What You Should Know About Moving to Alaska

As America’s last frontier and the nation’s 49th state, Alaska is well-known for its remoteness and endless adventures. If you’re thinking of relocating to Alaska, you’ll need to be prepared for long and dark winters, cool summers, diverse wildlife and rough terrain.

[Read: 5 Things to Consider Before Moving to the Mountains]

Should You Move to Alaska?

Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city and metro area, currently holds the No. 101 ranking on the U.S. News Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2022-2023 list and No. 67 in Best Places to Retire. The midsize city is a popular destination for the adventurous, but it’s known for its cultural sites and museums, including the Alaska Native Heritage Center, a performing arts center, galleries and numerous eateries and craft breweries.

Outside the city, there are nearby wilderness areas and the Chugach, Kenai and Talkeetna mountains. “The people who move to and remain in Alaska usually embrace the outdoors and want to experience a semi-subsistence lifestyle,” says Alison McDaniel, founder, president and owner/operator of Alison’s Relocations, a moving company in Anchorage.

According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the state ranks 20th among the states in per-capita income, but be prepared for a high cost of living: The department cites a study saying Kodiak, Juneau, Fairbanks and Anchorage are among the most expensive cities to live in. For the Best Places to Live rankings, U.S. News calculates that the cost of living in the Anchorage metro area requires 24.4% of the area’s median blended household income of $76,860, which makes it No. 83 out of 150 places for affordability (Kodiak, Juneau and Fairbanks are not included in the list due to their small population size).

How to Move to Alaska

If you’re considering making the move to America’s last frontier, you’ll need to decide which area is right for you. Alaska is the biggest state in the U.S. by square miles, but it has the lowest population density out of all the states.

You can choose to live in one of Alaska’s modern cities, where you’ll find plenty of perks associated with urban life, or live a more isolated and independent life in a smaller community. “Despite the massive size of Alaska, it is still a very small community. It’s not unusual to run into someone you know at the grocery store or the airport,” McDaniel says.

When you’re making the big move, not only will you have to deal with normal moving struggles, but you must also consider that Alaska is thousands of miles away from the nearest state of the lower 48. Much of Alaska is also inaccessible by road, so you’ll need to plan your route carefully.

“We suggest only using a moving company or van line that is based in Alaska,” McDaniel says. “Always check your mover’s credentials on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website. Working with an Alaska-based mover can also give you an economic advantage.”

[Read: What to Know About Moving to Canada]

Here’s what you need to know about moving to Alaska and what to expect when you arrive.

— There is no state income tax.

— The cost of living is higher than the national average.

— The real estate market is competitive.

— Watch out for Alaska’s wildlife.

— It’s a popular destination for outdoor adventurers.

— The climate is extreme.

— Alaska will pay you to live there.

There Is No State Income Tax

“There is no state income tax and most cities do not have a sales tax,” McDaniel says. Alaska is one of nine states with no income tax and only a small portion of the land mass is subject to a property tax. In areas that charge sales tax, it only ranges from 2%-5%, according to the Office of the State Assessor.

The Cost of Living Is Higher Than the National Average

Because it’s so remote, Alaska can be expensive — even in the Anchorage metro area, where the average annual salary is $62,610, well above the national average of $56,310, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The cost of living is comparable to larger cities in the lower 48,” McDaniel mentions. “Groceries and resources have to be shipped, so they tend to be more expensive.”

Data gathered by the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that in 2020, the average total personal consumption cost in Alaska was $48,739 per year. The cost of living in Alaska is also 24.09% higher than the national average, making it the seventh-most expensive state to live in, according to a report from Insure.com.

The Real Estate Market Is Competitive

High demand for housing and low inventory increased the average home sales price by nearly 9% in 2021, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Data from the Multiple Listing Service for Alaska’s largest housing markets shows a higher number of sales closed, higher prices, fewer days on the market and a lower number of active listings. The average price of an average single-family home in Alaska was $388,648 in 2021, according to the department’s Alaska Economic Trends Report, published in June.

Although home prices in Alaska have jumped, these numbers are comparable to home prices across the U.S. and lower than the national median sales price of $428,700 in the first quarter of 2022, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Watch Out for Alaska’s Wildlife

If you plan to do some camping or hiking, you’ll likely run into one of Alaska’s “big five”: moose, bears, Dall sheep, caribou and wolves. McDaniel advises newcomers to read up on how to avoid scaring a bear or moose and what to do if you run into one. “Moose are not friendly. Do not feed the moose,” McDaniel says.

Alaska has the nation’s largest population of grizzly bears. Data from the National Wildlife Federation shows that roughly 31,000 grizzly bears live across the state. Alaska is also the only U.S. state to have wild polar bears, with numbers estimated to be between 4,000 and 7,000 in the state.

It’s a Popular Destination for Outdoor Adventurers

Alaska may be cold, but there are plenty of activities for the adventurous in every season. Vast expanses of undeveloped space, government-protected land and national parks provide an abundance of sightseeing and outdoor adventures.

McDaniel says that newcomers can enjoy “downhill and cross-country skiing, fishing, hiking, camping, four-wheeling, kayaking, golf, parasailing, canoeing, hunting and more.”

The Climate Is Extreme

Weather in Alaska can vary dramatically by region and season. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Alaska’s climate is largely influenced by four factors: its northerly latitude crossing the Arctic Circle, its large elevation range, regional variations in proximity to the ocean and the seasonal distribution of sea ice.

Annually, temperatures range from the mid-40s degrees Fahrenheit in the south to about 13 F to 20 F in the Arctic region. The greatest seasonal changes in temperature occur in the state’s interior, where the average summer maximum can reach the upper 60s F and winter average minimums are 15 F to -25 F.

[SEE: The 25 Best Places to Live for Families in the U.S. in 2022-2023.]

Alaska Will Pay You to Live There

Alaska will even pay you to move there through the Permanent Fund Dividend Program. Every year, eligible residents of Alaska receive royalties from the Permanent Fund’s investment earnings. The Permanent Fund Dividend amount in 2021 was $1,114, but the amount changes from year to year. These payments can make a big difference in the life of Alaskans.

More from U.S. News

The 25 Best Places to Live for Families in the U.S. in 2022-2023

The Best Places for Singles to Live in 2021-2022

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What You Should Know About Moving to Alaska originally appeared on usnews.com

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