Dear Monty: Avoiding emotional relocation turmoil
Reader Question: A job-related move to a new community is in our near future. We have friends that made such a move, and with some bad advice they ended up in a marginal neighborhood. What can we do to prevent a similar mistake?
Monty’s Answer: There are hundreds of thousands of company relocations annually that present a variety of challenges with logistics. This task is further complicated if your physical availability is limited and the timeline is short. An often overlooked tactic in these circumstances is a short-term rental. The inconvenience of moving twice and storing some furniture can be significantly less costly than a hasty decision.
Plan for success
My friends, John and Mary, chose not to rent short term. They did share highlights with me that shows what you can do, and should not do when relocating. John’s company paid for two house-hunting visits. One of the secrets for reducing errors is not to buy a home on the first trip to an unfamiliar city.
Their adventure began by pre-scheduling an area tour with an agent the company recommended. Susan sounded very helpful on the phone and Mary provided her with their requirements and expectations. They requested she schedule four to six showings in different areas of the community. They planned on arriving Thursday night, and the tour would begin Friday morning and conclude mid-afternoon. They turned the trip into a game with their two grade-schoolers. It became a hunt.
They intended to familiarize themselves with the area, the schools and the housing market, including the neighborhoods, and the kinds of activities available in their new environment. This trip gave them a chance inspect, to visualize, and think about the big picture, not distracted by a steady stream of houses.
Alarm bells sounded
The day did not start well. When they met Susan for breakfast, she apologized that she had only two homes that fit their requirements to show them. Susan did not tell them about this development in advance, and Mary questioned how a city of this size could only have two homes that fit. Susan’s response was the scarcity of inventory. At the first home they looked at, Susan shared the data sheet from the house and information on the school district, and suggested they call the schools directly with any questions to “get their answers first hand.” It was about eleven AM when they walked out of the second home, on their own for the rest of the day.
Awareness ignites action
John immediately called Susan’s broker and shared their disappointment. Susan’s broker apologized and promised to re-assign them to a new agent. John asked the broker if there were other neighborhoods they could spend the afternoon previewing on their own and meet the new agent Saturday morning. The broker had various suggestions. Matt, their new agent, called them within an hour to ask a few questions and confirm their goals for the weekend. A future co-worker of John called and asked to take the kids, as they had children the same age. In short order, John and Mary turned a setback into a benefit.
The dawn of a new day
Saturday was the difference between night and day. Matt had scheduled four additional home tours. He furnished links to the school’s websites with detailed information including instructor bios and parent recommendations. They visited one of those schools for a Saturday event after the area tour. The kids loved it. It was a full day, capped off with a casual barbeque with Matt and his family.
Maximize your opportunities
On Sunday morning, they attended church services in one of the neighborhoods they had toured the day before. Later in the day, they met up again with Matt to review some questions he was researching and discuss the mechanics of a transaction in the new state. Matt furnished them with a sample purchase agreement, municipality tax rates, and shared data about activities in which they had expressed interest.
What a weekend
They came home excited. The kids interacted with people their age. They liked the school they visited and may be attending. John and Mary were feeling good. The decision to switch agents very early was pivotal. They took advantage of every opportunity to learn and engage with community members. About three weeks later, they bought a house they looked at on the first trip. It has been several years, and they have integrated into their home, and the community, quite nicely.
Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money – An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He is a real estate industry veteran who advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Ask him questions at DearMonty.com.