Archive for April, 2009


A New Life by Relocating – Make It Happen, Part 2

This is a question and answer with Barb Brady, a life transition specialist. Click here to see Part 1.
Q: When people relocate, what is the biggest factor they overlook or misjudge in what will make them happy at their new place?

A: Not looking at the move holistically and how it will affect all areas of life, including friendships, finances, community, etc. Be clear about your most important criteria (the non-negotiables) and have a plan to make sure these are met. If someone moves for a new job, they may overlook the importance of their current connections are – e.g. family and friends – especially if they find it challenging making friends in their new place.

I’ve seen folks move to Asheville, NC because they love the city and mountains, then they can’t find work and end up suffering financially.

Years ago, when living in Massachusetts, I almost transferred with my then employer to San Diego, thinking climate was my most important criteria (as it was 10 years earlier). On a pre-move trip I realized that community was now most important to me, and this job would have been very isolating. I didn’t move.

Q: What’s the best way to explain to your family and friends that you’re leaving the area?
The key is, don’t tell your family and friends you are leaving until you feel at peace with and confident about your decision. Until then, talk out your thoughts only with supportive people who are not attached to whatever choice you make, but truly care about your well-being and will encourage you to listen to your inner voice.

Once you’re at peace with the decision to move, tell your family and friends. Focus on the positive aspects of the new place and your feeling “that it’s right.”

No one can argue with a gut feeling. Friends and family may take your leaving as a personal rejection. Avoid saying anything that’s personally negative about your current location, such as “I don’t like the people here.”

Talk in terms of preferences. “I really feel more energized in a warmer (sunnier, drier, etc) climate.”  Let them know how important they are to you. Make a plan for visits and staying in contact – will you call each week? Daily? Use Skype or email? How often will you visit each other?

If you are not sure about the longevity of this move, let them know that too. “I’m treating this as a one year experiment, and if I like it, I’ll stay longer.”

Q: Fewer people are moving nowadays. Why do you think that is, and what does it mean for the future?

A: Uncertainty about the economy, job losses, foreclosures and difficulty selling homes have all contributed to more people staying put. There have been news reports recently that migrations to the Sunbelt and more remote suburban areas are slowing, while the exodus from major cities is slowing as well.

Factors contributing to this include more economic opportunities and shorter commutes in major urban areas. I think this will remain the same in the near future. In the distant future, I think more people will be re-assessing their values and priorities, weighing lifestyle and relationship factors more heavily in their decision on where to live than job opportunities that may not be here tomorrow.

“New urban centers” may emerge  – smaller cities created on the village concept where people live, work, shop and gather in community. There are many such places in Europe and elsewhere – harder to find outside major cities in the U.S. due to the advent of the automobile, investment in highways verses railroads and the proliferation of sprawling suburbs.

Related Articles:

Would a Relocation Do You Good?

Sad About Moving? Here’s Why Your Move’s a GOOD Thing

How to Choose a New Hometown


A New Life by Relocating – Make It Happen

Even though fewer people are actually moving these days, studies show that people WANT to move because they just don’t like where they live.

There’s just this teensy weensy thing that gets in the way: a job.

However, taking that leap of faith can be a rewarding, fruitful risk.

girl_box2I recently spoke about this subject with Barb Brady, a life transition coach who helps people figure out where they should live. She’s the author of Make the Right Move Now: Your Personal Relocation Guide

Q: Relocating without a job is a scary thing, particularly in today’s economy. Can moving just for the sake of moving and living somewhere new be a good thing?

Yes, and no. It really comes down to your reasons for moving. For example, if you’re feeling ready for a change in location, and there’s a particular place that’s drawing you, and you think it’s feasible to make a living, then why not?

Make sure you have enough money to sustain you for at least 3 months while finding work. Imagine the best and worst case scenarios with your move. Have a back-up plan for the worst case. You may want to rent out your current home initially instead of selling.

