Would you rush an interstate move right now, to save $35-55K?
May 15, 2020 9:41 AM   Subscribe

We live in California and have already been planning a move to Washington/Idaho or Vermont/New Hampshire. If it weren't for COVID, we would have moved already and bought a home. Now, we are about to receive a bit of an (unexpected) windfall in the next 90 days, and realize we could save quite a bit in taxes if we sped up our move to either Washington or New Hampshire. What factors should we be thinking about, and would you do it?

We've discussed this with our tax professional and know we'd have to do some work but would likely be in the clear legally (and would be prepared for a California challenge), but here's what we're really weighing: should we uproot our lives, much faster than we thought, and quickly find a temporary rental during COVID? Is that worth it? We were going to move anyway, but take our time and purchase a home. In this scenario, we'd make the jump, rent immediately (and likely sight-unseen) and then buy a home probably in six months.

Our current place in the Bay Area is super expensive (we moved here for a job). We'd be saving at least $2000/mo on a rental for 4-6 months, on top of the windfall tax benefit we'd get by relocating. So all in, it's probably 35-55K.

* We are on solid financial footing, good remote work, savings all ready to go. We don't *need* the 25-45K, but hey, it's 25-45K! Nothing to sneeze at!
* We have two very little kids that need to be wrangled through all this.
* We wouldn't really get to say goodbye to California, our friends and do any of the things on our CA bucket list.
posted by yearly to Grab Bag (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Standard caveat about you would need to quarantine when you arrive at your new location, etc. and do all this as ethically / safely as possible.

Tentatively, yes? I would scout rentals and see what the options look like, and look into what's involved with moving all your stuff (and I don't know how much stuff is involved, but you mention two little kids so I'm guessing we're talking more than a carload or two).

If there was ever a time I'd want to unload real estate and have more liquid cash on hand, this is that time. I can't speak to your financial situation, but there's never been a time when an extra $25K or more isn't worth some effort.
posted by jzb at 9:49 AM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I am considering a long-distance move sometime in the future. If that kind of money were involved, I would definitely push it up to now.

I've also been planning to buy a house in my new location, but part of me thinks it might be much smarter to rent for a while first. Then I can take my time finding the place I really want, and I'll know more about the city I move to and what I want to be close to. Thinking about moving has made me also think a lot about the hassle of selling my house as opposed to just leaving a rental - if you end up in a new area that you don't like for some unforeseen reason, you'd be going through that a second time.

As far as not saying goodbye properly to California, who knows when you'll be able to do that anyway? Take some of the money and plan a great vacation back to the Bay Area.
posted by FencingGal at 10:02 AM on May 15, 2020 [6 favorites]

I would not overlook your point: "We wouldn't really get to say goodbye to California, our friends and do any of the things on our CA bucket list."

Once you are gone, you are gone. There is definitely some value in taking the time to say goodbye and doing the things that you want to do before you leave.
posted by bruinfan at 10:05 AM on May 15, 2020

We wouldn't really get to say goodbye to California, our friends and do any of the things on our CA bucket list.

It'll all be there later for you to return and visit, and most of it is realistically out of reach for you right now because of the pandemic.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:08 AM on May 15, 2020 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I personally would not pay $25-45K to say goodbye and do things on my bucket list. You could take several long trips back to California for much less than that. I don't see any other downsides to moving now. I say you should go ahead and leave.
posted by Redstart at 10:09 AM on May 15, 2020 [27 favorites]

Wait, if you were going to have moved by now if not for the coronavirus, what’s the problem? Moving now would be closer to your original timeline and you’d save money. Sounds like a win-win to me.

As perhaps the most sentimental crouton-petter alive, I’m telling you not to worry about saying goodbye. If you’ve lived somewhere for enough time to develop sentimental attachments to places, there will never be enough time to say a proper goodbye. When I moved in 2017, I had over a month (mostly after I’d left work, so full-time farewell tour) to prepare, made a list, and I still don’t feel like I did everything I wanted to do. Three years later, I still think of things I wish I’d done. And, even more importantly, I still think daily about some of the things I did get to say a proper goodbye to. Going to my favorite restaurant “one last time” didn’t actually provide any closure. Sometimes it’s best to rip off the band-aid.

