Feds’ Guide to Moving

Federal employees often have to relocate for work, and there are incentives available. These are some tips to help make your move easier.

No matter what branch of the federal government you work for, moving isn’t easy. Whether it’s for a new position with the post office, or you’re retiring from administrative work at veteran’s hospital and looking for sandy beaches, moving requires research and planning.

To help you with that, I’ve compiled a guide to make the weeks and days ahead of the move a bit easier.

Have a Financial Plan in Place

If you are retiring, you likely have considered the finances of the move and what you will do in your next days, months, and years – at least financially. If this is something you are looking into, check out information from the Federal Employees Retirement Booklet – it offers an overview of your benefits.

If you aren’t retiring, you may be looking for other government work. Despite the benefits of being federally employed, some positions are difficult to fill, and the government offers incentives for people who are willing to relocate. A fresh start can be an excellent opportunity for those who are ready to explore a different area – especially if they stay within the federal system.

Incentives vary depending on your position, how far you’re moving, how badly the new location needs an employee, and other factors. The usual benchmark for money maxes at around 25 percent of your annual salary.

Not all federal employees are eligible for the relocation incentive. You must be moving at least 50 miles from your current location and hold one of the eligible positions within our government before you can be considered for the incentive. A few of these positions might be:

  • General Service
  • Senior Executive service
  • DEA
  • FBI
  • Law enforcement

Think About Your Residency

If you are considering relocation for the available incentive, you must establish residency near your new job. You can establish residency by buying or renting a house or apartment in the area. Temporarily living in a hotel or staying with friends and relatives also counts toward residency. You can even set up arrangements throughout the week and commute back to your family on the weekends and holidays – if they’re not coming with you – and still earn your incentive.

Whether you are being transferred, moving for an incentive, or retiring, making arrangements for leaving your home and finding a new one is a crucial first step to a move. There’s also a plethora of help in The Handbook for Relocating Federal Employees.

A few of the most stressful things adults in America have to handle are: new jobs, selling or buying a house, and relocations. These become even more stressful when you have children. Education opportunities can vary depending on which lot your house is on, and planning for transportation to your job and your spouse’s takes time and resources.

Here is some more advice for those early stages:

Decide What to Do with Your Home

Perhaps the most stressful part of deciding to move is having to sell your home in a hurry. Because relocations happen quite quickly, you’ll likely feel a lot of pressure to make a deal with the first interested party. In most situations, you don’t need to sell your home immediately; realtors can help you rent or sell.

If you are renting or leasing, simply make sure to give the landlord notice – the amount of time will vary depending on where you live and your lease. The shortest will likely be 30 days, but the landlord will likely appreciate your earliest indication of a move.

Find a Realtor

There are realtors who specialize in helping federal employees. Working with one of these realtors isn’t mandatory, but they will likely have better insight into the government system and can help you find the best deals. They can help whether you decide to sell or rent your house.

Realtors stay up to date on market trends, so they’ll be able to help you target the right sort of buyer, and if you need to move in a hurry, their market knowledge is invaluable. They can help with more than just buying or leasing your home. Rely on them for everything from the best time to put your home on the market to hiring pros for painting and cleaning.

Find a New Home

If you know your move is temporary, research relocation services for federal employees. The above link to the handbook offers some help for those handling TCS – a Temporary Change of Station. Much of what’s available will depend on your field inside the government, but short-term housing arrangements are often the most challenging to find, so it might help to do some early research.

Most people prefer to spend some time in an area before they decide to buy, but if you know what neighborhood will work best for your family, it will help to have a real estate agent be on the lookout ahead of time. Getting pre-approved for a loan is usually a smart idea, and there are mortgages available with federal employees in mind.

Plan the Actual Move

There’s a lot to consider when you are moving. Use this weekly calendar to make your move easy and stress-free – or at least as stress-free as possible.

8 Weeks before moving day

Decide whether you are going to hire movers, move yourself, or do a bit of both. Like real estate agents who specialize in helping federal employees, there are movers who do the same. While using a mover like this isn’t imperative, it may make your life easier, and you can skip some explanation. Whatever you decide, talk with a few different movers so you know your options, and check for moving deals online before making a decision.

Two months before a move is also a good time to start inventorying what’s in your house. While you do it, start creating piles or bins for Giving Away and Trash. The less you have to move, the better.

6 Weeks before moving day

Take your first trip to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Getting rid of excess can help you see what needs to make it into the moving truck. You may also see stuff you thought you needed as excess weight.

Stop by your family doctor’s office, the vet, and the dentist to get hard copies of all pertinent records. If you’ve found a new doctor, vet, and dentist, you can mail them directly to your new providers. If you haven’t, now might be a good time to do some research. Consider tackling preemptive appointments and making sure all vaccines are up to date – for your kids and your pets. It’s also the best time to visit the post office and change your address.

4 Weeks before moving day

If you are moving yourself or packing up for the movers, it’s time to go on the search for boxes. Fed Ex, among others, sells boxes, but you can get them free fairly easily. From liquor stores and book stores to McDonald’s and Starbucks, there are plenty of places you can find free boxes for moving.

A month away from the big day is usually a perfect time to start packing non-essentials. It’s also the right time to call about turning utilities on in your new place and turning them off in your old.

2 Weeks before moving day

Pack your storage areas and things you use month to month – extra sheets or guest towels, seldom used kitchen gear or fold-up chairs and camping gear.

1 Week before moving day

The packing work is done. Schedule when you want what furniture gone. You’ll need your bed a bit longer than some other furniture. A week is the time you want to move almost everything you’ve got out of the house.

Moving Day

Hopefully, most of the heavy-lifting is done, and you can load yourself and your family up to find a new home. It’s the day to treat everyone to a good breakfast – your pots and pans are probably already on the moving truck, anyway. 

Find Resources with Proper Planning

No matter why you are planning a move, there are resources to help federal employees. Scheduling your move ahead of the big day can help you find these options and give you time to handle any unplanned for contingencies.

About the Author

Jason Kay is a professional resume writer and regular contributor to KSADoctor.com, a professional federal resume service and repository of sample KSA statements.