Relocating? Here's how to ease the burdens of moving

By Kristen Fuller, MD | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published June 23, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Does your new fellowship position require you to relocate? Hire movers and packers. Although they are not cheap, they save you time and headaches and make your move seamless. 

  • Taking advantage of moving reimbursements from your program, tax write-offs, and zero-interest credit cards, and keep in mind that moving on a weekday can benefit your pocketbook. 

  • To buy or to rent? So many intricate factors play into whether you should buy or rent when you choose to relocate to your fellowship. The decision is very personal and depends on your wants, needs, financial status, and future plans. 

Congratulations! You matched into a fellowship and are on your way to becoming a super-specialist. But unfortunately, you have to move… again.

If this is your first move during your medical training, consider yourself extremely lucky. Many doctors in training have to move for medical school and then again for residency, and maybe even a third time when they sign their “big doctor contract” upon completing residency. 

Although moving is stressful, expensive, and time-consuming, there are many tricks of the trade you can put into practice when negotiating your fellowship contract—and tips for moving when the time comes.  

Related: 5 red flags to watch for in your first physician-employment contract

Relocation reimbursement?

Inquire about a relocation bonus in your contract, and if there isn’t one, ask if your program can grant you one. In general, many training institutions include a moving bonus that may not cover all of your expenses, but it does help. This will most likely be a reimbursement, so keep your receipts and store them somewhere on your phone so you can email this information immediately to your program director. 

Hire movers and packers

You do not have time (even if you think you do) to pack all your belongings, load everything into a truck (that you most likely rented), and move all your furniture to your new home. Movers and packers are professionals, and although they may not be cheap, they are worth every penny.

Make sure your belongings are insured through the moving company, and be present when the movers are ready to load and unload your belongings so you can do an inventory with the moving company.

If you are making a long-distance move, make sure your moving company actually does this (many do not), and request an in-person estimate of the move, so you are not surprised when you receive a large bill. Book early, try to move on a weekday or during the slow season to save money, and ask if you can provide your own packing materials for a lower cost. 

Purge, purge, purge

Of course, some furniture may not be worth moving (that broken garage sale dresser or those few cheaply made pieces), so now is your time to consider what you want to throw away or keep, before you ask your movers for an in-person estimate.

Although you do not have the time to pack and move, you do have the time to sort through what you want or don’t want. Purging belongings is always one of the most rewarding parts of a move. 

What do you do with your car? 

This depends on how far you are moving and whether you have one car or multiple cars. You can drive your car to your new destination (this may be the best idea if you have a pet, a spouse, or a kid), or you can ship your car (this may be the best option if you have more than one car).

Shipping a car is also not exactly cheap, but it gives you the option of flying to your new location without potentially putting thousands of miles and long agonizing hours of driving on your vehicle. Remember that your car will most likely arrive after you, so be prepared to not have a car for a few days or a week (your furniture may also be delayed). 

To buy or to rent? 

This is a tricky decision, and there is no right answer, as it depends on your circumstances. Do you currently own a property where you trained for residency? If so, are you planning on renting it out, or will you sell it? Remember that renting it out means you will become a landlord, which is a big responsibility, especially when you are in fellowship.

Do you see yourself staying to practice where you are doing your fellowship, or do you plan on moving somewhere else after fellowship? If you do not plan on staying, it may be wise to rent, but if you do plan on staying, you may want to consider purchasing a home. Do you know the area? If you are unfamiliar with the area, it may be wise to rent first before buying.

If you know the area or are dead-set on buying a home no matter what, do your due diligence when shopping around for a mortgage loan.

Take advantage of loans that offer physicians a lower down payment without a PMI (you do not have to have 20% down if you are a doctor in training), and keep in mind that not all loan companies cater to doctors in training, so make sure you find one that does.

Physician Mortgage is a good resource if you are looking for banks that offer home loans to physicians.[] 

Related: Financial bootcamp for fellows: Build your wealth from the ground up

Ask your program for advice

If you are new to the area, and have no idea where to start, ask your program director, program coordinator, and other fellows what areas they recommend to live in and why. If you have kids, it is important to keep school districts in mind. Most likely, most of your colleagues live in the same area, so this may be your best bet for starting off. 

Take advantage of tax write-offs for your move. According to the IRS, “You can deduct the expenses of moving your household goods and personal effects, including expenses for hauling a trailer, packing, crating, in-transit storage, and insurance. You can't deduct expenses for moving furniture or other goods you bought on the way from your old home to your new home.”[]

Paying for your move

A move can cost anywhere from $800 (if you are moving down the street) to $5,000 (if you are moving out of state), so make sure you can pay for this without breaking the bank. Although you may get some reimbursement from your fellowship program and you can write off some of your move on your taxes, you still have to front the money. Consider opening up a zero-percent interest credit card so you can put all of your moving expenses on this card (for easy record-keeping purposes) and have ample time to pay off the card without accruing or paying interest. 

What this means for you

Moving is stressful, especially during a pivotal time in your career when you may not plan to stay in the new location over the long term. However, it is important to take the time to plan your move accordingly. Weigh all of your options in terms of real estate, and seek advice from your fellowship program about what they offer and suggestions they may have in terms of areas to live, moving companies, relocation reimbursements, furniture stores, etc. This move should be exciting, and you have the power to make it that way.

Read Next: Thriving abroad: Navigating the challenges of international fellowships

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