Quick! Name something that’s chaotic, scary, exhausting and sometimes sad. If “moving” didn’t come to mind first, you’ve been spared from one of life’s major upheavals.

Moving, by the way, isn’t the same as relocating. In fact, relocating is like moving on steroids, without the benefit of performance enhancement. Imagine all of your stuff loaded onto a huge truck, wondering whether you and it will ever meet up again. But, back up for a minute.

Just where is this monster truck going to deliver all that stuff? If you’re like a lot of folks that relocate to a brand new area, it will it off at your new house.

You remember that process, right? The house that you took numerous plane or car trips to search for, with the assistance of a total stranger you knew nothing about, in a town you saw only in passing, in a neighborhood that could house Jack the Ripper for all you know.

Relocating to a new area can be a nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be. If you have a plan, it will go a lot easier. So, let’s make a plan.

Where Will I Live?

Where will I live?

Lots of online advice-givers say to rent first in a new town. That makes sense. It gives you time to look around, get to know the area and decide on a neighborhood. The flip side to that is you’ll unpack only to have to pack and move again. Maybe it’s not such a good idea after all.

Using Internet tools, however, is a great idea. First, make a list of answers to the following questions:

  • How do you feel about commuting? If you’re allergic to anything over a 30-minute drive, the first item on your list should be “find a neighborhood close to work.”
  • Are good schools important to you?
  • Do you need to live within walking distance to public transportation?
  • How do you feel about family neighborhoods? If you think children should be seen and not heard, make a note to look for a home in an area without a lot of kids. On the other hand, if you have kids, lots of basketball hoops on the street are a good sign.
  • Uptown, downtown or the burbs?
  • Condo, townhouse, houseboat, treehouse or single-family dwelling?
  • your ideal house, taking into consideration your budget. One level or two? Big yard or a low-maintenance patio? How many bedrooms and bathrooms? Is a garage a must-have?

The answers to these questions will help the real estate agent in your new town find the ideal home for you. What real estate agent, you ask? Have no fear, we can refer you to the best, nationwide.

In part 2, we’ll take a look at financial considerations when relocating to a new area. There’s a lot more to it than just the price of a home.

Everything You Need to Know About Relocating (Part 2)

In part 1 of our relocation guide we talked about preparing for the big move and how important it is to get clear on exactly what you want in not only a new home, but in a neighborhood as well.

Now it’s time to consider the financial implications involved in relocating to a new area.

Let’s Go Surfin’

Hopefully, you are starting this process well in advance of the actual move and we are assuming that you’re a savvy homebuyer and have seen a lender and know, down to the penny, how much you can spend on a house.

Knowing how much you can spend and how much those payments will eat into your budget are two entirely different animals. Don’t base your budget in the new area on your current budget, even though you might know what your new salary will be.

Why? Just as real estate is always local, so is cost of living. How much are groceries in the new town? A gallon of milk in Hawaii will set you back $5 to $9 while the U.S. average per gallon is $3.45.

Utility bills vary widely among regions. For instance, that average $160 a month electricity bill in Birmingham will dwarf the $87 a month that you grew accustomed to paying in Chicago.

Check out one of the online cost-of-living comparison calculators, such as this one at CNN Money or one with more detailed results at Bankrate.com. If the cost of living is higher in the new city, you may want to shop for a home priced under the maximum loan amount promised by your lender.

Now you have a general idea of your price range for a home. You could call a real estate agent at this point (talk to me before doing that because the chances are good I can refer you to an amazing agent anywhere in the country), or you can do a little more research.

For instance, if you already have a job, and it’s important to you to live within a certain distance from work, bring up a Google map of the area and start narrowing down neighborhood choices accordingly.

Sure, you don’t know anything about these areas, but lots of other folks do and many of them hang out in the forums at City-Data.

Once you’ve narrowed it down to several acceptable neighborhoods, check the schools in the area at SchoolDigger.com and GreatSchools.org.

In part 3, we’ll take a look at what you must consider before hiring movers to help get your belongings from here to there.

Everything You Need to Know About Relocating (Part 3)

Whether you are moving down the street or across the globe, the thought of packing up all of your belongings and transporting them safely to your new home can be paralyzing. If you think of it as being akin to “eating an elephant” (one bite at a time), it will all fall into place.

Your first “bite” is to create a timeline of what needs to be done (and when) within the two months leading up to the move.

Hire Movers or DIY?

