Surviving the short-term move
Question: "It's only three months. Or six months. Or
a year. How bad can it be?"
Answer: Truly, truly awful.
You may need a temporary move because your career calls for
a short-term assignment. You may be renting while you build
your dream house. You may have relocated temporarily to help
a close friend or family member.
Moving Lady, I have made a number of short-term moves
myself: three months to teach summer school in Berkeley, a
year in Gainesville, a semester in Connecticut,, and more.
Short-term moves can be more difficult - and can cost you
more money - than a "permanent" move. Why?
First, many communities are designed for home buyers and vacationers.
When Geraldine Ferraro's son was sentenced to a year's probation
on a drug charge, he was criticized for serving his sentence
in a luxury apartment. His mother pointed out that there were
simply no low-cost, short-term rental options in that wealthy
community. I believe her.
Second, even when short-term options exist, they may be less
desirable. College towns tend to offer short-term student
housing and longer-term faculty housing. Short-term leases
may be located in noisy student complexes or less desirable
Sometimes you can lease from someone who is also going away.
These situations can be ideal. However, you will be living
among someone else's treasured possessions.
Jennifer rented a house in the midwest while the owners spent
a happy year in Italy. "They claimed that all their furniture
was antique, even though it wasn't. I had to tiptoe around
their junk and they took all my deposit to remove the non-existent
You may be asked to give monthly rides to a needy relative,
water the plants or take care of the pets. Inevitably, the
rides will switch to weekly, the plants will die and the pets
will view the stars of The Incredible Journey as role models.
I'd like to tell you to get everything in writing and refuse
special requests, but you probably won't do it. I wouldn't
What can you do?
First, if at all possible, take a house-hunting trip. Spend
a minimum of two full days. It will be expensive, but the
alternatives are worse.
Second, visit at least three rental options, if indeed three
options exist. If a friend or leasing agent shows you around,
do not make any commitment, even if the friend tells you that
the park is your only other option. The next day, get a local
paper and explore additional options, by yourself or with
Often you will find that the first friend or agent was terrific
and you can't do better on your own. Well, now you have built
a relationship of trust and you're no worse off.
Third, try to find a month-to-month rental. Do not sign a
full year's lease until you have absolutely ruled out other
Fourth, if you leave a security deposit, ask the landlord
for references. Many landlords are honest, but others will
realize you won't buy a plane ticket to file a claim for a
$500 deposit. Explore your options if you find yourself in
a dispute: Small Claims Court, Real Estate Board, Consumer
Affairs agencies. Often the threat of a report will encourage
a recalcitrant landlord to start thinking good thoughts about
Never say, "It's only..."
Regardless, I've learned not to say, "It's only a year,"
or, "It's only six months." Six months can seem
like forever. Worse, you can lose large sums of money if you
have to leave early or if you find your rental is not habitable.
And you want to look back on your temporary move as a fun
time and not a series of hassles.
|Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and
speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast
move to career freedom. Visit her site http://www.movinglady.com
or call 505-534-4294.