You might not have started 2020 thinking about a move. But like it or not, many of us have had to reconsider our living situations during the pandemic.
Before you decide to relocate, you have many things to consider: the cost of living, proximity to your loved ones — and whether you will need a winter coat. Here is how to go about making the decision to move.
Figure out your priorities. For some, moving home is the obvious choice, whether “home” is the town you grew up in or where your family lives now. For others, it can be hard to zero in on a particular place, especially if your loved ones are scattered all over the country or world.
Take the pressure out of the decision — this move doesn’t have to be your last. “Many people delay relocating, even if it’s the right move to make, because we can get stuck thinking that it’s a permanent move,” said Phuong Luong, a certified financial planner at Just Wealth in San Francisco. She suggests narrowing your focus to the year ahead and reflecting on your priorities.
Don’t rush into homeownership. Historically low mortgage rates may tempt you to move so you can buy your dream home. Moving to a cheaper location to buy a home can be a smart choice, but don’t rush into homeownership if your finances aren’t ready, said Elaina Johannessen, program director at Minnesota nonprofit credit counselor LSS Financial Counseling.
A budget will help you figure out what you can realistically pay for housing and is better than listening to what a lender says you can pay, she says. “If you can afford your payment but you don’t have anything left over, it might not be the right thing to do,” she said.
Consider different scenarios with your employer. Don’t assume your salary will stay the same if your employer allows you to relocate, said Lazetta Rainey Braxton, co-CEO at 2050 Wealth Partners, a virtual financial-planning firm. You may find your pay adjusted down if you move from an expensive area to a cheaper one. Check with your employer before making plans.
Even if your employer lets you relocate now, some companies aren’t sure what their plans are after the pandemic is over, said Rainey Braxton. Have a conversation with your employer to know whether you’d be expected to move back eventually and if you would have to pay for moving costs in that situation, she said.
Factor in other costs. Moving isn’t cheap, and the costs are more than a down payment or security deposit and a moving van.
Be realistic that you have enough savings. It may cost more to buy a car or health insurance or electricity, said Luong, the San Francisco CPA.
Amrita Jayakumar is a writer at NerdWallet.