How do relocation services/packages work?
September 20, 2016 12:48 PM   Subscribe

I've had a few offers to interview at companies in other states and the major thing holding me back from responding has been a fear of having to handle the difficult task of moving. I know it's common for companies to offer a relocation service but how do these actually work in practice? Does it actually take the stress out of moving? I'm looking for your detailed experiences in both negotiating a relocation package and using a relocation service (employer provided or otherwise).
posted by deathpanels to Work & Money (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes. The stress of moving is gone with a good relocation package. Movers come, they box and pick your stuff up, they roll your cars into an 18 wheeler and you take a cab to the airport and fly yourself to your new location, straight into an extended stay hotel that should be paid for by your employer for a suitable period until you find new accommodations and your stuff arrives and movers unpack it for you. Your cars are also delivered.

Basically, have a cocktail and supervise packing, fly to your new home, have boxes and furniture delivered and unpack while having another cocktail.

If you own your home you can have the company arrange to sell it for you. They hire third parties to do this. Your mileage may vary on that, I've never done it and have heard mixed reviews.
posted by slateyness at 12:59 PM on September 20, 2016 [10 favorites]

When I was growing up, m family moved a couple of times and my Dad got awesome relocation packages. From those experiences, when slateyness says "...they come and pick up your stuff...", this literally means "if you do not empty your wastebaskets before the movers come, the contents may be individually wrapped, transported to the new location, and unwrapped back into your wastebasket."
posted by straw at 1:06 PM on September 20, 2016 [14 favorites]

The university that hired my husband offered a relocation package, but really that mostly applied to hiring movers. All we had to do was get three competitive quotes, pick our guys, have them come pack us up and we were good to go. It took a huge amount of stress out of an inter-provincial move, that's for sure. We were reimbursed quickly. Now I am not sure how it works for out-of-country moves. We just moved five hours east.
posted by Kitteh at 1:08 PM on September 20, 2016

Relocation packages can vary a lot from company to company (and from job to job). My personal experience has been more along the bare-bones end of the spectrum ("we'll reimburse you $X toward your moving expenses, just give us a receipt after you get here, and here's the name of the moving company that we have a contract with for reduced rates.") .

For people who are being asked to relocate by their employer or who are being recruited to very senior or hard-to-fill positions, the sky's the limit, basically--they will sometimes organize the whole process for you including providing packers and unpackers, arranging the sale of your home, etc.

Which kind of package you get depends a lot on how rare your skillset is and the norms in your profession. In my field, only people with national profiles or who are being recruited to head academic departments would be offered Option B, but in I think it's much more common for tech companies to offer elaborate relocation packages.

As to negotiation, I'd just wait for an offer and if relocation isn't part of it, ask them if they're able to offer any assistance with that.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 1:08 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would emphasize the "with a good relocation package" part of slateyness's answer. I would say about:
  • 1/3 of the companies I'm familiar with offer a substandard relocation package (ie, it covers some, but not all, of your expenses - for instance, I'm familiar with one that'll cover your house contents moving, but nothing else)
  • 1/3 have moved to a "just give a lot of cash" policy (so that you can allocate it however you want - ie, you could "skimp" on some services and pocket some extra money, or you could go "all out" if you want)
  • 1/3 have a "full relocation" policy, which tend to be as described in previous posts - they are all-inclusive and have a single point of contact for all activities/expenses.

posted by saeculorum at 1:09 PM on September 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

Everything slateyness said. Packages can vary in how extensive they can be but that's about the best scenario. It's mostly pretty great.

The one problem I've had with relocation packages is there can be layers of 3rd party contractors that you have to work with. So you might have a scenario that the relocation service is a service outside of the parent company, but it's more of a curator of all the services, so they do nothing but hire other contractors for each part of the relocation. Then some of those contractors (i.e. the car relocation) will also just be a service that hires someone else. The crappy part of this is that some of the end services can be pretty low quality. Or if there's a problem, or timing issues, it can be pretty frustrating trying to find the right person in the process that will help you as everyone wants to pass the buck. It helps to be very organized and keep strict documentation of everybody involved and their responsibilities - I usually set up a spreadsheet.

