Relocating for job: When to what?
April 12, 2018 5:54 PM   Subscribe

I anticipate relocating from GA to VA in late May or early June for a job. I have an offer letter in hand with salary that is a hair under my current salary (changing fields/roles). Spouse works in a field where he is confident he can get a job fairly easily and would almost certainly have a higher salary than now due to the location, but has not started looking for work in earnest yet. We are looking to buy a house in the new location though prefer not to sell our current place if we can help it.

I outright own an additional home that we are in the process of fixing up to try and rent out. Our current house (with mortgage) we may also try to rent after we clear out.

So my question is, what should we do when?
Apply for a mortgage now with our current incomes and current mortgage obligation? How would the process work for buying another home in another state?
Wait til he gets a contract and apply for a mortgage on the basis of our offers (he'll keep getting paid on his current contract through the summer no matter what)?
Move first, work for a bit, and then apply for a mortgage with demonstrable income and potentially rental income on one or two houses? I mean that sounds like the best solution except for the problem that our 7 precious children who will not be abandoned happen to be cats and I think it will be difficult to find somewhere to rent with this family structure.
Should I just bite the bullet and talk to my credit union?
We made a brief visit to the area a few weekends ago just to try and get the lay of the land and have otherwise been looking online (Redfin, Trulia, Zillow) at prospective properties. An agent from Redfin reached out but I haven't gotten back to her yet since I feel like it might be pointless to get into it before I have financing lined up, on the other hand the clock is ticking). His new job would likely not start until the fall, so in theory I could go as advance party and try to find short-term digs to stay in while I build up a few pay stubs and then buy a place for the rest of the family to come to later when his job would start, but in reality that's likely to cause relationship friction and I'd prefer to avoid that situation unless it's the only viable course of action.
posted by Hal Mumkin to Work & Money (10 answers total)
Unless you can apply for a mortgage on your salary alone, I would say that you need to wait until both of you are employed (or at very least have an offer) in VA to get preapproved for a loan. I remember our lender verifying employment just before closing.

If you can, I would suggest getting settled in VA without buying and just renting first. I’m not sure where you are moving to in VA, but here in northern VA, there are big differences in the neighborhoods.

Good luck!
posted by jraz at 6:29 PM on April 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you feel comfortable sharing, you could be a bit more specific in where you are moving in Virginia?
posted by smorgasbord at 6:46 PM on April 12, 2018

Being a landlord of a distant property is difficult enough. Supervising contractors building or repairing a house long-distance is nearly impossible. (If you are in VA, I assume you will not be doing the work yourself.) I would rethink this whole thing. Consider where real estate prices are now and what the likely outlook is for the near future. I would recommend strongly considering selling one or both of your properties.

Debt is a bad thing when your income is uncertain. Your husband is sure he can get a job, with better pay, but doesn’t have any certain income going forward. Who knows if your job will work out? Get liquid and stay mobile.
posted by sudogeek at 6:55 PM on April 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

where you are moving in Virginia
Springfield/surrounding commutable areas
posted by Hal Mumkin at 7:16 PM on April 12, 2018

Hate to say it but I would go with the "advance party" strategy. It's going to be near impossible to rent around here with seven cats. One or two cats, probably fine, but seven will spook even the heartiest of landlords. And I say that as a multiple cat/dog owner *and* a landlord.

Strategy: You come here alone, rent the smallest/cheapest thing you can find, and get started on your job. Spouse stays there, starts the job hunt a little bit (using your new place as his "local address") but mostly focuses on selling both houses as quickly as possible.

Collect the proceeds of both house sales and use the combo of those two things to make enough downpayment on something in Virginia so that you can purchase it with only your salary. Bonus: This could leave you living a bit "under your means" once spouse gets employed, which is strong in the long run for your financial future. On the other hand, not sure where in Georgia you're coming from, but Northern Virginia is very expensive, and you're almost certainly going to end up paying more and geting less.

Spouse and 7 cats join you in your newly purchased home, then spouse job hunts in earnest once you all are settled. You have no long-distance landlord issues and your cats remain fully housed the entire time.

