As the Great Resignation causes many Americans to reassess their work situations, career exploration is on the rise and that sometimes means relocating within the country or seeking out global options. A dream job with Netflix in Paris or Microsoft in Seattle could be enticing enough to sell your house and seize the opportunity of an amazing career move.
But packing up your belongings and starting a new life in a different state, coast, or overseas on a tight deadline is no easy task. Relocating for a job when you own a house can be especially challenging.
This guide will help you prepare for the move and anticipate what to expect from the process. We’ll cover corporate packages and relocation assistance, options for selling your home, and common tax questions like whether you’ll pay capital gains when you move for a job.
A quick relocation checklist
In preparing to relocate for a job, run through these related questions to make sure you have your main bases covered.
What’s your home worth?
Relocating for a job can mean moving sooner than intended. If you purchased the home recently, such as a year or two ago, it’s possible you haven’t built up much equity yet. (Home equity is a homeowner’s financial stake in their property that they own free of their mortgage loan obligation.)
When you sell, you’ll need to ensure that the value of your home will cover your outstanding mortgage balance in addition to selling expenses amounting to around 6%-10%. Otherwise, it’s possible that you would need to pay money at closing to settle up.
To get an idea of your financial situation and an estimate of home equity, consider plugging your address into a free online tool such as HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator.
Our tool aggregates publicly available data such as tax records, recent sales records for nearby properties, and your home’s last sale price to offer a preliminary estimate of your home’s value in under two minutes.
From there, you can input your estimated home value into our Net Proceeds Calculator to estimate the cost of selling your home and the proceeds you could earn from the sale.
We always recommend following up an online price estimate with the opinion of a top local real estate agent. If you need assistance finding an agent, HomeLight would be happy to connect you with a few highly qualified candidates in your area.
What’s included in your relocation package?
While your home’s value plays a role in your asking price, so might your moving expenses. A full-service long-distance move of 100 miles or more can cost from $2,000 to $7,500, depending on the size of your home and the moving company, according to Move.org.
That’s just for moving your belongings from point A to point B. Moving may also involve packing services (about $500 to $4,000), or the cost of supplies if you pack everything yourself. There’s also moving insurance (up to $8 per $1,000 in value covered) to protect your belongings during the journey.
An employer’s relocation package might ease some costs. Although about one-third of employers offer no financial help with moving, the majority offer some assistance, according to a survey the moving company Allied conducted of 1,000 people who relocated because of a job.
This includes paying for:
- Moving expenses (26%)
- Temporary living expenses (16%)
- A miscellaneous expense allowance (12%)
- A lump sum to use as needed (9%)
- Trips to search for a new house (7%)
Depending on where you’re moving, you could receive even more to offset these costs. Several states have financial relocation incentives to compensate for the pandemic-related shift to remote work. For instance, the Savannah Technology Workforce Incentive, established in Georgia in 2020, reimburses individual moving expenses up to $2,000 for qualified technology workers who move to Chatham County.
Will you pay capital gains if you move for a job?
So long as certain requirements are met, homeowners can generally avoid paying capital gains on up to $250,000 — or $500,000 when married and filing jointly — of profit when selling their home. Those requirements include:
- Ownership: You owned the property for at least two of the last five years.
- Use: You lived in the property for at least two of the last five years.
- Look-back: You did not exclude the gain from the sale of another house within two years from the sale of this house.
However, let’s say you don’t meet the eligibility test because this job opportunity came up shortly after purchasing your current home. You still may qualify for a partial exclusion of paying capital gain taxes for a work-related move if you meet any of these conditions:
- Your new work site is at least 50 miles farther from your current home than your previous work location.
- You had no previous work site and began a new job at least 50 miles from your home.
- Either of the above is true of your spouse or the home’s co-owner.
The IRS has a worksheet to determine your exclusion based on your time in the home or your length of homeownership and a resource with guidance for work-related moves.Talk with your tax professional to determine the details for your particular situation.
