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On average, employees who get a job offer that requires them to relocate have a mere 2 weeks to decide whether they want to formally accept the position. The timeline could be even shorter in hot job markets—employers are wary about candidates shopping their offers around to competitors for a better setup…so they turn up the pressure.
Regardless, 14 days or less isn’t much time to think over such a big change. In addition to making a career shift, a job transfer means finding a new house, general physician, grocery store, and social circle. And as a homeowner, you can’t just break your lease and be on your way—you’ll have to sell the house (likely on a tight deadline).
Whether you’re the type of person who makes pros and cons lists or just needs to talk things through, we’ve rounded up 10 critical job relocation questions to ask before you sell your house to uproot for work so you cover all your bases.
1. What are the financial implications of selling my house and buying one in a new location?
Before you make the decision to relocate, it’s a good idea to ballpark how much you’d pocket from selling your house, and figure out how far that money would stretch in a new location that may have a drastically different cost of living. Will you be going from a spacious single-family to a shack with shared walls in a more expensive city? Or could a relocation mean you’re finally able to trade up to a nicer place?
Don’t just guess… do the math. You can follow this quick step-by-step:
Get an estimate of what your home is worth.
You can start with HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator which pulls information from multiple sources to provide you with a real-time value estimate based on current market trends.
(Note that online home valuation tools can give you a decent home value average, but you should consult a top local real estate agent who can conduct a formal comparative market analysis before setting your list price.)
Ballpark your home sale proceeds.
Once you have an estimate for what your house would fetch on the market, subtract your outstanding mortgage payoff amount and the estimated costs of selling a house including agent commissions (5%-6% of the sale price), transfer fees, and home preparations and repairs—likely amounting to 7%-12% of your home’s value depending on its condition.
With that you’ll have a solid estimate of your home sale proceeds.
Calculate your cost of living and housing budget.
Calculating how far your new salary will cover your new cost of living is key to deciding on the size of your new home and your price range. “That’s one of the questions you want to answer: What kind of lifestyle changes are you going to be experiencing in reference to cost of living?” said Gene Darden, a Relocation Specialist and top-selling agent in Helena, AL.
For instance, Darden explains: a 4,000-square-foot house in the Birmingham, Alabama, market costs about $500,000…In Atlanta, the same size costs twice as much.
There are lots of cost of living calculators online to help you evaluate how far your dollars will stretch. Sperling’s Best Places, the company that provides statistical information on crime rates, climate, and other factors, provides a cost of living comparison that includes housing, food, utilities, transportation, health costs, and taxes.
Want to dig deeper? Bankrate’s Cost of Living Calculator starts with a salary comparison between cities, then itemizes for costs such as specific foods (ground beef, coffee, half-gallon of milk), gasoline, clothing items, services (dry cleaning, hair salon), clothing, and toiletries such as ibuprofen and toothpaste.
Based on your home sale proceeds estimate and new monthly salary, you can figure out how much house you can afford in your new city.
A couple of good rules of thumb:
- You can avoid private mortgage insurance if you put at least 20% down.
- You don’t want your housing expenses to exceed one-third of your monthly income.
- Don’t forget to set aside 2% of the home’s value for maintenance expenses.
2. How fast do I need to move?
Your job start date will affect your packing, cleaning, and prep time for your home sale, as well as how your real estate agent prices your home.
“If they come to me and say, ‘I want to put my house on the market in January but … my job doesn’t start until May 1st,’ that would be a different approach than putting your house on the market in January and the job starts February 1st,” said Darden.
According to an Allied survey of 3,500 respondents, 47% of people relocating for a job had thirty days or less to move. Such a tight timeline makes a traditional home sale logistically difficult and you might consider accepting a cash offer for a shorter closing.
Although most sellers choose to list on the open market to achieve the highest possible price point for their house, a cash offer provides simplicity and certainty, so it could be an attractive option to streamline your job transfer.
HomeLight offers a Simple Sale marketplace that allows homeowners and agents to compare instant competitive offers for their properties and sell homes to a growing network of more than 100 instant buyers.
