What to do before moving to another state
If you're considering a move to a new state, find out how much it costs to live there. Seeing how your current state stacks up against your new state will help you determine what kind of salary you need in the new location to maintain your current lifestyle, as well as transportation and housing costs, employment outlook, industry salary averages and more.
Examine the employment outlook
People commonly move for work, whether for a job transfer or better opportunities in the job market. While employers in big cities typically offer higher compensation, there are other considerations, such as cost of living, so it's essential to weigh all of your workplace options.
- Job transfers: Ask about the possibility of transferring within your company. The benefit of relocating is that you can likely maintain your current tenure, benefits and salary with your current employer while experiencing the adventure of a new hometown.
- Remote work: Some companies are starting to employ remote workers because they don’t have to pay as much overhead for office space and equipment. It also may be possible to work remotely for your current company and it is worth asking your boss about it. If your employer isn’t up for it, check out remote job boards like Pangian.com, which has more than 80,000 members.
- Find a job before moving: If you know you're moving, start applying for opportunities in your desired location. Instead of listing your current location on your resume, let potential employers know you're looking for a job in your new area. Making it clear that you're moving will flag applicant tracking software (ATS), so your resume doesn't get automatically rejected for not listing the city where the job is based.
- Look for employment after moving: If you have a financial cushion, you might not have to deal with the stress of moving across the country and looking for a job at the same time. Once you’ve moved, it will be easier to coordinate interviews with prospective employers and you will be able to list that location on your resume and LinkedIn profile.
The downside is that you might have a longer gap in employment if you quit your previous job and move before you secure a new position. The typical job search is about three months but can be six months or longer for executives at the vice president level and above.
The estimated cost of moving to a new state (from Dallas to Chicago)
|Moving Expense||Estimated Cost|
|Storage Container (includes moving pads and 1 month of rental)||$1,750 plus delivery fee ($79-467 depending on delivery method)|
Budget and save for your move
The average cost of a cross-country move is $3,500, which is based on an average weight of 7,000 pounds (seven rooms) and a traveling distance of 1,000 miles. The cost varies depending on factors like the size of a household and the traveling distance.
When saving for any large purchase, it's a good idea to start with a budget and a timetable. So, if you're planning a move in six months and anticipating moving costs of around $3,500, you should expect to save about $600 per month. You can save money by using a storage container or renting a moving truck and driving it yourself.
Adults with families and larger households likely will have more expensive moves and less disposable time and income to DIY a move. In contrast, singles and married couples without kids may have less stuff to move and more time to rent a moving truck and handle the logistics themselves.
Don’t forget to plan for additional costs like:
- Moving boxes and packing materials.
- Short-term housing or hotels during and after the move.
- Travel costs for driving or flying across the country such as food and gas.
Prepare to leave your current home
You're excited to move to your new state and put down some roots there, but first of all, you've got to plan for and execute your departure from the state where you currently reside. The steps you'll take to prepare for your departure will depend on whether you currently rent a home or own your home.
If you’re a renter, you’ll need to evaluate your current lease, which includes the following considerations:
- If it's a month-to-month lease, read the terms of your contract to see how much notice you need to give your landlord that you're moving out.
- If you have a yearlong lease and it's not expiring anytime soon, you may be expected to keep paying rent until the lease expires.
- If your landlord can rent to new tenants before your lease is up, you may be released from the lease.
- If you're living in a city that has a high demand for housing, you may be able to negotiate a way out of your lease because your landlord likely could get a higher monthly rent than you're currently paying
- If that doesn't work, offer to help find new tenants for the space and settle on agreeable terms that could result in you paying a remainder of the lease term, but not the entire thing.
- As a special consideration, some states allow early lease termination for tenants who are victims of domestic violence.
- Check your lease for rules about cleaning and repairing any damage to the unit. Build time into your moving schedule to ensure the place is in good shape before you hand it back over to your landlord.
The laws vary from state to state, so research the rights in your current state by going to the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) website. Typically, you’ll need to give 30 days’ notice to move out in writing to your landlord.