Can I deduct work-related moving expenses?
Moving expenses related to a job relocation are not tax deductible unless you are an active member of the Armed Forces permanently relocating due to a military order.
If you’re thinking, “Wait, I thought any job relocation qualified for this” — your memory serves you correctly. You used to be able to deduct moving expenses if your new home was at least 50 miles closer to your new job than your old home was (the distance test), and you’d been working that job full-time for 39 weeks within the first year after you moved (the time test).
But the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of January 2018 excluded all but active military from the opportunity to claim this deduction. So unless you’re military, do not budget using this tax break.
How’s the real estate market?
Your timeline for starting your new job, combined with market conditions, will determine whether you could sell your home within days, weeks, or months — or if you’re better off renting it out for a bit. (More on that below.)
If the demand for housing outpaces supply, as it has for the past year or so, you can breathe a little easier, knowing that your home likely won’t sit on the market for long. Nationwide, properties in January stayed on the market for 19 days, with 79% of listings on the market less than a month, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
What’s more, every home sold received 3.9 offers; 46% of respondents said buyers’ offers were above list price, NAR statistics show.
“The vast majority of homes in this market are selling in less than seven days,” says Jessica Arledge, a top real estate agent in Savannah, Georgia, who sells 76% more single-family homes than the average agent there. “It’s an extremely competitive market for buyers.”
What’s your plan for housing once you sell?
When you’re selling a house for a job relocation, you also need to plot out where you’ll live next. Some homeowners become so frazzled that they focus solely on the former and wind up with their homes under contract without knowing whether they’re going to buy or rent in their new location, Arledge says.
“You don’t want to find yourself homeless,” she says. “You also want to give yourself a reasonable amount of time to get out of the house.”
Have a realistic conversation with your real estate agent about the best way to handle the changeover. You might consider a sale-leaseback agreement for a few weeks, she suggests.
Also known as a seller rent-back agreement or a holdover, this allows you to stay in your home for a designated period of time after you sell. Essentially, it makes the buyer your landlord so you have time to rent or buy a new home and arrange for the movers to collect your belongings.
Anne Sena, a real estate agent with a combined 24 years of experience in New York and Tennessee, says that rent-back situations have become more common during the current market because houses sell so fast, sellers need more time to transition.
Options to sell your home for a job relocation
Now that you’ve prepared yourself with some solid info, here are three top options for selling your home when you’re relocating for a job.
Option #1: Request a cash offer for your home
A new job can come with a ticking clock: In the Allied survey, 41.5% of respondents said they had from zero to 30 days to move and settle in before starting their new positions.
If you’re operating on a crazy-tight deadline, you might not have the time to wait 40 to 50 days for a traditional buyer to close on a purchase loan (never mind taking the time to stage and clean the house for showings).
For a fast, low-fuss sale, consider selling your house for cash to a house buying company or investor of some kind. HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform is a helpful resource for people selling their home for a job relocation.
Simple Sale provides cash offers for homes in almost any condition nationwide. Just answer a few questions about your property, and you’ll receive a competitive cash offer in as little as 48 hours. Sellers have the ability to close in as little as 10 days. No staging, no repairs, no open houses.
While you’ll likely get a lower offer than if you listed your home, you can also likely sell “as is”, eliminating the cost and time you’d normally have to put into home prep and repairs. Working with a cash buyer can also reduce a seller’s closing costs including the elimination of agent commissions.
At the end of the day, you may end up with a similar amount of money for your home as you would with a traditional listing process.
Consider this route if:
- Time is of the essence, as in your new employer wants you there yesterday.
- Your home has significant issues that would hinder a buyer with traditional financing. “I have a client right now whose house has no power and no water—and they’re not in a situation to get those things turned on. For them, an investor is going to be their best choice,” Arledge says.
Avoid this route if:
- You want the highest possible price. While a platform such as Simple Sale provides a competitive offer, expect to get less for your home than you would if you were to sell the traditional way with a top real estate agent. You’re trading speed and convenience for a lower price and sometimes the discount can be steep.
