You hit your cold-weather limit every year around this time, and yet somehow you still haven't learned your lesson. And as you see that same meme of the bundled-up stick figure contemplating life circulate online yet again, you have to wonder: Why do you live in a place where the air hurts your face?
If the last cold front was the final straw for you, you're not alone. Real estate experts and relocation specialists in the southern half of the country say clients looking to move to a warmer region tend to flock their way in wintertime.
"Last year … there weren't as many buyers coming down, just because the weather was exponentially milder," says Michelle Farber Ross, real estate broker and managing partner of MMD Realty in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "This year we're just getting so many more buyers."
Moving to a warmer part of the country may be the change you need – at least to be able to pack that winter coat away for longer – but it takes a lot of planning and finesse to make your move as successful and seamless as possible.
Whether you're dreaming of tropic temperatures in South Florida, hoping for the dry heat in Phoenix or aiming to get a little ocean breeze in a Southern California beach city, you have to determine which climate's positives and negatives will be the best fit for you.
"[While] we don't get snowstorms, we do get hurricanes and flooding," Farber Ross says of South Florida. "Take into account what each geographic areas has as pros and cons." Los Angeles doesn't experience hurricane season, but it does have droughts, forest fires and earthquakes to contend with.
Of course, it's not just the climate that will take some adjustment – moving to a new real estate market will have you experiencing different cycles, seeing different price points and having to battle a whole different group of competing buyers. A move from New York City to Atlanta, for example, may reveal some pleasant surprises on home prices and rents, but a move from Indianapolis to Los Angeles will likely leave you with a bit of sticker shock. If you do your research ahead of time, you'll know what parts of the city you can afford, as well as proximity to attractions you intend to frequent, like the beach, shops and nightlife.
The Atlanta real estate market is moving quickly, which poses a particular obstacle for buyers relocating to the area, says Lindsey Sanders, a Realtor and certified relocation specialist with Beacham & Company Realtors in Atlanta. "If there's something that somebody wants to see, they need to plan to get here quickly or have someone they trust in the city – a family member, agent, something like that – to go look at [the listing]," she says.
That trust is particularly important when you're moving somewhere you're largely unfamiliar with. It's hard to determine which suburb or neighborhood will be the right fit when you're not used to the city's unique culture yet. "That is so difficult in a city like LA that has 270 neighborhoods," says Klaus Siegmann, founder and CEO of Relocity Inc., a relocation services firm based in Los Angeles.
When Siegmann and his family relocated to the LA area years ago, they encountered all the hurdles of finding the neighborhood with the right schools, meeting new people and avoiding getting stuck in traffic every day. He started Relocity to provide individuals moving for work or personal reasons with a host or concierge who can help guide them through the whole process of moving – checking off all the boxes you'd need to start feeling at home right away.
"They show [clients] around like a best friend or personal assistant," Siegmann says. "They help them find a home, they help find a moving company, if they need to find temporary housing, they help them with furniture if they need that, they help them with a doctor, with schools, with piano lessons or hiking trails and everything that you can think of."
Relocating to a warmer climate is certainly possible, but it takes careful planning. Here are six steps to help you move to a place where you can get rid of that thick winter jacket sooner rather than later.
Consider the climate you want. Warmer is certainly a good start, but then you also need to consider the other weather patterns that may come with higher temperatures. Are you ready to endure the threat of hurricanes on a regular basis? Or will the extreme heat in a Phoenix summer – with average highs above 104 degrees in July – be more than you can handle?
An inland Southern city may be more your speed – just keep in mind that the cold can get just about anywhere for a short period of time. Sanders notes Atlanta has been shut down by snow twice this winter already: "I think a lot of people have been surprised this year with the snow."
Make the move possible. Consider the logistics of relocating before you have your heart set on a new city. One thing to remember is landlords and lenders will want proof of employment, so moving with hopes of finding a job when you get there can be tricky. Look at the possibility of transferring to another office in your same company, see if remote work is possible or begin applying for jobs in your next city months before you expect to actually move.
Research the real estate market. You may have found the warm-weather city for you, but be mindful of the average prices, rents and current state of the real estate market. Tight inventories nationwide – especially in high-populated areas – mean you might not be able to find a place to live in the exact neighborhood you're hoping for.
Have a contact you trust. If you have friends or relatives already enjoying the sunny days in your destination city, that's a great start. Otherwise, many major metro areas will have firms like Relocity that can help you make the move. Relocity charges $99 per hour in sessions and appointments with the local host, while other services may have a flat or commission-based fee depending on all the services provided. For real estate purposes, agents with the certified relocation specialist designation will be well-versed in helping you house hunt remotely and plan a weekend of binge house touring when you're in town.
Plan a visit or two. Speaking of coming to town, you should not move without having at least visited your new city once to make sure it's a place where you can see yourself living. And don't just see the touristy parts of the city, but check out the everyday amenities you'll need to feel comfortable. Pop into the grocery store, walk around the neighborhood you'd like to live in and drive around a bit to get a feel for the whole area. "Try and live the city as much as possible," Sanders says. You may only be able to visit for a couple days at a time, but being able to see both weekend and weekday traffic and crowds can help you get a feel for the everyday experience in your next city.
Be ready to put in a timely offer. Real estate markets are tight across the U.S. – especially in the Southern cities that are experiencing the most growth. Don't expect any new listing to stay on the market for more than a few days, but don't put in an offer on a place you know nothing about, either. As long as you're not on a tight timeline, remain diligent but patient to find the right property at the right price point – whether it's a rental or purchase. "The patient person will end up with the best deal," Farber Ross says.
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.