The High Cost of a Moving Mistake


What costs more than moving? A moving mistake!

The fear of making a moving mistake keeps many from charging full-steam ahead with a move. After all, looking before you leap – especially when leaping involves a whole lot of money and upheaval – is the sensible thing to do.

I’m usually a sensible person, but for various reasons none of that level-headedness came into play a few years ago when my husband and I decided to escape the tumbleweeds of West Texas and move to the cornfields of rural Iowa.

We leaped first and looked back later – in horror!

Reflecting back now, it’s no wonder our move was an utter catastrophe. We focused our search on the Midwest, because we’d gotten married and honeymooned there.

Did we stop to consider whether Corn Belt living was really for us?

Nope! Rational thought didn’t really enter into the equation.

It didn’t help matters that we were desperate to get out of Lubbock. We wanted to find a place where we belonged. The problem is we didn’t bother to stop and think through what we needed from a location to feel that sense of belonging.

As a result, we had no substantive information to act as a rudder to guide our search.

When you move to a place you love, you have peace of mind knowing you made a sound financial investment. But, when you move to a place you don’t like at all, you feel like you burned through a shit ton of money for nothing.  What’s even worse is you’re stuck living in the place you dislike while trying to figure your way out.

Exactly how much money did our moving mistake cost us? And where did that money go? I’m spilling all the gory details right here!

Scouting visits

We actually went on two separate scouting visits to the Midwest. Aside from having a general region in mind, we weren’t at all sure where to focus our search. It was a little like playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

St. Paul, Minnesota

The first time we zeroed in on St. Paul, Minnesota. It wasn’t too big of a city, it had a lot of nonprofits (potential clients for me at the time), and it appeared to have reasonably affordable housing. Online, it seemed like a match made in heaven…

We drove over 2,200 miles round trip from Lubbock to St. Paul and spent 5 days looking at places to rent and exploring the city. It didn’t take long to realize it wasn’t a good fit, but the trip still cost us $1,250 in lodging, gas, food, and tolls.

Eastern Iowa

The following spring, we embarked on yet another scouting visit. We started out in Dubuque, Iowa, but knew within 5 days it wasn’t right. We also realized we were going to have to buy a house, because we couldn’t find a rental anywhere that would allow our 4 cats and 1 rabbit.

So, we drove to Iowa City. Housing was too pricey, so we started looking in surrounding towns. Because we were focused on finding a decent house we could afford and not on where the house was located, this is where our scouting visit veered off the rails.

After spending three weeks and $2,250 in Iowa, we found and bought a house in the town of Washington.

Total scouting visit costs: $3,500


We used U-Pack to move our stuff from Lubbock to Iowa ($2,400) and hired movers to transfer our stuff onto and off the trailer ($675).

It’s hard to tell how much space your stuff is going to take up in the U-Pack trailers. I’m sure we spent more than we needed to just because we didn’t want to get stuck without enough space.

When moving day arrived, we piled our cats and rabbit into our Toyota RAV4 (they just barely fit and, no, we didn’t check to see if all their carriers would fit ahead of time) and set out on our ill-fated move. Our 1,000-mile drive set us back about $125 in gas costs.

Total moving costs: $3,200


The inspection, down payment and closing costs on the Washington house cost $18,500.

Immediately after we moved in, we had to cough up $2,800 to replace the central A/C unit, which died in the middle of a horrible heat wave.

We had to make $6,000 in repairs to get the Lubbock house ready to sell. Then it took three months to sell, which meant an additional $2,000 in mortgage and utility costs.

Total housing costs: $29,300

The bottom line

All told, our moving mistake cost us $36,000.

You could argue it was a wash from a money standpoint, since the profits from the sale of the Lubbock house almost (but not quite) covered these costs.

You could also argue that we went through a whole lot of trouble and expense only to end up no better off – and in many ways worse off – than before.

As high as the financial costs were, the emotional repercussions of our moving mistake were much more painful and longer-lasting. (More about this in future posts!)

How you can avoid a costly moving mistake.

In addition to professional custom prospect research services to identify locations that best match your specifications, the PlaceFinder Program provides you with easy to use tools and consulting/coaching support to create and carry out thoroughly researched scouting visit plans to guide your decision about which location to choose. Learn more about the PlaceFinder Program here.

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About the Author

I founded Your Place Finder in 2017 to help retirees and almost retirees like you anticipate and overcome the pitfalls and challenges – and reap the rich rewards – of finding the perfect location to move for retirement.


  1. Melisa on Nov 27, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. Making a move mistake can be very expensive – don’t I know it! I wish I had met you early in 2017 when we were trying to sort our move.

    • Margaret on Nov 27, 2018 at 9:44 pm

      Hey Melisa, thanks so much for your comment. I wish we’d met in early 2017, too. Moving mistakes are the worst!

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