The last step helped you to define what you want from your new life – now we take action to meet those goals. This is where you start using online resources, so if you don’t have a good internet connection at home, go somewhere that does, because this stage is spent visiting sites that are image heavy. If you have access to a printer, fantastic; if not, take a pencil and paper, and your trusty map from the previous step.
- Review neighborhood information.
- Do an internet search for real estate sites in listed areas.
- Use house for sale links to find school and neighborhood data.
- Review type and cost of housing available.
- Make notes of school district information, local government websites, and location of amenities.
- Compile questions for HR / real estate professional / relocation company / school etc.
Type in your new location and housing keywords to Google or Yahoo and you’ll have more options than you will ever need. Start with the online real estate websites, and check for houses for sale in the areas that you liked. We’re not suggesting you buy one, but most good real estate websites allow you to look at the school data, local amenities, crime rates, demographics etc of the chosen neighborhood. It’s my preferred shortcut to getting the data on different areas, and gives you an idea of what to ask your realtor, property agent or destination service provider. It also tells what type of housing is available, and the price range: – important if you are staying long-term, and are putting your children into the local school system, as you need to be able to afford somewhere to live in the catchment area.
While you are online, check out the rental prices in the areas that you are looking at too – it’s a lot less painful to find out that the loft apartment overlooking Central Park / Buckingham Palace / The Arc de Triumph is out of your price range before you are standing in it, lovingly stroking the Egyptian cotton sheets. And bearing in mind most of the property agents are on commission, believe me, your budget is the last thing on their mind..
Now, here’s where I get bossy. Once you arrive in your new area, the good real estate agents will take you on tours of the local areas, and will show you services, amenities and points of interest that they think will meet your needs. Wonderful. But this stage is about being well prepared. As we have mentioned before, knowledge is power. Be clear about your own needs and what might be available locally to meet them, so that you can ask relevant and pointed questions. For example: “Yes, that sports club does have wonderful facilities, but does it have a membership fee and a two-year waiting list?”; “Yes, that is the school for the local area, but does it have space for my children?”; “Yes, that’s a wonderful view, but could my neighbor put on an addition that would block it?”. The Real Estate websites are an excellent centralized source of neighborhood information, but verify the accuracy by using a variety of resources. Someone else saying that the area is perfect is not a good enough reason to move there. It doesn’t matter how well-intentioned the recommendations are, it has to be perfect for you and your family, not anyone else.
Once you’ve done the legwork sitting comfortably in your own home, set some dates for house hunting, and contact those local agents in advance. This gives them time to scout around for any properties that might be upcoming, or tenancies that are about to end. Make sure the agents that you deal with specialize in the area that you are looking at – you will probably have to spend time with more than one agent. If you find one you like, ask for referrals; it cuts down the time (and energy) spent dealing with tricky ones. And don’t neglect private landlords – you often find that you get a better deal for the money, so it’s worth checking out Craigslist, Gumtree, or the local papers and message boards. It’s also a good time to mention to your new work colleagues that you will be needing accommodation – while it’s never a good idea to mix business and personal life, providing you have a legal contract drawn up that make clear the rights and responsibilities of both parties, it can often be a great way to reach a home that you otherwise might not have found.
And as a final pearl of wisdom, while you are in contact with the local agents, ask them for recommendations for a place to stay for your fact-finding visit and/or the first weeks in your new neighborhood. (You may as well get used to having to ask anyone anything – you’ll be doing a lot of it for the next six months as you get established.) They often can get you a better deal than you would otherwise have found, and let’s face it, if you can’t trust their hotel recommendation, do you really think they are going to find you your dream home?