How does one move across the country smartly?
December 11, 2009 7:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving to Boston from San Diego in a year, but I don't know a soul there, nor do I know how to get the important stuff (job, apartment) set up from so far away. Questions follow.

The last time I moved across the country like this was a decade ago, and I had friends on the other side who pulled some strings to get me a job and also had a room I could rent. I won't have that luxury this time. What I do have is experience as a creative director and graphic designer, some money saved, and a decade's worth of stuff to move... which is all way more than I had ten years ago. But this part I still don't know how to do....

1) What's the best way to find employment from across the country? And how soon does it make sense to start that process? I'll be able to live for several months without income if I have to by that time, and I can freelance for a while, but I'd breathe easier knowing I had a job lined up before I hit the road.

2) How the hell do I arrange for an apartment? I can pick one out and visit it, but I wonder how the application process is going to go. My credit is good (but not perfect). I'll be working at my current job right up until I move... but that will mean that my proof of income is all from a job across the country... a job I'm leaving. Does that matter?

I know that people do this sort of thing all the time, and I've done some Googling around, but this is very scary to me, and I don't know where to start!

Throaway email if needed:
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I went to Boston from San Diego once too. This was my experience. I lived in Boston and thought I wanted to go back to San Diego, but once I got back to San Diego, I couldn't find a job I loved as much. I called my old employer in Boston and got my job back. Moved back to Boston ASAP and stayed a long time. How did I get to Boston the first time?

I left San Diego and moved to New York. The funny story there about finding a place to live was that I was eating breakfast in a diner on Staten Island and a contractor made a comment to me about my California plates and within two hours I was renting one of his properties. I left NY because my SO didn't like it so well. I left an awesome job too.

I went up to his best friend's hometown of Fall River, Mass. (what a bizarre town) and as there's no work there ended up going to the personnel agencies in Boston and landing the job I mentioned above. When commuting 50 miles one way got old as well as the haunted house I lived in, I moved to Back Bay in Boston, and eventually to Beacon Hill.

Since likely none of this can be applied to your situation, my advice would be to do as much over-the-phone interviewing as you can and maybe have some interviews set up for when you get there. Most apartments in Boston are handled through rental agencies, so I'd be in touch with them for your price and neighborhood preferences. You can likely set that up before you go because you can see pictures of the place via the internet. If you want to be there in person, set up your agency appointments.

As far as where to stay if you don't rent ahead of time, I'd stay in a hostel or the least expensive hotel you can find and get to those rental agencies quick to keep your savings intact. As far as moving your stuff long distance, my recommendation is don't. I've done it both ways and moving it is expensive and tiresome, while selling it frees you up and household stuff is easy to come by.

Good luck. If you ever need a roommate, holler, I'd love to come back there. Best city in the US, in my opinion.
posted by VC Drake at 7:56 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Craigslist,, rentline, forrent...

The local paper should be online, including the classifieds.

I found a really nice apartment online, it can be done.

San Diego is a Fine City, enjoy your stay!

Agree with selling your stuff and buying new, even shipping and storing it can be a hassle and a half!
posted by Jinx of the 2nd Law at 9:25 PM on December 11, 2009

Places to start which have links to other places...

Local Alternative Paper:

News Aggregator:
posted by andreap at 11:33 PM on December 11, 2009

As far as finding an apartment, I think your best bet will be to take a vacation out here a few months before you intend to move. Fly out, find a place, sign the paperwork, and then call a Mefi Meetup and you'll be all set with a place to live and people to pester when you get here!

I'm not sure how it is in San Diego, but September is the big moving month in Boston. Due to the large student population, almost everybody's leases begin and end in September, and the entire city seems to perform a big game of musical chairs. Keep in mind that, depending on where in the city you want to live, landlords may insist on a September lease. This has the downside of requiring you to establish housing several months in advance.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:58 PM on December 11, 2009

I did this two years except I was moving from the San Francisco area, seeking a programming job, and had less money saved than it sounds like you do. Here's what I can remember that seems relevant:

I started applying for jobs in Boston as soon as I felt like I could be ready to move. Most companies I applied to were happy to do an initial interview by phone. When these went well, I was prepared to fly out for in person interviews. I tried to schedule multiple interviews over a two or three day period, so that I could make the most of a short trip out, and people were generally good about working with me on this. It's worth planning from the start to set aside money for a few round trip flights to Boston, since unless you get very lucky you won't be able to talk to everyone in one trip. Oh, and when you're doing phone interviews, take care to get the time zone stuff right, and don't be surprised if at least one person calls you at a drastically wrong time thanks to time zone confusion.