- You have a decent relocation package or a generous time frame that eases the pressure to sell. About 18% of those Allied surveyed had 61 to 90 days to move while a lucky 11% had 91 days or more.
Option #2: Hire a real estate agent who moves homes fast
Even if you have some time before you start your new job, moving for work adds pressure — especially if you’re headed out of state and the process hits a snag.
Fortunately, the experienced real estate agents in HomeLight’s network know how to handle those pressures. Bonnie Roseman, a top-selling agent in Portland, Oregon, sold one couple’s 1,200-square-foot two-bedroom home in about a week during the pandemic after the husband had to move for a job in Colorado Springs.
Accelerate your home sale with these three key steps from our experts.
Clean and declutter so the home looks fresh and bright
A clean home adds to your bottom line: One HomeLight survey of over 900 top-selling agents nationwide found that a deep cleaning alone can add nearly $2,000 in resale value. Decluttering adds nearly $2,500.
Buyers love to see available space, especially in photos. Roseman used a professional photographer to shoot photos, video, and a 3-D Matterport image of the layout of the Portland home, offered at $379,000. A buyer wrote an offer with a substantial down payment within two days.
With a pending move, you’re packing and purging anyway, so here’s where the sweat equity pays off. If you need a hand, you can hire a pro to clean your home for a flat rate of about $200 to $400, or $25 to $50 per hour.
Enlist a junk removal service through a site such as Houzz to take away the trash and old furniture, or call a charity such as the Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity to pick up anything you’d like to donate.
Ramp up the curb appeal
Your home’s curb appeal makes a stunning first impression, enticing buyers before they even cross the threshold (and implying that you maintain your home well). In fact, a 2021 survey of HomeLight’s top agents found that on average, buyers will pay 7% more for a house with great curb appeal compared to one with a neglected exterior.
“Usually buyers will go do a drive-by first,” Carey Lambert, a top real estate agent with more than 20 years of experience in the Greater New Orleans area. “The home has to look great from the outside.”
You don’t have to invest a lot, either. Our research shows that basic yard care, such as cutting the grass, controlling weeds, and fertilizing the lawn, costs about $340 but yields a return on investment of about 539%. Add about three cubic yards of bark mulch for about $275 reaps a return on investment of 536%, our agents say.
Hiring a pro to mow and trim a lawn costs an average of about $135, or between $50 and $220, depending on your yard’s size. Your agent also may know a landscaper who can get the job done quickly.
Address any mechanical issues ASAP
A pre-listing inspection before you list your home will flag any issues that could pose a health or safety risk, or that could stall negotiations between getting a contract and closing.
While you’ll have to disclose the results to buyers, you also handle an easy fix before hitting the market, such as servicing the air conditioning and heating systems. For anything that might give buyers pause, such as an aging roof or appliances, talk with your agent about offering a home warranty or adjusting the list price.
Use the CMA to set the right price
If you’re in a hurry, it’s even more crucial to price your home right so your home doesn’t languish on the market for weeks — or drop in price after you’ve already moved.
To determine home value, your real estate agent will conduct a comparative market analysis (CMA) that analyzes local comparable sales or “comps.”
Comps are homes similar in size, amenities, structure, and age to your own that recently sold in your area. Real estate professionals and home appraisers use comps as a reference point for the subject home and then make dollar adjustments based on competitive differences. The analysis will take into account significant features that drive or reduce value.
Consider this route if:
- You want top dollar for your home and assurance that you’ve promoted it well. A great real estate agent can reach not only your local market but also surrounding areas where people may be moving from.
- You have the time and inclination to make small fixes. A seasoned agent can advise you on what to leave off your to-do list and what’s worth your while. “Sometimes small details can make a large return on your investment,” Arledge says, although a hot market eases the work. “Clients are having to do less than they ever have to get it sold.”
