Moving Tips for Homeowners, Renters, and Global Assignees

For Homeowners

Relocation brings much excitement and many things to accomplish in a short time. Surely one of the most consuming tasks is selling your current home and finding a new one. These tips will help you to sell your current home quickly, for the best price possible, and to find the perfect home in your new location.

Marketing Your Home

Your agent should provide you with a comprehensive, week-by-week marketing plan for your home. This can include:

  • Local advertising
  • Internet listings
  • Open houses
  • Broker open houses (to expose your home to other real estate professionals)

Your agent should keep careful records of all prospective buyers and share his or her feedback with you. He or she should work closely with you throughout the process, adjusting the marketing plan as needed.

Pricing Your Home

Your agent will help you set an asking price for your home. Many outside factors can affect the value of your property:

  • Supply and demand
  • Mortgage rates
  • Economic conditions
  • Time of year
  • Property tax rates and local services
  • Neighborhood characteristics.

Agents review recent sales of similar properties in your area to help them arrive at a price. Your company might require one or more formal appraisals along with this “broker market analysis” (BMA). Appraisers look at recent sales, but also analyze square footage, features, finishes, and other details, and make adjustments for differences.

While you might have a price in mind, remember that the local market ultimately dictates the value of your home. Overpricing is more likely to scare prospective buyers away than to result in more money in your pocket. Appropriately priced homes sell quickly, reducing your stress and helping you settle in at the new location sooner.

Showing Your Home

It’s best to show your home while it’s still occupied. Many buyers have a hard time imagining what a vacant home will look like when it’s furnished.

With today’s busy lifestyles, few buyers have the time or inclination to take on a fixer-upper. Your home should shine, inside and out. Your agent will offer suggestions on sprucing up your home. Don’t take this personally; view it as objective marketing advice. Consider the following:

 

Exterior

  • Your lawn should be well manicured. Trim trees and shrubs and remove lawn debris. In the winter, make sure your driveway and walkways are free of ice and snow.
  • Make the entrance to your home as inviting as possible. Consider a fresh coat of paint on the front door and perhaps a pot or two of flowers.
  • Make sure your roof is in good shape. If necessary, paint exterior walls and replace damaged or loose shutters, shingles,and bricks.
  • Check exterior handrails, stairs, screens, and screen doors.
    Interior

  • Your entryway should be bright, clean and inviting.
  • Your kitchen and bathrooms should sparkle at all times. This can be a burden; if you don’t have cleaning help, consider it during this critical marketing period.
  • Unpleasant odors will turn buyers off immediately. Be certain that your home smells fresh and clean before prospective buyers arrive. Some agents suggest temporarily boarding animals.
  • Eliminate clutter, including closets, cellar and garage. Prepare for your move by donating excess items to charity.
  • Open shades and drapes to maximize light.
  • Clean carpeting and windows thoroughly.
  • If you decide to repaint or recarpet, choose soft, neutral tones.
  • Replace burned-out light bulbs and repair any faulty switches. Correct crooked light fixtures.

If you would like more specific help in preparing your home for showings, consider the services of the “home stager” provided for you by your agent!

Repairs and Improvements

It’s important to make minor repairs but discuss any major improvements with your agent. Some might not add enough value to your home to justify the expense.

Fixtures/Personal Property

Understanding the difference between fixtures and personal property will help you avoid potential problems. Buyers assume fixtures will stay with the property; personal property can be a negotiating point.

Fixtures
A fixture is an item that is permanently attached to your home, such as wall-to-wall carpeting, television antennas, ceiling fans, lighting fixtures, and built-in appliances. If you plan to remove any fixtures, such as chandeliers, be sure to advise your agent.Personal Property
Personal property is not attached to the property; it includes custom-made draperies, appliances, patio furniture, and the like. If you intend to leave personal property behind, be sure to clarify this with your agent.

Disclosure

By law, sellers must disclose all relevant property conditions and defects of which they’re currently aware of or of which they reasonably should have been aware. Failure to disclose constitutes fraud, and a buyer can sue a seller for any oversights or misrepresentations. Many buyers hire professionals to inspect properties they’re considering.

Be sure to advise your agent of any issues related to:

  • Structural integrity (roof, foundation, etc.)
  • Systems (electrical, plumbing, septic, etc.)
  • Water penetration
  • Flooding and drainage
  • Municipal requirements
  • Toxic substances

Buying a Home

Your Real Estate Firm

Let your agent work for you. He or she will be your eyes and ears in the new location, providing all the information you need before your homefinding trip. Your agent should keep you informed and help you manage the details.

Selecting a Neighborhood and Home

The house you’re buying now is the house you’ll be selling in the future. Your Relocation Counselor will work closely with you and your agent to ensure the property and purchase terms are in your best interest.

