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There are various aspects to consider when relocating to any area, and the list below is hardly exhaustive. It's good to develop a plan that reflects the factors below and others particular to your own situation. Let me know if you have questions or concerns.
- Schools - Children
An important consideration for any family that’s moving and has school-age children is the schools the children will attend. The good news is that there are many excellent school districts and private and parochial schools in the Philadelphia area. It’s a good idea to talk to co-workers or friends living in the area that have kids in school to gain their perspective. Visiting a school or schools and talking to teachers and principals is helpful as well. I suggest consulting one of the school rating sites such as greatschools.org or niche.com to see detailed information
- Schools – Adults
If one or more of the adults in the family is attending or planning on attending an institution of higher learning then the choice of available facilities is paramount. There’s tremendous breadth in the Philadelphia area in this regard, including the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Haverford College, Villanova University and Temple University just to name a few.
- Relocating from Overseas
There’s a whole separate set of concerns if you are moving here from another country. If you are not a US citizen then you’ll need a visa, and once you get here you’ll need to apply for a social security card—need to wait 10 days after arrival before you do this—and will need to apply for a PA Drivers License as well. If you have no credit history in this country it will be difficult for you to get a mortgage and therefore you will need to rent for a year to build such a history. You will need a letter of employment from your employer detailing the terms of your position in order to get a rental. The above is just a brief treatment of this subject; you may want to engage a destination consultant.
- Rent or Buy
- Financial Perspective
If you will be staying in the area for 5 years or less, then it makes more sense financially to rent. This is due to the transaction costs such as transfer tax, title insurance, mortgage expenses and brokerage commissions, associated with buying and selling real estate. There’s always the chance that you will buy a property that will appreciate dramatically and outpace the transaction costs, but this is not something I would count on.
- Rent then Buy or Buy Immediately
If you’re relocating to the area for more than 5 years then buying makes more sense. You can write off mortgage interest and a portion of your monthly mortgage payment is increasing the amount of the home that you own, i.e. your equity. Should you buy right away or rent and then buy? There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It’s good to consider the following:
- You’re already moving family and belongings to a new location. You or your spouse or both may be starting new jobs as well, and if you have school-age children, they will be adjusting to new schools.
- Renting for some period before buying will require you to move into the rental and then move again when you purchase.
- Private homes will usually require a lease of at least 1 year in length. There are apartment complexes that will rent for terms as short as 3 months. Some will also rent furnished. If you don’t want to wait a full year before purchasing, then the apartment complexes are the way to go
- If you have pets this will restrict your list of possible rentals, since some owners and/or apartment buildings will not allow them or have restrictions. This is more of an issue outside Philadelphia, though rental policies are becoming more pet friendly.
- If you are going to buy and have an existing home to sell you need to consider whether you have funds to buy the new home while still owning the present one.
- Financial Considerations
- It’s good to think broadly about the types of expenses you may incur or income you may realize as part of your move. Consider any cost or income you will have as a result of your move that you would not have if you remained where you are. Categories include moving, housing, education, occupation, etc.
- Relocation Package
If you’re moving to the area for a new job, then your company may be providing you with relocation assistance. They could have an inhouse relocation department or could be employing a relocation company. Check this Article for more information on this subject.
Expenses here would include paying a moving company to move your belongings. There could be storage costs as well if you cannot immediately move into your new home or there is not room for all your possessions. This Moving Cost Calculator could be a help to you as could this Moving Checklist.
This could be a net expense or gain and depends on many things. Perhaps you will be keeping your existing home and renting it out. The rent you receive may offset the cost of getting the house ready to rent, paying someone to manage the property, etc. or may not. Many moving from Boston, New York, Washington and west coast cities will be presently surprised by the cost of housing in Philadelphia and its suburbs. You would still have the expense of selling your existing house if you have one and could have capital gains taxes to pay—check This Page for house sale capital gains information—but could get more home for your money here. Even if homes here have similar values to your current locale there could be a significant difference in the amount of property tax you need to pay.
Will the costs of education for anyone in the family change as a result of your move? Perhaps your children will go from a private school to a public school or vice versa. If you or your partner are in the midst of a degree program where you currently live and need to transfer to a new university then the time to get the degree may be increased or decreased or costs per credit could be different.
Will there be a job change or promotion? Are you or your partner leaving the workforce to pursue a degree, start a business, etc.?
- Other Information
- Commute Time
- Maximum Commute Time
It’s good to have a maximum commute time in mind when looking for a place to live. This time can then be used to control the areas that will be searched for housing. I would be somewhat liberal with the max commute time so as not to rule out properties that would otherwise be acceptable. For example, if you would like a 30-minute commute I would still consider properties with up to a 40 or 45 minute commute.
- Google Maps
This is my tool of choice when determining travel time between 2 addresses on the map. It can be used to derive walking time, drive time or public transportation time. When considering public trans time, I break the trip into 2 pieces, the drive or walk time to the bus or train station and the time from the station to the destination. Many people drive from their home to the train station and park their car for the day.
- When to Live in the City
If you’re commuting to Philadelphia and your desired commute time is 15 minutes or less then you should be looking within the city limits. Many living on the Main Line use the Septa R5 to commute to the city. From some stops, including Paoli and Ardmore, there are express trains, the Keystone Service, running daily that don’t make other local stops on the way to Philadelphia.
- Those living in Delaware County often commute to Philly by taking the Norristown Highspeed or the Media/Elwyn Line to 69th Street and then taking the Elevated Train into the city