How do I choose a town to buy in when I don’t live there? That is one of the most frequently asked questions by prospective buyers. They live in an apartment now. They know it is too small for their long-term use. They want a yard. But, where?

It is both common sense and neuropsychological wisdom that rational decisions require a limited number of variables. The number used most often is three or fewer. Beyond that number, your rational mind does not work as well as you think it does.

That’s why you’ll make a better decision if you decide on some big factors beforehand. The first step to finding a new town to live in is to identify your top three important factors. The most common features that my clients consider are these: Commute time and distance, schools, housing types and size, yard sizes, social/cultural activity. Successful choices balance these factors with the ever-present restriction of price.

Think about things you cannot change, like how far the town is from places you frequent.

The commute to work is a daily cost, not just monetarily. It costs you time and energy. Choose a maximum time you are willing to commute to your present job and the area where your job could potentially relocate. Also consider your travel time to friends, family, and favorite activities. If you are a symphony annual ticket holder, or a Red Sox season ticket holder, consider those trips as well.

Decide if you want only a town served by mass transit, or are you willing to depend on your car.  This can affect both adults and children in the family. Google maps has a feature in the directions app that will tell you the travel time by mass transit. Beware that some places are actually marked “Sorry, your search appears to be outside our current coverage area for transit.” However, many towns and cities have both MBTA bus service and local carriers. Find out whether those services will make it reasonable to get around town without always being in a car. Towns that are spread out, without bus service, create a car-dependent social life for everyone. Thus, the term “soccer Mom.”

A lot of my clients think that they will overcome the car-centered life by living within walking distance of a town center. This works to some extent. However, a car or bus will still be necessary for visiting friends in other neighborhoods in town, and going to school and sporting events.

Since distance and transportation infrastructure is not something you can control, making decisions about commute should come early in the process of choosing a town.