The old real estate adage of “location, location, location” is still true. Whether or not you have children, the areas with the best school systems, services and amenities tend to have the highest resale values.

Traditional neighborhoods and popular local styles are more likely to sell in less time and attract more buyers.

Well-maintained, aesthetically pleasing homes are more likely to hold their value.

What to Avoid

  • Because new construction sells at a premium, it often loses value for the first few years. Also, if the home is not complete yet, your move will be much more complex and stressful than necessary. In a relocation situation, new construction is best avoided.
  • Environmental problems (toxic waste sites, buried oil tanks) and properties containing toxic substances (asbestos, radon, lead paint) should be avoided at all costs. For your protection, your Relocation Counselor will suggest several property inspections. For more about environmental hazards, visit http://www.epa.gov
  • Properties with excess acreage or that have been over-improved for the area can be difficult to re-sell.

Let your home finding real estate agent work for you. The agent will be your eyes and ears in the new location, providing all the information you need prior to scheduling your home finding trip. You have the right to demand a high level of service, to be kept informed, and to expect your agent to follow up on all the details for you.

The Law of Agency

Agency is the relationship created when one person (the principal) delegates to another (the agent) the power to act on his or her behalf in a transaction. Most purchase agreements explain agency and the relationship between the agent(s) and the seller.

A real estate broker typically represents the seller. This is true whether or not the agent is the listing agent. However, Codes of Ethics require your agent to act in a fair and ethical manner to all parties involved in a transaction. Unless a buyer has entered into a specific employment agreement with a real estate agent, that agent works for the seller. The best course of action is to ask your agent whether or not he or she is a subagent of the listing agent.

As a buyer, you may enter into an agreement with an agent which states that the agent works solely on your behalf. This is called Buyer Brokerage, and in some parts of the country the agent is paid by the buyer, and the compensation is agreed upon between these two parties. In this type of arrangement, the agent will look for properties that meet your requirements, then attempt to negotiate price and terms favorable to you.

What to Look For. . .

Always view the home you are considering as the home you may be selling in the future, should you be relocated or move for other reasons. To help you better assess a potential home purchase, your Relocation Counselor will work closely with you and your agent to assure the property and terms of the purchase are in your best interest.

The old real estate adage of “location, location, location” continues to be of primary importance when making a purchase decision. Be sure your real estate agent is concentrating on those locations deemed most desirable for their neighborhood amenities and services and their consistently high resale values.

The best school systems, reasonable property taxes, and public utilities will all contribute to a better quality of life and good resale potential.

Don’t be drawn in by unique properties or locations. Conforming neighborhoods and local traditional styles are more likely to sell in less time and attract more buyers. While you may be competing with other relocating purchasers for properties of this type the investment will be worth the time and effort.

Homes that have been well-maintained and are aesthetically pleasing are more likely to sustain their value in the long run.

…What to Avoid

If there’s a possibility that you will be relocating within five years, avoid new construction. Historically, new construction loses value over the first five years, and you may end up owing more than the property is worth.

Environmental problems (toxic waste sites, buried oil tanks) and properties containing toxic substances (asbestos, radon, lead paint) should be avoided at all costs. Your Relocation Counselor will suggest certain inspections be performed to ensure that the selected property is free of these problems.

Properties with excess acreage or that have been over-improved for the area can be questionable investments at best. While they may offer desired amenities and appeal, the potential for future resale problems is increased.

While condominiums and cooperatives appeal to those not interested in the usual maintenance and upkeep associated with traditional homes, their resale history has been disappointing. Whether the result of the homeowners association management, restrictions and bylaws, maintenance and construction issues, or market saturation, these are typically not your best real estate investment.

Disclosure

Real estate transactions are governed by laws and regulations designed to protect the interests of both sellers and buyers. Every home seller has certain duties and obligations to a buyer, including full disclosure of all known defects, or defects that should have been known. Failure to disclose all known facts regarding a property constitutes fraud, and as a buyer you have certain rights in this regard.

Before agreeing to purchase a property, ask your agent to secure the seller’s “Disclosure Checklist.” The usual areas of concern are:

  • structure
  • systems (electrical, plumbing, heating, septic, etc.)
  • water penetration
  • flooding and drainage
  • municipal requirements
  • toxic substances

Settling In

Your agent can provide you with a tour of the new area, tailored to your personal needs and lifestyle. Most real estate companies also offer newcomer information packages, and can recommend local professionals (doctors, lawyers, hairdressers, cleaners, etc.) to help you settle into your new area.

For Renters

Selecting the right rental home will go a long way towards ensuring your happiness in your new location. Finding a property that meets your needs and budget can be tricky, though. These will help you determine what’s most important to you and help you navigate your way through the rental process.

Finding Your Rental Home and Preparing for Your Homefinding Trip

Assessing Your Needs

The key to successful homefinding is carefully assessing your needs before your first homefinding trip. This way, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for-and what you want to avoid. Your Real Estate Agent should provide detailed information on your destination area prior to your homefinding trip, helping you maximize your time and efforts.

