Relocating for a job is never a walk in the park, but when you’re also trying to sell your house, the process can become overwhelming—and fast.
Movers are expensive. Selling your home is difficult. Settling kids into a new school, making sure your spouse is on board, figuring out which neighborhoods you want to live in … no wonder your head is spinning.
Yet this is the situation many people find themselves in. Out of the average of 35.1 million people who move in the U.S. annually, 10% of those—3,500,000—moved to start a new job or because they were transferred.
Because relocation packages that help buffer the upfront expenses aren’t necessarily what they were a few decades ago, we dug into the research around how job relocation works today and what you should plan to negotiate in the discussions with your employer.
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Job relocation: Today versus 20 years ago
In previous decades, relocating often meant that the company you were taking a job with would shell out money for everything from your moving expenses to daily living expenses while you were acclimating to your new city—even buying your old house.
While it’s true that the days of extra-cushy corporate relocation packages like these are, for the most part, gone, many companies are still offering at least some sort of relocation assistance. According to an Allied Van survey of 3,500 people who relocated for a job, 62% worked for companies that offered some sort of relocation package.
Rachel Dreyer, a top-selling real estate agent in Lexington, Kentucky, has worked with relocating families for the past 20 years and has seen the changes firsthand. “The benefits available have certainly dwindled,” she says.
“20 years ago they’d give employees a breakdown of everything with the associated fees and the package was a lot more valuable. Today, a lot of companies are giving a lump sum. They might say, ‘Here’s $10,000—put it toward moving expenses, your real estate agent, a home rental, etc.’”
There are pros and cons to this system. For one thing, if a company offers you a lump sum with no strings attached, you have all the control over how you use it. You can put some of it toward closing costs on your new home. You can use it for a short-term rental. Heck, you could even put it into a college or vacation fund.
On the flip side, lump sum relocation allowances are considered bonuses in the eyes of the IRS and are therefore fully taxable (if your employer doesn’t cover the taxes, you’ll be on the hook to pay them), and you’ll likely get less assistance with a lump sum than you would with a deal that promised full reimbursement for your expenses.
However, just because you’re offered a specific type of relocation assistance, it doesn’t mean that’s what you’re stuck with. There are several specific items you can—and should—negotiate for in your job relocation package as a home seller.
1. Full-service moving expenses
According to data from the American Moving and Storage Association, the average cost of a full-service interstate move is $4,300. The average cost of a full-service in-state move comes in at around half of that, at $2,300.
That number can quickly rise, however, if you have lots of large items, specialty items like a piano, or especially fragile items that need extra care.
If your company is not offering assistance upfront, the best thing to do is price your move yourself so you can present them with an accurate figure. Be sure to include all moving services: a packing service to pack your house, movers to load and transport your boxes, and, if you’ll need it, storage for your items in your new city while you look for a permanent home.
Not only will having an itemized list make it more likely that your company work with you, but it will also prevent you from asking for too little, and incurring expenses that your company would also have covered—if you’d only asked.
2. Temporary stay rentals
Selling your old house while looking for a new home in your new city can be extremely stressful. That’s why many families who are moving to a new city, especially if it’s in a different state, opt to rent for a few months or a year before purchasing a permanent home.
Asking your company for 1-3 months of rental assistance is perfectly reasonable, and can help ease the stress of settling your family into a new place.
3. Real estate agent commission coverage
“Depending on the price point of your home, that cost can be right in line with your moving costs,” Dreyer says. “Negotiating to get that covered by your company can be a big way to help save on expenses.”
This is also one of those items that many employees don’t realize they can negotiate for. Again, it’s a matter of asking—if you don’t ask, you won’t get it.
4. Car rental
Will you be going ahead to your new city while your family stays behind for a few weeks or months? If so, it’s possible you’ll need a rental car, especially if you’re a one-car family and public transportation isn’t an option.
If your company isn’t offering to rent you a car, break down the costs yourself and present them with the list. Take a look at rental companies like Enterprise and Alamo to compare prices for daily, weekly, or monthly rentals, depending on how long you anticipate needing the rental.
