We went through a long process and did a lot of work in order to move to Seattle and thought that others might be able to benefit from our experiences. Moving can be complicated and there are lots of different ways to do it, but I'm hoping that some guidelines of how to move to Seattle based on our experiences will be helpful to people looking to move to Seattle who find our blog:
- Decide that Seattle's the best fit for you - Were pretty open-minded when we decided to find somewhere else to live. In order to make a decision, one place to get a lot of insight on a place is Sperling's Best Places, which has lots of informative statistics on US cities, including Seattle. You can compare statistics on Seattle to your hometown or other cities. There's also a forum where people offer their impressions of the city. Every city has its critics, so when reading criticism of Seattle, I had to weigh the negatives of Seattle with the negatives of other areas and consider that many people tend to exaggerate the negatives. We looked at the information and determined that Seattle seemed to fit us best.
- Be sure you can afford it - How much it will cost you to move depends on how far you're moving from, who does the actual moving work, and how much stuff you have to move. It cost us $3,264 (tax-deductible) for movers to move boxes of our stuff and all our furniture, gas to drive 2,673 miles, and 5 nights of hotel stay. There were also other moving expenses like buying curtains, one-time set up fees for utilities, and things like that. However, the biggest cost for us has been the higher cost of living here. We've written about the cost of living here before, but you may have a different experience depending on where you are moving from. You might save some money if you sell some things to move to a smaller apartment or sell a car to live in the city.
- Visit the city - Once we thought we might like to live in Seattle, we visited the city, not just as tourists, but as potential residents, shopping for a hometown. We were pretty sure we wanted to move here but visiting a place tells you a lot more than the internet does.
- Be sure you really want to move here - Get a better understanding of the city to make sure you want to live here. We've shared a lot of our observations of Seattle, comments about the weather, and differences we've noticed between Seattle and Texas, so some of those posts might help you. Some people have contacted me with questions and I usually help as much as I can.
- Determine to move - Prepare for giving up whatever you're leaving behind. I miss my family and friends, as well some other amenities of Texas. Be honest with yourself about whether you can handle it. It will be a difficult process to move and might not happen unless you're determined to do it. Also, once you've determined to move, you'll want to let people around you know. We could've done a better job of letting people know we were serious about moving. They may try to talk you out of it, but they'll appreciate being given advance notice and plenty of time to adjust to the idea. They may even become excited for you and try to help out.
- Decide if you need to get a job (or jobs) here before moving - We decided that one of us would have to find a job up here before moving. We didn't want to pay moving expenses without any income and with a higher cost of living, not knowing how long it would take for one of us to find a job. We decided that if one of us found a job up here, we could get by long enough on one income until the other one of us found a job. However, it worked out better than that, as my employer let me work from home up here until I found a job. If you can and want to afford several months without an income, or have income flexibility, then it might be easier to find a job while living here, but we didn't find distance to be an issue in our job searches.
- Start looking for a job (if you choose to wait, you can do this after step 13 below) - There are a lot of good resources on how to find a job, such as Quintessential Careers. Also, I shared some lessons I learned in my job search, which may be helpful for you. The point I would emphasize is to be patient and know that it may take a while to find a job.
Some people may want to lower their standards for a job to accept pretty much any offer with the goal of moving up here sooner and then plan to find the job they really want as shortly afterward as possible. That's a decision you'll have to make for yourself, but accepting a job that takes you in a different direction than you want to go may make it more difficult for you to get back on track with the job you want and may not look good to others (such as recruiters).
- Start to think about where you'd like to live - So you know you want to move, but where do you really want to live? In the suburbs or the city? What are your major criteria for choosing an area to live? Safety? Walkability? Schools? We knew for a while that we wanted to live in an urban environment, but we didn't have a specific neighborhood in mind.
Two websites would've been very helpful if they had been available at the time. Firstly, we knew we wanted to live where we could walk places, so one website that would've helped us when looking for a neighborhood is the list of Seattle neighborhoods ranked by WalkScore walkability.
Secondly, Google Maps has a feature called StreetView that lets you see what pretty much any street in the city looks like. We could have used this to look around areas we'd heard of to see what it looked like. Were there old buildings? Residences? Industry?
You also may find our posts on different neighborhoods (e.g. Fremont, Capitol Hill, etc.) to be helpful as well.
Also, my parents got me the Newcomer's Handbook for Moving to and Living in Seattle, which offers a pretty good perspective on all the different neighborhoods.
You may want to start looking for a place to live in any neighborhoods that interest you to see if you can afford to live there.
- Decide when you want to find a place to live - Do you want to start looking for a house or an apartment once you have a job offer? Are you going to live in a hotel in Seattle until you can find something? Your approach will determine when you should plan to visit Seattle next and how to plan that visit. We figured we'd have to visit Seattle for job interviews at some point and we decided that we would look for apartments during that visit. That worked out pretty well for us, though since we didn't know when we'd get a job offer and be ready to move in, the apartment managers often didn't know if they'd have anything available then.