But if you are unhappy in your life and location is just a part of that, first address and deal with the other source(s) of your unhappiness. It could be that your location is fine, but your living situation, job, and/or relationship (with another or yourself) is not.

Get clear on what the real issues are, fix those, then make sure you’re going toward something you want, not just running away from something you hate.

Q: How can one separate a genuine desire for a new life and challenges, vs. just a ‘grass is greener’ mentality?

In addition to my response to Q1, two more exercises can help:

1: Get clear on the gaps between what you ideally want in your life and what you’re currently living. Set aside an hour when you’ll be undisturbed. Put on some music. Write a description of your ideal day and week, from the time you rise until you go to sleep at night.

Be specific – what are you seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting throughout your day? Whether you’re working or not, what does that look like? Where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with? How are you interacting? etc.

This vision needs to excite you!

Now compare your current life with your vision. What part of this vision are you already living? What needs to be tweaked or changed? Can this be done where you live now? If so, how? If not, what would your new location need to be like?

2. Do a gut check. Imagine it’s tomorrow and you’ve just moved to your new location. How does that feel? What’s your body telling you? Is it tired or energized? Imagine how it feels in 3 months, 1 year, 3 years. Now do the same for your current location.

Which “feels” better?

Q: Let’s say you decide a move would be good for you on many levels, but you don’t know where — what are the 3 biggest factors in helping you make that decision?

A. Ethical and legal considerations – Is there anyone to whom you are ethically or legally committed? It could be a spouse, children, elderly parents or someone else. What criteria is needed to meet to fulfill your commitment to them, and give you peace of mind? For example, if you have elderly parents, it may mean staying on the same coast.

B. Your top 3-4 non-negotiables – (In my book there’s an exercise to help you get clear on what you want in 12 key life areas. For example “strong open-minded community”, “sunny, warm climate”, etc.) Research places that may meet these criteria. Get a map, and highlight potential areas. Tell people what you’re looking for and get input. Surf the internet and peruse books. Visit prospective places.

C. Gut check – The most important! When it’s the right place for you right now, you will experience any or all of the following: relief, lightness, expansiveness, more energy, peace, smiling, excitement.

Click here to see Part 2.


Frugal Friday: Make a Fast Move Without Losing Your Shirt

If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation where you have to move fast — the house closing happened more quickly than you expected, or you just procrastinated because the thought of packing filled you with as much joy as visiting the dentist — you know the awful feeling.

* You’ll never have enough time to find a moverstressed-guy

* If you do find a mover, you’ll pay through the nose (or other uncomfortable body part)

While it’s true you might end up paying a bit more, you shouldn’t assume you’ll have an awful experience. Here are some things to keep in mind to make your move go more smoothly, at a price that won’t shock you.

1. You Probably WILL Pay More. Just accept that fact. Organizing the moving process, especially for longer moving, takes time and money on the part of moving companies. They don’t come together easily.

2. Be Explicit With Move Dates. Your mover needs to know what he’s up against. If you must be out by a certain date, make that crystal clear.

3. Even If You’re Desperate, Don’t Act It. When talking to moving companies, make it clear you’re talking to several firms that want your moving business.

4. Get Organized. This is important for a nonrushed move; it’s crucial for rushed moving. Stated simply: If you’re organized and prepared, you’ll get a more accurate quote and you’ll have a smoother move to boot. 

Get your stuff ready to move as soon as possible, even before the moving company estimator comes to your home to give you moving quotes. Get rid of any goods not going and have everything as organized as possible. The more clear it is what needs to be moved the more accurate your estimates will be. On moving day, it will ensure everything goes more smoothly — the No. 1 cause of moving day stress is a discrepency between the estimate and the final cost.

5. Don’t Just Choose the First Mover That Can Handle Your Move. Take a few minimal steps to ensure you hire a trustworthy mover:

• Get 3 estimates. If you can’t have the movers in your home (which is always preferable), be as thorough as possible when describing what needs to be moved, and ask about extra costs if you happen to underestimate how much stuff you need to move.