If you’re a homeowner, you have a couple of options.
- If you’re moving temporarily or have family and friends in town whom you could depend on to manage the property, consider renting out the house.
- The pro? It’s cheaper to have your dad check on your tenants and make repairs now and then.
- The con? It will be much more work on your end to be managing a property from afar.
- Another option is to hire a property management company, which will handle any maintenance needs, tenant vetting and logistics — and will interface with renters and owners. Property managers typically charge 8% to 12% of the rent or a flat monthly fee. Research local property managers in your area to find one with which you're comfortable.
- If you need the equity in your house to purchase a new home, you’ll need to sell your house. This option has the longest timetable attached to it.
- You’ll have to secure a real estate agent, prepare your house for listing, put it on the market and then wait for it to sell.
- It could take weeks or months to sell your house, depending on the state of the housing market of the city you’re moving away from and how aggressively you price the house.
- Typically, a house spends one to two months on the market before the owners accept an offer.
- A real estate agent will help you navigate all of these areas appropriately and will provide guidance on the entire process. A good way to find an agent is to ask the mortgage lender you used when you bought your home or to source referrals from trusted family members and friends.
Examine housing options in the new state
If you’re moving from a more expensive place to a more affordable one, you can use the sale proceeds — deducted from what you owed on the last house — as a down payment for a new place and for any necessary repairs or updates.
If, however, you're moving to a more expensive area — the San Francisco Bay Area, for example — immediately purchasing a home may not be possible. The median sale price for existing single-family homes in the city of San Francisco was $1.46 million in January 2020, according to the California Association of Realtors. In pricey cities such as San Francisco, renting may be a better bet.
Find out how to protect yourself as a renter, and make a wish list of your non-negotiables in a new place. Narrow down the various neighborhoods in which you're most interested and consider details such as:
- Neighborhood safety: Research neighborhood crime statistics including break-ins and robberies, how many registered sex offenders there are in the vicinity and whether there’s a neighborhood watch system in place.
- Transportation: Make sure you’ll have access to the transportation you’ll need to use, whether it be access to public transportation, parking availability or both.
- Schools: The U.S. Department of Education offers information on schools and school districts in a city.
If you decide to buy a home in your new state, calculate what you can afford. If you’ve always been a renter and are curious about buying a house, consider whether you have a nest egg for emergency repairs, the state of your credit and current employment and whether you plan to stay put for a while.
Deciding whether to buy a house, sight unseen, before your move, is tricky. Highly edited real-estate photos can be deceiving, and you can’t determine whether a house has nuances like an odd smell or a crumbling house next door.
Waiting to purchase until after you move means storing your belongings while you house hunt. For couples, one partner can move to the new location and take home tours while the other partner wraps up details from the old location.
Single-family homes aren’t the only option, either. Purchasing a condo or townhouse is a great option for smaller families or for people who aren’t into gardening or landscaping — aka pulling weeds, mowing the lawn and trimming rose bushes every weekend during the summer.
Learn about taxes in your new state
According to Intuit, the top 10 highest-income-tax states (including the District of Columbia) in 2019 were:
- California: 13.3%
- Hawaii: 11%
- Oregon: 9.9%
- Minnesota: 9.85%
- Iowa: 8.98%
- New Jersey: 8.97%
- Vermont: 8.95%
- District of Columbia: 8.95%
- New York: 8.82%
- Wisconsin: 7.65%
Seven states have no personal income tax. You’ll still be on the hook for your federal taxes but won’t pay additional income tax in:
- South Dakota
Your checklist during a move to a new state
They say the devil is in the details, and while missing a detail or two won’t ruin your move, paying attention to most of the big tasks ahead of time can make things easier for you once you’re trying to settle into a new state.
Declutter and downsize
When you move, the cost will be calculated based on the weight of your belongings, so the more you get rid of, the less it will cost you to move. Consider giving away heirlooms and antiques to family members, and sell items that aren’t worth the cost of moving them.If you’re doing your own packing, start by tackling small tasks at a time.
