A Step by Step Guide To Moving Across the Country with a Baby + 2 Cats: Part 2

september 2016: Exploring our new city

september 2016: Exploring our new city

If you didn’t have a chance to read my first post about moving across the country with a baby and 2 cats you can check it out here. In it, I covered steps 1 - 5.

  1. Wait!

  2. Create folders (paper and electronic) to store all of your moving documents

  3. Outline what needs to happen

  4. Come up with a preliminary timeline

  5. Set your moving budget

In this post, I’m sharing details about how we figured out where to live.

Step 6: Figure out where you’ll live in your new city

It’s helpful to know exactly where you’re going to be moving to (i.e., your physical address) so that when you plan your move you can determine how much stuff is going to fit in your new place, the exact directions you’ll need to get there, if a moving truck can easily get to your place, etc.

We started this process by asking ourselves a few questions:

  • Do we have the resources available to scope out housing in person?

    • For us, the answer was a big, nope! We weren’t up for making a cross country flight (or using up part of the $7000 relocation budget) to see places in person. Not an ideal situation, but that’s what we chose to do given all the other things going on in our lives.

  • Do we want to rent or buy?

    • The sale of our condo would give us enough money for a decent down payment on a house so we did have a choice between renting or buying. Had we not had the condo, buying would have been out of the question. Given that we didn’t want to make a trip out to look for housing and we didn’t know anything about the neighborhoods in Portland (the city we’d be moving to), renting seemed like the most logical option.

  • What’s most important to us?

    • For us, our top priority was being really close to my job. Starting a new job in a new city without a support system meant that we were going to need each other’s support more than ever. Being able to see each other during the work day and have virtually no commute was number 1 on our list. Other things on our list included being cat friendly, having parking, having laundry on the premises, and being within our budget. Which brings me to the next question...

  • What is our budget?

    • We were moving from Columbus, OH to Portland, OR. Columbus has a pretty reasonable cost of living and Portland gets more expensive by the hour. Our manageable mortgage payment of ~$900 was probably going to be an unrealistic amount in Portland. According to an online calculator I found, housing in Columbus is 66% cheaper than Portland (ugh…). Based on my salary and a quick browsing of apartment rentals, we set our budget at $1,500/month.

  • What would be nice, but not necessary?

    • We also had a list of things that would be great, but weren’t 100% necessary. (1) Be able to walk to something, whether its a park or a restaurant, or transit, we didn’t want to have to rely on a car for everything. (2) Have some outside space. (3) Have a washer and dryer in the unit. (4) Two bedrooms.

One additional thing I did to inform our decision (as kind of a joke) was calculating the square footage of the rooms we spent the most time in, in our 1,500 square foot condo. Doing so solidified the fact that we didn’t need a big place because we (including the cats) spent 99.9% of our time in our little TV room, the kitchen, and our bedroom. The living room, basement, dining room, and two guest rooms didn’t get touched. I can’t remember what the square footage of those rooms came out to be, but it was well under 1,500 square feet!

How did we go about deciding on a place sight unseen? Well... the internet. I googled and yelped and reddited and just about everything else you can imagine (google maps street view!). I found a number of people who had pictures of their Portland apartments on their personal blogs, which were super helpful. I also emailed a few people I was going to be working with, to get their take on local housing. As I was gathering intel I (of course) created a spreadsheet that included the following information:

  • Apartment name

  • City (Portland or the various suburbs)

  • Address

  • Distance to work

  • How would I get to work (walking, transit, driving) and how long would the commute be

  • Cost for 1 and 2 bedrooms

  • Square footage for 1 and 2 bedrooms

  • Parking info

  • Deposit info (screenings, security deposits, pet rent, pet deposits)

  • How utilities were handled

  • Additional amenities (e.g., gym, outdoor space, washer/dryer, etc.)

  • Cat friendly layout - our cats don’t sleep in our room, they would keep us up all night long and sleep is precious. Our one cat will scratch at our door all night long if he has access to it… so I looked at the floor plans to see if we could potentially block off access to our bedroom door from the main living area (with a big piece of plywood or something… we did this at an old apartment in Ohio).

  • Website

  • Any notes

I contacted our top choices and we took a leap of faith, in huge part due to the wonderfully helpful apartment manager at the place we ended up signing a lease with. We ended up with a 1 bedroom, ~600 square foot apartment that was about a 7 minute walk from my office. Base price was ~$1,500. Adding in a parking spot and fees for 2 cats bumped it up to $1,735/mo, so a bit above our ~1,500 target. It had a washer/dryer in the unit, a little common area outdoor space (although there was construction going on behind it so we never used it), a gym, and an indoor common area where we were going to host Ellie’s first birthday (but closed on a house instead). We could walk to pretty much everything we needed - parks, the waterfront, grocery stores, transit, work. It was the perfect place to explore our new city and see where we wanted to set up shop for good. It was also wonderful knowing that I could head home to nurse Ellie during the day if I wanted, or Mike could bring her to me, or we could meet for lunch, or they could join me on my walk home. Despite having never actually toured the place until the day we got the keys, it was a great place to live.

Next up I’ll share details on how we decided to actually move our stuff.