• Don’t take a low bid. It’s a sign of a mover that’s just trying to win your business now, only to raise the price later with lots of little (and big) charges.

• Deal with movers that have a local presence. It makes everything easier.


Looking for Housing's Bottom? Check Your Psyche for These 3 Signs

Want to look stupid, be humbled, and get proven wrong, all with one prediction?

Call a bottom in the housing market.

Nothing has humbled more people than trying to figure out when our great housing skid has come to an end: would-be homebuyers, beleagured real estate agents, those perennial optimists at the National Association of Realtors.


These would-be Nostradami roll out statistic after statistic in a vain attempt to identify housing’s floor. But the floor keeps sinking.

Unfortunately, the folks who rely on statistics are missing the point. This is an unprecedented time in our history, so we have no statistical cues that tell us we’ve hit bottom (except for real housing prices, but come on, that’s too obvious, eh?)

Statistics won’t tell you the bottom – psychology will. If you’re looking to buy a home — whether as an investment or an abode — look for these subtle signs that prices might have reached their nadir. 

1. No More Predictions

After a while, people will grow tired of housing-bottom predictions — both of hearing them, and making them.

At a certain point, people will grow weary as prices keep dropping. They will even get depressed. Not only can’t they see a bottom, they can’t imagine a bottom ever getting here.

And that’s when we’ll have a bottom. Just like stocks, the market likes to beat you to a pulp, until you can no longer see light at the end of the tunnel before turning around.

Watch for dread and despair that housing will even stop dropping. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet.

2. Rent Equivalency

In the bubble days, most of us bought the muttered mantras about real estate: ‘Buy as much home as you can afford,’ ‘house prices always rise,’ ‘why throw your money away on rent?’ etc.

All proven to be really, really wrong. Painfully, painfully wrong.

People now understand that while their house might be a good way to build equity, it can be a pretty lousy investment in the short term. Maybe even the longerish term.

Affordability is now the key metric: If the costs of homeownership are less than renting, and you can afford those costs and you plan to stay put for 10 years or so, owning a home is probably for you.

Remember those cocktail parties where people used to brag about the value of their homes rising 25% a year? Those same parties where they’re now drinking Coors Lite instead of Dom Perignon?

When you hear more conversations about what people would pay in rent vs. the costs of owning their home (or of buying a home), that’s another psychological sign that we’re nearing a bottom.

3. You Want Out!

Maybe you’re still ‘up’ on your home investment and you want to protect any equity you have. Maybe you’re underwater and don’t want to sink further.

When we get to the point where people really start panicking about the values of their homes, where they’re considering moving because the thought of their bad investment outweighs the love of their shrubbery or backyard patio, that’s another sign that we might be just about there.

Just like people usually sell their stocks at the lows and buy the highs, look for similar sentiment in others (and in yourself) to help you tell when we’ve might have hit rock bottom.

You might just be your own best contrary indicator.

Tim Johnson —


Where You Choose to Live Is Crucial to Your Financial Future

Even if you’re happy where you’re living now, the current economic recession should force you to think about where you choose to call home.


Because history shows that major upheavals in our country spark huge demographic and economic shifts.

The Depression in the 1930s sparked an exodus from rural states to large cities; the 1970s recession saw huge population shifts from the Northeast to the Southwest.

Many people who didn’t make these shifts ended up in a region that remained economically handicapped for years.

So what areas of our country will be the winners — and losers — a decade from now?

If you work in real estate — or if you just care intently about your own personal financial well-being — you should be asking yourself that question.

I read an interesting theory in a recent edition of Atlantic Monthly. The author, Richard Florida, argues that many part of the U.S. have been stunted economically because of their overrealiance on ‘false’ drivers of growth — in particular, Southwest cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas.