Ask brick-and-mortar retailers — like liquor stores and grocery stores — for the cardboard boxes they discard or recycle. Check out websites like Facebook Marketplace to see if anyone in your area is selling moving boxes. Post call-outs to your social media accounts asking if people have storage boxes they’re no longer using.
Sometimes, U-Haul stores will have used boxes at the front of the store that have been donated by movers and are free on a first-come, first-served basis.
Home improvement retailers sell moving box kits starting at 10 boxes and going up to 97 boxes for $52 to $470. Start by packing the nonessentials: books, family heirlooms and china, rarely-used kitchen equipment and items currently stored in the garage.
Tie up loose ends
You’ll need to let certain entities and establishments know you’re moving out of state, including:
- Children’s schools
- U.S. Post Office
- Credit card companies
- House and auto insurance companies
- Government agencies
You’ll also need to cancel newspaper services or set up forwarding, alert neighbors, close and empty out any bank safety deposit boxes and give notice to any household contractors such as gardeners or house cleaners.
Collect documentation and paperwork
Make sure to secure essential paperwork and documents separately from moving boxes, etc. These items should be kept securely but easily accessible in a file folder. Upload important documents to a secure cloud drive, such as Google Drive or Dropbox.
Essential papers and documents include:
- Social Security cards
- Birth certificates
- Car titles
- Property deeds
- Children’s school transcripts
- Marriage license/divorce decree
- Medical and shot records
- Pet medical records
Decide if you need to hire a moving company
Hiring professional movers is mostly a budgetary and logistical consideration. If you have the time to move yourself, that’s the cheapest way to do it — rent a truck, have a moving party with friends and call it a day. If you have more money than time, hiring movers likely is the best option.
Hiring movers vs. renting a truck
Good movers will individually wrap each piece of furniture in furniture pads, and bad movers will drop half of your sleigh bed on the truck. The quality of your moving company can make or break your relocation experience.
If you’re thinking of hiring a moving company:
- Ask for recommendations from friends and family about which movers they’ve used successfully
- Check Yelp and Google for reviews.
- Get in-home estimates for three or four moving companies so you can make an informed choice.
- Compare the moving company bids and details. If one estimate is higher than the other, it may be for an important reason, such as using more movers to make the move faster or better wrapping equipment.
- Make sure the company is insured.
If you choose to handle the move yourself:
- Call a truck rental company such as U-Haul or Budget Truck Rental and compare the rates and restrictions. Find out if they charge for mileage and figure out how much that could cost you.
- See if the companies have availability around the time you’re looking to move.
- Another option is to rent a storage container from U-Haul or PODS. Someone will do the driving for you, but you’ll still have to pack and unpack your container.
- Compare the cost of all the options and remember to take into account the time you’ll need to spend on each option and if your time is worth it.
If you want to travel light:
Consider selling your furniture, shipping what few boxes you have, buying a plane ticket and flying to your new home destination
If you're willing to part with your possessions, sell them and drive across the country with whatever you can fit in your car. You'll pay for gas, hotels and food, but you'd end up with those expenses even if you moved your belongings with you.
|Hiring Movers||1. It’s easier; 2. Your items are less likely to get damaged; 3. Movers will load, transport and move your items into the new house; 4. Movers have insurance, so if they damage your items, you have recourse.||1. It’s more expensive; 2. You’ll have to coordinate dates with the moving company; 3. The company might not have availability when you need it.|
|DIY Truck Rental||1. It’s cheaper; 2. It’s a great option for people who don’t have much stuff or who have plenty of time to move; 3. You can tow a car behind the truck.||1. You have to pack it, drive it and unload the contents yourself; 2. You will have to solicit help for packing and unpacking the truck; 3. There’s no safety net if you damage your items.|
Ultimately, whether you hire movers or handle everything yourself depends on the size of your budget and any time constraints you may have.
