Play by Play: Moving from a Mid-Sized Town to the Big City for Love

Our Play By Play series gives you a glimpse into what real people experience when dealing with real estate. This week, we did a Q and A with Katie Okawa, who recently relocated from South Carolina to Washington, DC. Do you have a real estate story to share? Email us!

Katie Okawa, originally from Aiken, South Carolina, lived in the capital city of Columbia for seven years before deciding to make the move to Washington, DC to be with her boyfriend. Moving from a mid-sized town to a big city brings a lot of changes, from how you get around to what kind of plans you can make about where you'll live and whether you'll rent or own. What brought you to DC?

Katie: Love. [Ed. Note: Aw!]

How long did you have to prepare for the move? And how long did the actual move take? Did you do it yourself?

Three months and the physical moving took about three days. My boyfriend flew down to SC so he could help me pack and drive the truck to DC. Packing my stuff (which was already boxed up) took about a half a day, and the drive to DC took a full day. Luckily, we were able to park the truck overnight in his apartment’s loading dock while we packed up his stuff in Arlington. The next morning we arrived at our new house and started moving in!

What’s the biggest difference between living in a (relatively) small towns like Columbia and DC?

How you get around. In Columbia, my primary mode of transportation was my car, but here in DC, it’s less convenient to drive most places. Now I mostly get around by foot, bike share, metro, or Uber.

Are you renting or did you buy? And what type of place are you living in?

We’re renting a row house. For me, buying here is a total pipe dream, which was a change coming from Columbia, where I was also renting. DC real estate is extremely expensive, so while I was in a position to consider buying a home in Columbia, in DC I’m not.

Are you living in DC or just outside of it? And why did you choose to live where you are?

We’re living in the District near Capitol Hill. My boyfriend’s office is nearby. His previous commute from Arlington to Capitol Hill was 40 minutes (on a good day) by metro, which isn’t always fun. He wanted to find a place closer to his work so he could walk or bike to the office.

Read more → New Job? How Close Do You Want to Be to the Office?

What do you miss most about South Carolina? And do you think you'll stay in DC long term?

I miss family, friends, and the cost of living. All of our family and many close friends are in SC, so we are hoping to move back in the next few years.

We love CNN Money's Cost of Living Calculator! Compare costs of groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, and health care in two different cities and find out how far your salary will go in another city.

What are you most excited for in DC?

Having new places to explore and discover. I’ve had so much fun getting to know the city!

What advice would you give someone making a similar move?

Start moving preparations and packing early; it’s much less overwhelming to do when you’re not being rushed. Also, hire some help. While we did all of the packing and loading ourselves, we did hire some movers to help us unload, which made things so much easier.

Just What Expenses Might Be Covered When You Relocate?

How hard was it to find work in DC? And what tips would you offer someone who's looking to relocate?

I didn't think that finding a job was all that difficult. My search took about a month and a half from start to signed offer letter, but I'm not sure that's typical. [Ed. Note: We think that sounds pretty impressive!] I think the best advice I have to give someone who is relocating is to expect the worst, so you're in a better position to be pleasantly surprised at the end of the process. That might sound completely pessimistic, but it worked for me! I was anticipating that moving would be a disaster, with nothing going as planned, but it ended up being pretty smooth - all it takes is some extra planning!

Read More →

Relocating: Our Guide to Getting Started

When to Move It Yourself, and When to Hire Help

Ask the Expert: Tips for a Successful Move