It can be a daunting task trying to find your place. Maybe you got a new job. Maybe you are looking to start somewhere fresh. Or maybe you have visited Southern Utah previously and found yourself wanting to make it your home (it happens more often than you might think.) Whatever your reason for looking to make the move, here are some tips, and some helpful information that may help you to make a more informed decision on just exactly where might be the best fit.
The Greater St. George Area
St. George, (or what most people think of as St. George) though it is a fairly small region already, is actually comprised of several smaller cities, Ivins, Santa Clara, St. George, and Washington. Though they are intertwined and small, each has its own distinctive charms, as well as pros and cons to living there.
We will start with Ivins. Ivins is the western-most city in the Greater St. George Area. With a population of just under 10,000 people it is one of the least crowded regions to consider moving too. With large red cliffs rising up to touch the sun and a wide open desert-scape it is a very scenic area and feels more "untouched" than most places you could choose to live in St. George. However there are some caveats to living in such an area so let's go over the pros and cons.
Proximity to bodies of water
Possibly larger lots
Overall Ivins is a great place to live. There are high-end homes, newer grocery stores, and quick access to hiking and bike trails. It is also at a close proximity to Snow Canyon State Park, Fire Lake, Gunlock Reservoir, and the well-known Red Mountain Resort. That being said it is still a very small city. There is only really one major grocery store, very little in the way of indoor recreation, one elementary school and one middle school, and very few dining or fast food options. It is also open to the elements which invites strong winds and severe heat in the summer, which can drive energy and utilities costs very high (Ivins is has the most expensive costs of the entire area.) So if you're building a home you may want to opt for the higher rated insulation.
Next on the list is Santa Clara. As you head east from Ivins you will (almost without knowing it) arrive in Santa Clara. The city sits right between St. George and Ivins. It is a minuscule elevation change yet since Santa Clara sits right next to the river banks the temperature can change quite noticeably from Ivins. There are far more trees and greenery, and it gives off a much more small-town country vibe. The Main Street of Santa Clara is only about a mile long but the city limits extend much further. It is smaller than Ivins with a smaller population and less room to grow. As the least developed city in the region it is much harder to find a home (especially a new home) and building is limited. However, zoning laws are a little different due to the fact that is was mostly farmland in the early days and when they changed them they allowed for some commercial and farmland mixes, so there is some income potential.
The schools are close and once again there is very little in the way of amenities but because the city is so small it is a short drive to anything you may need. The biggest issue with portions of Santa Clara is that some homes are more susceptible to flooding due to the proximity to the river. The area is dry which means it doesn't happen often but it also means that when it does happen they are flash floods and can sometimes be severe.
Limited availability of homes
St. George is the largest city in the region. With a population of just a hair under 100,000 it may not be considered a "big city" but it has been one of the fastest growing cities in the nation for years now. It is about 6 times larger than Ivins and Santa Clara combined and over the last 10-15 years has come to harbor all of the normal amenities your typical larger city would have.
It was established by Mormon Pioneers which is why the area is known to be dominated by followers of the LDS church (though there is far more diversity than most realize), and has grown like crazy due to the immense beauty of the surrounding area as well as its proximity to practically any climate you could hope for. With Las Vegas less than two hours away, several state and national parks close by, and drastic temperature changes as you travel north, St. George is in the middle of pretty much everything. It is a beautifully scenic place to live full of warm-hearted welcoming individuals (though the politics of the area can be a bit strong and right-leaning.)
The recent "discovery" of St. George has led to a massive wave of people moving in from the West Coast and a major hike in home-prices. The average home price went from about $300,000 to about $550,000 in just the last 6 or 7 years. That being said, finding a home in St. George shouldn't be difficult at all. The area is still small so if you are looking for an area with specific criteria such "homes near a school or hospital" or "homes close to grocery stores" it may take a little longer.
That being said the city does have major developments in the works to solve that problem. Desert Color is one such development. Deseret Color is a massive 3,400 square foot undertaking with an artificial lake at the center. With beach sand surrounding the whole thing it is built to imitate relaxing beach vibes without having to leave your home. Though if you are looking to find a quaint little area to live "unbothered" Desert Color is probably not for you. It is more like city living where everything is built together tightly and 60% or more of the homes are vacation rentals. It is great for a part-time home or passive income though. If you ARE looking for a more conventional home that still has a large community feel Divario may be the place for you. They have larger, mostly one-story homes that have a conventional feel but with new-age quality.
Due to all of the growth, there is also almost limitless income potential here (really all of Washington county which is the county in which the entire area is located.) High-paying careers are lacking (pretty seriously depending on the field) but for the entrepreneurial spirit Southern Utah is one of top places you can choose. All-in-all St. George is essentially the "Mecca" of Southern Utah and offers a little bit of everything.
Central to everything
Most "big city" amenities
Utilizes are reasonable
Small town feel
Low crime rate
Gotten a bit crowded
Extremely high temperatures
Lower than average wages
Last but most certainly not least is Washington. Washington (and Washington Fields) is the flat side of the area. Almost entirely made up of large plots of farmland in the early days Washington has exploded with development in recent years. Most developments in the area are less than 20 years old and almost all of them are still being developed or being developed further.
Some homes in Washington are still on irrigation and some have to have utilities brought to them as they are built on large hills that separate the flat farmlands. These communities are full of higher-end homes that reach in the millions of dollars and are typically gated. There are other developments further west in the fields such as "Little Valley" that have much larger lots and tend to be bigger and newer-styled homes. Most of these homes are fairly new since there was almost no development in that direction before 10-15 years ago.
Washington also has a unique situation as the power company (Dixie Power) that covers much of the area costs far less than everywhere else in the Greater St George Area. Ivins and Santa Clara are the most expensive and there are many different companies depending on your services area but Dixie Power is by far the least expensive (that being said if you are coming from a large city the cost of utilities here will be far less expensive wherever you decide to settle.) The typical way to know if you are on Dixie Power is that anything south of the Virgin River should be covered.
When it comes down to it, it is very hard to choose a bad place to live in Southern Utah. And the whole area is comprised of smaller still options if you travel just a little north or west of St. George (such as Cedar City or Hurricane.) There are some things that most Real Estate Agents may not mention such as flood areas or blue clay but they are few and far between. Just make sure to do your research and drive the whole area as there are quite a few hidden gems if you are willing to look for them, and hopefully you've gotten some helpful information from some locals who love the place!