Michael is an avid content writer and researcher on various topical subjects related to personal finance and career development.
Depending on whether you're moving down the block or settling in a different district or country altogether, relocating can be exciting, but also equally stressful. This is especially true if you find yourself unprepared for what lies ahead.
This submission aims to provide you with the necessary information to ensure as smooth a transition as possible to your new destination. As we will soon see, moving involves much more than simply packing stuff into boxes and expecting to unpack them later!
1. Gather the Facts
Whether relocating locally or internationally, there is a considerable impact associated with the change in your life and on the loved ones who move with you. It is therefore necessary to arm yourself with as much information as possible concerning the destination before the actual transition.
Plan a previsit if possible, to assess the amenities, infrastructure, social life, job opportunities and other aspects of the new location. This will afford you a chance to adjust to the cultural setup beforehand. It will also aid you in the search for accommodation. Knowing your future neighborhood well will help prepare you in advance.
Any potential disruptions in the area? A bar or club that plays loud music at night? An airport runway or construction project? Rowdy teenagers who party often?
By way of example, I once found an ad for accommodation which looked very nice on paper, but when I visited the actual area, I found it was much smaller and farther away from public means of transportation. Moreover, nearby factories continually churned thick black smoke so toxic that even the neighborhood dogs were sick. Needless to say, I shifted my search elsewhere rather quickly!
Avoid waiting until you have already moved in to find out more about the setting. Check online or make inquiries concerning proximity to shops, supermarkets, schools, clinics, hospitals, public transport, restaurants, banks and post offices.
Research on available information sources like the Mercer survey where you can find out which are the most expensive cities in the world. Visit expatriate and other relevant online sites and forums to peruse what residents are commenting concerning their experiences.
Use the online platforms to get in touch with those who are already living there and review their threads for practical information, words of advice, or raise questions if your concerns are not already addressed. Bear in mind that it is easier if you have an acquaintance in the new location to guide and help you with the arrangements, though this is not a must.
In case you are unable to organize a previsit owing to time or distance, let your mouse and cursor do this for you (especially if the location is in a different country) so that you may understand the prevalent political, social, economic and geographical situation.
Getting to grips with the social norms will prepare you and your family when it comes to making fresh acquaintances and will also help reduce the shock of switching over into a new environment. Avoid committing yourself and your loved ones to a destination whose security levels are not well understood.
For example, if the new location is in a foreign country, are you thoroughly aware of the political climate? Have there been travel reports or government websites warning of internal conflicts, external wars, organized crime or other forms of social instability? A security risk assessment is also required before moving into a new local neighbourhood, province or state.
2. Residence and Employment
Whether or not you are relocating abroad for employment, chances are that you will end up working in the new country of residence. The same applies if you are relocating locally to another district or region.
If you haven’t yet received a new job offer or transfer by your current employer, it is necessary to think about what exactly you want in a job, the duration you will be working for, whether you will develop your current expertise further, or begin something altogether different.
These factors affect the pace at which you will comfortably settle in the new place. If you have a limited budget and don't want to incur extra costs hiring an agent, you could begin the search yourself on the internet, or in the local newspapers.
If you are using a recruitment agency to help you find a suitable job opportunity, they will also be able to provide the details as to what is required for the move. This also applies to the human resource department of your current employer if you are changing jobs within the same company.
The new employment contract needs to be reviewed to confirm the terms and conditions of service, the salary as well as the consequences of terminating the contract if it turns out that the position is not appropriate for you. If the main reason for the move is employment, then it is recommended to have a fall-back plan in place in case things do not work out.
Confirm also whether the company is offering paid relocation for you and your family. Over and above all, the best way to make a wise decision here on relocating is not simply to weigh the salary, bonuses and other employee benefits, but to consider the quality of life.
In your search for an apartment, go beyond acquiring basic information about the price, the place and whether the security deposit is refundable. It is necessary to get into the finer details and understand what the penalties are for late payments and the conditions involved if you leave before the end of the lease period.
Confirm also the terms of the renewal of the contract. Are utilities included in the rent? What is the procedure if any, for hosting friends or relatives beyond your immediate family? Are pets allowed and is a pet deposit required beforehand? Does the owner allow certain changes, for example, nails in the walls?
It is also important to know which repairs or renovations fall within your scope as the tenant, and which ones are taken care of by the owner. Aside from gas, electricity, water, heat, air conditioning and other utilities, confirm whether the new place has additional features like a working phone and internet connection.
Check in advance if the monthly rent is sustainable and fits in with your budget. It is recommended for rent not to go beyond three-quarters of the monthly income. Find out from the neighbors in the same building what their experiences have been. Are the premises well-protected? Have there been break-ins? What type of activities typically go on in the vicinity?
3. Moving Company
It is possible to relocate items over short distances using a family car by moving a few items at a time or by getting assistance from acquaintances and neighbours.
