“It’s this last aspect that brought a taxing disruption to a “New West” resort community in one of the Rocky Mountain states on our bucket list.”

Montana’s Glacier National Park
Keys for Unlocking Your New Home: BOF, Bucket Lists, Life Stages and Lifestyle Segments

An excerpt from Book Three in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams.

While Claritas / Nielsen Segmentation may redefine their lifestyle descriptions and change the names of their trend-setting profiles, neighborhoods themselves change only slowly over time.

All neighborhoods evolve slowly through life stages over years and decades:

  • Formation,
  • Early Growth,
  • Late Growth,
  • Maturity,
  • Decline and
  • Renewal.

Each neighborhood has its own “brand” – an image and an attraction – for people of the same type.

Colorful Neighborhood “Brand”

Neighbors feel the attraction because the neighborhood fulfills their fundamental need to belong.

Picture your current or most recent street.

Neighborhood Street in Winter

How quickly can you describe your neighborhood composition?

“Well, we have mostly families with kids, except the older kids have graduated.

Most left home for college, but then returned when they couldn’t find work.”

If you’re like me, it’s not something you notice or even think about.

If given a list to choose from, you’d have no problem at all.

You’d be able to rattle off:

  • Their social rank — made up of income, employment level and education level achieved.
  • And the degree of mobility (length of time living in your neighborhood).
  • The mix of ages, genders and living arrangement household composition.
  • And, their ethnicity (race, foreign birth, ancestry, and language)
Densely Populated Urban Neighborhoods

Visitors to your neighborhood can easily observe:

  • The degree of urbanization (variations in urban, suburban, and rural populations);
  • The density (how much room between housing units you see); and
  • Housing types (own, rent, value, age, number of housing units).

So, if you were an outsider about to move into a another neighborhood on your bucket list,

  • How well do you feel you would fit in?
  • Will established neighbors share your same values?
  • How likely will they treat a stranger like you with open arms?
Birds-of-a-Feather or Chicken Wars?

Consider those neighbors who have lived decades in your potentially new community – like those in Whitefish, Montana or Bishop, California.

When new people move in, if they are decidedly different from the birds-of-a-feather (chicken or otherwise) tensions mount.

If strangers replace former neighbors, the local’s sense of belonging to there long standing,  tried-and-true community can be dramatically challenged.

And they don’t like it.


In general, when people move in, they tend to stay.

Just like those who have lived there for generations.

Fight or Flight.

If locals hate the changes, but can’t afford to move on – they may lack the skill sets to find work or work in professions that are in decline – they feel stuck.

So you get chicken wars, among other things.

We’ve even identified a subset of our High Country Eagle lifestyles – Rustic Eagles – who live in the least densely populated rural areas.

Their communities represent our nation’s most isolated towns and rural villages.

Sparsely Populated High Country Eagle Neighborhoods

You’d recognize Rustic Eagles after hanging out a while in their pristine, remote communities.

They have relatively modest incomes (a median household income of just over $30,000 in 2011) and low education levels.

Most of their neighbors live in aging homes and are employed in local blue-collar occupations.

It shouldn’t come as a any shock if we told you they spend their leisure time hunting and fishing, enjoying church socials, swapping war stories at the veterans club, dancing to country music and racing cars.

Long-time Country Residents

You’d also notice two distinct age groups – 30-44  year olds and senior citizens 65 years old and older.

So, they’re a mix of young singles and seniors living in unmarried and family households.

What they most likely notice is a trend – an exodus as neighbor after neighbor migrates to cities and greener pastures.

Attractive Neighborhood Features

Often kids who have grown up in the small town can’t wait to escape to the big city after high school graduation.

If not for economic reasons then for life events.

And, if a community finds itself on an early growth path, chances are the real estate values have priced the 20-somethings out of the local market.

Take my neighborhood – original residents moved in at the same time, so any change is very noticeable.

Graduating Neighborhood Kids

We know when people are:

  • Leaving the nest,
  • Graduating from college,
  • Getting married,
  • Having children,
  • Being promoted,
  • Emptying the nest, and
  • Retiring.
New Family Formations

When people move because of a positive life event, they usually find a neighborhood that is like the one they just left or better – a step up in social status.

Normally, the next set of birds set up their nest in the neighborhood home just vacated.

Moving Day

So, as you research and then visit resort towns on your bucket list keep a few things in mind.

Neighborhoods, like all things in nature, evolve through stages.

Characteristics that define a neighborhood change slowly.

Slowly Evolving Neighborhoods

The stability of a neighborhood comes from its fixed features:

  • Location,
  • Housing,
  • Transportation,
  • Schools,
  • Places of worship, and
  • Employment.

“Birds of a Feather” flock together.

They attract each other.

Social Ties and Deep Friendships
  • People with similar cultural backgrounds, needs, and perspectives naturally gravitate toward each other.
  • People choose to live in neighborhoods that offer affordable advantages and compatible lifestyles.
  • Self-organization and self-perpetuation reinforce the stable nature of neighborhoods

With stability comes predictability.

Variety of Neighborhoods Attract Different Lifestyles

And, with a little research and intelligence gathering you can whittle a long list of potential bucket list down to fewer, higher probability best fit towns.

How can you take advantage of the predictable nature of neighborhoods?

Several marketing and demographic firms (we’ve stuck with Claritas / Nielsen PRIZM Segmentation over the years) offer statistics on specific clusters of neighborhoods.

They group segments into their similar demographic and behavioral characteristics.

If you know the area’s zip code you can discover the lifestyles of residents living in the community.

And, you can compare your profile with theirs to estimate your degree of fit.

On your visits look for any newer developments that may trigger changes in neighborhood patterns.

Newer Construction

New construction in or around the neighborhood.

Major regional economic adjustments.

Transition from households with children to ones that are empty nests.

Rezoning, and dramatically rising/falling land values.

It’s this last aspect that brought a taxing disruption to a “New West” resort community in one of the Rocky Mountain states on our bucket list.

More to follow.


(22) Selectively evaluate the best quality-of-life communities to live in and weigh the tradeoffs of risk and rewards for accruing real estate appreciation along a progression of rural and small towns that meet what your pocket books can afford.


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