Anyway, I live in New Hampshire now, too, so if you need any advice or recommendations once you get here, I’m happy to help.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:15 AM on May 15, 2020 [5 favorites]

Go. I'm even a parent, so I get the whole "we need to say goodbye" thing, but given that you can't do that at all right now, I say go. Then plan a lovely trip back when things aren't so fraught.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:24 AM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Don't know about Washington state, but should be pretty easy to find temporary accommodations/ rentals over the summer in VT and NH. Many ski towns are practically empty during summers in normal times and rental prices are very low/ negotiable.
posted by zeikka at 10:29 AM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Absolutely. Renting first is a hassle (and adds moving expenses) but will let you make a better decision when you purchase. You'll never be able to say goodbye enough. Your kids sound like they are little enough that advance notice might have just confused them anyway. That money is significant enough that I'd do it.
posted by slidell at 10:33 AM on May 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

That is a not insignificant amount of money that you could put toward your down payment when you do find a permanent place. I’d say go for it!
posted by coppermoss at 10:35 AM on May 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, I see a consensus forming. Just to add: I guess the other stressor is arranging an interstate move (with 2 kids under the age of 4) really really quickly, during COVID. Any helpful advice or suggestions for that would be appreciated as well!
posted by yearly at 10:36 AM on May 15, 2020

Best answer: As someone who has done it both ways, I think there is huge benefit in living somewhere for six months before purchasing a house there. I really don't think you'll regret moving into a rental now and then figuring out at your leisure what parts of your new town you really like and gravitate towards before you buy. We moved cross country and bought before arrival and have regretted it every day we've been here. You just really can't get a handle on the neighborhoods, the vibe, etc. before you actually live in a place. You pay a bit more to move twice and you pay more for a rental, but I really think it saves money and produces a better outcome in the end. I also think that for that kind of money, it's a no-brainer. Use some of the money saved to take a trip back to CA when everything opens back up.
posted by ClaireBear at 10:36 AM on May 15, 2020 [7 favorites]

$35-55k is so much money to me that I can't even imagine asking this question, and it's also enough money that you could easily - EASILY! - come back to visit and do things on your bucket list when there's not, you know, a global pandemic on and you can actually see your friends.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:44 AM on May 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

As for bucket list stuff in CA, you'd be doing it with little children who'd have no memory of it and also be hampered by doing what you can do with little children. I have been to Smokey Mountain National Park but also had a three year old in tow, so the need to constantly think of bathrooms and no real hiking made it less than ideal.

Do those things on a vacation in ten years when it will be meaningful and fun for everyone.
posted by readery at 10:47 AM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I also agree you should always rent (borrow, live w family, whatever) in an area before buying anyway, so this seems fine as a strategy. You might go the route of finding an airbnb (I do hope they are eventually lost to a new less evil economy, but do what you gotta do for now) for 1-2 months, there's probably some pretty desperate landlords out there at the moment, and then figure out whether you want to rent for a while or buy right away.

You can't say goodbye to CA right now, we all need to be at home. We'll still be here in a year or two.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:00 AM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Rent is going to be so cheap in Vermont or much of New Hampshire that it would really be worth it to rent for a while and see what the future brings in terms of where you'd like to be and etc. But it really sounds like you have to make a choice between west coast and east coast.Like, if you're just moving to WA/ID, you're nearly driving distance to CA.If you move to VT/NH, you are not. You probably need to puzzle that part out before anything else, it may make a huge difference.

I am in Vermont right now and would be happy to answer questions about this area but compared to CA, rent is basically free, so unless you are 100% sure you have picked THE town and THE house, I'd try to find a reasonable rental near somewhere you think you would want to be.Schools in Vermont are... highly variable, so depending on what your school plan is, that might matter.Same with broadband. Some places have fiber, some places have nothing.
posted by jessamyn at 11:46 AM on May 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Well, I think you should probably do this, but a couple of things to consider, if you haven't already:

How much of an established community do you have in your current community and are you going anyplace where you might know folks and have an established community already? It's going to be very difficult to develop local connections in your new area, and it sounds like you don't have a specific destination in mind (you've mentioned four states), so I'm guessing you aren't moving someplace you used to live (for example) or where you already know folks or have family. In difficult times, community connections are really important. If you've been in your area for a while and have strong friendships and connections, those do have real value.

This isn't a reason not to move, but I do want to mention this for the Washington option and perhaps Idaho (based on my experiences in Oregon): do not underestimate the hostility to Californians moving to the Northwest. Californians often have more money and more resources and seem rich in local communities. This might be obvious, but don't talk locally about how "cheap" things are (because they aren't cheap to locals, most likely). When you're an outsider with more resources, people sometimes resent you, so I might downplay the California thing. If people say, "Where are you from?" I might go with where you are originally from if it's a casual question, not to lie but I suspect you'll see quickly what I mean. (I'm in Oregon and not from California and am continually struck by the very real hostility towards Californians here.)