But if it is a considerable distance away from your current location, you may need the services of a moving company. It may be an interstate moving company, local mover, shipping or trucking service. The key is to choose the type best suited for your needs. Some companies offer their services through brokers and this typically drives up the cost, so it is best to know beforehand.
Ensure that the moving company has a well-established reputation, references, proper insurance and licence. It is always easier to deal with a company with a reputable, professional and helpful customer service.
Do a bit of research and check online reviews concerning the experiences of other customers before engaging the services of the company. You could also enquire from friends, relatives and neighbors who have relocated for recommendations and tips.
Compare the prices of different movers to see what the market range is. Remember cheap is not always the best option! Check whether the estimates made are binding or non-binding. To avoid unexpected last-minute surprises in form of additional charges, ensure that the complete process of relocation has been well understood by the moving company.
It is necessary to clarify details like the type of parking spaces available in the new location (whether for large trucks or only for smaller vehicles) and how accessible the house or apartment is practically. What is the floor number? Is there an elevator available or would they have to use the staircase? If the latter is the only option, the company may charge extra, so it is always best to find out sooner than later.
Confirm also if there are hidden costs for the relocation like toll taxes and the terms and conditions of the company with regards to accidents or other mishaps.
There are a few other questions to ask. Are the items going to be transported together with other goods or separately? Is there any additional insurance required?
If you are on a budget, try to do the assembly, packing and disassembling yourself. You will be avoiding the hourly rates typically included in the total cost by moving companies. You could also reach out and mobilize willing friends, relatives, neighbors and others from your local community, church or social circles to help out.
Based on your particular situation, it may be possible to get a tax refund for the expenses you incur while moving. So ensure you keep all the receipts and invoices, and consult your accountant or tax advisor to guide you on this.
Aside from references, it is beneficial to check whether the moving company belongs to a registered legal association for example, the American Moving and Storage Association. Different countries will have different associations, but for our purposes here, we will use the US as an example.
Moving Companies That Belong to Registered Legal Associations
Latin American & Caribbean International Movers Association
Household Goods Forwarders Association of America Inc
Florida Movers and Warehousemen's Association
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
The International Federation of International Movers
Pan American International Movers Association
International Air Transport Association
International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations
Federation of International Trade Associations
Overseas Moving Network International
Remember to keep all invoices and consult your accountant or tax advisor.
Create a checklist or inventory of the items you will be shifting over to the new premises by classifying them into categories. You can also group them in terms of items that should be unpacked on the first day, and those which should be handled last.
Your basic essentials like soap, shampoo, towels and toilet paper should be packed separately. Avoid mixing up essentials with the many other household items, it is usually a burdensome chore trying to find them after arrival.
To begin with, inspect the packing boxes you have acquired or procured before you start using them. Check whether these are sturdy and robust enough and to handle the weight of the contents.
It is recommended to get sealing tape which is at least 1.5 to 2 inches wide and a magic marker for labeling. Label the cartons properly and clearly according to the categories you have determined such as perishable, fragile, and so on. Include in the labeling, the order in which you would want to unpack them, from what you consider to be the most important to what you consider as least important.
Remember to use protective wraps for the fragile items. Also label the items in terms of which room they belong, for example: living room items, kitchen items, master bedroom items. You can use codes or acronyms for this.
Also to be stashed separately are credit cards, cell phones, identity cards, passports, keys to the new home, and other personal items. Procure a folder for the documents to present to the new landlord in order to sign the new contract and move in as well as medical, dental, school records, birth certificates, transfer papers and other documents required for the children to get into a new school.
Insurance policies, marriage records, photo albums, stock certificates, wills, tax returns, vehicle documents should also be kept separately. Remember to obtain the contact information and address of the moving company, the truck licence number, the driver's mobile number and ID.
If you are moving abroad with your pet, it is necessary to organize a pet passport and other documents that may be required for transporting it and pack them in a separate folder.
It is easier when unpacking, to start with the items which are not regularly used, for example, those which belong to the garage, basement and attic. So these should be placed last in the moving truck.
Next to be moved unpacked are the main furniture like desks, cabinets, shelves, wall units, bookcases in order for you to find a place to keep all the other items that you have. Hence, you need to have a separate packing list of what goes into storage and what needs to be repaired or refurbished.
Do not pack flammable items as they may heat up under certain circumstances and explode, this includes aerosol spray cans, gasoline, and paint thinners.
As stated before, it is not recommended to use newspapers when packing fragile items, but instead use bubble wrap or foam wrap. Newspaper ink never comes off from certain items once they get stained. You can include added padding for artwork.
Avoid overpacking or underpacking. When considering transporting heavy or massive items, remember there are companies that can transport almost any type of property, even those which are difficult to pack like pianos, plus provide other supplies and services like Pak Mail.
5. Your Children
If you have young children, it is necessary to sit down with them well in advance and clearly explain the reasons why the family will be relocating. Remember that they will be much more impacted psychologically and emotionally than adults, so endeavour to dispel all their fears and doubts as much as possible.
