What to Know Before Your Job Relocation or Extended Stay
People don't move as much as they once did, according to data from the U.S. Census. In 2016, 11.2 percent of Americans moved, which was fewer than in any previous year. Although people seem to prefer to stay put nowadays, some things may make them consider a relocation.
One of those things is a new job or a transfer at a current job. In 2016, 20.2 percent of people who moved did so for work. Relocating for a job can involve a fair amount of time and effort, but for many who decide to move, the effort is well worth it.
If you are considering a new job in a new city or country, or if your employer wants to send you to a new area for work, here's what to know before relocating — along with some tips to help ease the transition to a new home.
Who Will Move With You?
If you live alone, the only person who has to decide if moving for a new job is worth it is you. But if you have a partner or spouse, you'll want to keep his or her needs and opinions in mind when deciding whether or not to relocate.
Some people can be more flexible about location than others. A partner who works from home might be better able to change cities than one with a more traditional job. For example, if your spouse has built up a successful career in your current area, he or she might be reluctant to uproot and leave that behind.
You also want to think about the type of opportunities that will be available to your spouse in a new area. While some jobs are in demand pretty much everywhere, others are very location-specific. If your partner's in entertainment or publishing, for example, it might be difficult for him or her to find work outside certain regions.
You'll also want to think about your kids if you have any. If your children are young enough, moving from one city to another, or even to a new country, might not phase them. But if you have older kids, they will have to go through the process of transferring schools and leaving behind a group of friends.
If you’re moving your family, there are some things you can do to help them get used to the idea and to help them get acclimated quickly after the move. For example, you can spend time helping your kids learn about your new town or city. Right after moving, you can spend the weekends exploring your new home, visiting important landmarks and trying out the famous restaurants.
One way to make the relocation easier for your family is for you to go first and then have your spouse and kids join you later. For example, if you are moving in the middle of the school year, it might be easier for your children to finish up the year at their current school rather than transfer in the middle of the term.
Having your partner and kids wait to move will also give you time to get used to the schedule and demands of your new job. By the time they’re ready to move in, you'll know what you're doing on the job and will have gotten to know your new hometown a bit better.
Paying for the Relocation
Moving isn't cheap. In 2017, the average move cost anywhere from $426 to $1,126. A variety of factors affects the total cost of a move, such as the size of your home, the amount of stuff you’re relocating and the distance of the move. While moving the contents of a four-bedroom home within the same state typically costs between $800 and $2,000, moving the same amount to a new state usually costs more than $2,000.
Before you move for a job, it's worth it to find out what, if anything, the company will pay toward your relocation. Some companies offer relocation assistance or cover any expenses incurred as a matter of course. Others might not automatically assist, but may negotiate with you. You might arrange to have your employer pay for some of your moving expenses before you accept the offer.
You have a few options when it comes to finding out what your company will pay for if it wants you to relocate for the job. Perhaps the easiest way to know what expenses are covered is to ask the human resources department. Some businesses have written relocation policies that outline what costs they pay for and which costs are an employee's responsibility.
If HR is tight-lipped or if the relocation policies vary from department to department, another option is to contact a co-worker who recently moved for the job and ask them what, if anything, the company paid for. Keep in mind that the expenses a company covers can vary based on a person's rank within in the company and whether that person is a new hire or a current employee who's being transferred from another area.
It helps to put on your negotiating hat when figuring out what your company will pay for and what expenses you'll be responsible for covering. Here's a list of common moving expenses that you can negotiate for:
- The cost of the move: Moving costs include the cost of renting a truck or hiring a team of movers. It may also include boxes to pack up your stuff, the cost of hiring a team to pack for you, the cost of staying in a hotel en route to your new home, the cost of travel to the new home and the cost of storing your possessions, if needed.