Although I haven't negotiated for a relocation package, I have negotiated the package itself. One of the great things about it was that the company doing it was huge, so everything I negotiated for was with HR, not my business unit or boss, so I felt pretty confident asking for things like help with the remaining months of my lease without any "blowback" - the worst that could happen was they would say no. In one case, some of that negotiation was through one of the contract companies and not even through HR. Though that's largely dependent on the size of the company or company culture, it's one thing to consider.

Another thing you might want to consider that I've seen is that some companies will require a contract that you work a certain amount of time after relocating; if you quit prior to that, the contract requires partial or full reimbursement for their expenses.
posted by barchan at 1:27 PM on September 20, 2016

I had the benefit of having a "full service" relocation just once...sigh. It was a golden moment in a long history of moves for work--it was during one of Silicon Valley's "boom" times--I was not working at an executive level which is usually who gets this treatment. I was moving from LA to Cupertino
- I was flown up to apartment hunt after having a long conversation with the relocation expert about what I wanted in a new place. I saw a few pretty perfect apartments in a day and would have been happy with any of them--I just picked one.
--As described above, the moving company came and packed my whole apartment as I sat in my comfy chair and held my pooch so she didn't go crazy. They were amazingly fast and efficient.
--When the guys were done, the pooch and I hopped in my car (my choice--I didn't want to fly with the dog) and drove up to Norcal.
--Met the movers at my new apartment. They unpacked everything and broke down and took away the boxes. The relo person had arranged utilities/cable/etc. and they had someone there to hook everything up that day.

I don't believe someone at a middle-management level would rate this kind of treatment these days. But, boy oh boy, it was lovely.

Otherwise has been more like saeculorum describes above in bullet point 1 & 2.
posted by agatha_magatha at 1:28 PM on September 20, 2016

I agree with those above who have said it really varies. My last move I got a set amount they would reimburse, but I had to do all the arrangements (and either stick within the amount they covered or pay out of pocket). It absolutely helped with the financial stress of moving, and did help with some specific tasks we were able to outsource (movers to carry our boxes up and down stairs), but it didn't make moving especially fun or stress-free.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:36 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

We moved to the East Bay from Southern California about a year and a half ago for my wife's job. She negotiated a lump sum based on what we figured we'd need: six months of rent to get settled plus moving costs, all of which was "grossed up" to cover the taxes. After that, we contacted a mover, and like others have said, it was a breeze.

(One nice thing the movers did: when they learned we were paying for the move ourselves out of a relo payment, a bunch of line items disappeared from the invoice. I guess it pays to have lemonade close by on moving day.)
posted by notyou at 1:40 PM on September 20, 2016

The one job that gave me a relocation package basically offered to pay the cost difference between a 'regular' intra-city move and the interstate one. So they paid for my flight, full-service movers, a furnished apartment while I found a place to live (with a time limit), and storage for my stuff until I could move into the new place, but not for costs that would have been incurred if I'd moved anyway, such as utility connections and cleaners.
More generally, moving is always a pain, but it is one of those pains that can really be helped by throwing money at it - for full-service movers that will pack and unpack for you, for professional cleaners at both ends, for decent temporary accommodation. Anything you can get the company to contribute towards those is great. Even without that, I wouldn't let the stress of moving put you off at least talking to these folks re a promising job - it's not a fun process, but it's over relatively quickly in the grand scheme of your life.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 2:03 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I know it's common for companies to offer a relocation service

It's not necessarily common unless you're desirable to them and they can't find someone on the local market. It sounds like you're specialized enough that you can get a package, but some companies may just offer you a signing bonus and let you spend it on relocation as you wish, especially smaller ones.

Keep in mind that you are likely to be required to repay the relocation package if you leave within a certain period of time (usually one year, but I've heard of two and three year requirements).

If you get it as a lump sum, it is taxable, so factor that in as far as how much you need to ask for.

When it comes to the movers, be really careful that you're fully insured by a company that's big enough either pay you or pursue the moving company to the point that they pay up. I know someone whose belongings were lost for weeks and eventually recovered with significant water damage - the contract specified that they were only liable for $0.60/lbs of damage and his other insurance did not cover it. The company did very legally dodgy things throughout the process but because of the multiple states involved, the person was unable to get any kind of investigation from law enforcement.

