I recently received a request for a post about moving across the country and setting up an apartment from far away. I’m not sure why it hadn’t occurred to me to do a post on this, but once a reader suggested it, I was eager to sit down and write it. I’ve done a post about apartment hunting, but that was more how to find the perfect place. I’ve also detailed the best way to make a new place home by decorating it to fit your tastes. But the logical place to start when you’re moving far away to a place you may not be familiar with is starting big picture and then narrowing your scope.
First and foremost, if you need to decide if you’re living alone or with roommates. If you want roommates, which will save cost, find your roommates. I recommend finding roommates who are looking to move somewhere new or are, like you, moving to the city for the first time. Coordinating your apartment hunt with another person can be super helpful, so it’s fun to look for a place with your future roommate. If you are hunting with someone, try to make “must have” lists. Honestly, it’s a bit like an episode of House Hunters.
If you’re moving to a smaller town or city, like I was, it’s not as difficult to pick a location. I wanted to be close to my law school, so I picked addresses to check out based on proximity to the school. However, if you’re moving to a city, like New York, San Francisco, or Chicago, the neighborhood is important. So, I would start by choosing a neighborhood or area that you’d want to live. For example, if I were moving back to San Francisco, I’d want to live in Noe Valley or North Beach (probably). If you’re unfamiliar with the area, I recommend trying to figure out who you know that’s lived in the place you’re moving to or researching to see what neighborhoods are like, how safe they are, how close they are to public transportation and what the general vibe is (is it a younger area with gyms, restaurants, bars, etc. or more residential and quiet?).
Figuring out where you want to live in your new city is the best first step because from there, you can start apartment hunting. I would say gather a list of places that you think you’d like to see. If you are able, go visit them. If you cannot do that, see if there’s someone who can send you photos (a friend, family member, etc.), if you don’t have someone, it may be best to have the realtor send you photos. I recommend going through a management company or realtor agency rather than craigslist or something. If you’re unable to see the place before your move-in, going through a more formal company may save headaches. I never saw my current place other than in photos before move-in. If I had questions about measurements (like what size the laundry room was) or how large my bedroom was, I asked my realtor. I will say, so long as you have done your due diligence and made sure the place is in a nice area and you’ve seen photos, it’s pretty easy to pick a place. Something to note, however, is asking about parking (if you have a car), street access, building access, etc. Nail down as many details surrounding the apartment as possible because you won’t be seeing it before you arrive to move in.
Once you’ve figured out where you’ll be living and have begun the process of signing a lease, my next advice is to pick what items, if any, you plan to take with you. I basically only packed clothing and some books and photos for my move. I bought everything else, furniture, decorations, kitchen supplies, etc. one I arrived or I ordered it and had it delivered after I moved in (look at shipping ranges, I ordered things roughly 5 days before my departure date). For my car, I shipped it. Some people drive to their new place, my family and I flew, so we shipped my car. If you can use a moving service, like PODs, then you may want to buy things in your current city and then ship it all. I see a few cons with this option. First, if you haven’t seen the place in person it may be hard to really plan furniture and decorations. That chair you thought you had room for may not fit! Second, if you buy everything in your new city, you won’t have to pay to ship it all. You would save the cost of using movers and spend money only on the items. Further, if you plan to use a moving service, do a purge of your stuff before you begin packing. It’s amazing how much stuff we collect throughout college and post-grad, so make sure what you’re taking is stuff you want to bring to your new city, and not just stuff you’re putting in boxes that may ultimately get tossed upon arrival. If you haven’t seen your place in person, and don’t have much furniture or bulky items, I’d recommend furnishing the place once there.
This brings me to my next point: I planned out all my furniture and design plans prior to moving in, which made my trips to Target and Homegoods pretty easy because I knew all the stuff I wanted to get. I had a spreadsheet with all the items I would need (couch, bed, bed frame, etc.), my target price, and then an item I liked from a website with its price listed and the name. Some items I ordered online, like my bed frame and dresser, desk, bookcase, and side table. Some items I went to see in person then shipped, like my washer/dryer and bed. Other items I picked out but waited to buy, like accessories for my room, etc. Some things I bought as soon as I saw them, others I swapped for things I liked better once I started shopping. The flexibility I had with decorations worked well for me and saved money because I wasn’t shipping things, then returning them, etc.
I recommend keeping a running checklist of things you need to do prior to your move. Setting up utilities, if not included in the space, is important. I would recommend trying to find a place where laundry and utilities are included, but obviously, this doesn’t always happen. For laundry, ask if it’s in-unit or if you have to go to the basement or another location. If you are flying, coordinate your flight details. If you’re moving to a city, coordinate whether you’re going to get a rental car or take public transit. I would recommend a car, as you’re moving your life across the country so will likely have multiple suitcases. However, ensure there is parking (street or garage) near your new place. Again, there are a lot of small details and choices to make, so keep a list and try to plan your trip from the moment you leave your door to the moment you arrive at the new one. What possible things could come up? How are you getting from point A to point B to point X? Everyone’s move is a bit different, but trying to anticipate potential problems and nailing down as many details as possible is ideal. I recommend beginning the process as early as possible. I worked out logistics of my move, or at least planned my decor, almost daily in the few months leading up to my move. Not only did it make the move easier, it made me excited about the move.
I moved from California to Virginia, almost as far as you could get. So, when all was said and done there were two hiccups I recall: (1) my bed wasn’t delivered on the correct day and (2) my car was a week late, but the company I used set me up with a rental for the interim. Everything else when off basically without a hitch. Planning and preparing are key, in my opinion. I also spent a lot of time reading articles and blogs about moving and kind of picked and chose what I felt would work well for me. I know it probably sounds nerdy and very Type A, but I had so much anxiety about moving so far away that I wanted to be as ready as possible so I could just be excited and not stressed about the moving logistics.
I hope this post helps answer any questions about the move! If you have other questions or need clarification, comment below!