How to Relocate to a More Expensive City

Relocating is always stressful. But what do you do if you were living comfortably in a small, inexpensive town and found out you’re getting relocated to some place like New York City or California? Even if you have a big-city-sized salary to go with your new city, you’re still going to have to be smart about buying your home.

Plan ahead

In a perfect world, you’ll know about your move a couple years ahead of time. That way you can put aside some extra money for a down payment in your new city. But we all know we don’t live in a perfect world. An unexpected promotion, a layoff, or, if you're in the military, a PCS might mean you have a short notice before you have to move to your new town.

Buy a house you can afford

It’s going to be tempting to buy the same size house as you have now. Resist the urge! Even if you’re getting a big, new salary to go with your big, new city, it might not be enough to live in the kind of house you’re used to. Plus if you can’t afford a good down payment on your new house, you might be stuck paying PMI for years to come. Use our mortgage calculator to find out exactly what you can afford. 

Consider a fixer upper

If your heart is set on a big house, look around for fixer-uppers. You can usually get them at a lower price. Just remember to look at them closely. Not everything is a DIY project, and some fixer-uppers can have some serious damage, which can spell serious damage to your bank account. You should also take into account how long you expect to be in the home. If this is a fairly permanent move, go for the fixer-upper. But if it's a stop along the way in your military career, you might not be there long enough to see a return on your investments. 

Find the right location

Certain neighborhoods might also mean that you can get rid of your car--and the loan, gas, and insurance costs that go with it. It might be tempting to live right in the heart of the city, but you’ll probably be able to find places that are just as nice, only a little further out. Make a list of must-haves for your new location and show them to your real estate agent. She’ll be able to show you a couple of different neighborhoods and you can decide which one gives you the best deal for your budget.

Get the right type of mortgage for you

Not every type of mortgage is going to be right for your situation. You might need an adjustable-rate mortgage so you can take advantage of the low introductory rate before you refinance. Or a 30-year mortgage might make more sense for you. If you're a veteran, don't forget about VA loans--you can use that benefit more than once. Talk to your lender and explore all your options. Just because something made sense in your old town, doesn’t mean it will in your new city.