Avoid this route if:
- You’re pressed for time. When you list your home, there’s no guarantee that you will receive a cash offer. When working with a financed buyer, sellers need to consider an average 52 days for mortgage processing and approval in addition to the time it takes to find a buyer.
- You don’t have the budget or the bandwidth for anything but a quick and clean break. If you’re stressed about finding schools or housing in your new location, you might want a quick and clean break from your old home, even if you don’t have to do much to sell it in the current market. Talk with your agent about your options.
There are instances where people have bought their house for a really great price, they have low payments, and they can make a lot of money renting it out.
- Jessica Arledge Real Estate AgentCloseJessica Arledge Real Estate Agent at Keller Williams Realty CAP Currently accepting new clients
- Years of Experience 13
- Transactions 550
- Average Price Point $241k
- Single Family Homes 503
Rent it out rather than sell
If your area has a high demand for rentals, or if you’re considering returning to the area soon, you could hang on to your home as a rental property. “There are instances where people have bought their house for a really great price, they have low payments, and they can make a lot of money renting it out,” Arledge says.
Of course, you’ll have to find a good renter — and figure out how to manage the property from afar.
Consider this route if:
- Your area is a booming rental market. According to Apartment List’s National Rent Report of 2021, midsize cities such as Boise, Idaho; Chesapeake, Virginia; and Fresno, California, have seen some of the highest growth in rental prices of about 8%-10%.
- Your home has amenities that a renter might like, such as proximity to a park, a private backyard, or a finished basement with a walk-out.
- You plan to return to this area or have a sentimental attachment to the house. “I know people who absolutely love Savannah and want to retire here,” even if they have to leave in the interim, Arledge says.
Avoid this route if:
- You haven’t heavily vetted who will occupy your home. If you’re moving long-distance, you want to be confident both in your property manager and in your tenants. “Sometimes you get the best tenants in the world, and sometimes people trash a place,” Arledge says.
- You don’t have the focus to build a rental portfolio. Being a landlord involves more than collecting a rent check. You’ll need to use state-specific contracts and be aware of your tenants’ rights, for starters. You’ll also have to ensure you handle your taxes correctly.
Tips for your big move
Figuring out how to sell your house for a job relocation is a huge decision. While that’s in the works, experts recommend keeping these other things in mind to ensure a smooth move:
Book the moving company as soon as you go under contract:
Movers’ schedules fill up fast, especially during the summer months. Ask whether they charge any fees if your date changes, such as if repairs take longer than expected.
Ask how long the movers will take to deliver:
The website moveBuddha notes that cross-country moves take about 7 to 14 days, but moving companies legally have up to 21 business days to deliver your belongings.
Have a contingency plan if the moving company cancels:
Lay the groundwork for hiring a container or freight company if something happens to your movers at the last minute. Tell them you may hire a professional mover, but you’d like to consider their services as well, moveBudda suggests. Let them know when and where you’re moving and how much you have; then ask about their turnaround time.
Plan for moving your car:
Depending on how far you’re moving, talk with the moving company about transporting your car or hire an auto shipper. Also, be prepared for unexpected fees. Some states, such as Georgia, charge an ad valorem tax on a newly registered vehicle based on its market value.
Your new job (and city) await
Job relocations chilled at the start of the pandemic — when you can work from anywhere, why move? More people were focused on being close to friends and family or seeking out a comfortable location to wait things out.
For perspective, in 2021 33% of Americans moved for a new job or job transfer, according to United Van Lines Mover Study, down significantly from 60% in 2015. But work-related moves do still happen and have recently started to bounce back a bit amid office reopenings and hybrid work arrangements.
If the world is your oyster and a career change feels right, you can orchestrate a smooth move even when you own a house.
Whether you sell your home to an investor, work with a top agent to sell it at a competitive price, or opt to rent it out for a while, rest assured that the stress over selling a house for a job relocation is only temporary. Soon you’ll be exploring a new place, building relationships with colleagues, and settling into a new home ready for fresh memories.
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