Financial steps to take after your move
Once you and your belongings have safely arrived in your new home state, it’s time to start unpacking and getting into the flow of life in your new surroundings. Your checklist for settling in should include the following:
Shop for new services
The first thing to do is contact any entities you’re still doing business with or expect final bills from and let them know your new contact info.
As soon as possible, you’ll want to secure service for your new place from the following providers:
- Utilities such as power, water, sewer and trash
- Cable, internet and phone service
- Local newspaper, either hard copy or online version
Update your driver’s license and vehicle registration
Make an appointment to secure a new driver’s license and to register your vehicle at your new Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. You’ll likely have to surrender your old driver’s license and possibly your old license plates as well. The good thing about this tedious trip to the DMV is that it’ll give you a chance to update your voter registration as well, so make sure you do that.
Update your car insurance
Your car insurance rates are based on several factors, including where you live. An address change to another state will most likely result in new insurance premiums for your auto insurance, though they could go up or down depending on where you're making your new home. For example, car insurance rates in Michigan are about three times more expensive than those in Maine. You may have to find a different auto insurance provider altogether, if you find the rates to be too high or if your old insurance company doesn't do business in your new state. It's a good idea to get some quotes for car insurance in your new state.
Find medical providers
Crowdsource colleagues at your or your partner's new company or ask trusted friends for primary care doctor recommendations, and find out if they're in your healthcare network. If co-employees are recommending them, they are most likely on your insurance plan. To be sure, you'll need to call the doctor's office and make an appointment to establish yourself as a new patient. As part of your initial intake, they'll ask for insurance information and can usually tell your right away if they accept your insurance and are taking new patients.
Bring any hand-carried medical records to your new provider's office and inform them of your former doctor's contact information so they can transfer your files as necessary
Make connections in your new community
Once you’re settled into your new home after moving out of state, it’s time to start exploring your new community. Here are seven ideas to get you started:
- Social media groups: Check out local groups on social media sites based on your interests — mom groups, gardeners, foodies, etc. — and join the conversation. Ask people about their recommendations for schools or daycares, great restaurants, when to plant your tomatoes in the spring and all things local.
- Attend networking groups: Industry groups like the American Marketing Association or Public Relations Society of America are great options. Alternatives are Rotary International or your local Lions Club.
- Join your local library: Get a library card and start perusing those book stacks. Libraries have great areas for kids and can save you a ton of money on buying books for the whole family. Libraries are also great meeting places, especially for young families. Fun tip: Build an Amazon wish list with the books you want to buy and then check those books out at the library instead.
- Learn about the neighborhood: Go out for walks. Meet your neighbors and bring them cookies. Neighbors are a great resource for learning about your new home and city. They can also help watch out for your property or accept a package gone astray.
- Get to know the HOA: If you have an HOA, find out about your amenities and the association meetings so you can stay up-to-date with upcoming events and activities.
- Research local policymakers: Find your congressional district and learn the names of your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators. Your local news is an excellent resource for information about the mayor, city council and state representatives.
- Join the PTA: Attend a PTA meeting or volunteer in your child’s classroom to learn more about your child’s school and how to get involved with the parent community.
Special considerations for moving to a new state
Active-duty military members, military veterans, senior citizens, students and people with a criminal record may face additional challenges when moving to a new state. Here are some important considerations:
Moving to a new state for military members
Active-duty military members who live off-post should consider the fluctuating basic allowance for housing (BAH) rate, which is set based on rank. This rate changes based on the cost of living for your location. For example, if you move from Augusta, Georgia to Seattle, Washington, your BAH might go from $900 to $2,000 a month. But the same would happen in reverse so that it would feel like a pay cut. Your monthly BAH will be divided in half and paid out from your paycheck bimonthly.
Moving to a new state for veterans and military members
For active-duty military members transitioning to veteran status, the military will pay for a move to a new state, as long as the service member is honorably discharged. Active military members that are required to relocate are afforded several allowances and assistance as mandated by Congress in the Military Relocation Readiness Program.