5. Scouting trips for worker and family
Any company worth relocating for ultimately wants one thing: a happy, settled employee who can bring his or her full self to work.
So it may be in their best interests to cover the costs of two or three scouting trips to your potential new city before the relocation occurs. This way, you’ll be able to get a feel for where you’ll be living and working, as well as look for new housing, visit the schools your children will attend, and allow your spouse to look for work.
Equally important, your spouse and/or children will feel more comfortable with the idea of moving if they’re able to take a look around and explore before having to pack everything up.
6. Reimbursement for miscellaneous expenses
Anyone who’s moved to a new town knows that there are all kinds of miscellaneous expenses that pop up.
Turning off your utilities at your old house, and turning them on at your new place. Cancelling daycare for your child, or you gym membership.
7. Funds for a full-service relocation company
Full-service relocation companies handle every aspect of your relocation—from obtaining visas or work permits for international moves, to listing your home, to packing and moving, etc.
Working with a single company that manages every aspect of your move can be far less stressful than maintaining contact with movers, two real estate agents, and rental housing landlords, for example.
This is especially true when you’re on a very tight timeline, says Bill Mulholland, Director at the full-service relocation company ARC Relocation. “Most commonly what we see is that an employer will want an employee to start within 90 days, but depending on the industry, it could be 30 days. The average days on market could be easily well above the amount of time they have to relocate and sell their existing place.”
Tips for making the home selling process go as smoothly as possible during your relocation
Now you know what to negotiate for, but what can you do to help your home sell as quickly as possible, so you’re not stuck paying two mortgages for months on end?
These tips will help you minimize the headaches that selling your home while also relocating for a job can cause you.
1. Downsize and declutter your home before you put it on the market.
Always wanted to dump that oversized entertainment center? Sell it or donate it now, before you move.
For one thing, it will give your home more floor space, which will make it feel more open and attractive to buyers. For another, it will prevent you from wasting money on moving it cross-country, only to donate it once you get it in your new house. “The more you can purge now, the more you’ll save in terms of time, effort, and money on the other end of your move,” Dreyer says.
2. Invest in small details like updating light fixtures in the hallways and bathrooms.
If you need to sell your home on a timeline, then making sure the light fixtures are updated is one of the best investments you can make.
“Buying a new ceiling fan or new light fixtures for the hallway—those are not expensive, and the value you’ll get back will really make a difference,” says Dreyer. “People want a more updated look these days, whether that’s rubbed bronze or black fixtures. That will really help the seller move the home quicker.”
3. Make all necessary repairs before you put it on the market.
To avoid getting caught up in delays or buyer back-outs during the inspection process, try to make all the necessary repairs before you put your house on the market. The last thing you want is to find a major issue during the inspection that’s going to require an extra week or month to fix.
The way to do this is to schedule a pre-listing inspection. A pre-listing inspection is just like a regular home inspection, except that it’s conducted before the home goes on the market. In these cases, of course, the seller is the one who selects a home inspector, and schedules and pays for the inspection.
“You want to make sure all the electrical outlets are in good working order, check the attic for any leaks, and check your plumbing to make sure there are no leaks there,” Dreyer says. “The more things you can do now, the better you’ll ensure that you actually get to closing, and not have to put it back on the market because it needs more work than you thought.”
4. Connect your buyer’s agent and listing agent for smooth communication.
One of the most important, yet often overlooked, ways you can make your home selling and buying process smoother is to make sure your agents on both ends are in touch with each other.
That way, the agents can do their best to coordinate the closing timelines, so that you can go straight from one house into the other without having to stay in a temporary rental.
“I’m working with a client on that right now,” says Dreyer. “We’re discussing timelines for fright of first refusal, and how much time they need to get everything out of their old home—it can be tricky. It’s not always perfect, but we try to do our best.”
Relocating for work can be a complex and emotional process, especially if you’re selling a home at the same time. But if you ask your employer for help, and negotiate for a few key items, you’ll find yourself happily settled in your new place faster than you imagined.
Header Image Source: (Amy Hirschi/ Unsplash)