By Finnian Durkan, Sr. Technical Recruiter, former real estate agent/ninja, and resident trivia host
I’ve moved a lot during my life and throughout my various careers. The one thing I never personally experienced though is relocating across the country for a job. I’ve lived in shared houses where I rented a room for $350 a month during the first dot-com crash of the early 2000’s. I’ve couch-surfed in apartments, house-sat on a houseboat or two, and even lived the old trope of living in my mom’s basement after my divorce, but all between the Seattle city limits.
The only time I undertook anything resembling a relocation was after I graduated from college. when I took a 5,700 mile road-trip with my friend from Connecticut through the central provinces of Canada and the midwest US to Seattle and eventually a 5-day stay on her parent’s couch in L.A, but that involved a duffel-bag full of clothes, a VHS tape of Rush Hour, and a binder full of CD’s. So, yes, I’m old, and no, I don’t understand the stress, frustrations, and sheer magnitude of being able to bridge the gap from “Hey, Seattle looks nice” to moving 2,800 miles (or more) for a job.
In order to bridge that gap, I talked to a few RealSelf employees who experienced that choice firsthand.
What were the easiest and most difficult parts of relocation?
We’ll start with the easy parts first, because that’s just the kind of person I am. From giving up their cars to finding an apartment, a lot of the things that RealSelf employees found easy about relocating came down to timing and planning. A common theme among them was making sure to visit the city that you’re moving to ahead of time, asking questions, touring neighborhoods, and really trying to get a sense of the area you’re working and where you’ll be commuting from. In the beginning, you really need that tangible local context before you start wading into PadMapper to find the next place you’re going to live. At RealSelf we provide an extensive relocation guide that highlights likely concerns, along with recommended contacts for individual aspects of moving to Seattle (i.e. hiring movers, local transit options, family daycare & school options, along with recommended products for moving with pets, etc.). View the full relocation guide HERE.
That, and the timing of your house and apartment hunt seemed to be key; take into account the typical ebb and flow of apartment and housing availability before moving to a new city. For example, Seattle is a college town, home to the University of Washington, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific, and several others, all of whom account for about 40,000 in undergrad students alone living in the greater Seattle area. This makes finding an apartment in August/September drastically harder, while many become available in the May/June months.
As for finding a house to buy, while the market has cooled a little bit shifting in favor of the buyer –or more accurately, less likely to produce bidding wars of 30 offers or more– it is still a very competitive market for buyers. Typical off-peak times are July & August because people are on vacation and families typically don’t want to move so close to the beginning of the school year. Things pick back up Sept through October and die back down during the holidays –there will be less inventory, sure, but there’ll be a little less competition to boot. That, and anything on the market towards the end of the year typically has to be on the market, so that’s a bit of additional leverage on the buyer’s side.
For the hard part, there were a lot of opinions but most gave feedback similar to this:
“Since I had lived in NY state for more than 3 years, I had a lot of stuff! Packing everything into boxes and shipping them and then collecting them in Seattle, unpacking them again and settling in was very hectic. Moving is so tiring that at certain points you think to yourself “is it worth it?”. But coming in to my job on the first day and meeting all the awesome people I kind of answered my own question that it was completely worth it!”
We all know: moving sucks, packing is awful, and unpacking is worse. Heck, my fiance and I have lived in our place for almost 3 years, and our library/office/hamster-playpen is still half-full of unpacked boxes. It’s a long process, but the end result is so-o-o-o-o-o worth it when you land at a great company.
“Coordinat[ing] all the sub-processes of relocation. So many things to keep track of! I was constantly worrying about what I might have forgotten.”
This is going to be a problem for just about anyone other than new grads. Once you get beyond living out of two boxes with a futon for a bed-couch, things get exponentially more difficult to keep track of and plan. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time, do your research, and don’t hesitate to ask your new teammates and co-workers for advice: the people you interviewed with are a great resource for information, advice, and simple pointers that can save you a ton of time.
“[What I found] surprisingly difficult: unloading. As someone who spent the last decade living in the midwest, I was not prepared for the parking situation in Seattle, nor how to navigate the street use rules.”
It’s true: while Seattle falls short of the arcane wizardry governing city streets in L.A., San Francisco, and New York, depending on where you’re coming from the street traffic and parking rules can be fairly restrictive compared to what you’re familiar with. Try to schedule your moving time for either a weekend or midday on a weekday to avoid any truly horrific parking and unloading situations. At RealSelf our People Team has done extensive outreach and research to compile a list of companies to help make your move easier, whether that’s moving companies, truck rentals, or even temporary housing.
What do you wish you had known about Seattle before you moved here?
Depending on where you are moving to Seattle from, the transition can be fairly breezy (we see you, Portland fam) to extremely difficult and nerve-wracking (read: moving here from any non-metro area, pretty much). What we’ve heard from our relocating employees consistently over the years is that real estate and traffic are bonkers, but not nearly as bad as NYC/SF/LA. For that reason, make sure that you scope out your prospective living-situation for its commutability to your new office. For example, our office is pretty easy to get to from any of the major freeways, and we’re blocks away from King Street Station, the lightrail and a major transit hub. Another nice cheat-code that a few of our employees have taken advantage of is living across Puget Sound near one of the commuter ferries (Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, or West Seattle). It’s a lot quieter out there, and it’s also a quick 30-45 minute ferry ride to and from work every day, with free wi/fi and views that just can’t be beat. (psst…RealSelf has a $100/month commuter benefit that applies whether you ferry, train, drive, or horse and buggy to the office.)
Whatever your case may be, relocating for a job is a big undertaking. Make sure to
- visit your location,
- do on-the-ground-research,
- leverage your newfound co-workers for advice and recommendations, and
- learn the quirks and rhythms of the place you’re moving to before diving headfirst into finding an apartment or house.
It might mean postponing your job search for a little while or extending your start date a bit, but even 2-4 weeks can be the difference between sleepless stress-filled nights in a new city and an easy transition into your new job and life. And, if you find yourself applying for a role here at RealSelf, know that you won’t be alone in the process.