If you haven't already figured out where you're going, I'd suggest moving to a larger town or city. The adjustment from a big city to a rural area is significant and people tend to wax romantic about it and not realize they really don't want to have to drive 30 minutes (or whatever) to the grocery store. (For many years I lived in a rural mountain area and saw folks all the time who relocated from a city and left a year or two later, having underestimated the significant lifestyle change.)

I'd strongly encourage you, if you go to the Northeast, to consider flying and having your stuff shipped. Maybe have it packed into a pod or something? I think the drive even to Washington and Idaho might be pretty stressful right now, and planes are pretty empty. You might be able to line up a longer term AirBnB (for a month or more?) from where you are now so you won't have to stay in a hotel and won't need your stuff right away.

If you were planning to do this, I'd go ahead and do it. Otherwise you might be waiting a year or two to really do all those California things. I'm not sure that's worth it.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:49 PM on May 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Just for reference in WA/ID we have family and roots, in VT/NH we are 4-5 hours from community, but would be moving into a new place as strangers during a pandemic with no immediate community. We've only been Californians briefly, so we wouldn't lead with that as our personality. :)
posted by yearly at 1:26 PM on May 15, 2020

Would I rush an interstate move right now?

No, because "all individuals living in the State of California are currently ordered to stay home or at their place of residence, except for permitted work, local shopping or other permitted errands, or as otherwise authorized." (Ca.gov). You seem to be making a vague reference to this as a legal issue, but that may be missing the ultimate point - it's a public health emergency, and the order is in place to try to mitigate some of the worst impacts of the pandemic, including a surge in rates of transmission, overwhelmed hospitals, etc.

Also, as an attorney with past experience representing tenants, but absolutely not giving you legal advice, I cringe at the idea of renting a place sight-unseen, so you might want to factor in the costs of getting a lawyer (MeFi Wiki) to help you resolve issues that may arise after you move in, and possibly having to move again, if you happen to find the rental doesn't meet your expectations.

I would prioritize the greater good of the community, including the people who don't have the option but to work to help you make your move, and I would consider how the desire to have even more financial resources than you already do can have real consequences for people who are just trying to survive. Your privilege to not even *need* the amount of money you are talking about gives you an incredible blessing of security and safety right now, and maybe that can be enough to avoid rushed decisions that could also create disruption and uncertainty for your family.
posted by katra at 2:08 PM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think the legal issue was about having to pay taxes when they receive the windfall. NH doesn’t have a state income tax, so if they get the money while living in NH, it’s tax free. If they get it in California, they pay taxes.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:52 PM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes, moving is considered essential business during the pandemic. The legal issue was about tax implications.
posted by yearly at 3:08 PM on May 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

Okay, so the move is to avoid paying taxes on an inheritance? I guess you said that but I didn't understand the savings as clearly as I do now. In that case... if you are comfortable and safe and you are about to get a windfall, I guess I don't see the urgency to move, especially if you have a good community in California. And, yeah, I don't think being 4-5 hours from community counts at all as having local community. And it sounds like you all would have done a lot more work before deciding where to relocate, whether to home or New England? I know we aren't seeing our friends now, but I do think it would feel different to be moving someplace new from out of state. I also wonder if you will really seem like outsiders in the Northeast right now since you don't have local connections.

So... I guess I'd say to sit on all this a bit longer. Moving is stressful even in the best of times. $25,000 is a lot of money, indeed, but it sounds like it's a percentage of a much larger amount you weren't expecting, so you're getting a whole more more money in the short term anyway. I think I might stay put.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:48 PM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

To clarify, I am not trying to speak to the legal issues, but instead to the want vs. need dynamic expressed in your question (e.g. "‘Is it nice to go, or do I need to go?’” (WaPo)), because you emphasized how you don't *need* the money, and wondered about rushing a move "during COVID." I've personally tried to rush moves and found them to be far more stressful and expensive than I could have ever imagined, and that was before there was a pandemic. There also appear to be numerous warnings, including from the World Health Organization, e.g. "“Shutting your eyes and trying to drive through this blind is about as silly an equation as I’ve seen,” [The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan] said," when appearing to reference the lack of preparation in countries relaxing lockdowns that include the United States. But you need to make the best decision you can for your family during unprecedented times, so ultimately I am encouraging you to consider the larger context involved, including how fortunate you are to have the options that you do.
posted by katra at 3:56 PM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by KayQuestions at 7:24 PM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

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