This should be your first decision: Will you hire a moving company or do it yourself? Typically, the distance between where you are now and where you need to be will determine what services you need. The further away you are moving, the more you’ll require.

That is, unless you have the money to hire the deluxe, everything-included mover – even if you’re moving across town.

Obviously, the least expensive move is one that you do yourself, but even this method has variations:

  • Rent a truck and load and unload it yourself.
  • Rent a truck and hire people to help load and unload it.
  • Hire a driver for the truck, someone to help you pack and a labor crew to help you load and unload.

Hire a labor crew at sites such as Craigslist and U-Haul’s Moving Helpers® service.

Warning: Laborers you hire over the Internet might not be covered by Worker’s Compensation Insurance. If they are hurt on your property you may be legally liable. Only hire workers that can prove coverage or speak with your insurance company to find out if your homeowner’s policy covers this possibility.

Hiring Help

Professional movers aren’t inexpensive but for a long-distance move, they are necessary.

So, how does one go about finding the perfect moving company? The experts at MovingScam.com suggest that this is one task that is best done NOT on the Internet. While many reputable moving companies advertise online, “nearly all of the victims that contact us found their moving company on the Internet,” they claim. They offer the following tips:

  • Don’t hire a company that won’t come to your home to give you a quote.
  • Look for a moving company that has been operation a minimum of 10 years.
  • Avoid any moving company that is going to sub-contract your move to others. These are known as “moving brokers,” and you have no say in who eventually moves your belongings.
  • The law requires movers to give you a booklet entitled “Your Rights and Responsibilities when you Move.” If this isn’t given to you, don’t use the company.
  • Ask the companies to show you their Department of Transportation (DOT) and Motor Carrier Authority (MC) license numbers. You can use these numbers to research the company online and learn about their safety record, insurance coverage and more. Go to SaferSys.org or ProtectYourMove.gov. The latter is for interstate moves only.

When the mover arrives at your home to give you a quote, ask about what may cause the cost to go up, such as additional mileage, excess weight, stairways and any add-on costs for equipment, such as dollies. Ask that the answers to your questions be put in writing with your quote.

Once you’ve found one or two movers that seem to fit your needs take one last step to ensure they’re the right ones. Check the companies’ reviews at Yelp.com, check their rating at the Better Business Bureau website, see if there are complaints on the Moving Company Super List at MovingScam.com and, finally, RipOffReport.com.

Next time we’ll discuss key points to be aware of in the mover’s contract and additional details of relocating.

Everything You Need to Know About Relocating (Part 4)

Once you’ve chosen a moving company it’s time to go over the contract. Read it thoroughly before signing it. Scrutinize it to ensure that it lists the correct price, that the pickup and delivery dates and times are as promised and that everything you asked to be put in writing is included.

Don’t sign any contract that has blank spaces or if it isn’t signed by the moving company.

Never pay an upfront deposit and never pay in full until you have thoroughly checked all of your belongings after delivery.

Watch Out for Things That Typically Fall Through the Cracks

Make a list of all the small tasks that need to get done before you move. These include:

  • Having your mail forwarded
  • Getting school, medical and veterinary records to take to your new city.
  • Notifying utilities, cable or satellite TV and Internet service for turn-off at the old house and turn-on at the new one.
  • Canceling newspaper subscriptions, cable service, Internet service, trash pickup and pool service.

Pack an essentials box. These are items you’ll need at the new house in the event that the moving van doesn’t arrive on time. Consider packing:

  • Bottled water
  • Snacks
  • Pet food
  • Toilet paper
  • The coffee maker, filters, coffee and cups
  • A shower curtain and hooks
  • Towels
  • Soap
  • Toiletries (shampoo, deodorant, etc)
  • A small safe or lockbox for your valuables
  • A copy of the mover’s contract and the written estimate.

Saying Goodbye

In the chaos of selling a home and tending to the details of the big move, don’t neglect your friendships. Especially if you are moving to a new city, it’s important to take the time to say goodbye to your friends.

Consider saying goodbye to everyone at the same time by holding a going-away get together for friends, family, colleagues and neighbors. Plan the party to take place before you start dismantling the contents of the house and packing boxes.

Set out perishable and canned food, houseplants, cans of paint and any other items you won’t be taking with you and tell everyone to help themselves. Make sure you mention you’ll be doing this on the invitation, which can be formal and sent via snail mail or on Facebook, via email or by phone.

We are happy to refer you, at no cost or obligation, to a qualified, experienced real estate agent in your new hometown. Happy moving!