Moving to a new state is a huge, multifaceted process. On one end, you’re selling your home, packing up everything you own, and hitting the road. If you’re under time pressure, you may even have to sell fast, which can steer you towards some unconventional buyers.
On the other end, you’re buying a house, starting a new job, and making new friends. And who knows how long it’ll last? You might be doing it all over again in a year.
But with a little planning, you can make your out-of-state move a relatively stressful affair. From working with the right real estate agent to reduce your commission, to looking into selling your home as an FSBO (for sale by owner) transaction, there are a ton of things you can do to put more money in your pocket (boxes and bubble wrap aren’t cheap!) and make your move a success.
Read on for 31 essential steps to take when moving out of state!
1. Craft a Master Plan for Moving Out of State
Before you begin your moving process, create a high-level master plan. Ask yourself:
Do you want professional movers handling your belongings, or can you move all your stuff in your own vehicle?
Figure out a rough budget — will it accommodate movers, rental vehicles, rental insurance, and so on?
How long of a trip are you looking at?
Do you have friends or family who can help you with the move?
Do you need to schedule your move around work, school, or social obligations?
Once you get a general idea of your move's logistics, other details will be much easier to take care of.
2. Select a Moving Date and Commit to It
If you don’t hold yourself to a specific date, you’ll likely keep pushing it further out. A hard deadline will serve as great motivation.
The date you choose will affect your move in many ways. Summer is the most popular time to move, so you may end up paying higher rates if you move in the summer months, and you’ll have to plan further ahead to secure movers. The same applies to weekends and holidays, when demand is high or the supply of movers is low, so plan accordingly.
If you’re trying to keep your moving budget down, consider a weekday move in the cooler, off-peak seasons.
3. Acquire Your Moving Supplies
You’re going to need a lot of boxes, rolls of tape and bubble cushioning, markers, and other supplies. Don’t wait until the last minute to pick them up — the sooner you get all your moving supplies, the sooner you can start packing.
If you’re going to move with free or discarded boxes, start gathering them as soon as possible, since their availability can be unpredictable.
4. Get Your Employment Lined Up
If you’re not already moving for a new job, you’ll need to arrange to keep the one you have or find a new one when you arrive.
Ask your current employer if they’ll let you work remotely. Employers have become much more flexible about remote work since the beginning of the pandemic. If you decide to stay on at your current job, ask if they’ll cover some or all of your moving costs.
If you’re looking for a new job, start immediately. Job searches are unpredictable, and it’ll make your move much less stressful if you know you have something waiting for you on the other end.
5. Declutter and Donate
A move can be a great opportunity to get rid of things you no longer need or use. Before you start packing, decide what you REALLY want to take with you.
One good system is to sort your belongings into three categories. Keep the absolute necessities, such as furniture and clothes you wear. Things you can donate, such as quality clothes that you haven’t worn in a couple years, can go in a charity pile. You can use a Marie Kondo-inspired standard to further whittle your belongings down, asking yourself if each item you’re considering actively brings you enjoyment. If the answer is no — toss it!
Once you’ve sorted all your items, you can sell them on Craigslist, or donate them to charity. Many charities will pick donations up from your doorstep.
6. Come Up With a Packing Strategy
If you just randomly throw all your belongings into a bunch of boxes, you’re going to have a very frustrating time when you get to your new home.
A good general rule is to pack nonessentials first: books, artwork, out-of-season clothes, and so on. Pack the items you’ll need immediate access to — like food, toiletries, and kitchen equipment — last.
Once you’ve packed everything up, write the contents and what room it belongs in on the outside of each box. Color-coding boxes can make sorting even easier.
» READ: Clever Real Estate: How It Really Works, Pricing, Reviews
7. Draft a Moving Budget
Moving is expensive, but you can keep your costs controlled by making a moving budget.
You’ll need to allocate money for moving supplies, movers, and rental vehicles (if you’re using them). Don’t forget to take time away from work into account, as well as incidentals like gas, hotels, and food while you’re on the road. You may also want to purchase moving insurance.
There will likely be more charges on the other end of your move, too — for example, when you open new utilities accounts.