- Relocation costs: Relocation costs can include any fees involved in selling your current home or, if you're renting, in breaking your current lease. These costs can also include the amount you might lose if you have to sell your current home for less than market value because you need to move quickly. Alternatively, if you're having trouble selling your home, you can negotiate with your employer to offer a bridge loan to help you afford to pay for two residences at the same time.
- New job search assistance for your partner: If you are moving with your spouse, your employer might be willing to cover the costs associated with their finding a new job.
- Getting settled costs: Your company might be willing to cover some or all of the expenses associated with getting settled into a new home, such as groceries or buying new furniture and décor.
Once you come to an agreement about who will pay for what during your relocation, be sure to get it in writing from your employer or the HR department. Also be sure that you know how to go about getting the money to cover your move. Will you have to submit receipts for reimbursement or will the company write you a check up front to cover any expenses?
Cost of Living in the New Area
A dollar isn't necessarily a dollar. Depending on where you’re moving, your current salary could go very far or it could leave you with a shortfall each month. Before you decide to move, find out if your company offers cost-of-living stipends for more expensive areas or if you'll be expected to survive on the same salary even in a very pricey area.
For example, let's say you currently live near Harrisburg, PA, and earn $50,000 per year. To maintain the same standard of living as other cities, you'd need to earn more or less, based on the cost of typical expenses in those areas. Take a look at the chart below to find out what comparable salaries look like in other cities:
|City||Comparable Salary||Cost of Groceries||Cost of Housing||Cost of Transit||Cost of Health Care|
|Miami, Florida||$56,401||+10 percent||+45 percent||+4 percent||+14 percent|
|NYC (Manhattan)||$115,323||+35 percent||+416 percent||+26 percent||+30 percent|
|Buffalo, New York||$48,589||No difference||+12 percent||-7 percent||-5 percent|
|Los Angeles, Calif.||$72,228||+18 percent||+150 percent||+22 percent||+24 percent|
|Montgomery, Alabama||$46,270||-1 percent||-8 percent||-12 percent||-7 percent|
|Denver, Colorado||$55,847||+10 percent||+45 percent||-2 percent||+20 percent|
Opportunities in the New Area
Before you decide to relocate for work, it helps to consider the opportunity cost or potential of the move. Specifically, will moving to a new area for your job help in your career or will it hold you back? Once you move, will you be able to move up in your career or is the position you will have a dead end?
It also helps to think about what type of opportunities exist in the new area. Will you be moving to a city that has plenty of jobs and low rates of unemployment? For example, if you're moving for a job at a company that's the only game in town, what will happen if your business should go belly up or you get laid off? If your current employer is the employer in an area, it might be difficult to find a new job if your current opportunity doesn't work out. You might have to move yet again.
On the other hand, it also helps to consider what you're leaving behind if you do take the relocation offer. Is your current hometown full of job options or is unemployment high? Will you be able to move up the ladder in your career if you remain in your current city or town or have you reached the top level in your current location?
Does Relocating Make Sense for You?
Think of your relocation on a personal level, as well. If you're a country mouse and an employer wants you to move to the big city, will you be happy there? Likewise, if you love the benefits of living in a city and your employer wants to send you to a far-flung location, will you be able to make the needed adjustments to thrive in that location?
Also, consider the options for personal growth and development in your new home. Here are some things to think about on a personal level:
- Social scene: Moving often means saying goodbye to friends and family. Will the new area have a thriving social scene and allow you to get to know your neighbors and make friends?
- Enrichment opportunities: Think of your current hobbies. Whether you're studying a language, playing in a band or enjoying membership in a book club, will the new location offer similar experiences?
- The weather: If you hate cold weather or can't stand heat and humidity, will you find the new city comfortable?
- Your ability to adapt and adjust: Some people can jump right in and live their lives in a new place. Others need more time to get used to a new area and might struggle to meet people or get settled. Think about how you handle change and how a big move will upset your sense of equilibrium.
Finally, simply ask yourself if you like the job. It's not worth uprooting your entire life to move to a new city or state for a job you only feel lukewarm about.