Don't let the movers take anything that you absolutely can't live without for a few weeks. I've had another friend that was extorted for several weeks by the movers for additional money before they'd get her belongings to her.
posted by Candleman at 2:34 PM on September 20, 2016

Also, keep in mind that such a package is basically a signing bonus and will likely reduce what you can ask for as far as a signing bonus. Professional movers are expensive. If your possessions are relatively simple, you may be better off just doing the move yourself with a rental truck, hiring some professional help unloading it, and pocketing $4-5K+ of additional signing bonus.
posted by Candleman at 2:36 PM on September 20, 2016

Relocation packages can vary a lot from company to company (and from job to job). My personal experience has been more along the bare-bones end of the spectrum ("we'll reimburse you $X toward your moving expenses, just give us a receipt after you get here, and here's the name of the moving company that we have a contract with for reduced rates.") .

For people who are being asked to relocate by their employer or who are being recruited to very senior or hard-to-fill positions, the sky's the limit, basically--they will sometimes organize the whole process for you including providing packers and unpackers, arranging the sale of your home, etc.

I've only experienced the first type (which is still far, far better than the alternative of paying for everything out of your own pocket), but I've known people receiving the second, and when the company wants someone enough, absolutely everything is covered. I doubt I will ever get to experience that kind of concierge move first-hand, but it would make moving as close to stress-free as it possibly could be.

In terms of the negotiations, resettlement is a cost just like salary, but it is a one-time cost and sometimes comes out of a different budget pool than salary, so don't be shy about negotiating for both.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:25 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh this is so timely as we are in the process of relocating from New England to south Florida for my husband's job.

Our experience has been that his employer gave him a flat dollar amount and grossed it up. He is required to pay all of it back if he leaves in a year, and half if he leaves between 12-24 months. The sum is helpful but hasn't covered the total cost of the move and while it reduces some of the stress, because of the amount, distance and the amount of STUFF we have, it hasn't done a ton to reduce the "stress."

He received $6000. For us, the negotiation basically consisted of them offering 5k and then going up 1k but the organization just doesn't do the fancy packages. We will totally exceed that. We took a weekend house hunting trip. For us, cost of that was only meals because we used points and miles for flight and hotel for three nights. He spent $3000 in temporary housing because he needed to start work and we couldn't get into our new house for six weeks. Now we have doubling housing payments for two more months while our house up here closes. Movers are $5000 (4 bedroom house.. Of which we are only bringing half our furniture and about 1400 miles) and that's the price for the non-fancy movers. Meaning very well rated and they will definitely take care of our stuff but I am doing all the packing. I am sure actual moving day I will not have to do much but GETTING to moving day has been brutal. Not so much the packing - we could bang that out with some friends for a weekend. It's been the purging that's killed me. We have a full unfinished basement and so keep lots of things that never get used but get saved for "maybe we need it down the road." I have been playing the "am I going to pay to move that" game with everything. The problem with purging is that's something only I can do really - friends and family don't know what I want to keep . Then we have to get our cars and selves down. He drove. I am taking the auto train with my daughter so another $700. And let's not forget the very large loss we are taking on the house we are selling. So, all in all, that $6000 really hasn't gone far. It's been especially hard because he had to go ahead of us and I am dealing with everything related to the move while working full time with a four year old. Frankly, i have already told him I will not do this again for a job change unless it is an absolutely AMAZING CANT TURN IT DOWN kind of offer with a LEGIT relo package.
Don't under estimate the cost of relocating and consider that in any package.

This experience is very different than his relocation package he received when he came up here. In that case, they paid for movers to come in and pack and move him. Paid to ship his car. Paid to fly him up. Paid for two house hunting trips and 2 months in a hotel. Paid to break his lease that he was leaving. Basically he had very little out of pocket expenses and people took care of everything for him.

If you are worried about stress, I would say a relo package like what he got to come up here removes a lot of stress. If it's closer to our current package, I would say your stress will depend on your situation. This wouldn't be as bad but I am dealing with it alone because he had to go ahead, while going through 8 years of stuff, working full time, taking care of a four year old alone (this is week 6 of doing it alone and I'm ready to break) and keeping the house show ready for showings while still trying to pack to move. It would be very different if I was relocating when I was single, didn't have a house to sell, didn't have as much stuff, and didn't have a kiddo to worry about.

