Relocating can bring on a host of challenges. From the mental load to the physical exhaustion, it’s important to get clear on what is most vital to you and your family during this time of transition. Below are 10 questions to ask yourself when relocating.
1. When you get to the end of your PCS cycle, what are the top priorities you want to achieve for your family?
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “Begin with the end in mind.” This is a great mindset to implement during a military move. Is it having a peaceful place to retreat after work? Having everyone settled in at a new school? Do you hope to avoid overspending on non-essentials and banking your dislocation allowance (DLA)? Spend some time envisioning how you want to feel once you have your boxes unpacked. Involve the whole family in this process and articulate what steps you’ll need to put in place to reach these milestones.
2. What will it take to achieve those priorities?
Using the above example, if your goal is to bank your DLA, what are the practical details you will implement? Will you sell off unused or unwanted items before you move to your new location to gather up cash? Do you plan to stay with friends or family en route to the new duty station or eat on the cheap to avoid initial out-of-pocket expenses?
3. What unique family circumstances will impact your budget?
Speaking of finances, one important question to ask yourself when relocating, is what kinds of circumstances may impact your general family budget? Will both partners work and earn full-time income? Will there be tuition costs for school-age children? Will you need to buy or replace a vehicle during your time there? Taking the time to acknowledge these big financial impacts will help you better determine what price range you should be looking at for housing.
4. Once you have an idea of your budget, what is the current cost of living like in your new city?
Another very, very important consideration is the cost of living in your new city. NerdWallet offers a great tool for calculating the cost of living in cities across the nation. You can compare your current city against the new location and factor in your pre-tax income. For example, moving from Colorado Springs, CO to Huntsville, AL on a $50,000 income computes that your cost of living expenses will decrease by 10%. There are tabs for housing, transportation, food, entertainment, and healthcare cost comparisons as well.
5. How will your personal budget and local cost of living impact your housing options?
Now that you have an understanding of your own personal budget constraints and the cost of living in the place where you are relocating, it’s time to dig deeper into the true costs of housing options. A licensed real estate professional is your best resource for understanding current market trends in both the rental and purchase markets.
6. What are the non-negotiables for your housing needs?
As conversations continue with your real estate agent, now is the time to begin truly categorizing your must-haves for your housing needs. What tops the list? Commute times? Number of bedrooms, a fenced yard for your pets, or ease of resale? In the current housing market where demand is high and supply is generally low, you may need to be willing to be flexible on your needs vs. wants.
7. What factors will allow you to achieve work-life balance?
In addition to the list of tangible non-negotiables for your next home, be sure to ask yourself about those non-tangible, but still vital factors that will contribute to your overall work-life balance? The answers to this question could be financially focused or time and energy focused. For example, would buying an older home in need of renovations and repairs drain you financially or physically to do the work?
8. What are important aspects of your relocation to consider that may help you to establish a good pattern of life?
With a healthy work-life balance also comes the question of how this relocation will impact your life patterns? In relation to your home, where will you spend your free time and make social connections? From places of worship, fitness centers, and good restaurants to the nearest Target or grocery store, accessibility for the pattern of life you create matters.
9. How will you meet your recreation, safety, and health needs?
Moreover, will you have access to parks and outdoor spaces nearby? Does the neighborhood evoke a feeling of security and safety? What are the crime rates? Are you close to a hospital or your primary care providers? As much as it feels like a downer to think about these aspects of relocating, the reality is that each of these concerns are just part of life and should be given due consideration.
10. What kind of contribution will you make to your new community?
Finally, after working through these questions on what kind of impact your relocation will have on you, it can be a nice change of mindset to also think about how you can impact your new location and community. When you include feelings of purpose and pride in what you can offer to your new area, it just might make the transition a little easier on your heart and mind. Moving frequently can be difficult. The collective toll it takes can be a lot to bear. A new house, in a new city, serving at a new duty station is truly just a new opportunity to keep contributing and keep growing! Here’s to making the most of it!