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Relocating? A step-by-step guide
Sumana Mukherjee and Sunil Dhawan, Outlook Money | March 22, 2007
In 2004, Vidhu Vatrana left home in Patiala with a trunk, a bag and a mattress after the placement cell at Regional Engineering College, Jalandhar, found her a job with Satyam Computer Services in Hyderabad. Over the next couple of years, she lived in Pune and Bangalore. The trunk still survives, but Vidhu, now 24, realises she received little support from her company during her postings.
Higher up the career ladder, Kaushik Samanta, 34, is now looking at notching up his fifth city in 13 years. Each move has been triggered by better prospects. Currently the corporate head of the EHS (environment, health, safety) arm of Lupin, he says that though his baggage has increased with his family expanding, so has the professionalism of packing-and-moving companies.
Anuj Rahul Joshi's case is slightly different. A couple of years ago, this assistant vice-president with Wipro gave up his job and a flat in Mumbai and moved to Hyderabad to launch a BPO company. Denied the corporate cushion during the final move, Joshi, 39, called upon his experience of the previous six relocations.
Driven by career advancements, ballasted by nuclear families and cushioned by a comforting similarity in the urban experience across the country, professionals are increasingly likely to go where their postings will take them. Project-based deputations common to IT majors, or individual professional imperatives, no call is too far away to heed.
But, even as the economy encourages quick job changes and fosters new centres of growth, and packers and movers enhance their expertise, ancillary services seem to put their worst foot forward at the thought of losing a customer.
You may have known them for years, but bankers will demand identity proof. Government agencies will give you the run-around, demanding first one certificate and then another. Service-providers' disconnection instructions will vary with the executive who takes your call. All of it can add up to a harrowing time in the run-up to the actual move.
According to Payal Singh, managing director of Trinity Removals India, a moving company, despite improved handling of household goods, the entire process of moving - which begins long before the packing team arrives and ends long after they have unpacked at the destination - continues to be traumatic for most. "There are two reasons for this," she says. "One, moving involves entrusting almost everything you own to a third party. Two, it implies dismantling a support structure and rebuilding it at a new location."
Since you can't wish away the vexing bits, the biggest luxury you can afford yourself at this point is time. For designer Anshu Arora Sen, 34, who moved bori-bistar, business and baby last year from Delhi to Bangalore, the process took two years. "Ever since I had the baby, I knew I would shift to Bangalore, where my husband (Jason Cherian, also a designer) was based," she says. "I had time to get used to the idea, even as I began the long process of winding up my 25-man Delhi unit. Moving is a great way to edit your life."
The months before
Relocation starts, usually, with a better job offer at another location. If you have a family, a period of cogitation will inevitably follow as moving house is all about letting go - for your spouse, who may be employed, for your children, who may be going to school or college, and for other dependents as well.
Relocation policies differ from organisation to organisation, but even the most considerate of employers may not look for a job for your spouse, or school admission for your child.
"Soon after we decided to move from Bangalore to Bhopal, my wife went over to look for schools for our four-year-old," says Samanta. "The last time we'd moved, our son, Ayan, was only 18 months old. So school was not an issue."
Meghnad Mitra, a finance professional who has made eight intercity shifts during his career, seconds Samanta: "Getting your child into a preferred school is the toughest bit."
For journalist Swati Mazumdar, three transfers over six years for her husband, also a media professional, translated into her own career taking a backseat. While her experience ensured she landed a job every time, she says that not once did her husband's employer, a private TV channel, offer to accommodate her or help find her a position suited to her talents.
Footing the bill. Apart from these domestic issues, there is also the matter of interfacing with the (current or prospective) employer to figure out how much of a financial hit you will take personally. While most employers will house you and your family at the company guesthouse, crosscheck if they will offer you escorts and vehicles when you go house-hunting.
Find out, also, if they will extend you a loan for rental deposits. In cities like Mumbai and Bangalore, where landlords regularly demand and get deposits equivalent to 10 months' rent, it's a considerable sum. Even in Delhi, where a three-month deposit is the norm, the assured availability of Rs 60,000 (on a monthly rent of Rs 20,000 for a mid-sized apartment) can be a huge relief.
