When you land a position in a new city, state or even country, there are two things you must immediately do:
1. Have a beer (or two or three) with friends to celebrate.
2. Start planning the move.
On second thought, maybe stick to just one beer, because there’s a lot to think about when planning to relocate. Here are six major things to consider throughout the relocation process:
1. Negotiate relocation benefits
Most companies offer to reimburse new hires for relocation expenses—up to 65 percent of firms surveyed by an Atlas Van Lines relocation study did. Whether that means a full ride or a complimentary fruit basket in a budget motel room, it’s something to investigate.
A few reimbursements to ask your new employer about are:
- Moving costs. Make sure the offer covers all household goods as well as shipping for cars and other large items.
- Temporary housing costs. This one is not a given, so be sure to ask.
- A relocation or adjustment bonus. Candidates who are offered more senior positions have more leverage with this particular negotiation.
- Assistance in selling your current house, should you own one.
- Assistance in buying a house or finding a place to rent.
To better prepare for relocation, research industry standards and ask company contacts about their typical relocation processes. Remember, like job salaries, most items are up for negotiation. Don’t be afraid to ask, because the worst the employer can say is “no.” Just make sure to get all agreements in writing before making the leap.
2. Take advantage of tax breaks
New employees moving more than 50 miles away from their current place of residence or work and expected to work full-time for at least 39 weeks within the first 12 months of relocation may be eligible for relocation tax breaks. Eligible expenses run the gamut from a percentage of gas mileage to household goods, excluding any expenses reimbursed by the company. A full guide to what, how and when to claim is available in IRS Publication 521.
No matter what, research the tax burden of your new destination. If your tax liability increases significantly, consider negotiating this into the relocation package and ask for a payment over several quarters to help budget for the expense.
3. Consider real estate costs
Evaluate the option of purchasing real estate in your new area. For employees fresh out of college with a long list of student loans to repay, real estate may not be the wisest route. However, new employees relocating to destinations for lengthy periods of time should look into purchasing. If the new location’s housing market has a high percentage of foreclosed properties, then purchasing may be an affordable option.
Conversely, buying in the wake of the housing bubble can be complicated. Research the real estate market with a robust real estate search site before plunging into any purchases. Consider renting for a while first to build up cash reserves and then making an educated move, particularly if the local housing market trends are yo-yoing all over the place.
4. Do a trial run with rentals
It’s best to pay for a plane ticket and do a trial run before moving rather than getting stuck in an unfavorable apartment. The Internet is full of misleading 360 camera views, fisheye lenses and witty descriptions for rentals.
Physically visit apartments to make educated, sound renting decisions. Take the time to get a sense of the neighborhood, including the surrounding streets, to see how it fits into the greater ecosystem of the city, as well as your personal lifestyle. If it’s available, consider signing a short-term lease to avoid feeling trapped.
5. Research cost of living and local economy
The relocation package may sound sweet, but it might not seem as ideal once you factor in the destination’s cost of living. Talk to locals about their experiences with the local economy, or get into the nitty gritty with an online cost of living calculator. Be aware that these calculators are based on averages and aren’t highly accurate for extremely wealthy or impoverished areas.
Other factors to consider are the costs of food, entertainment, restaurants, rent and local costs of any hobbies you might have. Be sure to get a feel for the economy of the area, because a depressed economy can be depressing to live in, and if this new position doesn’t work out, you’ll be looking for a job in that economy.
A hefty salary is enticing, but work-life balance should be a priority, too. Moving to a new place without any social connections can make relocation challenging. Begin networking with friends of friends, family or alumni groups on Facebook. Joining MeetUp groups can also be a good way to meet people with similar interests. A few friendly faces upon arrival will make the transition much easier.
It also never hurts to start establishing a professional network, so browse through LinkedIn groups to make connections to establish a broader professional base.
There are many factors to consider when relocating for a new job. Before getting overwhelmed, remember: this transition is all about a new chapter and new possibilities. Enjoy getting to know your new city!