|Do your homework before accepting
that out-of-town job
are dozens of reasons why people pick up and move. But there's one
thing everyone who's moving needs to do -- research. If you're just
moving across town, you know what you're getting into, but if the
move will take you across the state or across the country, do your
homework. Otherwise, you could wind up living in a place that doesn't
suit your lifestyle or, worse, is too expensive for your budget.
Sheila Hensley, president of Executive
Relocation Services in Memphis, Tenn., says when people interview
for a job, too often all they hear are the perks -- they don't consider
the cost of living comparison before
taking the job. When they find out how much it will cost to move
and that housing, food and utilities cost more, it's too late --
their salary is already set.
"It's not that they don't think of these things,"
says Hensley, "it's that they don't think of them at the appropriate
Finding comparable housing
The biggest jolt for most people will be housing. Hensley is an
exclusive buyer's agent, meaning her company only represents buyers.
New clients, she says, often start looking for a house by saying,
"We live in a $120,000 home now, we want to limit it to that."
"I say it doesn't work that way," says Hensley. "We
need to find the number of rooms, square footage and basic style
of the house you're in now. Then we ride around, find one, and see
it's listed for $137,000. Now they're armed with information they
need. When they talk to their prospective employer they can say,
'Based on my research, I can't replace my housing for that salary,
therefore I need this to make a lateral move.' Corporations understand
that kind of talk."
Melanie and Mark Beyea of Madison, Miss., spent time
with Hensley while they were in Memphis interviewing for a job.
"She showed us different towns and the price ranges
are unbelievable," says Melanie Beyea. "The same kind of home as
what we have here is $20,000 to $25,000 more. Everyone else told
us cost of living would be about the same. We're in a suburb of
Jackson, we were looking in a suburb of Memphis -- not even close."
of key services
Beyea says Hensley talked to them about everything -- preschools,
commute times, medical facilities, water bills, electric and gas.
"We narrowed it down immensely. We picked a town we
felt comfortable with, one that looks like what we live in now.
I'll wait to find a home in that town or close by," says Beyea.
Now, if the Beyeas decide to take the job, they'll
know how much housing and all that goes with it will cost. They
won't find themselves living over their means and, perhaps, regretting
the decision to move.
Another important thing to do when considering relocation,
says Hensley, is to talk to a mortgage specialist in the new town.
Talk to them about taxes, homeowners insurance, how loans are made
and what the mortgage company requires from borrowers. Don't, she
says, talk to a real estate agemt about mortgages.
"Real estate people like to say they qualify people
financially," Hensley says. "That's not their job. Am I ever going
to lend you a dime? No. Then don't pay attention to what I say about
money. You want to know about property value, OK, that I know."
person and use the Internet
Nothing takes the place of visiting the area you're considering
moving to and with the advent of the Internet it's easier to find
lots of information on just about any town in the good, old U.S.A.
Most search engines will cough up a load of sites
if you look under "relocation." Many sites will let you find demographics
about any area, including crime statistics, cost of living comparisons,
major employers and school information.
A trip to the library also will help you make a smarter
move. There's a hefty tome called Moving
and Relocation Sourcebook and Directory published by Omnigraphics
in Detroit. Editor Nancy Kniskern says they tried to hit the 100
most popular cities people are moving to.
"There's travel information, cost of living index,
history of the city, plus we tried to include as much contact information
as possible -- city hall, government offices," she says. "We also
looked at different communities, type of environment, quality of
living, the schools. We tried to get as much information as possible
that someone could really use in one place."
Reginald Honychurch says he's seen plenty of intelligent people
make major relocation mistakes based on their lifestyle. Sometimes,
he says, not moving because you'll have to take a pay cut can be
"A guy who lost his job was offered one in North Carolina
for $20,000 less. He said he couldn't accept a job for that amount
of money. Six months later he's still out of work and looking for
a job. What he didn't know was even with a $20,000 pay cut, he could
have lived better and had more money in his pocket had he accepted
Also look at Money Magazine's
Places to Live" issue. It bases its decisions on 37 quality-of-life
factors including crime, housing prices, and water and air quality.
When relocating, it also may be important to think
out of the box -- in other words, don't just swallow the Chamber
of Commerce relocation packet hook, line and sinker.
Florida? Not always paradise
If you vacation in South Florida during the winter and think it
would be a fantastic place to live, here's a book for you: What
To Hate About South Florida: The Travel-To, Move-To Guide by
Scott Marcus, who has ditched Florida and moved to Boston.
Marcus will give you a laugh while he reminds you
- Summer -- "Hurricanes, tornadoes, thunder, lightning, hailstorms,
floods and wildfires."
- Wildlife -- "Venomous, stinging, biting, slithering, flying,
crawling and swimming."
- Driving -- "One-third of the drivers can't see over the steering
wheel, one-third just got their license for the first time, and
the other third is stoned."
Marcus says there are plenty of relocation sources
that give you the "rosy stuff" about an area -- look, he says, for
"People live in the northeast and come to Florida
in January when it's beautiful and there's three feet of snow up
north. They're driving with friends or relatives and don't see the
traffic and other negatives. They get a quick impression and say,
'Let's move down here.' They buy something and move on a whim."
So, whether you're looking for the perfect job or
the perfect retirement home, or just to get the heck out of town,
take time to do your homework. The ideal job won't be so hot if
you don't like the new town. The fabulous retirement home in the
mountains might make you miserable if you have allergies. Do the
research, make the phone calls, visit the place, talk to people.
It could save you money and heartache.
-- Updated: Jan. 3, 2002