Hello! Did you miss us? I’ve been contemplating how to begin again here at USMC. It’s been a while and the last thing I want to do is publish self-serving drivel, but at the same time, if the story of my last couple of years can help to better explain how to go about a long distance move and answer a lot of the questions you’re probably having, well, that’s just awesome.
Texas is Calling
My husband got a job offer in Fort Worth, Texas that we would have been foolish to pass up, so when Texas called, we answered. Joining the other 3.56 million people who have moved to the Lone Star State since 2010, we stepped into the unknown and I left home for the first time to set up shop in a place where I literally knew no one.
Because we knew no one, we got a Realtor to help us with our relocation. Michael answered so many questions, dealt with long, panicked emails from me and even showed my husband some rental units. He’s not a relocation specialist, but he did ok. We’re in a house that’s decent, a safe neighborhood and we’re definitely going to track Michael back down when we buy here.
That’s the kind of experience you can expect from a Realtor when you’re moving with the intention of renting: good service, but necessarily limited. There’s a lot more that a relocation specialists can do; if you’re using one properly, you should never wake up in the middle of the night wondering what the next step in your journey should be.
Relocation Specialists Can Change the Equation
So, you want to move to another state, do you? Having relo agents on both sides of your move will make everything easier. The agent in the city you’re leaving can help you sell your house, of course, but that’s not where their job ends. Other services your local relo agent may provide you include:
- Arranging a mover. There is a staggering number of movers out there, not all of which are worth hiring. Your relocation agent will know which ones are the best at moving clients over longer distances. They will also arrange for specialty movers for items like pianos, pool tables and other hefty items.
- Hiring someone to pack your house. Packing is the worst. While I did all the packing back in Missouri, you can enjoy far more freedom and less constant overwhelm by just hiring a packer. Again, this is an area your relo agent is going to be well-versed in. Sometimes you get lucky and that mover you’ve already arranged is also a packer!
- Ensuring your cars make it to the new house safely. If you had planned to drive to the new place, this may be a head-scratcher because it’s really not applicable to you. However, if you have extra cars, or simply don’t want to take a risk with your vehicle, a car hauler can deliver your carts to your new front door.
- Providing lots of encouragement. Moving is hard. Moving hundreds of miles from home is really tricky. I openly admit I had a really hard time with it. Texas was an amazing opportunity and would be great for our family. My best friend lives here. They have every kind of taco anyone might want.
Even so, it was a difficult thing to leave my native home. When I was a Realtor, I often had to act as a sounding board for similar frustrations. The best agents, especially in a relo situation, mix empathy, healthy boundaries and a “getting down to business” attitude to ensure a smoother move for you and your family, both physically and emotionally.
Their counterpart, the relo agent in your destination city, has the easy job. Their purpose is to help you find a home that meets your needs, including things like school districts and nearby amenities, and generally get you oriented. They may act as tour guide or even help you find new doctors, mechanics and any other skilled professional you may need.
The Cost of Relocation Agents
Many people try to forego a real estate agent in situations like relocation, assuming the price will be high for services they can do themselves. According to Realtor.com, most of the time your relo agent will be free. That’s right, you don’t pay a dime for all the extra help you need to move to a strange and exciting new land.
So why NOT have a relo agent? It’s not as good as having a clone to help you do all the packing, cleaning and whatnot (especially the whatnot!), but it’s a pretty good deal for you. Don’t worry, they are getting paid. Generally, their compensation is in the form of a kickback from vendors they’re working with, like that mover you hired.
What’s My Old House Doing Right Now?
Presumably, your old house is sitting empty and you have the neighbor tossing peaches to the groundhog that lives under your old shed. Your Realtor has it listed, people are seeing it and really appreciating its good bits (they’re also puzzling about the neighbor who’s tossing fruit over the fence). Before long someone wants to write an offer.
Oh, you didn’t plan for this? There’s no budget, time or money-wise, to go back and sign all the papers. Do you have to reject it? It’s a pretty decent offer..
The short answer is “no.”
The Long Answer
Homeowners often panic when they realize that they can’t be at the closing of their former home because they’re hours or days away. This isn’t a problem, it wasn’t even a problem before the Internet, really. Your closing company knows how to handle the situation.
They’ll send you a package of forms via overnight delivery, ready for your signature. You’ll have instructions inside on how to fill them out, what to write where (normally it’s your name and right there) and the deadline for returning the papers. The sooner you get them back in the mail, the better your world will be.
Some of you may recall the closing nightmare that I had with the last house we bought. That was a “close by mail” situation. Our seller was in another state, so he did the forms on his own and sent it all back to us. But don’t do what he did, because he didn’t read the instructions.
When you do that, your house won’t actually close. You’ll still own it. It’s so important that you fill out every blank, every highlighted space, all of them. Have someone else check your work if necessary.
If you did a good job with the papers, you can send the whole shebang back via overnight mail and in the next day or two, your buyers will come around and finish their part of the paperwork.
With everybody signed, sealed and delivered, the closing company cuts several checks: one for you (yay!) presuming you had any equity left after the fees collected, one for your bank (or each of your banks), and one for each of the Realtors. You’ll generally get your check in a couple of days and it’ll start to feel like you really did just sell your old house, even if you weren’t there to say goodbye.
Buying a House While Relocating
This is, not surprisingly, much more difficult than selling from a remote location. It’s not impossible, especially if you feel like you can really trust your agent in the new city. Some are really used to helping with this sort of move, others get lucky and end up with relocation clients on accident.
Any agent can relocate you, but definitely try to find a relo agent first. Designations to look for include Certified Relocation Professional (CRP) or Global Mobility Specialist (GMS). There are often relocation departments in bigger real estate offices that are packed with relo agents, as well. If you can’t find these guys, a very dedicated buyer’s agent with nerves of steel is the next best thing.
In 2003 or 2004, I was that buyer’s agent. I wasn’t a relo agent, but every once in a while I’d get a call from out of town. It wasn’t a big deal to help someone move into the city, so I just kind of went with it. Until Brandy came along…
Brandy was a military wife living on a military base in Germany while her husband was in the Middle East. He was getting discharged after many years in the service and they wanted to come home as soon as possible — to a real house of their own.
At first, I was going to send her to a relo agent I knew well, but the more she talked, the more we clicked and finally I was convinced to take on this rather unusual situation. We got her loan pre-approved with a combination of telephone calls, emails and faxes. Then she sent me house shopping, keeping certain things in mind as I looked at potential homes and took lots of photos.
I’d go back to the office and put the digital photos into an order that made sense with the layout of the house. The goal was to build her a mini-tour I could send via email. It was tricky — likely the most difficult buyer in my career — but we did eventually find a house, got it closed and got them moved in.
The moral of the story is that no matter how far you’re moving, a relocation agent, or at least a very steely buyer’s agent, can get you into the perfect house. Remember, Brandy happened to me in something like 2004, we did not have the tools that are now at pretty much everybody’s disposal. The iPhone wouldn’t be invented for another couple of years. Facetime wasn’t even a thing yet.
The Bottom Line: Make Long Moves Easy, Get a Relocation Agent
If you take nothing else home from this blog, remember this: relo agents are usually free and they will save you so many headaches, sleepless nights and feelings of complete and total abandonment. You’ll want one in the city you’re leaving and another in the city you’re headed to. After all, there’s far more than you might imagine that goes into a long distance move, especially when you own real estate and plan to buy more when you get to your destination.
Also, thanks for coming back to see us and congratulations on whatever reason you have to need to move so far from home!