They are much more sensitive to changing environments. You need them to be on your side during the exercise so that it is a smooth transition for everyone, otherwise the process can be unbearable.
You could specifically select children’s shows online that are related to the subject of moving, or even books like Berenstain Bears' Moving Day by Sam Berenstain or Goodbye House by Frank Asch. You can buy these or obtain them from the local library. If it is possible, bring them into the new place and let them explore the premises in order to familiarize themselves ahead of time.
Alternatively, obtain photos and videos of the new place to show them. Work toward generating excitement and enthusiasm for the relocation, so that they are positively predisposed to it. Creatively build anticipation that this is really going to be a special adventure for them and for the entire family.
Children could be involved in the relocation to make a meaningful contribution where they see themselves as participants instead of being merely passive spectators. For instance, they could decide which toys they want to keep and which ones they should discard. They could also be involved in packing their own items, or at least consolidating them to make it easier for packing.
Research shows that on average, Americans move a minimum of 11 times in their lifetime. Unlike the common trend, it is preferable to relocate during a school term rather than during the holidays. That way, the children will not be forced to start a school term in a new place, but the change will be instant and they'll immediately settle down and begin making new friends.
Moreover, they will be so preoccupied that they will not have time to brood over or get depressed about the transition. Negative signs to be watchful for include: nervousness, nightmares, wet dreams, lack of sleep, panic attacks, and excessive demands for attention.
It is recommended to organize the move during an off-season period especially if you have children. Moving experts claim this can reduce your costs by up to 20%. Ideally it is best to time the move in the middle of the month rather than at the beginning or end of the month. If you are relocating abroad, try as far as possible not to do it in a peak season like Easter or Christmas, when the costs are going to be so much higher for travel, accommodation, and so on.
6. Key Considerations
Immigration: It is necessary to check in advance if your passport has sufficient validity to give you time to travel and get settled in the new country. Check the visa requirements to confirm if your family and your pets are required to have vaccination certificates in advance. Arrange appointments with the embassy in good time to obtain all the information that you need concerning relocation and settling in the foreign territory.
Prepare all the relevant documentation well in advance: visas, work permits, passports, birth certificates, residence permits, medical records, international drivers’ licences. Confirm with the embassy also whether there are taxes or duties which have to be paid for the items you are bringing into the country.
The embassy should also advise you on the regulations concerning transporting pets, the import permit and health certificate. You can pursue this after you confirm with your local vet that your pet it is able to survive the travel into another climate and environment and that the destination is actually conducive to its health and wellbeing.
Weight: To make things easier, it is necessary to go through the stuff you currently have and get rid of whatever items you do not need. The last thing that you need is to transfer the weight of all the unnecessary items from one home to another and incur the hassle and extra expenses.
It is a bad idea to move stuff with the intention of disposing them later after you arrive in the new premises. Instead, organize a garage sale for the items, donate them to the local charities in the area, or to your relatives and friends. Items that are to be disposed of would include books, toys and sports equipment that your children no longer require, or clothes they have already outgrown.
Contracts: Ensure that you have all your bills settled prior to the transition, including insurance and utility bills. Terminate your electricity, water, cable and phone contracts and give advance notice of your current lease agreement cancellation. Also, terminate magazine or newspaper subscriptions and close any club, gym and library memberships.
Ensure that all borrowed items have been returned. Change the address information on your contractual agreements which are to be transferred including insurance, credit card and bank agreements. Do not forget to also inform your friends, relatives and family members as well concerning the new address.
Transportation: If you are going to do the packing yourself, check first with the moving company whether there is a specific way they require items to be packed. This will help protect your defence in case there are any breakages during the trip.
Confirm also the estimated duration of the movement, how you will be notified and the preferred mode of payment beforehand. Some will require only cash after delivery in the new premises, in which case you should already have the money available or within easy reach after arrival.
If the furniture pieces and other items must be disassembled first, find out if the moving company will reassemble them after delivery, and whether the disassembling and reassembling is included in total cost. If you will be moving across state lines, confirm if the company is licenced for interstate transportation.
Additional costs: In certain cases, you may need to set aside some finances to cover time spent in a motel while awaiting the arrival of your items in the new premises, though the best cost-effective option would be to find a relative or friend who can host you during the transition. There may also be a need for extra services like advance procurement of packaging material and transportation of special equipment.
Other costs would include rent caution money that needs to be paid in advance, the initial deposit to open a new bank account, safety deposit box fees, new insurance and car registration fees. So create a proper budget beforehand that includes all the aspects related to your relocation and factor in all the costs involved before you actually start the transition.
Before departure: Defrost and empty such appliances as fridges, washing machines and dishwashers. Remember to record the meter readings for utilities like gas, heating, electricity and water on the day you plan to move out.
Set aside time to do one final thorough walk through the entire house or apartment to confirm nothing has been left behind but that all spaces are empty, including the attic and basement.