1,000 bonus.
If your heart is more with homesteading, find your own patch of prairie. Settle into one of 77 designated rural zones scattered all over the map, and Kansas will wave hello by waiving your income tax for five years. Once you’re employed, you can secure student loan repayments of up to $15,000.
In order to qualify, you must complete the grueling task of living outside of Kansas for five years. Once that is accomplished, as long as you have an associate’s or bachelor's degree, you can buy some boots and settle in.
Drown yourself in food on a stick.
Perhaps you grew a couple of cucumbers over quarantine, declared yourself a farmer, and began to dream of a state with 11,000 different types of soils. Or maybe you’re reminded every time there’s an election that it would be amazing to visit the Iowa State Fair, with over 80 types food on a stick (Breakfast Sausage In A Waffle On A Stick! Caramel Dipped Pecan Pie On A Stick!).
Being in proximity to these gastronomic wonders is more affordable than you think. Now if you choose to construct a home in the town of Newton, just 37 minutes away from the home of the state fair in Des Moines, you’ll receive up to $10,000 reimbursement, plus a welcome package valued at $2,500. We’ll just say it: that’s a lot of food on a stick.
$10,000 and a bike, who could ask for more.
Northwest Arkansas already has the University of Arkansas, Wal-Mart, the natural wonders of the Ozarks, and world-class museum Crystal Bridges funded by, okay, the Walton family. But maybe you could be the next Walton family (or just marry into it), after the region pays you $10,000 — plus a bike! — to relocate. They’re looking for remote workers in the STEAM fields and have sparked quite some interest, with 24K people applying for the first round in 2020. And if you have no interest in exploring nature trails, you can swap the bike out for a membership to Crystal Bridges (we’d choose the bike though. Entrance to the museum is free).
Cheap business loans means lots of startups to go with the coastal beauty.
Anyone who fancies whale watching, hiking, beaching, and snowboarding should consider listing Maine above “cheesing in front of the Hollywood sign.” The state is also a great place for entrepreneurs. Portland in particular is humming with startups and coworking spaces, and the state is dedicated to keeping the dream alive. The Maine Venture Fund (MVF) was put in place to provide capital to the sorts of small young companies -- such as Chimani (apps for the outdoors) and Gelato Fiasco (which speaks for itself) -- unlikely to get funding from traditional venture capitalists.
“Maine has an awesome ecosystem for entrepreneurship,” says Rich Sales, president of Abierto Networks, which makes digital signage and kiosks, and which moved from New Hampshire to York, Maine a few years ago. “There are resources in Maine for every level of business activity -- whether you are trying to figure out how to get started, to actually raising millions of dollars -- there are people that want to help and resources that you can leverage in Maine.”
After going through a thorough loan process, which Rich called “a validating process for possible future investment,” your business can earn its well-deserved riches from both the Maine Venture Fund and, hell, maybe other venture types. You’re not the only one invested in this new life of yours, after all.