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 Assessing Relocation & Moving Back to WNY

By Joe Stein

As the holiday season approaches, many former WNY natives will be coming home to visit family and friends.  When this happens, some begin to wonder if it’s time to move back to WNY.  There is no reason to believe that 2012 will be any different in this regard.

When beginning the process of searching to come back to the area, a Job Seeker must not only think about how to go about finding a job, but also about the physical move to the area.  There are many items that a person must review and assess when contemplating a move back.

Relocation can be a very expensive proposition, so it is very important (prior to your job search) that you determine approximately just how costly it will be for you.  This will allow you to determine whether this is something that you will be able to financially absorb yourself, or if you will need an employer to provide relocation benefits.  In WNY, the number of employers who provide relocation assistance is probably lower than in other cities, but it can be available.  This is especially true if you have a skill in a particular needed area, or with larger companies.

If applicable, I recommend that a full family discussion should be held prior to conducting your job search.  Make sure you know exactly where your family stands on relocating back to WNY.  If everyone is completely on-board, then you have one less item to worry about. If not, then you will have to decide whether to move forward with your search.  If your spouse/significant other is employed, then factor into the assessment the marketability of him/her in WNY and whether this will be a favorable or unfavorable variable.

There are several areas that you should focus on when assessing your relocation needs:

• Living Space – If you are a renter you certainly have greater mobility than as a homeowner.  A homeowner will need to factor in any realtor and closing/buying costs associated with your house.  You are going to want to be able to sell your house quickly so a good understanding of the current housing market is a key to avoid overpricing your home.  This will also allow you to conclude, in this current economic climate, whether you can even afford to sell your home at the market rate.  One real positive is the relatively stable and affordable real estate market in WNY, especially if you are coming from a major metropolitan city.

• Household Goods – The quantity of your household goods will help to determine whether you can move yourself (with friends and family) or a professional service must be hired.  Obviously, securing professional movers will significantly increase the cost of your relocation.  If you are a homeowner and moving back to WNY from more than a couple of hours away, you will probably need to hire movers, including for transporting.  One other aspect to consider is how to move items that typically are not included in basic professional moving (such as cars, boats, collectibles, etc.).  Either due to the value or fragility of these items, special arrangements usually must be made.  If you start a new job in WNY and find yourself between houses or apartments, you will need to find a location to store your possessions.  There are numerous self-storage locations in the area.

• Living Arrangements – Unless your timing is impeccable, you typically have a time period where you have started your job but your living arrangements are not ready.  This is especially true if you are buying a home in WNY, since closing in New York often takes longer than in other areas.  If you have the ability to stay with family (without causing irreparable harm to the relationship), then this can be a real cost saver.  If not, then you will need to explore other options, such as an extended stay location. 

Whatever financial number you determine during your review, assume this is the absolute minimum needed.  There will always be expenses that were not factored into your assessment.  An example is an area such as food.  You will probably find yourself, during this transition, eating out much more often than you would normally do until you settle into your new house/apartment.

If you are fortunate enough to land with an employer that offers full relocation, then most of these expenses will be covered. In this situation, your focus (instead) will probably be in understanding the tax ramifications, as much of this benefit will be considered taxable income.  Some companies will “gross up” these benefits to cover the tax impact.

In the situation where an employer, by policy, does not offer relocation assistance, you are faced with a few negotiation options.  You can ask them to just cover moving household goods. If (by policy) that is not possible, then you can request a sign-on bonus to help with the cost.  If either of those don’t work, you can just cover it all yourself.

If you are covering the expenses of moving yourself, then familiarize yourself with what aspects are tax deductible (household goods moving) and what is not (house hunting trips).   If you do relocate, it might be wise to have your taxes professionally done that year.

Moving back to WNY can be an exciting time for most people, as it is hard to remove the area from your heart and mind.  Doing the proper legwork and analysis regarding your relocation can determine if a move is feasible along with serving to ease your mind, allowing you to focus on finding that great new job.

As always, best of luck in your job search!