Some employers will also write off re-registering charges for cars as part of moving expenses. The idea, HR experts say, is to make the employee as comfortable as possible, as soon as possible, since any downtime is lost time. So you have to take the call on how far to push the envelope with your employers.
"Most employers will balance the employee's value-to-the-company against costs," says Deepa Nailwal, Talent Manager, Knowledge Group, for The Indian Express Group of Newspapers and a 15-year veteran in human resource management. "That said, all companies will cover the travel costs of the employee and his household belongings. Most companies will also cover the train or air fares of the employee's immediate family, meaning the spouse and children under the age of 18."
After that, depending on the indispensability of the employee and the company's financial health, the sky is the limit. Top management can expect to have 100 per cent of the costs taken care of. CEOs and vice-presidents may even find seats reserved in top schools for their children, and a club membership.
The big decisions
Before the move you need to take a call on moveable and immovable property.
House. For any residential property you may own, either outright or on finance, you have three options: selling it, keeping it vacant or giving it out on rent.
Selling your property. If the property is in your name and not financed, a sale may attract a capital gains tax, depending on the year of purchase. However, if the sale proceeds are used to buy another property for residential use, there is no tax. So, should you want to reside in your own place in a new city, study property prices well and then decide on a beneficial plan.
If the house you currently occupy is financed and you have EMIs outstanding, you have to first find a buyer and then get the loan transferred to him. Alternatively, you can pay off the balance on your own. Get a clearance certificate from the bank after paying off the loan, but remember that early closure allows the bank to impose a loan pre-payment penalty.
Keeping your property. If you plan to return to live in the city in the near future, or if you are emotionally attached to your residence, you may want to keep the house vacant. You will still be required to foot maintenance bills. Also, should you want to buy a new home in the new city, either outright or on a loan, bear in mind that taxmen will consider one of your properties to be rented out, even if it is vacant, and thus liable for tax.
Renting out. Renting out your house to reliable tenants can give a steady income and take care of maintenance headaches.
Securing EMIs. An outstanding loan calls for a few extra steps. If the EMIs will continue to be paid through your existing bank account, provide for sufficient funds. Once you are settled into your new home, inform the bank about your new account and direct deduction of future EMIs from there after completing the formalities.
Cars. With a vehicle, the options are slightly different. You can either sell it or take it with you. The decision could depend on the state you are moving to. For instance, Karnataka demands that a certain percentage of the value of the car, decided by the make and the age of the vehicle, be paid as road tax on a transferred vehicle. Do you want to shell out Rs 15,000 or so on a four-year-old Santro, over and above the transportation costs? Will your employer make good the tab?
If you want to keep it, then the law needs you to change the registration to that of your new residence within a certain period (it varies from state to state).
For instance, if you are moving from Delhi to Visakhapatnam, you will need to fill in RTO forms in quadruplicate, pencil-stencil the chassis number, bring your insurance up to date and acquire the relevant certificates from the insurance company. If your papers are in the clear, the RTO will provide you an NOC valid for 90 days.
When you re-register your vehicle in Visakhapatnam, you will need to present the NOC and your vehicle, along with the originals of the registration certificate, the insurance papers, tax receipts and a pollution-under-control certificate. You will also need to pay the road tax as it is applicable in Andhra Pradesh. Technically, you can get a refund of this amount from the Delhi RTO. But this is no easy task.
You also need to factor in the cost of transporting your car, either by road, truck, rail or air. This is potentially a bill for your employers to sponsor.
If your car is financed, there will be another ring of formalities to tackle. The RTO in Delhi will demand a letter from the financing bank, stating that they have no objection to the vehicle being moved out of state limits.
As in the case of a home loan, if EMIs for the car are to be paid through your existing bank account, you have to ensure the availability of sufficient funds.
Once you and your finances are settled in the new city, you may inform the bank and complete formalities to debit future EMIs from your new account.
