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August 9, 2017 Blog

Buyer Beware: 7 Strategies for a Cross-Country Move

Posted on August 9, 2017


“Okay, where are we going first?”


This is how Gail, an international consultant in her fifties and a leader in her organization, often greeted me when she got in my car at the Portland airport. With her company’s blessing, Gail was relocating to Portland from Denver and would work remotely. (She could breathe easier and sleep better at sea level.)


Our days were always the same: pick her up, view potential homes, and, at day’s end, drop her back off at the airport to fly home.


Luckily, we found a house after a few trips to view the inventory of homes we’d vetted, and Gail prepared to move across country. Ever the “get things done” woman that had made her successful in her career, Gail felt she was ready when it came time to move.


With one exception: she wasn’t prepared emotionally for a cross-country move.


Moving across country is not like moving across town. Invariably, buyers will leave behind possessions, neighbors who will meet for lunch or water plants on a moment’s notice, and hairdressers, dog sitters, and handymen who have become friends over the years.


For many, there are also the bittersweet moments of closing one well-known chapter and stepping into an often-unknown one.


Over lunch on her whirlwind visits, Gail and I talked about the move and what she could expect. As we do with all out-of-town buyers, I also offered some practical and emotional insights based on our experience with cross-country buyers.


No. 1: Pretend You’re a Martian.

“Cognitive dissonance” is a phrase psychologists coined to explain unfamiliar situations that jar people out of old habits, attitudes, and beliefs. You can expect this in a cross-country move. So pretend you’re from Mars. Welcome to a new world.


In that New World, you can expect:

  • A Change in the Light: In the summer in Portland, the sun doesn’t set until 9pm so you may be eating dinner later. (In the winter, you may be in bed by 8pm!)
  • A Change in Your Workday: If you work remotely, you may want to start your workday early to keep up with your East Coast co-workers.
  • A Change in Scenery. Neighborhood drives are often under canopies of trees, and walks in your ‘hood can feel as if you’re in a thick forest, complete with berries for the picking.

No. 2: Embrace the “Work” of Putting Systems in Place.

You’ll go to Target. And then go again, and then again, until you get exactly what you need. Make peace with that. Putting systems in place takes time. Don’t be in a hurry. Be kind to yourself.


Take the time to get exactly what you want, even if you try five different salons before you find a stylist you like.


For instance:

  • If you moved without furniture, buy critical pieces such as a couch and a bed, and then take your time to find that perfect lamp or coffee table.
  • Create “rounds” of systems to put in place, starting with the most critical such as a your home office set-up if you keep a work station in the home.
  • Focus on one area at a time to organize in your home.

No. 3: Don’t Expect Your GPS to Teach You the City.

Gail knew Denver like the back of her hand. That wasn’t the case with Portland. We offered some suggestions:

  • Refer to a map (yes, the old fashioned paper ones your agent will provide you with). Look at it before driving so you have a general idea of your direction. (Mount Hood is east of the city, and often visible from the city. The Willamette River is the divider between the eastside and westside. Burnside Street divides north and south.)
  • Learn your neighborhood and expand from there, one new location at a time.
  • “Test” yourself by NOT using your GPS to find your way to the post office, the grocery store, the hardware store, the local park, etc.
  • Trust that if you visit a neighborhood place enough times, you will learn the way by heart.

No. 4: Mine Your Agent’s Brain for “Hidden” City Information.

Gail bought a home near Multnomah Village. We were able to tell her what nearby happy hours were popular, where she could catch a bus that went directly downtown, and parks with good walking trails.


We also shared information on neighborhood workout facilities, farmer’s markets, and the libraries, along with the nuances of each. (For instance, on the second floor of the Tigard Library, big tables butt up to floor to ceiling windows that look out on a nature preserve.)


No. 5: Get to know the staff at your local hardware store, community center, and library.

Sales people are a wealth of information. They can share with you upcoming events that might be of interest or provide directions on how to find a local garden center. They can also help with home improvement decisions such as what air conditioner to buy and how to install it.


You can also consult “Biehler’s Best,” our online list of proven contractors for your home projects.


No. 6: Make Friends Everywhere.

One of the greatest challenges of moving to a new city is setting up your social network. For Gail, it was especially difficult because she primarily worked from home and traveled to clients’ corporate locations for meetings.


We recommended that she:

  • Strike up conversations with sales clerks and bank tellers to feed her need for social exchanges, and to gain information about the city, the weather, etc.
  • Join a church group, civic group, or professional organization.
  • Try online groups like Meetup to find like-minded people who share similar interests.
  • Ask out-of-town friends for Portland contacts and meet up with their contacts.
  • Call old friends on a regular basis for emotional support.
  • Venture out alone—for dinner, art events, etc.—and bask in newbie newness.
  • Be bold and invite someone out if she likes them.

No. 7: Give Yourself a Break—Literally and Figuratively.

Moving across country is hard work on multiple levels. So often, all our buyers see are the tasks they have yet to complete—the closet that has yet to be organized, the family photos that have yet to be hung, the spare room that isn’t yet ready for visitors.


Our advice? Give yourself a break.


Literally. Try that new restaurant. Take an overnight sightseeing trip to the coast or the wine country. Step back to get some perspective about who you are, and how you want to be in your new city.


And, finally, applaud yourself. You had the guts to dare to step imagine a different life for yourself. Then you took action to make it happen. That alone is an act of heroic proportions.


To protect our clients’ privacy, anecdotes shared are based on true stories; however, names and specifics have been changed and/or combined into composites.


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