Housing & Mortgage
Planning a Big Move? How to Avoid Regrets
7 steps to knowing yourself and choosing your new town
It's costly to move. With real estate fees, movers and other items, a couple or family can easily drop $50,000 relocating. And if you get there and find you don’t like it, that’s an expensive mistake.
So, while we’re all for the adventure of living in new places and grabbing new opportunities, we also feel a well-researched move has a far higher likelihood of being successful. You had a great week in Miami on vacation and want to move there? Your visit with relatives in Idaho was a blast, and you want to join them full time? Whoa. We suggest you follow this seven-step plan to know yourself and your move.
Why are you leaving? Yes, you’re going somewhere, but it might help to examine the reasons you’re leaving your current home and city. Is it something that’s fixable? Lack of friends? See below for how to make them anywhere. Bad commute, neighborhood or job? Perhaps there are local fixes to those, too. Pretend you absolutely have to stay and have to become happy there. How would you proceed?
OK, you must move, but know yourself first. Are you a traveler who looks for experiences that remind you of home, or one who seeks entirely new encounters? Think about what has pleased you most when you’ve been away from your current home. If it’s familiarity, moving from Des Moines, Iowa, to New York City might be a poor choice; ditto Seattle to Mobile, Alabama. Are you really looking for something entirely new, or merely to re-pot yourself in a warmer/safer/whatever alternative? Our columnist Dee Gill’s three-part series on choosing a new city explores finding the right neighbors, lifestyle and financial situation for your happiness.
The one-year rule. Even when you’ve thoroughly researched and settled on a new city, wait a year to buy a home. Move there. Rent. Learn about the neighborhoods, commutes, the weather and about being away from where you are now. Sprinkled among all the helpful statistics on City-Data.com are stories of regrets from people who moved and were sorry.
The Dallas suburbanite who thinks of the song “Little Boxes” now and longs for a place with “a bit more soul.” The Cleveland resident surprised by all the cloudy days and the aging infrastructure. The unhappy Denverite: “The mountains are nice, but I miss living close to a large body of water. I also miss the chaos of a giant metro area.” Any move can fail, but the poorly researched one is asking for failure.
Family. Whether you’re running to them or away from, it helps to think long term about the role of family in your life. Getting away is essential for some. And for others, family represents the entirety of their social life. A move needn’t be permanent, but understanding what you’d gain or lose in terms of family will help make one more successful.
You’re there. Jump in. There is a phenomenon known as the Seattle Freeze, wherein newcomers feel the natives aren’t welcoming enough. Perhaps that theory should be put to rest. A local columnist pointed out that 70% of the population is either from another state or country; in that case, it’s hard to blame a frosty social environment on natives.
Wherever you move, the responsibility rests on you to become part of the community. My colleague Mark Stein’s column on how to make friends in a new city is just as useful for long-term residents whose social life needs a boost. Mark lists the resources and methods to becoming welcomed.
Soak up the surroundings. If you moved to the Pacific Northwest to enjoy the natural beauty, get out and hike. If you’re in New York to absorb culture, hit the museums. If you’re on the Gulf Coast to fish, go fish. The sooner you start doing things, by yourself or with the friends you’ve made, the happier you’ll be. Being alone in your home won’t feel so good.
Taxes and stuff. If you still own a home in another state while you are renting in your new location, taxes can trip you up. New York, California and Illinois can be particularly aggressive in investigating people who claim out-of-state residency. Keep in mind the 183-day rule: If you spend more than 183 days in New York, for example, and you have a home there, you’ll owe state and local taxes to New York on all your income, whether you earned it in New York or not. Best to check with your accountant and to keep scrupulous records of your whereabouts and spending.