- Plan to visit for job interviews - We wanted to do just one more trip to Seattle to do all of our job interviews (hoping at least one of them would result in an offer). When applying to jobs and companies, we mentioned in our cover letter that we would be in town on a certain date range. We didn't have plane tickets yet, but we just chose a date range so that employers could start to plan on it. This way, we were able (well, actually just Lesley) to line up several interviews and have them all on one visit. Lesley was also invited to interview with a few people that may not have interviewed her otherwise just because she was in town and they figured they should interview her while she was there. Alternatively, you could just wait and see what date the employers suggest, but then it may be more difficult to schedule multiple interviews during the same time. Once some employers responded to set up a time, we bought our plane tickets and planned to make a trip out of it.
- Look for some places to live (if you'll be doing this during your job interview trip, otherwise you can do it at another time) - We wanted to make our trip more productive by looking for places to live. We found it more difficult than expected to look for apartments, especially from a distance and not being able to move in until after we had a job lined up. You may have better luck finding a place to live depending on where and whether you're looking to buy or rent. Also, since then, I've found some better websites for apartment hunting, such as PadMapper and hotpads.com. For buying, Estately.com looks pretty good.
Lesley and I went together on the trip, which was helpful because I could look for apartments while she interviewed. I called apartment leasing offices to schedule visits with any places that appealed to us and took application forms so that we could fill them out and fax them back once we were back in Texas. I just asked my current employer for some vacation time and didn't really go into the details why we were traveling to Seattle. You may want to be honest about it or evasive, but that's your call.
- Accept a job and plan to move - If your first trip doesn't result in a job offer, just keep working at it. I've found that once I start a job search, it's easier to maintain the momentum than to stop and start over. If you do get a job that you choose to accept, start planning to move.
One major step in this process is finding a mover (unless you're doing it all yourself). Choosing a mover is an unnecessarily complicated process, but we made our way through it. You'll want to choose one of the nationwide moving companies (e.g. Mayflower, Atlas, Bekins, United Van Lines, etc.) but you can't just choose one of them directly, you have to go through their local moving agent, which you can find on the national mover's website. Also beware; don't bother reading any reviews about the national moving company because they're all so negative that you may decide not to move after all. Seriously, though, but you will likely want to look up the moving agent with the Better Business Bureau, and there shouldn't be many negative marks. Then you'll request an estimate from that agent and they'll contact you to set up a time and go through your home to estimate how much all of your stuff will weigh. It's not the most convenient process because you'll also need to be home to go around with the movers and be sure to let them know what you're not planning to bring with you. We posted about our experience choosing a moving company. Moving during the winter is much cheaper than moving during the summer.
The fun part for us was planning our trip up here. Since our movers would take longer to get to Seattle than it would take us to drive, we planned check out as much as we could along the drive up. One thing that we had to consider was that even though we were leaving in late February (which almost feels like spring in Texas), there are a lot of mountains around here and even interstates can get snow enough to require tire chains or be closed.
You could also do this other ways, such as by flying here and having everything, including your car, shipped (though shipping a car is expensive), or selling your car and buying a new one when you get here.
- Move! - We brought our most important stuff that we didn't want to lose with us and maybe ended bringing a little too much. There are a lot of logistical things to figure out, like what you should take with you, and how you're going to get by in your new home before your stuff arrives. If you're packing your own stuff, pack it all before the movers arrive so they can just load it. Also, pack carefully - we had all the original boxes for our dishes, so nothing was broken. And, we may be more obsessive than some people, but we labeled all boxes with a custom label with our name and address, the room it would go into in our new place, a priority indicating whether it should be loaded first (and unloaded last) based on how soon we'd need to access it after unloading, and a unique number that matched a spreadsheet summarizing what was in each box. Let the movers take as much as possible so that you don't have to take it with you.
Say "goodbye" to everyone you know and have fun on the journey to Seattle. Our trip up here was great. As we approached Seattle, we knew we'd have to buy some stuff (like paper towels and paper plates), so we bought them all on the way in Oregon because there's no sales tax there. It was nice to arrive to our new home and have somewhere to unload all of our stuff from the car, but we had to wait a few days for our furniture to arrive on the mover's truck (this could be a good time to go on a vacation, because dealing without a bed was difficult). We used the time to plan where everything would go so that it wouldn't be too difficult to unpack (though we ended up rearranging everything anyway). If you need to buy anything else, Craigslist is popular here.
- Immerse yourself - When you get here, go for walks, take the bus, and drive around. Stop in local stores and eat at local restaurants (Seattleites tend to prefer local places over corporate chains). Learning our way around the neighborhood and the city over our first few weeks and experiencing local attractions was my favorite part of moving here.
Also, read and watch the local news. A lot of neighborhoods have their own neighborhood blogs, too. Here are some of my favorite Seattle websites.
- Stay in contact with home - We shared our blog with people we know and also invested in a webcam so that we could still see other people when talking to them. The telephone and email are fine ways to keep in touch as well, and you may be able to fly back "home" and visit occasionally or have people visit you. Over time, Seattle will stop feeling like a new city and start feeling like your city. And if you end up not liking Seattle, just substitute another city's name for Seattle and repeat this whole process.
Of course there are lots of ways to move, but these are just some guidelines based on our experiences - you may have some different ideas about how to go through this process, and if so, feel free to share them in the comments.