The short-term move
Question: "It's only
three months. Or six months. Or a year. How bad can it be?"
Answer: Truly, truly awful.
You may need a temporary move because your career calls for a
short-term assignment. You may be renting while you build your
dream house. You may have relocated temporarily to help a close
friend or family member.
As I have
made a number of short-term moves myself: three months to teach
summer school in Berkeley, a year in Gainesville, a semester
in Connecticut,, and more.
Short-term moves can be more
difficult - and can cost you more money - than a "permanent"
First, many communities are designed for
home buyers and vacationers.
When Geraldine Ferraro's
son was sentenced to a year's probation on a drug charge, he
was criticized for serving his sentence in a luxury apartment.
His mother pointed out that there were simply no low-cost, short-term
rental options in that wealthy community. I believe her.
Second, even when short-term options exist,
they may be less desirable. College towns tend to offer short-term
student housing and longer-term faculty housing. Short-term leases
may be located in noisy student complexes or less desirable neighborhoods.
Sometimes you can lease from someone who is also going away.
These situations can be ideal. However, you will be living among
someone else's treasured possessions.
Jennifer rented a house in
the midwest while the owners spent a happy year in Italy. "They
claimed that all their furniture was antique, even though it
wasn't. I had to tiptoe around their junk and they took all my
deposit to remove the non-existent cat hair."
You may be asked to give
monthly rides to a needy relative, water the plants or take care
of the pets. Inevitably, the rides will switch to weekly, the
plants will die and the pets will view the stars of The Incredible
Journey as role models.
I'd like to tell you to get
everything in writing and refuse special requests, but you probably
won't do it. I wouldn't either.
First, if at all possible, take a house-hunting
trip. Spend a minimum of two full days. It will be expensive,
but the alternatives are worse.
Second, visit at least three rental options, if indeed three
options exist. If a friend or leasing agent shows you around,
do not make any commitment, even if the friend tells you that
the park is your only other option. The next day, get a local
paper and explore additional options, by yourself or with another
Often you will find that the first friend or agent was terrific
and you can't do better on your own. Well, now you have built
a relationship of trust and you're no worse off.
Third, try to find a month-to-month rental. Do not sign
a full year's lease until you have absolutely ruled out other
Fourth, if you leave a security deposit,
ask the landlord for references. Many landlords are honest,
but others will realize you won't buy a plane ticket to file
a claim for a $500 deposit. Explore your options if you find
yourself in a dispute: Small Claims Court, Real Estate Board,
Consumer Affairs agencies. Often the threat of a report will
encourage a recalcitrant landlord to start thinking good thoughts
about good karma.
say, "It's only..."
Regardless, I've learned not to say, "It's only a year,"
or, "It's only six months." Six months can seem like
forever. Worse, you can lose large sums of money if you have
to leave early or if you find your rental is not habitable. And
you want to look back on your temporary move as a fun time and
not a series of hassles.
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D.
Author, Career Consultant, Speaker
*Fast Track to Career Freedom*