Are you one of life's adventurers? Do you fantasize about living in exotic locations? Do you yearn for the day your boss calls you in, and offers you a transfer to a different office? Do you trawl through job ads, dreaming of living and working in one of America's world-class cities -- or maybe even on a different continent?
Where You Hang Your Hat
The benefits that come with a relocation can be enormous. The boost to your career is often significant, but much of the buzz comes from being somewhere fresh and exciting: new architecture, new culture, new weather, new cuisine, new people, new challenges... You can find all of those in different cities in this country. Go overseas, and the (hopefully pleasurable) shock and stimulation is even greater.
However, relocation is rarely a question of just throwing your stuff in a U-Haul trailer or calling a moving company. Probably most people moving for work, whether they're new hires or transferees, face one or more of these issues:
- Finding work for, and settling in, a wife, husband or partner -- known, charmingly, in the relocation industry as a "trailing spouse."
- Selecting appropriate new schools for kids, followed by enrollment and settling them in.
- Moving a dependent elder relative.
- Selling a home.
- Buying a home.
- Working around higher home prices in the new area.
- Finding somewhere for everyone to live while that selling and buying is going on.
- If they aren't homeowners, paying to break a lease on an existing rented home.
- Funding the cost of pre-move visits.
- Coping with (or enjoying) cost-of-living variations between locations.
Those moving internationally face additional problems, not least frequently higher local taxation levels, at least in Europe. Elevated moving costs are almost inevitable, and language lessons are also often required.
Luckily, most employers recognize many of these issues, and are willing to compensate for them financially, as well as provide practical help. According to the Atlas Corporate Relocation Survey for 2013, the median relocation assistance provided in 2013 was in the $5,000 to $9,999 range, although some employers can be much more generous, and overall packages, especially for overseas moves, can easily hit six figures.
The Atlas survey also found that 63 percent of employers offered full reimbursement of relocation expenses for transferees, and 53 percent for new hires. Others provided lump sums or partial reimbursements, and only 5 percent offered no help at all to transferees. The same number for new hires was 6 percent.
Many employers sometimes offered other incentives:
- Extended temporary housing benefits: 71 percent.
- Relocation bonuses: 48 percent.
- Protection from losses on home sales: 38 percent.
- Cost of living adjustments: 37 percent.
- Extended duplicate housing benefits: 32 percent.
Negotiating a Relocation Package
Relocating can be an expensive process. Of course, some employers refuse to help, and it's then up to you to judge whether the career advantages you stand to gain are worth the blow your bank account is going to take.
But most are willing to play fair. And, whether you're a new hire or a transferee, it's worth investing significant time and effort in negotiating the best package you can get. As in all negotiations, preparation is key -- and, to prepare properly, you need knowledge. So ask!
As soon as a job or transfer offer is on the table, ask about relocation assistance:
- Does the company have a policy, and, if so, can you see it?
- Who is going to approve the package? It could be a line manager, HR executive or even chief officer.
Research, Research, Research
Make some independent inquiries. Ask colleagues informally about what recent movers have received. Speak to one or two transferees, if you can. Do the same if you have friends in the company. Also, use any contacts you have in the employer's competitors to discover industry standards.
Meanwhile, research online the place to which you may be moving. How does the cost of living compare with where you are now? Is public education there so dire you'll need your kids to be educated privately? What are state and local (and national, if you're moving abroad) taxes like? How are home prices and mortgage rates? Many cities have websites that are designed to help those relocating.
Don't forget your existing circumstances: How likely are you to sell your home quickly? Might a bridge loan be available if sales are currently slow?
Do a Deal
Build a compelling case for as much assistance as you need. Even companies with established policies may be swayed by persuasive arguments.
If you've been headhunted or are applying through a professional recruiter, you may be able to outsource much of the research and negotiation to her. But monitor progress carefully. She may have an immediate financial incentive to see a deal reached, but her long-term interests are probably in satisfying the employer. You're not the one writing her checks.
Right now, your employer wants the same as you: to see you relocated happily, and sufficiently free of stress that you can focus on fulfilling the business needs that are driving your transfer or recruitment. By all means use that leverage to get a good deal, but don't be so intransigent that you sour the relationship.
You have to have a realistic grasp of just how valuable you are to the company. One woman recently persuaded her employer to pay to transport her horse across the country, and then provide livery (stabling) for it close to her new home. But how many of us are in such a strong position? Remember: a good negotiation should leave both parties feeling positive.
Call to ARMs
If you are one of life's adventurers, this may be one of many relocation experiences you'll have in your career. And that should affect your personal strategy when it comes to mortgages.
The great thing about fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) is that they provide security and certainty for people who plan to stay in their homes for a decade or decades. But that comes at a price, and there's no point in paying that premium if you're sure you'll be moving on again in anything less than, say, seven years.
A hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) can fix your rate for a set number of years (usually up to ten), before it begins adjusting according to economic indexes. And ARM rates are generally significantly lower than those for FRMs. If you do plan to relocate frequently, check out how much you could save.