6 ways to move temporarily
Thomas Wolfe was wrong: Sometimes you can go home
While most people think of moving in terms of buying
and selling, sometimes a relocation is just a short-term affair.
These days contract employees frequently take positions for a limited
period of time. Or you might have the desire and the ability to
thoroughly check a place out before making a permanent move.
But in contemplating temporary solutions, don't forget
the human factor. If one spouse is commuting back and forth between
the old home and the new location, that can put a tremendous strain
on the family, says Peter Wayman, an executive vice president for
Cendant Mobility, a global relocations company.
"There are hardships," he says. Among them:
the remaining spouse has to juggle all of the home and family chores
alone, while the other spouse is cut off from home and family while
feeling like a stranger in the new location.
Still, if you need a place to live in the new town
but you don't want to lock yourself in, here are some creative solutions
to temporary housing needs:
1. Swap houses. When
Shari Steiner and her family were moving back to the U.S. from London
some years ago, they knew they wanted to scope out San Francisco
as a potential home base. So they traded houses with a California
professor who was taking a year-long sabbatical in London. "We
traded everything -- cars, gardeners," recalls Steiner, co-author
of "Steiner's Complete How to Move Handbook". "We
took care of their cat, and our daughter even stayed behind for
the first couple of months [before school started] and babysat [for
People have been house swapping since the 1950s, she
says. It's especially popular among college professors, says Steiner,
who has traded homes both to investigate new areas during relocation
and to travel the world. Web sites she recommends include Homeexchange.com
and her own Movedoc.com.
Another good source: college and university offices in the town
where you want to go.
Safety caveat: you're opening your home to strangers,
and occupying their place as well. So check them out thoroughly.
(In this country, with a person's permission you can do criminal
background and credit checks. Local police can guide you on the
former, while a Realtor can help you with the latter.) In addition,
use the Internet to verify the basics of what a person tells you,
Also have someone you know in your destination city
check out the property. "You might arrive someplace, and it
turns out to be a total dump in a bad neighborhood," she says.
Make sure you have a written agreement that spells
out the length and dates of the swap, the money changing hands (if
any) and responsibilities on liabilities or damages.
2. Rent a home. For
someone who's trying out a new location without cutting old home
ties, it provides a nice safety net and an alternative to the all-or-nothing
And if there's a chance you might want to move back
to your old home, you could choose to rent it while you're gone.
But with renting (as with house swapping) there are
money, safety and liability issues. Get a written agreement that
spells out the length of the rental and all of the terms. When in
doubt, get professional legal help, says Ron Phipps, principal of
Phipps Realty Inc. in Warwick, R. I.
And make sure you've got enough liability insurance
to cover any potential problems, he says. You and your renter also
need to sort through any potential hazards, such as renting a pre-1978
house with lead paint to a family with small children, Phipps says.
In addition, a background check and credit check are
always smart. And get permission to verify the renter's income,
says Steiner. "One of the worst things that happens is when
someone gets in, can't pay the rent, and you can't get them out,"
3. Short-term apartment.
Corporate apartments run the gamut in price, depending on the region
of the country and what you rent. Prices can range from $800 to
$3,000 per month for furnished and unfurnished options, says Dennis
Taylor, a senior consultant for Runzheimer International, a management
4. Executive suites. If
you have a small family, or if one spouse is commuting back and
forth to the new job, consider an executive suite. Many cater to
business travelers and provide a lot of the comforts of home (coffee
makers, refrigerators) with the benefits of a hotel (maid service,
unlimited clean towels). If you're going to be staying frequently
or for an extended period, ask if they have a special rate.
And scope out which hotel will suit your on-the-road
lifestyle best. Wayman's favorite perk at his executive hotel of
choice: a restaurant that's open late to accommodate his schedule.
5. Think vacation.
If the area you're moving to is considered a vacation destination,
you could also rent a vacation home for a matter of weeks or months.
When his home sold but the new one wasn't quite ready yet, Phipps
and his family rented a Rhode Island beach house for a month. Coming
from land-locked Kansas City, "it was a nice way to start,"
he recalls fondly. "We hated to leave it."
But it's not an option everywhere. "When you're
in a suburban area it's very hard [to find], and you're going to
pay a premium for it," Phipps says. "But it makes the
Similarly, if there are time share complexes in your
new area, "those are a very good source of short-term rentals,"
says Phipps. Especially if they are under-occupied or it's the off-season.
6. Camp out. Best lesson:
don't be afraid to get creative, says Phipps. One of his favorite
solutions to the temporary home dilemma: a man who is having his
dream home built on 10 acres rented a mobile home and had it installed
on the site. The family enjoys the new experience, while at the
same time looking forward to their new house, Phipps says. "His
kids think they're camping out."
Dana Dratch is a freelance
writer based in Atlanta.
-- Posted: July 7, 2004