8. Check Out Your New Home — In Person
This one may sound like a bit of a no-brainer, but in an era when “sight unseen” home purchases are common, it bears repeating that you should try to visit your new neighborhood before you move there.
So many things don’t show up in listing photos or online message boards, and if you discover a deal breaker after you’ve already moved in, it’s too late.
9. Research the Area
You probably wouldn’t visit a restaurant or bar without checking their online reviews first, so you should do the same for your new neighborhood. Websites like Google Maps, Great Schools, NeighborhoodScout, and Nextdoor can give you an on-the-ground perspective on everything from crime, school quality, traffic, and general vibes.
10. Expect Cost-of-Living Differences
The cost of living varies wildly between different regions of the country. Look into your destination’s cost of living so you won’t be surprised by how far your dollar will — or won’t — go in your new home.
Don’t forget to take state taxes into account. Some states, like Florida and Texas, charge no state income tax, while other states charge high levels of state taxes that can really cut into your paycheck. If you’re a business owner, look into local payroll and business taxes.
11. Decide if You Can Handle the Physical Move Yourself, or Need To Hire Professionals
Considering three main factors when hiring movers or handling your move yourself: cost, convenience, and comfort level.
Cost is obvious: Professional movers cost money, especially if you’re moving over long distances, and doing it yourself is cheaper — or free if you have a vehicle big enough to transport all your things.
The convenience that comes from hiring pros means you won’t have to deal with packing, loading, transporting, and unloading.
Comfort level relates to how comfortable you are letting strangers handle your belongings. Maybe you have expensive items that need special handling (most professionals can be trusted with fragile items, but accidents do happen), or you simply don’t want a crew of movers going through your stuff. If not, you’ll have to take on that labor yourself. That includes heavy lifting, hours of packing, loading, unloading, and time away from work.
12. If You Hire a Moving Company, Make a Careful, Informed Choice
The moving company you hire is going to be responsible for all your worldly possessions, so check them out beforehand.
Personal referrals are the gold standard, so ask friends and family if they have a company they can recommend. When you settle on a few candidates, check out their online reviews.
When you’ve settled on one company, ask them for local references, and a detailed fee table, so you aren’t surprised by any charges tacked on at the end. Also ask if they offer packing and loading services, which can further simplify your move. Finally, ask the moving company if they plan to subcontract your move; if they answer yes, that means your belongings could be split up among several different moving trucks. That means your belongings could arrive days apart, and could be tough to track down if they’re lost in transit.
Companies that handle interstate moves are subject to regulation by the Department of Transportation and will need to display accreditation like industry registration, a DOT identification number, and motor vehicle and liability insurance. These should be viewable on the company’s website, or at their offices. If a company you’re looking at can’t provide these credentials, tread carefully.
13. Look Into Car Shipping
If you rent a moving truck, or are moving farther than you’d prefer to drive, you’ll need to transport your car (or cars) to your destination. Some options include hiring a driver, shipping it via Amtrak, or paying to have it transported via carrier.
14. Consider How You’ll Travel to Your Destination
If you hire professional movers, don’t assume that a cross-country drive is the best or cheapest option for getting yourself to your new home. When you take gas prices, hotel prices, food, and time away from work into account, you may realize it’s cheaper just to fly.
15. Activate Your Utilities Ahead of Time
Nothing’s more demoralizing than arriving at a dark, waterless, powerless, Wi-Fi-less house at the end of a long trip. Call ahead and activate your basic utilities so you can arrive and unpack in relative comfort.
You’ll also want to update your address and have your mail forwarded so you don’t miss any bills or important documents.
16. Update or Cancel Memberships
If you can’t transfer your gym or fitness memberships, cancel them before you move so you don’t end up paying for months you don’t use. Many of these businesses require at least a month’s advance notice, so don’t wait until the last minute!
17. Handle School Transfers
If you have children in school, you’ll need to enroll them in a new school, and notify their current school of their departure. This will also require transfer of their educational records, as well as immunization forms and other local requirements. Make sure you coordinate a smooth transition so your child can pick up where they left off.