Some people expressed a worry that I was going to expect them to pay for moving expenses. In these cases, I just said that I was already planning to move for personal reasons, and was comfortable covering the expenses on my own. That said, if they don't rule it out, it's probably worth asking about when you're close to getting a job. Others seemed to need some reassurance that I was actually planning to stay here long-term. Those are pretty much the only concerns about my location that I heard in interviews.

After I succeeded in getting a job, they were quite willing to give me a few weeks to finish out my old job in California, and then to get packed up and moved. Overall, the long distance added much less trouble than expected to the process of finding a job.

Moving is a little trickier, and I have less good advice. I got ridiculously lucky in that the people that hired me wanted me to work in New York for a couple of months, and provided me with a place there, which made it much easier to get to Boston on weekends.

Failing that, I'd suggest looking for a furnished short-term rental for your first month or two, and using that as a home base for hunting for a real apartment. It's just so much easier to find an apartment if you can actually go look at a bunch of them. That said, there is room to do some planning beforehand--the apartment listings on craigslist are a good place to start--and to think about where exactly you want to live. For what it's worth, I didn't have any trouble applying for apartments as a new transplant with not-so-stellar credit.

I know this is a little beyond the original question, but for moving your stuff, I'd strongly recommend ABF U-Pack. Their prices are similar to renting a truck, except you don't have to drive a moving truck across the country (big win), and they can store your stuff for you after it arrives, which is useful if you haven't found the place you want to move into yet. Also consider, for anything big, whether you're better off moving it or just replacing it.

Finally, good luck! Boston's a great city (even if it is fucking cold right now), and I hope you'll be as happy as I am to have moved here. And don't be too scared: there's a lot of stuff to deal with in moving, but it's really not has hard or as risky as it sounds.

Also, VC Drake is right, Fall River is totally bizarre. Did you know Lizzie Borden's house is a bed and breakfast now?
posted by moss at 12:03 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Temp agencies have been good to me in the past. There's a lot of them...I haven't used them in a long time, and the situation may be different now. However, they'd definitely be worth a call.

There's at least one and possibly several youth hostels in Boston. The living conditions there are pretty sparce, but I think it would be ok for a couple of weeks of cheap living if you needed it.

Are you looking for roomates or your own place? Roomates wise I would never, ever move into a place without a thorough interview with the people living there. If you are looking for an apartment I think your best bet would be to be in town to look.
posted by sully75 at 6:42 AM on December 12, 2009

Two other points to consider: Are you set on moving to Boston proper, or are you also willing to consider any/some of the various suburbs? I guess not knowing where you're going to work might make that tricky, but on the other hand, the rent can sometimes be a *little* cheaper outside the city, and you're often not giving up too much in the way of commute time.

Second point: If you have a car, you absolutely MUST ask about parking when looking at rentals. Many, many, many places, especially in Boston, do not include parking, and parking on street can be an unholy mess (especially when it snows...). In the suburbs it varies a lot--a lot of the cities immediately adjacent to Boston & Cambridge have rules about no overnight parking on the streets. You might even consider getting rid of your car all together, as between the MBTA and ZipCar it can be very easy to get around the area without a car.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:28 AM on December 12, 2009

My wife moved here from Louisiana in the fall of '04 without knowing a single person in the state. She had a job before coming, but found roomies on Craigslist. A friend of hers from Louisiana had a cousin at MIT, whom she called just to have someone to talk to. She tagged along with him to a party, I met her there, we're married. Great things happen when you take a leap.

She's now back in school for film production, and before that worked in publishing for years. I do marketing. I bought the building I live in with a buddy of mine who owns a property management firm and rents places out all the time. Drop a line if you want some more specific advice.

Also relevant: I moved to Beijing for a while without a job, just knowing one person in the city, and without speaking the language. Making the decision to take the plunge is the hardest part.
posted by kryptonik at 5:13 PM on December 12, 2009

I've suggested the b0st0n and davis_square livejournal communities in previous moving-to-boston questions; the former is larger and more random, while the latter is better-tagged and more specific to a single neighborhood. Both will have information on realtors and can give you a general idea about sublets.

For jobs, although it's time-consuming, look at the job links on the websites of as many of the local universities as possible, since they don't always get advertised elsewhere.
posted by nonane at 6:09 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with moss about using ABF - I used them to move from Boston (sniff) to Cincinnati. They were very professional, helpful, pleasant, etc, and one of the most cost-effective ways I could find to get lots of stuff from point A to B.

For apartments, most everyone in Boston uses craigslist, short of having a good amount of $$$ and just going through a pricey rental agent. Were I in your shoes, I'd probably do that for a place sight-unseen and google the building/landlord for clues as to good place/bad place (failing having a friend you can stay with while you look), or sublet for an extended period of time and look that way.

Enjoy it! Boston's one of the most fantastic places I've ever been. I really miss it.
posted by AthenaPolias at 12:20 AM on December 13, 2009

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