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A Step-by-Step Guide to Moving to a New State

By: Davina Ward
June 29, 2020

Moving can be challenging and overwhelming in the best of times. When you're making an out-of-state move, the stress and difficulties double. That’s because not only do you experience the normal pressures of moving, but you're also responsible for handling all the details of a move across state lines.

Usually, it's the details that present the biggest challenge. From updating your mailing address to creating a travel plan and everything in between, there's a lot to think about. It can be a trial for even the most Type A of personalities.

If you want to handle your out-of-state move like a pro, you'll need a checklist to ensure that you stay organized and cover all your bases. That way, when you finally settle into your new abode, you'll have already tackled all the necessary preparations.

Ready to get started? Here's an in-depth moving-out-of-state checklist to help you dominate your move.

Determine Your Budget

Money is an essential factor to consider during any move. Here's everything you need to know about creating an accurate budget.

1. Research the Cost of Living in Your New State

When moving out of state, it's important to account for the difference in how far a dollar can go. Your new home may have a significantly different cost of living compared to your old home.

For example, the cost of living in Montgomery, Alabama, is 58.9% lower than the cost of living in New York City. So, your dollar may go a lot further in your new home state.

To create an accurate budget, it's essential to research the cost of living in any new state that you’re planning on relocating to.

2. Research the Job Market in Your New State

Once you have an estimation of the cost of living in your new state, you'll need to consider the job market. If you're lucky, you'll already have a job lined up in your new home state.

That said, life happens. Sometimes things don't align perfectly, and you'll have to spend some time searching for a new job after your move.

Whether you're looking to start on a new career path or you're looking for a job within a specific industry, the Bureau of Labor Statistics can help you determine what the job market looks like in your state or local metro area.

You can use their data, which is updated frequently, to compare different regions' job markets in your new state against your current state's job market. Keep in mind that the pandemic has greatly impacted employment across the country. So, it's not reflective of the general trend of employment in recent years.

It may be difficult to get an accurate idea of the job market. So, be sure to check job boards such as Indeed, Glassdoor, or LinkedIn to find out who may be hiring.

3. Draft Your Budget

After doing your due diligence regarding the cost of living and your new home state's job market, you can start working on a budget. It's crucial for a budget to be as detailed as possible.

Not only do you want to account for general expenses like rent and utilities, but you'll also need to tally for more specific things like entertainment and lifestyle costs, such as gym memberships.

To ensure that you aren't overwhelmed by unexpected expenses, utilize the 50-30-20 rule. This budgeting rule allows you to easily distribute funds from your income into three distinct categories. Those categories are: necessities (50%), discretionary spending (30%), and debt relief/savings (20%).

Moving expenses, groceries, living costs, and car payments would fall under the necessities. Entertainment and lifestyle costs would fall under discretionary spending.

Student loan payments and retirement contributions would fall under the debt relief/savings category. Once you've got the hang of the rule, it'll be simple to categorize your income and stay on top of your spending even in the midst of an out-of-state move.

Take a Trip to Your New State

Going in blind is great, right up until the moment you realize that you've made a grave mistake. Avoid that pitfall by visiting your new state before you make the move. It's crucial.

You need to experience your new city's neighborhoods, culture, and offerings firsthand before you can make a final decision as to whether it would be a good idea for you to live there long-term.

If you want to dive into your new city headfirst, start with research. Make a list of the neighborhoods you'd be interested in living in. Then, compile a list of sites you'd like to visit within those neighborhoods.

If possible, take a multi-day trip, so you can take your time when exploring your new home.

Here are some places to check out when visiting:

  • Tourist Hot Spots
  • Apartment Communities
  • Schools in the Area
  • Public Transportation Routes
  • Grocery Stores
  • Gyms
  • Parks
  • Malls
  • Local Restaurants
  • Mom-and-Pop Businesses

Plan your trip around things that you usually do on a normal day. That way, you'll get a feel as to whether the neighborhood will suit your lifestyle.

Do you usually commute to work via public transportation? Hop on a bus or train in your new city.

Love hiking on weekends? Check out trails near your chosen neighborhood.

You don’t need to settle on an apartment or home at this time. However, figuring out your ideal area is important.

Narrow Down Your Location and Find a Home

You’ve locked down your budget. You’ve done your homework and found a city and neighborhood in your new state that works for you. Now it’s time to find a place to call home.

Remember, your new home should reflect your current lifestyle. So, it's vital to have information regarding essentials like school districts, commute times, hospitals in the area, crime, and more.

Without this information, you won't be able to make an informed decision about your new location. Avoid headaches by doing your due diligence. Only then, should you move on to searching for apartments.

If you can, taking another trip and touring apartments can be very valuable. However, it’s not 100% necessary to handle the process of renting an apartment in person.

In fact, you can complete the process digitally. Renting sight unseen is becoming easier and easier.

Video tours and 3D tours help make the process of renting without visiting the apartment much easier. You'll be able to get an idea of an apartment's space and amenities — all without leaving your living room. Once you've found an apartment that checks all your boxes, you can even sign your lease digitally.

If you're not sure where to start your search, simply put together a list of all your needs and wants for your next abode. Apartment List will help you find the ideal home in your new state with all of the amenities and apartment features that you need.

You'll receive curated lists that offer a plethora of options based on the specific parameters you choose. In-unit washer and dryer? Check. Off-street parking? Check. New dream apartment? Check.

Look Into Moving Companies

Unless you plan on going full-on minimalist, it's likely that you'll need some help making an out-of-state move. Many people are put off by the costs of a moving company and opt to try to move everything themselves. However, by doing a little legwork, you can find a great moving company at an even better price.

