How to negotiate relocation

Need to relocate for your new job? Relocation can be expensive, but you might not have to incur the high costs on your own.

How to negotiate relocation

Negotiating Your Relocation Assistance

Sooner or later, you might take a job that will require you and your family to move. You will likely incur significant expenses when relocating for work, and if you are like most people, you will want your employer to pay for at least some of them.

According to a survey of 1,000 people conducted by Allied Van Lines, approximately 26.4% received some moving expenses, 15.75% of respondents received help with temporary living expenses, 12.05% received a discretionary expense allowance, and 8.7% received a lump sum for miscellaneous expenses. The largest percentage of responders (29.86%) received no moving assistance at all from their employers.

Want to avoid paying for the move entirely on your own? The following advice should help you handle this negotiation as effectively as possible.

Focus on your interests

Think of relocating for work as a massive opportunity to make improvements in your life. The whole point of negotiating for something is to address your real needs. Before you limit what you ask for, make sure you know what you want. Think broadly and do not limit yourself to financial expenses. For example, one client of mine decided these were her needs:

  • Assistance in selecting and paying for child care. (She still had to finish paying her nanny.)  
  • A higher cost-of-living subsidy.  
  • A higher mortgage cost allowance.  
  • A bridge loan, because she could not sell her house before she had to relocate.
  • Assistance in choosing a good local school for her older child.

Once you have thought about what help you need, you can prepare to negotiate for a package that suits you.

Find out what assistance is typical

Your preparation for this negotiation should include the following:

  • Ask your new employer's HR department if the company has a written relocation policy or if it offers standard benefits.  
  • Find out who at the company has recently moved, and ask about their relocation packages.  
  • Ask your friends or other contacts in similar firms about their experiences or their companies' policies.
  • If you are using a recruiter, he should be able to provide guidance as well.

Keep in mind that companies tend to vary in what they offer employees who are relocating for work, and larger companies have more standardized policies. Therefore, compensation can differ by industry, city, or even position in the company (executives tend to get more). Nonetheless, the following expenses are commonly covered:

  • Moving costs
  • Temporary lodging costs
  • Travel costs back home if you relocate before your family moves
  • Job search assistance for the spouse (which may include job search reimbursements, referrals to a recruiter and arranging for interviews inside the company)
  • Assistance in selling your house

Develop ideas that benefit both sides

No matter what is standard, many companies are willing to negotiate packages that address their new employees' distinct needs. Still, even though everything is negotiable, your employer is more likely to agree to your ideas if they benefit the company as well. So anticipate this reality, and provide the advantages for your new bosses when you share your ideas.

For example, my client made sure to tell her new company, "I will be able to work longer hours and be more productive from the start if I can get a few important matters settled quickly."

Another client had an employer that, while willing to provide extra assistance for her relocation, did not want to set a precedent of deviating from its written policy. This person solved the problem by saying, "Well, what if we agree that this assistance will be called a signing bonus?"

Get it in writing

Once you and the company agree on a compensation package for your relocation expenses, make sure you capture that agreement in writing. A formal contract is not necessary, just a simple signed letter detailing the assistance that is being provided and by what time.

A negotiation about relocation compensation is the same as any other negotiation. If you focus on effective preparation, collaborative negotiating, and out-of-the-box thinking, you will do well.

Maintain your sanity

Starting a new job is always an adventure; starting a new job and moving to a new home can be downright overwhelming. But don't let it throw you off your career path. Could you use some help navigating the waters? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can get career advice and job search tips sent directly to your inbox to help you plot your next steps. From building rapport with new co-workers to gearing up for a promotion, Monster's expert insights can point you in the right direction. Unfortunately, we don't know which box you packed the coffee pot in—but best of luck with that!