Relocating can seem stressful, but it also can work out for the best
Even under the most leisurely of circumstances, moving can feel insanely rushed and stressful. But what’s it like when you’ve got just a few weeks to move to a totally new city for a new job? The answer, it turns out, is better than you’d expect.
Just ask Michael McManus, 31. Since graduating from college, McManus has moved several times – to Portland in 2007, Seattle in 2013, and in 2014, to Jersey City, where he rented a one-bedroom apartment with his boyfriend, Brandon Hilt, 33, for $2,200 a month – over the past few years. But nothing could have prepared him for the move that he undertook this summer after a headhunter from the architecture firm, CannonDesign, contacted him through LinkedIn about a communications director position. While he was interested in the opportunity, he wasn’t so sure about the location: Buffalo, N.Y.
“I didn’t know anything about Buffalo really. Probably couldn’t have pointed to it on a map. I wasn’t super excited because I didn’t know much about it, but I thought maybe I could look beyond the location because I really respected the firm,” he says.
As he considered his options, McManus started researching cities in western New York. That’s when he came across the YouTube channel of Billy and Pat Sandora-Nastyn, a couple who documented their happy move from Manhattan to Buffalo last year. As a gay man, McManus had been worried about being the “odd man out” in an unfamiliar city, but when he saw the Sandora-Nastyn’s positive experience he abandoned his fears. “I was like, ‘They’re very similar to us. We can totally do this!’” he says.
Soon after he was contacted by the headhunter, McManus and Hilt made their first visit to Buffalo, where they toured Elmwood Village – which was recently named one of the country’s 10 best neighborhoods by the American Planning Association – the Delaware Park-Front Park System, and the downtown Canalside recreational area on Lake Erie. As McManus tells it, they instantly fell in love with the city.
McManus accepted the job and had just three weeks to move. They had a lot to do. First, Hilt got in touch with the Manhattan charter school where he works and made an arrangement to continue working there remotely. Then, they had to get out of Jersey City. McManus’ new company issued him a relocation check to cover any moving expenses, but instead of hiring a moving company, they decided to rent a U-Haul and relocate themselves.
“It was definitely stressful. While we were doing it, we were cursing ourselves and wishing we had hired a moving company. But I’m glad we did it. It saved us a lot of money,” McManus says.
When they arrived in Buffalo, they stayed in corporate housing in a Buffalo suburb for their first few months. Looking for housing with two dogs, a great dane and a labrador, made things a little more complicated, but ultimately they found a six-bedroom Victorian-style house on Craigslist in Elmwood Village for $1,300 a month.
“The rental market is getting really competitive up here. The day we came to look at the place the owner had 10 other people lined up to look. Buffalo’s becoming a destination. A lot of people in their ’30s are looking for these cool old houses to live in,” he says.
Being the new guy at work can sometimes be stressful, but McManus has found socializing a lot easier in a small city like Buffalo than in the New York City area. He and Hilt found new friends at bars and local events, and McManus has even met people on Twitter by searching for #BuffaloNY. It may be early on, but McManus is already thinking about putting down roots in the city.
“When I was younger and single, it was fun to move around and be in a different place,” he says. “Now that we’re in a city where it’s so easy to live and go out and enjoy life, I think we’re going to be really serious about making Buffalo our long-term home.”
For Kristen Swidrak, 37, moving to a new city for a new job on short notice seemed daunting, but, almost miraculously, went off without a hitch. For the last four years, she’d been living happily in Atlanta, where she booked wedding and social events for Ritz-Carlton. She lived alone in a two-story townhouse in Atlanta’s Brookhaven neighborhood, where she loved the short commute to work in Buckhead, and the area’s great dining and shopping scenes.
But Swidrak was thrown for a loop when an acquaintance in Dallas who worked for the Ritz-Carlton brand, Renaissance Hotels, contacted her. He was leaving his job and looking for a replacement; Swidrak had just the right qualifications, and he knew she occasionally visited Dallas to visit her father.
“I was really happy with Ritz-Carlton and loved Atlanta and had a ton of friends. But then I thought about how my dad’s getting older and getting ready to retire. I thought it would be great to see more of him,” she says.
Swidrak went to Dallas and spent an afternoon checking out homes with a realtor. The next morning, she had a successful interview for the job, but was still on the fence a week later when the company made her an offer.
“I had to decide, so I said, ‘Better to give it a shot and see if it works out rather than not trying,’” she says.
Right after she signed the deal, Swidrak looked into selling her townhouse. Renaissance linked her up with Cynthia Pierce, a realtor and relocation specialist, who got her a signed offer for full asking price two days after listing.
A week later, she drove 12 hours to Dallas with her dog and cat, where she dropped her pets at her dad’s house. Her first day of work at the downtown Renaissance Hotel was two days away.
While Swidrak finalized her real estate transactions, her company put her up in the very same hotel where she worked. “Other than the fact that I couldn’t have my pets with me, it was amazing. You have no commute time. You walk downstairs to work. You’re ordering room service. You’ve got a free gym upstairs,” she says.
Within weeks, she’d already found a place she liked in Dallas’ Oak Lawn neighborhood and made an offer on it with the help of Simone Jeanes, a realtor her company suggested. “The market is crazy here. As soon as a property lists, it gets 10 offers and then it’s gone. You’ve got to be ready to go with a cash offer that day,” Swidrak says.
Swidrak closed on the sale of her townhouse in Atlanta, and movers drove her stuff to her new home, for which she’d just signed the deal. “The stars aligned. It was absolutely insane. There was so much going on and so many balls in the air. So much could have gone wrong, but it just didn’t,” she laughs.