Hidden Costs of Relocating: What to Know Before You Move

'Couple moving house, loading or unloading couch in moving van'
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When Carrie Steele Madren and her husband bought their first home two years ago in the Washington, D.C., area, the writer was surprised by how the many unexpected fees quickly added up. "We had to pay random fees for things like a title transfer, filing official documents, settlement fees, required inspections and a land survey. We even had to pay a $200 fee just to get the homeowner association documents to the previous owners," she said. "I felt like we were getting nickled and dimed at every turn."

Costs such as the ones Madren and her husband paid may be a standard part of buying a home, but they can still catch first-time homeowners off-guard. Even for renters, a move is more than comparing the costs of living between two locations and how far much accommodations will cost in a new place. A deposit on a new apartment, a driver's license, car registration and license plates and fees to turn on new utilities are just some of the extra costs that can derail a moving budget.

The Costs of the Search

"It's one thing if you can go to your intended town for three days and find your new home, but that rarely happens," said Chapel Hill, North Carolina, real estate broker Michele Burris. "Most people make repeated trips, which turns into more airfare, more hotel stays, more gas for the car." Burris said that most of her clients make, on average, two or three trips to visit their new town before finding the perfect home, but recently some have had to make up to seven. Burris recently sold a home via a video tour to clients who, after months of searching, simply couldn't afford another trip. "I can't tell you how relieved I was when they arrived and loved it."

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Louisville, Kentucky, broker Tre Pryor says that the time between finding the perfect apartment or house and being able to move in can also be expensive. "When you're a family with kids and pets and trying to make a move work, you might have to board your pet for a few weeks, or send your kids to Grandma and Grandpa's house for two weeks. You might want to send some money along with them so your parents don't have to foot the bill. That can be something you hadn't counted on."

Those moving to be closer to a new job before they've sold their current home might also have to rent a new place first or be forced to sell their home quickly, for less than they might have hoped.

The Costs of Re-establishing a Home

"There are always more expenses when you move that you don't expect," said Burris. "Something as simple as restocking your pantry with all your spices and ingredients, or buying new cleaning supplies because you didn't ship your old ones, can cost several hundred dollars."

"Some people don't realize how much renovations and upgrades will cost and don't factor that in (to the moving budget)," Pryor said. "Maybe you'll want a security system, or a backyard fence for your pet, or find your old house had additional storage and now you need to build shelves."

The Emergency Moving Fund

Pryor recommends drawing funds for unexpected expenses from a regular savings account, and replenishing it as quickly as possible, while Burris recommends having a moving slush budget, not only for the practicalities, but to make the transition seem less daunting.

"During the process of moving, the sense of normalcy of your day-to-day routine gets really disrupted. Being able to do something as simple as go to the grocery store and cook a dinner gets harder," she said. "If people can plan ahead a little, and know that the move is going to be stressful, and meals are going to be difficult, setting aside a little extra money to splurge on a pizza or dinner out at a restaurant can make things much easier."

Originally published