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.
Organize your move early.
Few people can escape heightened stress when it comes time to move. Despite it being a common occurrence – about 11 percent of the U.S. population moved to a new home in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – moving is undoubtedly an exhausting process. You not only have to pack up everything you own and relocate it, but you also have to clear out your former home and set up house in a new one. It’s easy to find yourself getting into arguments, losing items or running behind a deadline to be out of one place and into another. Here are 10 things you can do to prepare for your move.Research professionals and prices.
Research professionals and prices.
The key to a stress-free move is organization, so you should start thinking about the process as soon as you know you’ll be relocating. Begin by researching moving companies, and take inventory of everything you’ll be moving with you. Then, reach out to a few companies to inquire about cost, availability and materials to move your home. “It’s not unheard of for people to be making inquiries for six months ahead of time,” says Scott Michael, president and CEO of the American Moving & Storage Association. “You don’t need to lock down a contract that early, but it doesn’t hurt to start doing some research.”Book a moving company.
Book a moving company.
Once you know your moving day, whether you’ll need movers to pack up your belongings, how much you’ll be taking with you and what your budget is, book a moving company or reserve a truck if you're moving yourself. You still want to book with as much advance notice as possible, with a minimum of a month’s notice in summer and two- to three-weeks' notice during the rest of the year, says Angela Gonzalez, operations and quality manager for Unpakt, an online marketplace that connects consumers with vetted moving companies.Buy packing materials.
Buy packing materials.
Boxes, tape and trash bags are a given when it comes to moving, so much so that they can easily be overlooked. Purchase or find moving materials early so you can begin packing the things you don’t need right away. You can order materials online, inquire with a local retailer or search Craigslist for used boxes. You can even ask your mover if it will include the cost of providing packing materials in the moving cost.Downsize and start packing early.
Downsize and start packing early.
The last thing you want is to find yourself paying more to move things you don’t want or need. Before you break out the moving boxes, sort through your belongings and determine what goes with you, and what goes away. Those rarely used items you decide to keep should be packed early so you can get a good estimate of how much will be loaded into a moving truck. “The stuff that’s been sitting in your closet for the last five or six months – donate it if you can, or pack it if you really need to keep it,” Gonzalez says.Donate what you don't need.
Donate what you don't need.
Whether it’s a couple bags of clothes the kids don’t wear anymore or a fully stocked pantry of canned goods, minimize the amount of things you take with you – and what you take to the landfill. “A lot of people that are moving have food items in their pantry that maybe they don’t really need anymore,” Michael says, noting moving companies often have contact information for local food banks and may even deliver the donation for you.Transfer your utilities.
Transfer your utilities.
The last thing you want is to arrive at your new home and realize you forgot to turn on the water, heat or electricity – or you didn't turn them off at your old place. Be sure to call in advance and set the start date for your utilities at least a day prior to your move day to ensure everything is on when you arrive. Gonzalez stresses that any utility installation such as cable or internet shouldn't happen on moving day.Change your mailing address.
Change your mailing address.
The U.S. Postal Service makes it easy to change your mailing address online – just go to moversguide.usps.com. You can set up the change of address as far in advance as you'd like so mail will begin forwarding to your new home the day of your move. You should also notify your bank, doctor's office, employer and friends and family of your new address, but you have extra time to do so once you’ve established the change with the post office.Get a permit or reserve space for a moving truck.
Get a permit or reserve space for a moving truck.
If your moving truck will occupy space on a city street with street parking, you’ll likely need to apply for a permit or request “no parking” signs to reserve space on your move day. In Chicago, for example, each ward offers free “no parking” signs for people moving, which must be posted 48 hours in advance. If your moving truck is 16 feet or longer, the Chicago Department of Transportation requires you to apply for a permit. Similar policies exist in other cities for permitting and obtaining signs to clear space. A moving company will often handle the permitting process for its own vehicles, but you should clarify that responsibility when scheduling the move.Take out the trash.
Take out the trash.
Never leave garbage in the home you’re vacating, and if you rented the place, the cost to clean or remove trash will be deducted from your security deposit. To save yourself some cash, pick up garbage in every room as you move items out. Once the home is empty, go back through with cleaning spray and a vacuum or broom. Checking each room will help you catch any small items you may have missed.Schedule with room for delays.
Schedule with room for delays.
There may be a snow storm, a foreign dignitary in town or a car accident that puts the highway at a standstill. Expect the unexpected, and give your itinerary some cushion for such events. Gonzalez says one of the most common mistakes people make is scheduling too much on a moving day. “Give some ample time,” she says. “When you’ve scheduled a move at 8 a.m., don’t schedule a flight for 1 p.m.”Read More
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.