The paperwork is far less if you want to sell your car. If you own the car, you need to find a buyer, fill up Forms 29 and 30 and ensure the buyer transfers the registration to his own name. If it is financed, you can either get the loan transferred to the new buyer or pay off the balance on your own. Don't forget to get the clearance certificate from the bankers.
Whether you are keeping your car or selling it, "all the paperwork should be done at least a month and at most 10 days prior to moving," suggests Joshi. "Also, if the company packing and moving your belongings is moving the car also, be sure to get a good bargain."
A month before...
Before shopping for a moving company, you need to do a lot of work - organising, brain-storming, paper-tracking and closet-cleaning. Considering that these are also likely to be the last days at work, be prepared for a pressure-cooker situation.
Plan a visit to the new city to finalise a residence, keeping in mind proximity to work, school and conveniences.
Money memos. Identify the utilities on which you have a deposit. For instance, cooking gas and landlines. Track down the original papers: you'll need them to get a refund. If they are missing then do the necessary paperwork to get the all-clear signal.
This could take some running around. Even if you decide to write off the deposit, no PSU gas agency will issue a transfer voucher, necessary for a fresh connection in the new city, without this statement.
As far as MTNL and BSNL phones are concerned, the process is comparatively painless. But the refund will be dispatched only after due process to your new address, so make sure you mention it clearly in your request form.
Cellphones are a different story altogether. According to V Venkatesh, chief operating officer of Airtel Mobility, Karnataka, "Our customers can contact us through fax, email, our call centre or any of our showrooms with a request for disconnection of services. On receipt of the request, we try to get in touch with the customer. If he's relocating to a state where we have Airtel services, we offer a new connection with the same facilities to ensure a seamless service experience."
While the principle may be true across service-providers, information on how to surrender connections is not easy to access. None of the websites of the leading mobile phone companies, for instance, has a section on voluntary disconnection of services. Customer care executives provide notoriously contradictory information.
"Check that you cancel any standing instructions for ECS or direct debit facility at least a week before moving. Otherwise, you may end up with nasty surprises in terms of debits," advises Joshi.
Taking account. To close a savings bank account, again, you need the passbook and related papers. Some private sector banks altogether deny the option of closing your account, in which case you can transfer or withdraw the entire amount from the account.
If you want to keep the account, inform the bank of the change in address, and make sure it is added in their records.
Loose ends. Landlords, schools, doctors, insurance, subscriptions, clubs - in short, everything that roots you to a city have to be seen to. As soon as you know you are moving, inform your landlord.
Doctors, especially family doctors, should be kept in the loop as well, and tapped for referrals in the city that will be your new home.
Schools are a trickier proposition. Till middle-school, leaving a school is more a matter of losing friends and familiar teachers than losing out academically (especially if the move can be coordinated with the end of the school year). But higher classes call for complete conviction before you can request for a transfer certificate.
Some relocation experts, however, suggest that parents avoid moving during school holidays. That way, children avoid joining school on the chaotic first day.
The run-up to the move is also the time to cancel club and magazine subscriptions (some require a lead time of up to three months) and to ask your insurance agent if he would like to continue servicing your policy. Closer to the date, inform your newsagent and cablewallah, and settle their dues in advance.
A week before...
Deciding on the movers. If it is a company transfer, the choice of the firm usually rests with them. If the decision is up to you, seek recommendations from colleagues and friends who have moved between the same cities.
Not all packer-and-mover companies have full-fledged services in all centres and you certainly don't want to be dealing with sub-contractors who have nothing at stake for your move. "A lot of people make the mistake of settling for a vendor who quotes a lower price," warns Singh. "But experience will tell you that the Rs 5,000 or Rs 10,000 they charge less usually translates into inferior service."
If it's a short-distance move, advises Joshi, get the packers to commit to free godown facility at either city. This gives you some breathing space between sending off your goods, catching a train or plane, and unpacking. For a long-distance move, sign up with a company that allows you to track the consignment on the Internet. That way, you will know exactly where the truck with your belongings is on any given day.