One of the most important steps in finding your new home is knowing exactly how much rent you can afford. A good rule of thumb is that your rent should be no more than 30 percent of your gross monthly income (although there are, of course, exceptions to this rule). Weichert can assist you in evaluating the amount of rent you can afford.

It is also important to remember that renters are often required to pay a security deposit (usually one month’s rent) before they can move in. Additionally, some renters are required to pay their last month’s rent in advance. This is often the case when renting a single family home from a private owner.

A rental application fee, which can cost between $15 to $100 to process, is usually required as well.

Inspecting Properties

When you’ve found a property that meets your needs, examine it carefully before you sign a lease.

  • Windows should open, lock properly, and have screens.
  • Sliding glass doors should open cleanly. Screens should be operable and intact.
  • Check the roof for missing or curled shingles and ceilings and walls for water marks and other signs of leaks.
  • Check plumbing and water pressure by flushing the toilet and running the faucets.
  • Make sure any included kitchen appliances work properly (range, refrigerator, dishwasher, garbage disposal, etc.)

Before You Sign a Lease

Once you’ve decided on a property, the landlord will probably ask you to fill out a rental application. This form will request information such as:

  • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of previous and current employers and landlords
  • Salary history
  • Banking information
  • Credit card information
  • Social security number
  • Personal (non-work related) references

This information allows the landlord to check your credit history (usually through a credit bureau) and your relationships with former landlords.

Rental Agreement or Lease

Before you occupy your new rental property, you will be asked to sign either a rental agreement or a lease. A lease specifies a fixed term and monthly payment, for example, a one-year lease at $1,000 per month. Rental agreements are sometimes known as “month-to-month” arrangements. Either you or the landlord may end the arrangement at any time with proper notice (specific notice requirements vary by location). Similarly, the landlord can adjust the rent with proper notice (again, the laws and regulations vary by area.) A lease is usually the more favorable option, as it guarantees a fixed rent for a longer period. However, if you are uncertain how long you will be renting, a rental agreement offers more flexibility.

Lease Basics

A lease is a binding legal document that states that a tenant can occupy property owned by the landlord under specified conditions. Although leases vary, they usually specify the following:

  • A full description of the rental property
  • The amount of each rent payment and the due date, including late charge and grace period information
  • The amount of the security deposit, and the conditions under which it might be retained by the landlord
  • Services to be provided by the landlord (landscaping, repairs, etc.) and tenant responsibilities
  • Rules and regulations that the tenant is expected to follow while renting the property
  • Available amenities or services (trash removal, swimming pool, laundry facilities)

Clauses Requiring Your Attention

One of the most important parts of a lease is the Termination Clause, which describes what will happen at the end of your lease. Some leases renew automatically unless you notify the landlord that you plan to leave. Other leases simply transform into a month-to-month rental agreement. If you anticipate being relocated by your company sometime in the near future, we recommend having the following language built into your lease:

“In the event the lessee is relocated by his or her corporation, the lessee may terminate this lease upon thirty (30) days prior written notice to lessor with no lease termination penalty.”

Other clauses to watch for include those that address automatic rent escalation and transfer of repair duty from the landlord to the tenant.

Security Deposit and Pre-Move Inspection

Most landlords require a security deposit (usually one month’s rent). After you leave, the landlord will assess the property’s condition. If there is no damage beyond normal wear and tear, he or she should return the deposit to you. Since the landlord will scrutinize the property before you move out, you should compile a detailed list of any problems or damages that exist when you move in, and have the list signed by your landlord. This way, you won’t be liable for pre-existing damage when you move out.

Tenants’ Rights

Most states offer tenants’ rights booklets which offer detailed outlines of your rights as protected by state and federal laws. Check the state government Web site of your new location or visit your destination city hall for more information.

For Global Assignees

Relocating abroad is exciting, but it also can seem overwhelming. This offers a practical overview of the many considerations in moving to another country. Included are helpful tips on your home-search trip, required legal and medical documentation, advice on preparing for travel, and suggestions on what to take with you and what to leave behind.

Destination Area Information

You Real Estate Agent scould send you complete information on your destination area before your homesearch trip, including:

  • Local business and cultural customs
  • Language practices
  • Entry requirements
  • Money usage
  • Health and safety considerations
  • Recreational activities… and more

Once you arrive, your GAR will brief you on the area. He or she will arrange for you to see carefully selected properties and oversee the entire process. Once you’ve selected a home, (s)he will handle lease negotiations and coordinate move in activities, such as inspections and utility connections.