“Although these places drew tourists, retirees, and some industry — firms seeking bigger footprints at lower costs — much of the cities’ development came from, well, development itself,” he writes.

Florida argues that these areas will be feeling the hangover effects for years.

 “At a minimum, these places will take a long, long time to regain the ground they’ve recently lost in local wealth and housing values. It’s not unthinkable that some of them could be in for an extended period of further decline.”

Which areas will thrive?

Florida makes the case for population density as a driver of growth. Having people living in ‘close proximity,’ Florida argues, tends to generate more ideas, which get formulated into business plans and help spark economic activity.

This self-regenerating creativity feeds on itself, particularly in an economy that depends more on information than manufacturing things.

“[The economy] depends on generating and transporting ideas. The places that thrive today are those with the highest velocity of ideas, the highest density of talented and creative people, the highest rate of metabolism. Velocity and density are not words that many people use when describing the suburbs. The economy is driven by key urban areas; a different geography is required.”

The result of all this? The big — and dense — cities like New York and Chicago will maintain their economic vitality. Cities characterized by suburban sprawl — and its attendent waste of resources — will suffer.

Where does your community fit in this sort of analysis? What communities do you see in the future that will help support you and your livelihood? Would it affect your moving or relocation decisions?

I know it will affect mine.

Tim Johnson —


Texas: Recession Doesn't Tarnish Lone Star's Shine

Although you’d be hard-pressed to name any region of the country that hasn’t had the recession sink its teeth into its hide, Texas has clearly been able to steer clear of the sharpest fangs. texas2 According to our data, Texas enjoys a health demand from people who are relocating or looking to relocate.

In particular, the cities of Austin and San Antonio are popular on a per-capita basis.

Our statistics look at where people are moving from, and where they’re moving to. We collect the data from consumers who request moving services from moving companies in our network.

Looking at data collected from 2007, 2008 and 2009, of all moving requests that involve Texas, 62% of those requests were people who expressed a desire to move to Texas; 38% were people who were looking to leave the State. To put this into some perspective: of moving requests involving Michigan in 2008, 71% were people looking to leave the state; just 29% were people looking to move to Michigan.

Texas cities also show admirable strength, particularly Austin. Its per-capita ratio is nearly twice that of the next city on the list, San Antonio. Most large Texas cities showed a great deal of demand for people to move to those cities. For this measure, we looked at interstate moves, as well as intrastate moves that do not include moves within that city’s MSA — we weren’t interested in someone who was simply moving from one side of town to the other.

The results: Austin: 60% of moving requests involved people wanting to move TO Austin; 40% involved people who wanted to move out of Austin.

San Antonio: 57% and 43% respectively;

Dallas/Fort Worth: 56% and 44%

Houston: 54% and 46%

The only city that bucked this trend was El Paso. Of all moves involving El Paso, 55% were people looking to leave El Paso; 45% were people looking to move to El Paso.

Other stats:

Tennessee Moving: Sign Me Up for the Volunteer State

Montana Moving: More Opt for Big Sky’s 2008 Relocation Survey


The Best Real Estate Blogs in Minneapolis/St. Paul

Minneapolis/St. Paul gets a bad rap for the cold.

Sure, Minnesotans do welcome spring with the ritual ‘Counting of the Fingers’ to account for any digits lost to frostbite the previous winter. But really, it’s a lovely place. I should know — I lived there for 10 years.

So as I put together my best real estate blog list for the Twin Cities, I had more than a passing acquaintenance with the neighborhoods, which can be a bit of a negative.


Because I like to look at these blogs the same way you do: As someone moving to a new city who wants to learn about the local community, learn more about the local real estate market, and maybe even find a real estate agent — but without getting buried in a blizzard of listings and a bunch of ‘Now’s a Great Time to Buy!’ come-ons.

But still, I will put on my journalistic-objective glasses and chip away.