What to Consider Before Moving to a New Country
Sometimes, an employer might want you to go abroad — either to work in an international division of the company or to set up a new office in a foreign nation. Some of the same considerations apply when moving to a new country as when moving to a different state within the U.S.
For example, you'll want to think about the potential for a higher or lower cost of living, who will pay for the move and how your family will adjust. Moving abroad also brings with it some unique potential challenges. These can include:
- Language barrier: Unless you’re moving to a country that speaks the same language as you, you might need to learn the language of the land, either before you move or afterward. Consider how quickly you learn and whether you have any existing familiarity with the language in question.
- Fortunately, if you don't already speak the language, you have lots of tools at your disposal. Along with language tutoring or classes, you can use apps such as Memrise or Duolingo. Be sure to ask your employer what their expectations are for learning the language and whether they provide any assistance — financial or otherwise — with language learning.
- Culture differences: Although people have more in common than not, getting used to the culture of a new country can take some time. Some countries have customs that might seem bizarre or inappropriate to an outsider. It helps to ask yourself how comfortable you are with cultural differences and to think about how you've handled culture shock in the past, if ever.
- Some employers have programs in place to help expats acclimate to their surroundings. Ask if yours offers any such programs.
- Funding: How will your company pay for your relocation and costs while in a new country? Some offer a living stipend in addition to a typical salary. It also helps to find out if you are fully responsible for housing or if your employer offers a housing allowance as well as assistance with finding a place to live.
- Taxes: If you're a U.S. citizen, moving to a new country doesn't mean you get to avoid paying federal income taxes. The U.S. taxes its citizens no matter where in the world they live. However, you may be able to use any foreign taxes as a credit against your U.S. income taxes so you don't pay taxes twice. You'll need to file a tax return in the U.S. each year, but most people living abroad get an automatic two-month extension on the due date (meaning taxes are due June 15th instead of April 15th).
Housing Options in a Different Country
How long your company sends you overseas influences where you'll live. Who moves with you can also play a role in influencing the type of housing that's most appropriate for you.
- Apartments: Whether you’re planning on living in a country on a long-term or short-term basis, renting an apartment there might be a good option for you— at least at first. When you rent, you're only committing to a neighborhood and housing situation for a short period. If you dislike the apartment or the area, you can leave after the lease is up. Before your move, find out if your employer covers the cost of renting an apartment, how rent payments are handled — for example, will your company pay the landlord directly? — and if your company offers any help finding a broker or an apartment.
- House: If your family plans to move abroad with you, renting or ultimately purchasing a house might make more sense. You'll have more space than in an apartment. If you plan on remaining in the country for a long time, owning a house can help you and your family feel more at home.
- Corporate apartments: In some cases, a company might send you abroad for just a few months at a time. In those instances, bringing along the family and renting an apartment long-term may not make sense for you. Corporate apartments — which are fully furnished and available for several weeks or months — are often the most cost-effective and convenient housing option for extended trips abroad. Whether you’re relocating for a job, for an extended travel, or to be closer to medical facilities, corporate housing offers flexibility and reliability to ensure you have all the amenities you need at a fraction of the cost of an apartment or hotel.
- Hotels: In cases when your visit to a foreign country could be better classified as a business trip instead of a full relocation, staying in a hotel is almost certainly your best option. You'll get the comforts of regular housekeeping and other amenities and won't have to worry about packing up and moving a lot of stuff. Although they're convenient for short visits, the cost of a hotel is usually too high to make it a good choice for stays longer than a few weeks.
Transportation in a Different Country
It helps to have an idea of how you'll be able to get around in a new country. You might be lucky enough to have access to a company car or be able to lease or buy your vehicle during your stay.
If that's the case, make sure you're familiar with the rules of the road in your new country. In some places, people drive on the right side of the road. In others, people drive on the left. That might not sound like a big difference, but it can be very confusing if you're used to driving on the right and move to a country where everyone drives on the left!
