The Hidden Costs of Relocation
By Colin Ryan
In a previous post, The Age of the Apartment, I discussed the idea that people are more willing than ever to relocate in search of the right experience. Of course, for potential renters, the question remains: where to? (For the real estate agents ready to serve those renters, the question might be, why here?) Because we’re becoming less bound by mile markers, this can be difficult to answer. In the end, however, just about everything relates back to one crucial factor: cost.
Obviously, the first variable to consider is rent: What will you be paying, and what will you get in return? In several cities in the Northeast: A lot, and not much. In Savannah, GA: the opposite. Related to the issue of rent are the smaller expenses that pile up. How much does a sandwich cost at the corner store? A movie ticket at the nearest theater? A drink in a middling bar? Finally, let’s not forget car and health insurance. Looking to move to Massachusetts? Great. Just don’t stay too long: the Bay State has the highest family health insurance premiums in the country.
Next up: taxes. Like basic cost of living, it’s important to consider this issue on a macro and micro level. That is, knowing what to expect in terms of property taxes is of course crucial; but don’t forget that we carry our habits with us wherever we go, and they cost more in some places than in others. Are you a smoker? If so, you probably know to avoid New York City. But did you know that in Rhode Island you’ll be coughing up $3.46 per pack in taxes? Do you love Seattle enough to eat the $3.025 in Washington state taxes? Don’t forget sales tax, either–unless you’re considering a move to Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, or Oregon, that is.
Finally, there’s the issue of geography. We tend to think about this variable mostly in terms of wants: hobbies, interests, and personal preferences. (Need topography? Perhaps Omaha isn’t in the cards. Need to be near a large body of water? Again, cross off Omaha. Need that body of water to have surf? So long, Chicago. And Omaha. Again.) Tied to geographical features is the issue of climate. (I myself am a fan of seasons: they’re a conversation starter. In Boston, that conversation consists mostly of whining.) But underlying both of these are hidden costs. If you’re moving from San Diego to Denver, for instance, you’ll probably need to shell out for a wardrobe of cold weather clothing, not to mention a car that can handle snow and mountainous terrain. As far as transportation goes, infrastructure and its attendant costs vary widely from city to city and state to state. Is there public transportation? How much does it cost? How far is your commute? What kind of driving does it require?
I’m not suggesting that you should feel boxed in or paralyzed by these considerations. Relocating is all about pursuing a dream, finding the ideal place at the right price, in that order. Nevertheless, knowing what costs to expect can give you a chance to adequately prepare for the challenges ahead so that you can take full advantage of the exciting opportunities that await, and enjoy the experience of coming home for the first time. (And if you’re having trouble making up your mind, you can always simply follow the crowd.)
Published on July 9, 2010