One of the best sites I came across is the St. Paul Real Estate Blog from Theresa Boardman, who’s greatly revered in real estate social media circles as someone who’s very smart about blogging and all social media.

The praise is well deserved: St. Paul Real Estate Blog is a great mix of real estate news, tidbits about the community and about events like the Winter Carnival, as well as some personal insights and photos from the author, but not so much as to make you feel like your aunt is showing you her favorite scrapbook. Boardman’s also got some nice photobooks of the Twin Cities area — the photography here is a big plus and gives you more insight into the community than a simple narrative could.

Big bonus: it’s pretty amusing. She told of a recent showing of a bank-owned property where she was asked to bring her own screwdriver to pry the plywood off the door. And I don’t know if she was being funny when she wrote this, but it still was:

“I took [this photo] in Mears Park downtown last summer before it got so cold that I can’t take pictures without freezing my camera off.”

Yep, she said “summer” and “freezing” in the same sentence. Welcome to St. Paul!

Homes MSP Real Estate is another good site with a nice feature on neighborhoods and listings in those neighborhood.

It’s written by Sharlene Hensrud (a solid Nordic name, the type of which you’ll encounter often in Minneapolis/St. Paul).

There’s a good deal of information for first-time buyers, and she also has posts from a home inspector, lender, home-stager and a transitions coach. A well-rounded approach to your entire relocation process.

It’s written well and organized well, to boot, so as a consumer, there’s no wasted time trying to find content that’s useful.

Barker and Hedges sounds like a cheap pack of smokes, but it’s actually a real estate shop that has a very nice blog, Barker and Hedges Real Estate Blog. I came across this late in my search, and I’m glad I did.

It looks fabulous, with a great design and nice photos, and the content is incredibly useful to people looking at relocating to the Cities. Take this post — Twin Cities Blog Round-up. This kind of thing is de rigeur for most blogs (and yeah, I do it as well).

But it’s also good — well written with really interesting links about the Twin Cities that a newcomer would find very engaging and useful (that word again, useful). The writer clearly put a decent amount of research into it.

Other posts are also interesting, including extensive profiles of communities around the Twin Cities. Just one note to Barker, or Hedges, or whomever: throw some pics or maps in there. You’re punishing your writer — not to mention your readers — with having to produce so much text for something that can be best described with pictures.

Jennifer Kirby over at Minneapolis Real Estate Blog does a nice job giving you a virtual tour of Minneapolis – she deals more with higher-end property. Her site still contains a wealth of information for people looking to buy and sell. She has a gift for writing and a knack for identifying all sorts of topics that come up when people enter the real estate game.

Also check out her blog Minneapolis Luxury Real Estate Blog. Busy busy is Miss Kirby.

Scott Ficek’s Minnesota Investment Property Blog is geared more to the real estate investor, but it’s still an interesting read for would-be homeowners and do-it-yourselfers, and anyone who has renters. He has a great feature called Stupid Property Repairs, many of which I’ve tried myself and can verify that yes, indeed, they are stupid, and often painful.

If you’re interested in the north metro area (don’t fret about the ‘north’ part, the south metro is nearly as damn cold as the north), check out Theresa Eckholm’s MN Real Estate Update Blog.

It’s definitely worth a look if you’re considering the northern part of the Twin Cities area, with some particularly good insight into areas of the market like foreclosed lakeshore properties, which might appeal to second-home buyers looking for a bargain.

Finally, while not a real estate blog, it’s one of the best darn mortgage blogs you’ll find anywhere on the Web: Alex Stenback’s Behind the Mortgage. He makes mortgages come alive. Or at least doesn’t induce one into a coma. Let’s take what we can get.

There you have it. And I know I missed some fine blogs — I’m just one guy.

So help me out. If I missed a fine Website, instead of emailing me with your indignity, leave a comment here (with some indignity), or tell me about some other blogs that you like.

Tim Johnson — Editor,

Related article: The Best Chicago Real Estate Blogs