The hidden - and not so hidden - costs of moving to a new city

There are as many ways to settle into a new city as there are Americans on the move. One woman in her mid-20s came to New York City three months ago with no job, quickly and found a permanent apartment through friends. But she went through her cash almost immediately.

A news reporter recently transferred from Washington, D.C., to New York admits he was so happy he didn't talk to his bosses about resettlement costs. The reporter did get a salary boost, but he never asked for help in paying a broker's fee to find an apartment. He is still looking hard in a city where a studio can cost between $550 to $900 a month, and a finder's fee can be 15 percent of the first year's rent.

A large corporation moved a Chicago executive to Los Angeles with his wife and three-month-old son. The company took care of almost all moving expenses, including a premove visit, selling their home in a Chicago suburb, finding a new home, and helping to defray the cost of new home furnishings. The company also gave advice on tax deductions for expenses not picked up.

A little under 30 percent of all renters in large US cities had moved into their homes within the past year in 1981, according to the Census Bureau, although not all of those had moved long distance. Some 15 percent of all homeowners had recently moved into their homes.

Experts on making moves to new cities all stress planning - from figuring out realistically what a move will cost both during and after resettling to being ready for the culture shock that may come after a move.

Susan FitzHenry, director of marketing for Bekins Van Lines, says families should realize the changes that will take place when they move - and that different members of the family will ''accept'' the transfer at different rates.

The costs of settling into a new town often surprise new arrivals.

''The most expensive part of living in New York is where you live,'' says the news reporter, who takes it as a given that he will not find as nice an apartment as he had in Washington. ''I'm convinced that 'open space' (in an ad for an apartment) simply means southern exposure.''

Another new arrival to the Big Apple was not ready for the transportation system when she arrived and ended up taking cabs until she had it figured out.

''I spent more money on taxis than on food during the first couple weeks,'' she says.

And it is not just New York that surprises people. A Denver relocation expert says new arrivals from smaller cities are sometimes shocked at the price of comparable homes when they arrive in that town.

Cash flow is important when arriving in a new town, say those who have made the move. Sometimes new arrivals come with a cashier's check from an out-of-town bank. They have been stymied when they try to open a new account, and they find they can't draw cash until the check clears. And when starting a new job, the first paycheck may not come for several weeks.

''If you can do it, have credit cards,'' says one woman. She says she had rarely used her ''plastic'' until she moved to Houston and didn't have any local credit. Charging meals and new purchases helped her through the first month.

The financial side of settling in must be thoroughly considered before a move. Ms. FitzHenry suggests that a family look at its current checkbook and calculate what its monthly expenses are now, then research what the same life style will cost in the new city. Consider housing, transportation, food prices, utilities, clothing, and entertainment. Some consulting firms specialize in cost-of-living comparisons to help corporations establish equitable compensation for transferred employees. But these services are often too expensive for individuals.

A relocation expert for a New York-based corporation points out that his company will help an employee with a premove trip, transportation insurance for the move, travel to the new city, temporary living costs, storage and insurance for household goods, purchasing or renting a new home, and buying home furnishings.

Be prepared for extra expenses when resettling. Finding a new place to live may involve paying a broker's fee and/or first and last month's rent and security deposits. Keep in mind the cost of hooking up phone or electrical service. Curtains that fit windows in Seattle may not be the right size for an apartment in San Francisco. And the search for a new home may mean storage fees for furniture. Moving to a new home can mean new home and auto insurance at sharply different rates.

Be careful when handing over money - particularly checks - in a new town. One recent arrival to New York gave a $600 ''good faith'' check to a rental agent to hold an apartment. She was told the check would be held until a decision was made. She called the next morning to say she did not want the unit and found the check had already been cashed. Two months later she is still waiting for her refund.

Although more companies now offer comprehensive resettlement packages, some employees find that eagerness to take on new assignments sometimes means they will move without reaching a relocation agreement with their employer.

''In hindsight I should have asked about things like the broker's fee,'' says one man. Another woman didn't find out her firm would pay such a fee until she had been looking for apartments several months. And no one had volunteered the information that a settlement fee was given to transferring employees.

Also be aware of tax benefits of moving. Any move over 35 miles for business purposes is tax deductible, says the IRS. That can include moving expenses, motel costs, a trip to visit a city, and furniture storage.

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