February 22, 2011

Moving For work – Figuring Out The Housing

Relocating for one’s work is a great American tradition. But engineering a relocation is no simple matter. Ignoring for a moment the obvious question – should you relocate for a job?

– you still have to figure out how and when to make this happen. After all, there’s more involved than simply packing the car.

For one thing, there’s the sticky issue of housing. One of the unspoken outcomes of our great housing disaster has been the loss of mobility for thousands of families – coupled with the forced mobility of thousands more. It seems like half the people who want to move can’t do it, due to being “under water” on their mortgages. When you owe more money than your home is worth, you’re almost forced into sitting still. Then there are those who could sell their houses, if they could only find buyers. And finally, there are the families who want nothing more than to stay put, but who must move due to a foreclosure.

What a mess. But suppose you do manage to relocate for work – should you rent or buy once you get there?

The answer used to be obvious. Everyone from executives to warehouse workers knew that you should rent for a while, look for the neighborhood you like best, then settle down with a home mortgage. But these days, the better answer might be to stick with the rental, for reasons relating to both the housing market and the job market. That’s because now you have more to worry about than just the price of real estate – you also have to worry that you’ll lose your job.

Ironically, for some families, the solution to problems on both ends of the relocation might come down to the same thing: Not letting go of the first home when making the move. Not everyone wants to be a long-distance landlord, but the idea has appeal when it means not having to find a buyer for the first home, while also having a safe place to return if the relocation fails.

My conclusion? Things are very complicated for relocators right now, and are likely to stay that way for some time to come. It will be interesting to see if employers step up to the plate to offer richer relocation packages, or back away from national searches altogether and look harder in their own backyards for talent.

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