Relationship strain is what it is ... you're both adults and adulting is hard, sometimes you have to suck it up and do something that sucks a little in pursuit of the greater good.
posted by mccxxiii at 9:25 PM on April 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I highly recommend not buying a house when you first move to a new area. It's far better to spend some time living there and finding out which communities appeal to you and what is a necessity in the new area. (For example, being metro accessible might be something you find that you must have.) The job also might not work out and you don't want to be locked into the wrong part of the DC area if you get a job elsewhere.

Lenders generally don't count rental income until you've established that you're serious about it and competent at it. I believe my mortgage lender said that they wanted to see three years of acting as a landlord before they would count it as income when I mentioned it in passing. Springfield is pretty expensive, so unless you have extensive cash holdings, you might need to sell at least one house to get to a 20% down payment anyway.
posted by Candleman at 9:34 PM on April 12, 2018

There's a lot of unknown variables here. Like how are you going to first-time landlord from afar? Are you going to hire a property management company that does everything? Will that even make the mortgaged house worth it to keep? CAn you sell the mortgaged house for a profit or are you underwater and trying to recoup money by renting it out?

I would only buy a house in the new area if you were familiar with it, like you lived in the area before. Otherwise I would find a rental (for yourself, spouse stays behind with cats for the start up phase) while selling at least one property and then purchase a house based on one salary (which if the stars align would be the higher of the 2 of you if spouse can secure employment quickly while you are in your initial rental phase). IF you can swing a new house on one salary and still have the income property in old town by selling one of your current properties, that is super awesome.

I almost never recommend renting because I personally hate it and have always been willing to live in less hot areas where buying makes more financial sense than renting because I also have a stable of animals I'm unwilling to part with. Your scenario is one exception where I think renting in the immediate short term makes more sense than jumping right into another purchase.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:43 AM on April 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Springfield is a residential community consisting largely of single family homes. (There are a few apartment buildings, but it's not the dominant building type.) I drive through it often and there are a fair number of For Rent signs; I'm not entirely sure what the underlying reason is, but a lot of houses are being rented rather than sold right now. I think people are hanging onto them as an appreciating asset..?

Anyway, it would be very difficult around here to find an apartment-style rental that will allow 7 cats—most of the places I'm familiar with generally max out at 2 or 3 cats, and hiding 7 might be a bit tough (you could totally hide maybe 1 extra if two are similar looking, but 4 extra...)—however if your income supports renting a whole SFH they tend to be much more pet-friendly.

Personally, I would have someone on this end (Virginia) do some of the legwork/research and put together a list of both pet-friendly rentals and sale opportunities in your price range. Or, really ideally, see if they can find a property that's for rent but which is expected to go up for sale at some point in the future (this happened with a house in our neighborhood—it was rented while probate straightened out ownership between a bunch of the owner's children, then it went on the market and sold). That might be a long shot to bet on, but it's something you could have someone at least look for.

But this of course assumes you want to do one big move all at once. Probably the financially cheapest option would be to get a total crashpad apartment on the Virginia end and keep the cats back along with one of you, and then have the person here on this end do the house shopping. There are relatively affordable studio apartments in the outside-the-Beltway areas near Springfield/Burke/Annandale/etc. which will of course run you a lot less than an SFH.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:32 AM on April 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Is the reasoning for keeping your two houses "if you can help it" an emotional or financial decision?

The home you own outright will almost certainly gain you profit as a rental if you inherited it or bought it around the housing crisis.

The home with a mortgage will be a money sink unless you bought it for some ridiculously low amount.

I would suggest:

1) You move to the cheapest apartment you can find for your new job.
2) Hubby and cats move into fully owned home.
3) Hubby works through summer while fixing up fully owned home.
4) Hubby sells mortgaged house ASAP.
5) You buy a small non-dream home on your salary alone.
6) Hubby and cats move in.
7) Hubby finds new job.
8) You look for your dream home.
9) Meanwhile, you're renting the fully owned home at a huge profit even after hiring a local property manager.

I got a little confused at your timeline but I think that fits you, hubby, and kitties with the least drama for everyone involved.
posted by ticktickatick at 6:33 PM on April 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the suggestions and ideas everyone.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 10:33 AM on April 17, 2018

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