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April 20, 2007

Relocation: Timing is Everything

They say that timing is everything. I tend to believe that, for the most part. It certainly is true about a successful relocation. My purpose here is to share some thoughts regarding timing in your relocation. So how does timing make a difference? And why, pray tell, is it so important?

If you are selling your current home and buying one in your new location, timing will be critical. Unless you can afford to handle two mortgages, you will have to sell one home before buying the new one, or do a bridge loan (which can be expensive, but not bad if the time period is short). You can do a simultaneous closing in many cases (especially with the ability to have funds wired), but for most folks, it is best to sell your current home first. The risk of buying your new home first is that you have no control over when your home will sell. If you have a solid offer with a pre-approved buyer, then buying the second home before closing on the first will be less risky. Review your personal and financial situation carefully, so you make the right decision about timing your buying and selling.

Another critical area where timing is important are the dates that are part of your contract (either as the buyer or the seller). Knowing your dates and adhering to them is essential, for failure to do so may put your transaction at risk and your deposit (if you are the buyer), and there could be legal implications. And if, as the seller, you fail to adhere to due dates you give the buyer a potential opportunity to walk away from the deal. I’ve written at length about the importance of knowing the dates and adhering to them from the agent’s perspective, but the issue is the same -- let me point out a few things to keep in the back of your head.

  • The expiration date of the offer to purchase
  • Expiration dates of any counter-offers (if not specified there may be a default per state law)
  • Date of a home inspection -– it may be a specific date or must be completed within a certain period
  • Contingency removal period – some states have a time (that may be negotiated) during which the buyer MUST remove all the offer contingencies (inspections, disclosures, loan); other states that use a Purchase and Sale Agreement (P and S) typically specify a date by which the buyer must move ahead with signing the P and S
  • Loan commitment (if you are financing) -– this varies by state law and the practice in your area, but generally, there is some agreed-upon date by which the buyer must obtain the loan commitment.
  • Closing date -– usually there is agreement on when this is to occur. Changing the date usually requires both parties’ approval. In the case of short sales or foreclosures, not closing on the due date can cost the buyer money for each day past the due date

Timing can play a role in the date of your actual move. Moving at the end of the month typically is more difficult since movers tend to be busier, and especially the case in the summer. If you are planning your relocation out of the area, you may want to check in advance with the movers. Not only may a move date at the end of the month be tougher due to increased business, but they may also charge a premium. This can also happen if the move takes place on holiday or on the weekend vs. during the week (perhaps the other way around). Check on these details when you are doing your due diligence and obtaining estimates from the moving companies.

A critical timing issue for families with children is the school calendar. Do you want, or need, to move after the school year ends, or between semesters? Timing your sale and new purchases to work around school dates can be tricky, but if you plan ahead, it is workable. Families often decide to move as soon as school is out for the summer to give themselves, and their children, time to get settled and acclimated before school starts.

Let me suggest an alternative if you will. While having the summer to get acclimated can be a good idea, the potential problem is that your children may have a more difficult time making friends with the kids who they will attend school with due to vacations, camp, and what not. Therefore, moving at a different time in the school calendar (if this works for your sale, purchase, or start dates at new jobs) is not a bad thing. If you do move in the summer, you may be able to get your child(ren) enrolled in local camp activities, playgroups, daycare programs, etc. so they will get to meet new kids and start feeling more settled before school starts. These programs can work well especially if you are both working.

Are you moving with pets and planning to fly rather than drive? Make sure you check to see what the airlines require for pets. Not only do you have to make reservations but you may need to provide a veterinarian’s health certificate for your pets for them to accompany you on the plane. This can take time to arrange so don’t wait until the last minute.

Timing can also become an issue if your house does not sell as quickly as you would like and the new job is starting. If you are on your own, this may be easy to work out with a rental and some travel back and forth. With a couple, especially if there are children, it can be tougher. One person may need to go on ahead to start the job while the other stays in the house to complete the selling process. In these situations check with your employer on the housing arrangements to see if that is covered (typically a relocation package will provide for some interim housing as well as travel for families to visit, depending on the time frame).

Relocating to a new home is exciting, but stressful. And timing issues can complicate the process. Make sure you plan, to the extent possible, and develop contingency arrangements in case things do not go according to your master plan. Pay attention to the dates that are set, but also expect that some may need to change, either due to your situation or others (such as your movers changing the scheduled move date). Expect that Murphy’s Law may visit you so you won’t be too surprised. I know that in my own four major moves there were always things that did not quite go according to plan. Being flexible and having other plans, is critical.

(Jeff Dowler spent 15 years in corporate business in a variety of Human Resources management positions and got his real estate license in 2002. "I worked for RE/MAX in Cambridge, MA. We relocated to Southern California (Carlsbad) in the spring of 2005 where I continue with RE/MAX. I have owned nine primary homes (in 4 states), two vacation homes, and a business condo. With four significant relocations under my belt,  I understand the issues that consumers face in buying, selling and relocating." Jeff has four blogs: Fans of Coastal San Diego, First Time Buyer Central, Relocation A to Z, and What's Up Doc?) www.jeffdowler.com

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