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Find out what cash buyers are willing to pay for your home right now.
3. What benefits will my new job have and how do they compare to my current employer’s offerings?
Not everything can be compared by salary alone. Glassdoor’s Employment Confidence Survey noted that about 60% of people reported that benefits and perks were a major factor in considering whether to accept a job offer—even over a pay raise.
The Harvard Business Review reported that it had surveyed 2,000 workers ages 18 to 81 about 17 benefits they would weigh when deciding between a high-paying job and a lower-paying one with more perks.
The majority (88%) gave heavy or some consideration to a job with better health, dental, and vision insurance, as well as more flexible hours.
Other benefits that respondents said might influence their job choice included more vacation time, work-from-home options, student loan or tuition assistance, paid maternity or paternity leave, free gym membership, and free day-care services.
4. Can I find a comparable community where I’m relocating?
Getting acclimated to a new community is the second most challenging part of relocating for a job behind finding a new home, according to Allied. If you have children, you’ll naturally have questions about schools in a new area, for instance.
While some companies provide suggestions from all personnel to new employees who are house hunting, ranging from neighborhood commute times to school district ratings, your real estate agent also can be a good resource.
“It’s not just selling their home but answering all those other questions: What is the school district? Where can I go that somewhat parallels where I am now?” Darden said.
5. How far will my new commute be?
According to CNBC, Americans are spending more time commuting to work: about 26 minutes each way compared with less than 22 minutes each way in 1990. Those extra minutes add up throughout the year to a whole work week (about 35 hours) in transit! So consider in your calculations, not just the price of gasoline but any benefits that might offset a long commute, such as flex time.
SmartAsset has a handy commute calculator you can use. Simply input your future home address, work address (plus any other addresses you’d like to compare) and it will give you an estimated commute time by car, public transportation, or foot.
6. Will my employer pay for me to visit the new city and scope it out first?
When you’re relocating to another city or state because of work, your employer might provide financial relief for your moving expenses.
“I would say probably that for at least 50% of my clients, the company picks up a lot of the moving expenses and other costs that are associated with selling their home,” Darden said.
Although Darden has known employers to pay for expenses only to help with the move itself, there are companies that provide other forms of compensation.
According to the Allied survey:
- 20% of respondents said that their employer sponsored trips for a house search.
- 21% of respondents received a lump sum to use as needed.
- 22% received a “miscellaneous expense allowance,” either of which could be used to check out housing once you’ve accepted the job.
7. What moving expenses will my employer pay?
In general, the larger the company, the more likely you’ll have some financial assistance with your move. About 63% of the Allied respondents who had relocated worked for companies that offered relocation packages. Companies with 5,000 or more employees had this benefit in 77% of moves, but even about 71%-72% employers with 500 to 1,000 employees offered a relocation package.
8. What’s my tax liability?
The Internal Revenue Service won’t require you to pay taxes on up to $250,000 of capital gains from the sale of your home if you’re filing as an individual and you’ve used this as your primary residence for at least two of the past five years. (This exclusion bumps up to $500,000 for couples filing jointly.)
Even if you meet that exclusion, however, you may be responsible for municipality and state taxes, depending on the details of your move. Consult an accountant before you file to help you sort through these fees, as well as walk you through deductions you qualify for.
9. What coordination will I need to do between here and there?
Some employers contract with a relocation company that helps employees find and purchase housing in a new area. Darden has known clients who have had such a benefit, which picks a real estate agent in the new location. He’s also assisted people without access to this service by coordinating with another agent from his brokerage in their new hometown.
However your move is structured, you want effective communication. “You want to liaison with the Realtor where they’re going and help with that process,” he said.
Studies consistently show that moving is one of the most stressful events in life, whether you’re moving across town or across the country. But there are resources and professionals available to help take off the pressure by answering your most pressing questions.
“Even if you haven’t found the house yet, you get all the questions answered that you can,” Darden said, “because the more unknowns you remove from a situation, the less stressful it’s going to be.”