To be quite frank this has been incredibly stressful. But we had no choice because he was laid off and we knew in his industry that meant we would need to move. So we are doing it because we have to... I wouldn't willingly have done it with this type of package if we didn't have to.

I think you need to figure out how stressful it would be to move (moving a studio apartment is probably easier than a large house) and if your package is sufficient to offset that stress and if it offsets the expenses.
posted by polkadot at 8:00 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Last time I did this it was like this:

$15k relocation bonus* on day 1, plus $2,000 per month for travel costs for 3 months (giving time to sell my home, find a place here, etc), then another $15k upon completion of the move. The money helped with getting our house ready to sell, getting all our stuff moved, etc.

*Was taxed as a bonus, but the extra $2,000 per month was not because I had to produce receipts
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:23 PM on September 20, 2016

A relocation package is just getting paid for moving expenses. When I relocated for work I was living in a one bedroom apartment and gave away or sold a lot of my possessions that I didn't really care about before the move. As a result, the cost of the "movers pack everything for you" service was surprisingly cheap -- like I think it was under a thousand bucks? And it's tax deductible if you're moving for work.

None of this is magical or specific to a relocation package, it's just a service that movers offer and that you can pay for. It's a great service, absolutely worth the money, but it doesn't take all the stress out of moving -- they don't unpack things for you*, you still need to find a new place [and as part of the relo package we had access to someone who showed us apartments, but they were terrible -- it might work ok if you were moving to a city that has a less heated rental market, it doesn't work for a city like SF or NYC], move your vehicle registration, get a new driver's license, file annoying complicated tax returns, find new schools for your kids, etc. etc. Likewise, the relocation package included temporary housing in a furnished apartment, which was a lifesaver while we looked for an apartment -- but again, this is something you can pay for separately. It just costs money.

*Well, I guess they can unpack things for you, but the unpacking service our movers offered was just "we take things out of boxes and put them on the counters", it wasn't like they shelved your dishes -- it didn't seem worth paying for, so we didn't.
posted by phoenixy at 10:24 PM on September 20, 2016

I had a relocation move a few years ago (and might have one again soon) - here's how it went for me:

1. my car was picked up by a big carrier truck
2. my apartment stuff was all boxed up (they told me NOT to box stuff up myself) after somebody (a cool older dude who made pocket watches as a hobby) came to do an estimate/appraisal of sorts
3. they put me and my cat on a plane (well, two planes, one trip, they actually didn't pay for the cat but i didn't have to either; not sure how that worked out but i am not complaining)
4. a rental car and a temporary furnished apartment were waiting for me - i got both for 30 days
5. for various other incidental moving expenses, i had to send a report with receipts to the relocation vendor - they somehow mailed me the check to my OLD ADDRESS ACROSS THE COUNTRY, but i received it because of mail forwarding.
6. within the 30 days, somebody came and dropped off my car, and I signed off on it and returned the rental. i found an apartment and moved in, a few days after that, the movers brought all of my stuff (i slept on an air mattress for two nights because the appointment was a few days off)

So, yeah, you have to be sort of on top of things (dealing with a third party vendor for your reimbursements, etc. - hopefully getting an apartment soon within those 30 days so you can make the appointment to move your furniture in while you still have access to a bed in the temporary housing) but it's not bad. I did the apartment hunting myself though I think they offered to help a bit. I did the unpacking myself too and for months my friends made fun of me because all of my furniture had the movers' inventory labels on them.

Okay, it was a bit stressful to be away from my guitar for a month.
posted by destructive cactus at 1:19 AM on September 21, 2016

I nearly got fucked in the 1990s by interning for a big company - they paid my relocation and put me up for the summer. Woo Hoo, I thought!

Turns out they were valuing their "summer intern residences" at something like 3x my intern salary, and so at the end of the summery they reported this as W2 income, which has a tax rate of roughly 33%.

The tax bill was basically as big as my salary. Surprise!

I found some IRS documents which suggested this was not right or legal and pushed back and in the end was not billed one cent, but man it was not fun.

TLDR; if you get any non-salary benefits from a company, make sure you get in writing that they agree to cover your tax liabilities if any.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 7:12 PM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

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