Get in touch with a few reputable out-of-state moving companies and get multiple quotes. Movers will usually come to do an in-person inspection to give an accurate quote. So, be sure that you have time to commit to an inspection.

The cost will depend on a variety of factors, including the amount of stuff you are moving, the distance and time it’ll take to complete the move, and whether there are any specialty items that are difficult to move.

However, the quotes you receive will typically be between $1k-$5k. Choose the moving company that fits both your needs and your budget.

That said, moving companies aren't for everyone. Whether they're too expensive or you're more of a DIY-type, you have alternative options and can save big by doing the heavy lifting yourself.

Look into renting a U-Haul. You could also reach out to friends and family to help move your things.

It can even double as a mini going-away party. Offer pizza and beer in return… who can say no to that?

Pack Your Belongings

Now that you have the move all planned out, it’s time to start packing. Frankly, packing up a place that you've called home for a long time can be an emotionally draining, stressful, and exhausting task. But we all have to do it at some point, so why not make the best of it?

Take things slowly. Don't try to pack everything all at once, especially if you're not pressed for time.

Break up your packing into manageable blocks of time. Whether you spend a few hours a day over the span of a week or schedule a few shifts over a weekend, you'll avoid overexertion and stress.

Start off your packing by getting things that you can live without packed away first. Typically, home decor, seasonal items, games, and some clothing and shoes can get packed away early.

You’ll usually need to pack cookware, furniture, and toiletries later on. Keep in mind that you'll likely need a ton of packing materials which can be expensive.

Save money (and the planet!) by finding free moving boxes. You can do that by scouring sites like Craigslist or neighborhood forums.

Regardless of your packing strategy, don't be lazy when it comes to organization. There's nothing worse than having to figure out what's in each box.

Grab some labels and some solid colored stickers. That way, you can color-code and organize to your heart's content.

Get Your Utilities in Order

Utilities can be a bit of a hassle. In addition to canceling utilities at your current home, you'll have to find the service providers in your new state and get your new service set up in your name.

Not to mention, you'll have to schedule it, so you have service upon move in. Here's a quick breakdown of the steps you can take to manage your utilities effectively during your out-of-state move.

  1. Contact Your Current Providers: Contact the providers for gas, electric, and water providers, if those utilities are in your name. Tell them that you’ll be canceling your service at your current location. Tell them you’d like to schedule shut off at a predetermined date.
  2. Transfer Your Utility Services: If you're moving to a state that your current provider offers service in, ask to transfer services to your new location. You can usually do this quickly and efficiently via an online portal or phone.
  3. Register New Services in Your Name: If you need to be set up with a new service provider, contact your new provider and get the service in your name. Schedule them for a day before you move in. You won’t want to move into a home with no lights or gas.

Do all of these steps at least two weeks ahead of your scheduled move. This gives companies time to process your request. Also, you won't have to worry about them for the rest of your moving process.

Forward Your Mail

The last thing you want is deliveries being sent to your old address. Once you have your new address and are set to move, notifying the United States Postal Service (USPS) should be your first step. However, you'll have to submit a change of address form to multiple entities including:

  • The IRS
  • The DMV
  • The Social Security Administration
  • The Government (voter registration)
  • The Bank
  • Phone, Cable, and Internet Providers
  • Loan Issuers
  • Insurance Providers
  • Subscription Services
  • Employers
  • Previous Landlord (security deposit forwarding)
  • Friends and Family

Changing your address isn't necessarily a difficult process, it's just tedious. However, you'll thank yourself for putting in the effort when your first package arrives at your doorstep and not hundreds of miles away.

Figure Out Your Transportation

So, how are you planning on getting you (and your belongings) to your new state? While there are a ton of transportation options, it's important to make a decision that works best for you.

Will you be flying and letting the movers take care of your precious cargo? Maybe you want to take a bit of a road trip and rent a U-Haul for the move? Regardless of how you choose to travel, ensure that the details of your travel arrangements are sorted out very early on.

To be safe, because you're caring for everything you currently own, look into investing in movers’ insurance. This will relieve some of the stress of moving. That way, even if your belongings are lost or damaged in some way, you'll be able to replace them.

One thing you can't replace? Your pet. Be sure to prepare for the realities of traveling across state lines with a pet in tow. Traveling with a pet can mean additional expenses and bathroom breaks. Iron out the details and prep as soon as you can.

Make the Move!

Congratulations for making it this far! Moving day has arrived, but you're not stressed. You've followed every step on this checklist and everything is smooth sailing since you’re so well prepared. Way to go!

Be sure to set aside some time to say goodbye to close friends and family on the day of your move. You'll regret it if you don't.

Settling Into Your New Home

Now that you've moved in, don't make the mistake of thinking that your work is over. Don't worry, there aren't a ton of things left to take care of after you've settled in.

Unpack. Not as you need things, but in one fell swoop. Don't leave anything packed away unless you absolutely have to.

As Marie Kondo says, "Give everything a home." It’ll help you better organize your new living space. It’ll also eliminate the need to spend hours rifling through boxes months after your move.

Again, it's a good idea to break unpacking your belongings into manageable blocks. That’ll help you to avoid stress and overexertion.

Register your pets! This is a big move for your pet, too! The stress may cause them to exhibit new behaviors, including the previously unknown talents of an escape artist.

Don't let your pet get loose with no identifying information that can help them return home. Register your pet with a new microchip and tags as soon as possible.

Meet neighbors, explore the neighborhood, and begin this new stage of your life! You put in the effort, now is the time to reap the rewards. A move can be stressful, but once you've settled, find a great group of friends to blow off steam and explore your new state with. Good luck and happy renting!

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Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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