There's also the issue of your driver's license. Not every country recognizes a driver's license from a U.S. state as valid. You might need to either get a license from your new country or apply for an International Driving Permit, which is more widely recognized. You'll also likely have to purchase a new auto insurance policy if you move abroad. Different countries have different minimum insurance requirements, meaning that even if your policy is valid in your new country, it might not offer sufficient coverage.
If figuring out the regulations and rules of driving in your new country seems like too much of a hassle, explore other transportation options. Plenty of international cities, such as London, Tokyo and Paris, have excellent public transit systems. You can get to most places via bus or train. Other cities might not have the best public transit options. Knowing what's available and how reliable it is can help you decide whether going car-free is an appropriate choice.
Depending on your company and where you're headed, you might have months to get ready or you might need to leave next week. How much preparation time you have can influence how you negotiate with your employer, what your family decides to do and whether relocating is ultimately the best choice for you. Ask yourself these questions before you decide to move:
- How much time do you have to prepare before relocating? Does your boss expect you to be ready and in the new office next week or do you have more wiggle room? What's the hard deadline for your move?
- What do you have to do before you move? The more responsibilities you have, the more time you're likely to require. For example, if you have to find a school for your kids, sell your home and find a home for your pet, you might need several months’ lead time.
- Do you have time to visit the new area? Spending some time, even if it’s just a weekend or two, in your new hometown can help you get a sense of whether you'd like living there. Ideally, you'll be able to visit before you make a firm decision.
Tips for a Successful Relocation or Extended Stay
The following tips will help reduce stress during your move and help you get the most out of the relocation process.
1. Plan Ahead as Much as You Can
Knowing what you're moving, who's moving it, and where you are going is essential. Getting all of your ducks in a row and having a detailed plan in place will help you avoid any last-minute stressors or frantic scrambling on moving day.
2. Work With the Company to Figure Out the Smaller Details Ahead of Time
Stay in close communication with your employer and make sure all the little details, which often get lost in the shuffle, are figured out before you move. Those small details can include things like paying the deposit to the rental company, scheduling the movers, arranging for storage space and making sure you have a babysitter to take care of your kids on moving day.
3. Make a List of Everything Before the Move
You know what they say: make a list and check it twice. Before you move, make sure you have answers to the following questions:
- Who is taking care of what?
- Are there any significant expenses?
- What are you taking and what can be left behind?
- What will happen to your current residence?
- Have you given the post office your forwarding address?
- Have you canceled subscriptions and utility services or transferred them to your new home?
4. Find Other Employees Who Have Relocated
Learn from the experience of others, either by connecting with recently-relocated employees in your new area or by talking to employees who moved to where you're currently living. If you're going abroad, make connections in that country before you get there so you have a sort of social circle set up in advance.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Relocating for a Job
It's common to feel homesick after moving. But there's a big difference between missing home and wanting to drop everything and move back. Some expats don't prepare enough for the challenges of living in a country where they might not know the language and might not know any people.
Doing as much research as you can in advance will help you decide if a move is right for you. Don't jump into relocating blindly — especially if you're bringing family with you.
It's also important to make sure you have all your paperwork in order and that you have that paperwork in a secure spot. Don't pack it with the rest of your stuff. Keep it on your person. How much documentation you need depends on where you're going. If you're moving abroad, you'll have to bring along your visas, any insurance for your car and possessions, leases, income statements and customs forms, among other things.
Thinking carefully about the decision to relocate and doing as much as possible to prepare for it can mean the difference between a successful move and an unsuccessful move.
If you’re relocating for work or travel and are in need of corporate housing for your extended stay, First Choice Corporate Housing is here to help you. To learn more about corporate housing in Florida and other areas of the U.S., contact First Choice Corporate Housing today. You can find us online or you may call us at 954-241-0324.