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Moving Because of Work? Important Questions to Ask Your Employer
08-05-2020 | Armbruster

Moving Because of Work? Important Questions to Ask Your Employer

Questions to Ask Employer Before Relocating to Work

Americans are on the move. Every year, roughly 30 million people pull up stakes and relocate. We do it for a number of reasons—to buy a bigger house, to live in a better climate, changes in marital status. A significant number of our moves are related to our jobs. If you are relocating because of your work, you may be fortunate enough to have your company footing the bill for your moving expenses. That’s something to be thankful for, but there are a lot of variables within those expenses and a lot of hidden expenses. There are several questions you should ask your employer so you have all of your bases covered. You also want to know how much support you’ll have in managing all the different aspects of your move. Before you sign on the dotted line, be sure to ask about anything that isn’t clear.

What Kinds of Support Will You Have?

There is so much that goes into relocating employees that some companies have in-house relocation specialists. Relocation specialists act as your point person for all aspects of your move and are responsible for managing your relocation package. If so, be sure to ask if they help or have information on the following:
  • What is the timeline for your move? You have to pack, potentially sell your home, find a new home, register kids for school and say your goodbyes, just to name a few. What’s the schedule for all of that to happen?
  • Will the company pay for a house-hunting trip? You will most likely want to arrange for housing before you relocate. Ask if the company will pay for airfare, hotels and food so you can scout out a new home.
  • What kinds of moving services does the company offer? Will you get help with packing and unpacking, or simply have movers load and unload the truck?
  • What kinds of valuation will be offered in case any of your belongings are lost or damaged?
  • Will they help your partner or spouse find a job in your new location? The number one reason relocations fail is because an employee’s partner is unhappy. Because of this, many companies offer assistance to spouses.
  • Will you have destination service providers? Companies often have resources to help on the other end of your move. Realtors fall into this category. For international moves, culture coaches are often employed to help you understand the norms and culture of your new country. Ask your point person if there are other supports that are offered.

Options for Covering Moving Expenses 

Right out of the gate, you need to know which option your company offers---direct pay, lump sum or reimbursement.

Direct pay

Direct pay means that your company will pay the vendors involved with your move directly---most likely the company has established vendors that they trust. You may not have any say in which vendors will be involved in your move, but you also won’t have the headache of finding movers, realtors, etc. on your own.

Lump Sum

Some companies will calculate your moving costs and cut you a lump sum check. They may recommend vendors or may leave it all up to you. Some companies are flexible if your costs run over the cost estimated. Keep track of all of your receipts. You may need submit them for further reimbursement.


The least desirable option is that you keep track of your expenses and submit all of your receipts for reimbursement. Since moving can cost thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars, try to negotiate for at least some of the costs upfront.

Other Financial Factors

There are other financial aspects to relocation that you want to consider when negotiating your contract. Some are short term. Others will have a long-term impact. Don’t be afraid to negotiate to have any or all of these covered.
  • Cost of living:  This will have an effect on you as long as you live in your new location. How different is the cost of living in your new location? If it’s higher than where you live now, your salary should factor in that cost of living. You don’t want to change jobs, move cities, and end up essentially getting a pay cut because the cost of living is higher.
  • Taxes:  Everyone’s tax situation is different, so this may or may not be a concern. What you need to know is that whatever money your company provides to you for moving expenses can be considered income. If you have a big move---a house, a spouse, and kids---this can cost thousands of dollars and potentially bump you to a higher tax bracket. You can negotiate getting reimbursed for your uptick in taxes that year.
  • Closing costs:  Companies will often pay for closing costs on the home you’re selling and the new one you’re buying. Some companies will even buy your house from you so you don’t have to contend with putting it on the market yourself. (They’ll have a realtor resell it for them.)
  • Storage:  For any number of reasons, you may need to store your belongings for a period of time. Will your employer pay for the storage? For how long?
  • International Expenses:  If you are moving internationally, you should be asking if you get paid time off and expenses for traveling home to see family.
  • Car Shipping:  You may not want to drive your own car to your new place. Will your employer pay to ship your car to wherever you’re headed?
  • Incidental or Nominal Expenses:  These are the smaller things that can add up. Things like changing your license, getting a new vehicle registration, and fees for breaking a rental agreement can add up.

Contract Items You Can’t Forget 

A final note on other aspects of your relocation contract. First, be sure your contract is clear on whether this is a short-term or long-term assignment. Second, check on whether there is a payback clause. A payback clause, or a payback commitment, means that if you leave the company shortly after they financed your move, you owe them part, or all, of your moving expenses. Have a job-related move in your future? Contact us to see how we can help!
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