18. Talk With Your Family About Moving
If you have children, talk to them about what’s about to happen well ahead of the move.
This will give them time to say goodbye to their friends and classmates, as well as emotionally accept the relocation.
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19. Don’t Forget Your Storage Units
If you don't plan on going back to your current location, you’ll want to clean out your storage units. Throw out, donate, or pack up your stored belongings, and notify the storage company that you’re vacating your unit.
20. Make Sure Your Furniture Is Compatible With Your New Home
Get a detailed floor plan of your new home, and carefully measure all your furniture to make sure it’ll fit. Paying to transport a sofa to a new state, and then finding out it’s too big for the living room is demoralizing — as well as a waste of money.
If you have to order new furniture, double and triple check that it’s compatible with the dimensions of your new home.
21. Hire Cleaners To Do a Final Cleaning
If you’re a renter, you’ll likely need to do a deep clean of your current home if you want to get your full deposit back. Many landlords will even ask you to paint and fill holes before you move out. It can be tough to conduct a comprehensive cleaning of your old house while you’re also packing and coordinating a move, so hiring professional cleaners can be a great use of your moving budget.
22. Hand Off Your Keys
In the chaos of a move, it’s easy to forget to hand off your house keys to your landlord or your real estate agent, who’ll pass them on to the next tenant. Make a point to pass your keys onto the right person before you leave town, to save everyone a lot of inconvenience. You can always mail them if you forget, but keep in mind there is a small chance they’ll be lost in the mail.
23. Put Together a Bag of Essentials
Keep your most indispensable items with you when you move. That can include passports, identification, Social Security cards, tax, financial, medical, and insurance documents, valuables, and prescriptions. Experts also suggest taking a bag or box that contains everything you’ll need for the first night in your new home, just in case the rest of your belongings lag behind.
24. Confirm With Your Movers
Contact your movers the week of your move and make sure they have the correct address, destination, and pick-up time.
» READ: 16 Best “For Sale by Owner” Websites in 2021
25. Make Sure Your Moving Company Can Contact You While You’re Traveling
You’ll want to stay in close contact with your movers while you’re both en route, especially if one party gets delayed. Make sure they have all your contact information, and confirm that you’re both heading to the same destination.
26. Let People Know You’re Leaving the State
Just as you'd let your children know you’re moving, let your friends and neighbors know you’re leaving so they can adjust to the idea. You might be pleasantly surprised at the outpouring of emotion and farewells, and people may even offer to help with the move.
27. Manage Your Health Care
If you’re moving to a different state, your health insurance will undergo some changes. Even if you’re staying with the same employer and keeping the same insurance company, your benefits will likely undergo some adjustment, and you’ll have a new network of healthcare providers.
You can make this a smoother transition by arranging with your current doctors to get a hard copy of your medical records. They’ll probably electronically transfer your records later, after you’ve settled with a new doctor, but having hard copies on day one can make things a lot more efficient.
One last thing — if you expect a rocky transition, or you’re changing to a whole new insurance plan, try to stock up on essential prescriptions before you move so you have a little cushion.
28. Visit the DMV for a New Driver’s License and Registration
States require you to get a new driver’s license and vehicle registration when you relocate. Make sure you keep all the necessary documents together. Most states require, at a minimum, proof of citizenship and residency, and your Social Security card.
Once you’ve taken care of that, update your auto insurance, too — you may end up with lower rates!
29. Register to Vote
If you want to participate in local elections, you’ll have to register to vote in your new state. In many states you can do this online; other options include registering through the DMV or at the USPS.
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30. Consider Hiring a Contractor
Even homes that are “move-in ready” usually need a little touching up, even if that means small cosmetic changes. Your move-in will go a lot smoother if you hire a professional to help you handle things like changing light fixtures, rehanging doors, making small repairs, hanging pictures, and giving your appliances an inspection.
31. Explore Your New Neighborhood
Once you’ve unpacked and settled in, it’s time to explore your new home. If you’re a sociable type, you might want to introduce yourself to your new neighbors. Websites like Yelp and Nextdoor, and Facebook groups are a great source of things to do in your area — even better and if a friend or family member can connect you with a local!