While each branch of the military has its own way of aiding active members in relocation, the Army offers the following assistance:
- Financial and stress management
- Counseling for renting, home buying and selling
- Household goods, motor vehicles and pet shipment
- Destination area information
- Moving preparation including cost and availability of housing, child care, spouse employment and community orientation
- Help getting settled in
- Help to find a place to live that is affordable and liveable
Additionally, many organizations that serve veterans also offer relocation help for those who are planning a move to a new state. Veterans Affairs provides some housing and relocation help for those who qualify, and nonprofit organizations that help veterans also offer counseling and assistance. Additionally, don't hesitate to ask any relocation vendors you're researching if they offer discounts for veterans.
Moving to a new state for seniors
Retirees move for several reasons, including a more attractive cost of living, warmer weather or lower taxes. Florida, Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina are the top five states retirees have been moving to based on 2014 Census data. Start to plan and do your research on the cost of living in the state where you’re considering moving.
If you’re planning to move a family member or yourself to an assisted living facility, it’s important to thoroughly research the facilities and laws governing these facilities in your new state well ahead of time.
Moving to a new state for students
First, check with your university to see what kind of relocation resources it offers when you’re moving to a new state. If you’re bringing your car, you will need to find out the laws in your new state to see if you’re required to license your car there. Likewise, there may be requirements as far as getting a driver’s license there as well.
Enlist a friend or acquaintance to drive across the country with you if they’re heading in the same direction. You likely won’t be transporting a ton of stuff, and you can split expenses this way. Channel your inner Jack Kerouac and explore the country — it’s a pretty great way to spend a few days weeks. Once you arrive on campus, make some new friends and learn all about your new hometown.
Moving to a new state with a criminal record
For felons who have completed their probation, relocating to a new state is a possibility, however, for those still serving probation, they may be required to stay in their current state until that obligation has been satisfied.
Research laws about mandatory sex offender registries, firearm restrictions and voting laws in the states to which you're considering relocation. Make sure to check with your probation officer before you consider a move to a new state.
Moving to a new state for a job relocation
Most companies will pay for some relocation charges if the relocation is required or requested by your employer. Hotels, meals, your rental truck and mileage can be negotiated, especially if you’re moving for a new job. Ask your employer if there’s a flat fee for relocation costs. If, say, your company offers $3,000 for moving to a new state, you’d want to weigh the pros and cons of moving yourself versus hiring a moving company. Make sure to save any receipts and invoices from your move, as you’ll need to submit them as expenses to be reimbursed.
Expert advice on moving to a new state
Denise Hallerbach is the broker-owner of Intero Real Estate Services in Reno, Nev. She has 10 years of experience selling real estate and answered a few questions about the logistics of moving out of state.
What are the main things to consider as a homeowner when moving out of state?"
Lifestyle: Ideally, we all want to be as happy as possible wherever we live. Be sure that your personal interests align with what your potential new hometown can offer. Indoor and outdoor activities, sports, restaurants, shopping, festivals, farmers market, arts, and culture should all be considered.
Career Path: If you are still a member of the workforce, you’ll likely need to find a job that helps carry you toward retirement. Does the state you are considering have companies who will hire you?
Affordability: Determine if you can financially qualify to purchase a home in the new location. The first step in the mortgage loan pre-approval process is to consult with a reputable loan officer. If you have an experienced Realtor in your life, he/she can recommend a seasoned loan expert to take you through the pre-approval process. This step is essential prior to shopping for a home and presenting an offer.
Is it easier to sell your old house and then buy a new one, or vice versa?
Unless you qualify for a loan for the replacement house that is "non-contingent" on the sale of your old house, you will need to sell your old house first, or at least get an accepted offer and the deal into escrow. In today’s competitive market, where multiple offers are common, the further along you are in the process of selling your old house, the better. As a general rule, non-contingent offers trump contingent offers.
If you qualify to purchase the new property as a secondary residence, this non-contingent approach should give you a competitive edge when in a multiple-offer scenario. Then after the sale of your old house, the new one becomes your primary residence. There is a risk in this approach, which is the unknown length of time and cost of owning more than one property concurrently.