Calling in the company. Once you have finalised the agency, an evaluation visit will follow and you will be asked to put a figure to everything you own for insurance purposes. Professionals advise you to err on the plus-side. Though this means a higher outlay (which will be considered part of the total cost), it also gives you better coverage. Also, bear in mind that for electronic items, only external damage will be considered for compensation.
If you have chosen right, the packers will ease your tensions, not add to them. Use this time (and the last of the Internet connection) to list all the services you will need at your new home and collect their contact numbers from your current network. This covers water purifiers, inverters, white goods, satellite radios...everything that requires expert installation.
This is also the time to consider the future of any potted plants you may have. Will they survive a long-distance road journey? What if the truck escorts forget to water them? Or would it be better to farm them out to friends and relatives? Donate at least one to your local park.
Once the professionals take over, use the time to give the new address to your landlord (so your mail can be forwarded), last-minute meetings and a farewell bash. And, don't forget to congratulate yourself: the tough part is over.
The good thing about moving to a new city is that, as a fresh consumer, you can expect great service from everyone. The bad thing is that you don't know anyone. So, start with your landlord. Once you have settled on a house, keep in touch with him and figure out the local vendor and domestic help network.
Back to basics. If it is a long distance relocation, there will a gap of at least a few days between your arrival and the arrival of your household goods. Use the time to apply for a gas connection.
Neighbours or your landlord could give you the agency details. Once you submit the transfer voucher, the new agency will seek confirmation from your previous agency, by post. The process can take up to a week.
Similarly contact the other service providers. Based on the arrival of the trucks, schedule visits. If you will be living in a housing complex, check out society rules regarding entry of trucks and movement of workers.
Diana Ramsey, director business development of Going There, a destination services company, recalls a top-level German executive who had their consultant sift through 53 properties before settling on an apartment in Bangalore. "She (ensured) the bottled water supply was in situ in their apartment when they moved in, helped set up their bank accounts and standing order/ payment for rent, verified a German-speaking local contract driver-and-car and set up a supply of lactose-free milk for the wife's medical condition."
Unpacking, reinstalling. You are unlikely to recognise any of the faces who arrive with your goods, but they should bear the same stamp of professionalism. Insist that furniture - each piece should be easily identifiable - be placed in their identified spaces, and then unpacked. Ensure they put together dismantled dining tables, beds and anything else they may have taken apart for easy transportation.
At the end of the day, you'll be left with a huge amount of packaging material. Check with the moving company whether they will collect it, or if you should sell it for recycling. Once the domestic help is in place get recommendations for an electrician and a carpenter for essential modifications. Putting up pictures or photographs is the first step towards making a house a home.
Pace yourself. Don't expect the flat to become familiar overnight. Give it time - and yourself too - to let your new home grow on you.
Moving Day Moves
Before the packers move in...
When the packers come in...
Moving Minus Misery
If your finances or your employers allow you, sign up with a relocation-support company. Though still in its infancy, this is a sector that is becoming increasingly relevant these days, when employers want transferred employees to hit the road running.
"We have several clients who are moving more and more people to Bangalore. That is why it is the only city where we have operations in India," says Diana Ramsey, director of business development for Going There, a destination services company with a presence in cities from Amsterdam to Warsaw.
Though most of their clients are westerners relocating to India, a fair percentage are Indians returning to the country after years. Their concerns are common: schools, housing, connectivity (electronic and vehicular), medical care and spousal employment.
Ramsay says, "If you look for answers to these questions by way of Google, the search engine would throw up over 3 million pages. Who needs that? GT Online has the answers, and thousands more, specifically aimed at the newcomer/expatriate. We find the answers, sift through them, verify them, edit them, and organise them in an easy-to-use format."
Mumbai-based Writer Corp, one of the handful of Indian relocation-and-orientation companies, steps into the picture even before the move. "The client often likes to visit the relocation destination early on to check out local living conditions. Usually, no decisions are taken at this stage," says Gavin de Souza, joint managing director of Writer Corp.
"Subsequently, we will look for residences according to the client's specs (sea-facing or ground-floor), help with school admissions, provide information on local utilities, shopping and entertainment options, besides fitting out the family with local help, including domestic help and drivers."