Editor's Note: Gary Malin (pictured at left) is the president of Citi Habitats, one of New York City's largest and most successful residential real estate brokerages. He is also a licensed attorney and a member of the Real Estate Board of New York.
While the purchase of a new home is a dream come true for many, the actual process of finding and then moving into a new residence can be a time-consuming and aggravating process. Such a big life change is inherently stressful, but there are several strategies you can use to ease the pain throughout every stage of the process. The key is to think ahead. Proper planning is your blood pressure's best friend when it comes time for moving day.
1. Do your homework.
The first -- and, perhaps, the most important -- step you can take to ensure a stress-free move is also the simplest one: be prepared. When it comes to the process of searching for a new home, whether it's across town or across the world, you need to do your due diligence and become educated on the local market. Every market operates differently.
I work in New York City, and I cannot tell you how many times clients arrive here woefully unprepared for the realities of this marketplace. Our market is much more competitive (and expensive) than many other places in the country. I think people realize that on the most basic level, but the extent of the differences may surprise many.
For example, the average one-bedroom Manhattan apartment rents for $2,816 per month, while the average price of a one-bedroom condominium is $834,000. That's vastly higher than the nationwide average. In addition, in the city's rental market, apartments can be taken in a matter of hours. It's important to face the brutal facts. The truth is, if you are moving to Manhattan, you need to have a relatively robust budget -- or be willing to compromise. You also need to be willing and able to act fast.
Other local markets have their own quirks. In southwestern cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas, the housing market was greatly impacted by the recession, resulting in an abundance of foreclosures and short sales. While at first glance, this may seem like an "easy" place to buy a home, the reality is that many of these properties are being snatched up by investors who pay all cash for the properties. This influx of "fast cash" has made the market surprisingly competitive for the average buyer, who is dependent on bank financing.
2. Know your neighborhoods.
It is always a smart decision to do some research on particular neighborhoods in your area of interest. Often, the most reliable information can come from a friend (or a friend-of-a-friend) who lives in that particular community, but if that is not possible, there is a wealth of information online. If you are relocating to a new city and know where you will be working, use mapping websites to investigate locations that are convenient to your workplace via highway or mass transit. These sites are great because they capture a true-to-life picture of reality, warts and all.
Ask yourself, what can I afford and what are my "need to haves" versus my "want to haves." Remember: No matter where you move, real estate is a game of trade-offs, and what you get for your money can vary tremendously over the space of a few miles. Are you will willing to bear a longer commute for a larger home? How important is the local school district or access to shops and amenities?
3. It's all in the execution.
Now, we're on to the move itself. The first step is to take inventory of your possessions. Move only what you use regularly or love dearly. Now is the perfect time to say goodbye to items that you have outgrown, that have gone out of style or that you just don't use anymore. Evaluate what furniture will be a fit for your new place and what you can sell or donate. Cutting back on hauling unnecessary items goes a very long way in de-stressing a move. There is simply less to worry about -- literally.
The next step is to make a timeline or checklist of all the tasks that need to occur before moving day. Boxes need to be packed and unused items discarded. In addition, the postal service has to be contacted, appointments need to be made to install cable and Internet service, and utility companies need to be notified of your move.
Overwhelmed? A professional moving company can take a lot of the work out of a move -- especially one that is complex. I am a big proponent of the value of "word-of-mouth" referrals. My advice for using movers is to get a recommendation from a friend. If that is not possible, call or log on to your local Better Business Bureau and get estimates from three highly rated companies on the list. Moving is a daunting task by any measure, and sometimes its best to leave the "heavy lifting" to the professionals. Some companies will even pack and unpack your belongings for you -- but remember that such pampering comes at a price.
Although proper preparation can minimize the stress of a move, just take it all in stride. This too shall pass, and in the meantime, expect the unexpected. Remember, this is an exciting and memorable time in your life. Just because there will always be some bumps along the road doesn't mean you can't enjoy the ride.
Click on the images below to see listings from Citi Habitats.
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