Are there specific tax considerations when moving out of state?
Yes. It is best to contact a tax professional in the state that you are considering moving to. Tax considerations may include personal income tax, corporate income tax, gross receipts tax, franchise tax, inventory tax, tax on corporate shares, inheritance tax and property taxes.
What's the best way to find a Realtor in your new city of residence?
Consult any Realtors you know and trust in your old area. Realtors know other Realtors, even in other cities and states. We can either refer you to the best candidate or do some research to find that person.
Also, read the reviews and testimonials. Get a good sense of your future Realtor’s strengths and characteristics by diving into their reviews and testimonials on Zillow.com, Realtor.com, Yelp, etc. Visit the Realtor's website to read through the “about me” page, and get to know that person.
Finally, conduct a phone interview, which will give you a good sense of how you will work together through your relocation process. Ask about what services the Realtor offers to make your transition as smooth as possible. Your potential agent may be able to offer you tools and resources that are superior to what you have been using and make your search a lot easier.
What's the basic timetable of moving out of state? How long does it typically take to buy and sell a house?
If you need to sell your home in order to move, the total length of time to complete the relocation process depends greatly on how long it takes to sell your home and how quickly you can find your replacement home and move in.
When selling your old home, several factors play a part in how quickly it sells. Pricing the property at or near market value is one of the most important first steps in the process. Addressing deferred maintenance, cleaning thoroughly (inside and out), staging with the help of your Realtor or a stager, engaging a professional photographer and implementing a solid marketing campaign can all help speed up the selling process.
The length of time from an accepted offer to closing escrow varies depending on the means by which the purchase is made. Cash transactions can close in as few as 14-21 days. Financed offers generally take about 30 days to close. Some government-backed loans such as FHA and VA can take 35-45 days from accepted offer to closing.
10 resources for moving to a new state
50 State DMV Links
The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles website offers links to DMV sites for every state in the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce
Find your local Chamber of Commerce through this national website. Your local Chamber of Commerce can help with networking and small business support.
This site is a one-stop-shop for active-duty service members and military veterans. It offers almost 70 resources, articles and links for help with moving and finding housing.
Find licensed Realtors in your old area to help sell your home and in your new area to help buy a home. They can also put you in touch with leasing agents if you’re thinking of renting instead of buying in your new state.
The Nation’s Report Card
Use this tool to research the public schools in the new area where you will be living. If you have school-aged children, look for neighborhoods with highly rated schools.
U.S. House of Representatives: Find Your Representative
Research your new U.S. representatives by inputting your ZIP code.
U.S. News Best High Schools
U.S. News & World Report ranks all the secondary schools in the U.S.
U.S. Senate: Senators of the 116th Congress
Find your U.S. Senators here; they’re listed by state.
VR&E Does Pay for Moving Expenses
Learn how disabled veterans can get help with relocation.
What Is the Average Time to Sell a House?
This is a great resource for homeowners who are preparing to sell their homes.
There are plenty of considerations to think about and plan for, but ultimately, moving to a new state is a great adventure. You’ll meet different kinds of people, taste regional cuisines, have new experiences, and, most of all, start a new adventure. Your journey awaits.
Laura Longero writes for MoneyGeek. She is an award-winning writer and editor who lives in beautiful Reno, Nevada. She has moved out of state many times and has lived in California, Wisconsin, Colorado, Texas, Kansas and Nevada.
U.S. Census Bureau. “2018 State to State Migration Table.” Accessed February 22, 2020.
U.S. Census Bureau.“Annual Geographic Mobility Rates, By Type of Movement: 1948-2019.” Accessed February 22, 2020.
U.S. Census Bureau. “Three New Census Bureau Products Show Domestic Migration at Regional, State, and County Levels.” Accessed February 22, 2020.
Zillow. “Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2018.” Accessed February 23, 2020.
U.S. Department of Education. “The Nation’s Report Card.” Accessed February 23, 2020.
Intuit Turbotax. “States with the Highest and Lowest Taxes.” Accessed February 23, 2020.