In a typical year, May is the beginning of moving season. Of course, 2020 has been anything but a typical year. However, my friends and colleagues in real estate have reported being as busy as ever since stay at home orders have begun to relax in most areas. So, there’s a good chance that some of you are getting ready to relocate. My goal is to offer you advice that can make the process less stressful and disruptive. Despite the inherent chaos, an ordered life doesn’t have to go out the window during a move.
My History with Moving
In my adult life, I have moved in and out of six apartments; nine houses; and one long-term hotel. That last one involved two Labrador Retrievers, a cat, and a four-week old infant. And, yes, it was EXACTLY as chaotic as you’re imagining. My early moves involved multiple car trips, scavenged cardboard boxes, and a ‘crew’ consisting of family and friends paid in pizza and beer. Dorm rooms and one-bedroom apartments don’t hold a lot of stuff, no matter how much it feels like while you’re packing it.
In later years, the moves came with an enormous moving truck, matching boxes with stickers, and a professional packing crew. Four-bedroom homes hold a LOT of stuff, however minimalist they might appear. All of those later moves were interstate. Each one entailed a home sale, and a home purchase or rental. Every move taught me something new about how to relocate with my sanity and sense of humor intact.
Start Thinking About the Move Immediately
Whatever inspired your move – career, education, family, change of scenery, etc. – there are a lot of emotions around moving. And, there are a LOT of practical considerations. Start processing and working on both of these as soon as you find out the move is happening.
- Think about what you like and don’t like about the community where you currently live. Make a list of the things that are important to you to have in your new community, and which of those are non-negotiable. This will help guide your research.
- Are there things in your area that you have always wanted to do but haven’t done? Often, we take for granted what’s right in our backyard. Since it’s about to not be your backyard anymore, make a plan to check those activities and attractions off before you leave.
- Plan your goodbyes. The hardest part of moving is usually leaving. You probably won’t forget to say goodbye to your closest friends but don’t forget about the more peripheral people you will miss. If you have children, make sure that they get to say goodbye to teachers, day care providers, friends, etc.
Do Your Research
We once had six months lead time before a relocation. Another time, we had three weeks. Make the most of whatever time you have so you know where you want to look for a home.
- When you are moving out of state, it is often difficult or impossible to spend a lot of time checking out neighborhoods in person. Online resources like Niche and Neighborhood Scout can give you an overview of the types of housing, income and education levels, demographics, etc. Walk Score will tell you how easy it is to get around without a car, and what amenities are nearby. Trip Advisor and Yelp offer user reviews of activities and restaurants in the area. Search for the local Tourism department and read what they have to say about communities you’re considering.
- If you have school-aged children, org is an excellent resource. With rankings, reviews, and a ton of data on curriculum, test scores, etc., you can get the information you need to find schools that meet your family’s needs. The U.S. Department of Education’s State Contacts can direct you to individual states’ websites for K-12, higher education, adult education, and special education. Once you narrow it down, visit potential school districts’, even individual schools’, websites.
- Health care is an important consideration for most people. Your best source of information re: doctors in your new area is probably your insurance provider’s website. But, if you don’t know who your new provider will be, or you are interested in researching all of your options, Healthgrades and WebMD’s Doctor Search are very helpful.
- If there is a corporate relocation policy, ALWAYS make sure that you are completely familiar with what it includes. For instance, your company may have recommendations or requirements for which real estate agents you can work with, which moving companies you can use, and what is covered. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand or are unsure of something.
Find Local Resources
Once you narrow down where you want to look, it’s time to get specific in looking for information.
- Find a real estate agent. You are going to want someone who knows the area where you are interested in looking. Otherwise, they won’t be able to answer your more specific questions. You can start by going on national listing sites like Realtor.com, Redfin, Trulia, or Zillow. Then, look in the areas you’ve identified and find realtors who have listings there. Research those brokerage firms.
- Get on social media and find out if there are pages for the cities, towns, neighborhoods that you are looking at. These are great sources of information and well worth your time.
- Contact tourism bureaus in the area. They will have tons of information on things to do, events, hotels to stay in when you visit to look at homes, etc.
- Reach out to your network of people and see if anyone you know, knows someone in the area you are looking at. You might be surprised to find that your coworker’s college roommate’s sister-in-law grew up there and is happy to give you the inside scoop.
Plan Your House Hunting
Whether you are looking to buy or rent, picking the place you are going to live is a big part of the moving experience. Now that you’ve found a community (or several) that sound like a good fit for you, you can focus your house hunting.
- Be clear on what you are looking for. The more specific you can be about your needs, wants, and dreams the easier it will be to find options that might fit. How many bedrooms and bathrooms? Gas or electric appliances? Homeowners’ Association or no? Do you want a big yard? Again, start with what you like and don’t like about your current home and go from there.
- Remember to consider regional realities. If you are moving from Minnesota, you might love your basement, but you will have a hard time finding one in Florida. On the other hand, pools are everywhere in Florida and much harder to find in Minnesota.
- Think ahead. How long do you plan to be in this home? If you’re relocating for a temporary assignment, your ‘long-term’ isn’t going to be as long as if you’re planning on raising children here that you don’t yet have.
- Know what your deal breakers are. If you know that you absolutely don’t want to live on a busy street, don’t waste your time looking at homes on busy streets.
Moving – The Process
In the next post, we’ll talk about the actual moving process and what you can do to make that go smoothly. If you’re already feeling overwhelmed, we can help!