Before You Leave

Important Documents

Passports are required for most foreign travel. Passport regulations vary from country to country, but usually include:

  • A previous passport (if available)
  • Proof of citizenship
  • Proof of identity
  • Photographs

Some countries require visas as well. For a work assignment, almost all countries require a work permit. Your company will assist you in acquiring needed work permits before you leave. Note that work permits for spouses or partners are usually difficult to come by. Permits are usually available only when employment is already arranged and the job can’t be performed by a national.

Medical/Dental Records

Have complete medical and dental exams at least three months before departing. This allows time for any needed treatments. Be sure to bring copies of medical and dental records with you.

If you take prescription medication, ask your doctor to name generic drugs. He or she can also provide documentation to avoid any customs issues.

Other Documents

Bring these important documents with you:

  • School records/transcripts
  • Marriage/divorce certificates
  • Financial records
  • Birth certificates
  • Adoption papers
  • Proof of purchase/appraisals for valuable goods (jewels, artwork, etc.)

Other Considerations Before You Leave

Currency Exchange

ATMs are common in most typical assignment locations, so it’s usually unnecessary (and unwise) to carry large sums of money. It’s smart to exchange a small amount of currency before you leave, to cover ground transportation and tipping when you arrive.

Financial Matters

It’s usually best to open a bank account in your destination location while retaining your accounts at home. Local accounts help to simplify local transactions, such as rent payments. If your home bank is a large, multinational institution, it might have affiliates in your destination area.

Many countries have regulations on currency imports and exports; check with your financial or legal advisors.

Taxes

Tax situations vary widely from country to country. In many places, your tax liability follows you around the world. Some countries allow certain tax credits for taxes paid abroad. You should speak with tax and/or accounting professionals before you move. Your employer may authorize tax/legal assistance on your behalf.

Voting

Most countries allow citizens living abroad to cast absentee ballots. Check your country’s regulations before you leave.

Preparing for Travel

Flight Tips

  • Carry all necessary items with you: prescription drugs, important documents, passports, etc.
  • Don’t overpack. Heavy, bulky, carry-on luggage can become a burden quickly.
  • Dress comfortably, and in layers.
  • If traveling with young children, bring a few books, toys, etc. to keep them amused.
  • Try to move around the cabin and stretch as much as practical.
  • To minimize dehydration, avoid alcohol and caffeine. Drink water and fruit juices.

On the Ground

Check out your airport transportation options. Many cities ofter express rail service between the airport and downtown. If you’re taking a taxi, make sure it’s licensed and discuss pricing before handing over your luggage or getting in.

Household Goods Tips

As you begin to plan your move, consider:

  • What do you need (what will really be useful in the new location)?
  • What’s allowed (not forbidden by local law or custom)?
  • What will your employer pay to transport?

Your Relocation Counselor can help you make these decisions.

Small Appliances

If you’re moving to a country with a different electric currency, you might find it’s not worth bringing small, inexpensive appliances along. Voltage converters are available; however, the appliances often still do not operate quite normally. In most typical global assignment destinations, suitable replacements can be found easily.

Sea vs. Air Transportation

Your company’s policy will determine how your goods will be shipped. Air shipment is costly; normally, you’re given a small allowance to cover essentials, such as clothing. Most of your goods will probably be shipped by sea. Discuss your needs with your Counselor and moving professionals.

Valued Inventory

Before packing, complete a thorough valued inventory, detailing each item in your shipment and its replacement value in the destination location. List small, miscellaneous items as a group. Your movers will provide more detailed information and forms.

The inventory will also help with customs matters, documenting what you’ve brought with you, and ensuring that you don’t have to pay duty on the items when you return. Forms are available from your national customs office.

Moving Checklist

Plan to be in your home while the movers are there (or nominate a responsible friend or relative).

  • Valuable items, heirlooms, and especially fragile items should be identified early.
  • Review the mover’s inventory list carefully; it will be used to verify any damage claims.
  • Separate items earmarked for storage before the movers arrive. Mark “DO NOT TAKE” clearly.
  • Appliances should be prepared for moving by a professional.
  • Leave mirrors, pictures, and other wall hangings in place, to avoid damage.
  • Make sure dishes and utensils are clean and in their usual place.
  • When the packing is finished, take a careful look through every room, closet, garage, basement, etc. to be sure nothing has been missed.

When the move out is complete, take a walk through to make sure all doors and windows are closed and locked; lights are adjusted; the thermostat is set appropriately; and the security system is activated. Keys should be delivered to whomever will be managing the property.

 

Shipping Automobiles

The decision whether or not to ship your car depends on your company’s policy and local laws and regulations. In many cases, cars will not comply with destination area laws and regulations, and modifications are usually expensive or impractical.

Many countries honor the International Driving Permit, which you can get before leaving (often through your automobile club). Some countries require local licenses, especially for extended stays.

Pets

Some countries do not permit importation of animals; others impose lengthy quarantine requirements. Check your destination country’s requirements well in advance.

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