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What to do before you move across the country

Considering moving to a new city? Use this checklist.

Between the Great Resignation, the rise in remote work and a pandemic-generated existential need to reassess absolutely everything, many people are thinking of moving to a new city. Perhaps you’re one of them. If so, what should you know (or at least consider) before your big move? From food options to schools, taxes to tornadoes, we have a moving across country checklist that can help.

In this article:

Visit your new city

It sounds obvious. It is obvious. But it’s still important. Even if you’ve been to the city before, it’s a good idea to visit the new location again if you’re thinking of moving, because you’ll notice different things about a place when you’re thinking of living there versus when you’re on vacation. (Example: When you’re on holiday, do you think about commute times?)

Take your family, too, so they can make sure they’re happy with your new home city, or can at least start getting used to it. Do research ahead of time so you know what to check out: You like European movies? Go to the art house cinema. Are you a rock climber? Get thee to the indoor wall or the outdoor boulders. Do you like vegetarian restaurants? You get the picture. Make sure your new place has the amenities you need.

While you’re there, get a feel for neighborhoods you might want to live in — and visit them at night as well as during the day. Try to imagine you and your family’s life in the new city as comprehensively as possible, and get a true picture of what this relocation would look like.

Research schools

If you have, or plan to have, children, this is a biggie in terms of your children’s education and happiness, as well as your moving budget. If you want your kids to attend public school, see which ones look promising, then find out which neighborhoods would give you access to them. Look at websites like GreatSchools.org and Schooldigger.com and try Moving.com’s School Ratings tool to get an idea of your options, then try to see some potential schools before your cross country move.

Find out about housing prices, tax rates, and cost of living

With each of these, the question is simple: Can you afford it? If you’re moving to New York City from pretty much anywhere in the US, you’ll probably be living in something smaller than you’re used to. Conversely, if you’re going to a cheaper city than where you currently reside, you might be able to trade up because of lower housing costs, taxes or other factors. Before you commit to the big move, be sure to make a realistic budget for your life in the new city, including all taxes and costs including schooling, transportation and healthcare. A cost of living calculator may help.å

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Calculate your needs

Consider your commute

To work out commute times, look at Google Maps during the city’s rush hour, but, more generally, look into how people get around the new city and see whether that suits you. Do you prefer public transportation? Make sure the new city has a decent bus or rail system. Prefer to drive? Look into parking options and get a sense of what the rush hour experience is like. You should also consider where you’ll be working — including if you’ll be working from home. (Though remember that jobs change.)

Transportation is easily overlooked when planning, but it can use up a lot of your time and money, so plan for it seriously.

Research demographics

Suffice it to say, some places are more diverse and inclusive than others. This can be hard to research from afar, but do and try to get a sense of what it will be like in the new city and, specifically, the neighborhoods you may want to live in. (This might be especially true if you have children, and you want them to grow up around kids who both do and don’t look like them.)

Remember that some diverse cities have some very un-diverse neighborhoods, so be sure to do your homework.

Think about natural disasters and climate

Find out what happens in the new city regarding harsh weather or other climate-related issues and make sure you’re OK with it. Does the possibility of tornadoes fill you with dread? Then certain parts of Texas and Kansas might not be for you. If you’re thinking of moving somewhere that you’ve only visited in spring, be sure to find out what the more extreme seasons are like, and whether those line up with your preferences.

Plan for work

If your work is now remote and you’re moving because “‘Hey – why not?,” make sure your job will remain remote for the foreseeable future. Also, since some companies pay people differently in different parts of the country, be sure to check if your wages might go down if you change cities. (And no: Pretending you didn’t move and blurring out your Zoom background for the next five years is not a good long-term strategy.)

If you’re moving to take a brand new job or you’re being transferred, it’s still worth seeing if the new city has other opportunities in your sector because, well, stuff happens. That may seem like planning for a worst-case scenario, but it’s really about preparing for a certain kind of success: If you and your family move, get settled and love your new home, you’ll want to know you can stay there, whatever may happen.

Moving Day

Before your moving date arrives, it’s important to take all moving expenses into account. Will you need to hire a professional mover? Do you have all the necessary moving supplies to get you to your new address? A long distance move can be stressful, but with the right moving checklist it doesn’t have to be. You’ll thank yourself later if you begin the moving process early on.

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About Michael Davis

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

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Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

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