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Should you take out a personal loan to fund moving expenses or continue searching for a relocation assistance program that offers free services?

Borrowing money can help you change to a new address right away but adds to your debt burden – a sticky situation when you live check-to-check.

Most programs that promote relocation help charge fees for corporate employees or senior citizens, downsizing their homes. Meanwhile, some government agencies and charitable organizations provide free support to narrowly-defined groups coping with specific challenges.

However, finding idle trucks, left-over boxes, and volunteer labor could help far more people looking to swap places.

Personal Loans for Moving Expenses

Personal loans can provide an infusion of cash to cover moving expenses. People relocating are often cash-strapped after funding security deposits when renting apartments, and down payments when buying their new homes.

Borrow money only when absolutely necessary because you incur origination fees and interest charges.

Apartment Moves

Request a personal loan (Affiliate Link) to cover your apartment moving costs and other related charges. Be prepared with the following to complete the online form in a single attempt.

  • Bank account and routing number: allows the lender to deposit funds directly to your checking account for easy access
  • Address: your current city, state, and zip code work better because your length of time at the old apartment is an underwriting factor (longer is better)
  • Amount requested: keep this figure small to improve approval odds and include security deposit and the first month of rent only if critical

House Moves

Using a personal loan to cover moving expenses into a house has different considerations, depending on whether you are renting or buying your new home.

People who are renting the house should focus on the projected debt-to-income ratio (DTI), which could include your monthly lease and loan payments. House-to-house moves often have higher costs requiring a more significant principal amount borrowed.

  • Number of bedrooms
  • Local or cross-country
  • Washer and dryer hookups
  • Pool tables, pianos, hot tubs

Families who are buying a house should avoid jeopardizing mortgage approval by waiting until after closing to begin the process. Any new credit seeking activity (hard inquiries and new accounts) will hurt your score and backend DTI – two critical mortgage qualifiers.

Relocation Assistance Programs

The phrase “relocation assistance programs” can mean different things depending on the context. Most of the initiatives charge a fee to help employees with complicated long-distance corporate moves related to job changes.

Sometimes, government agencies and charitable organizations make it easier to afford a change of residence, which is of greater interest to people who lack the money to pay for a truck and the labor to lift heavy furniture.

Government Relocation Help

The federal government, in conjunction with the states, provides a variety of relocation support programs targeted to help specific groups or deal with narrowly defined circumstances such as natural disasters, domestic violence, and other reasons.

Grant funding starts at the federal level and then works its way down to state agencies, and non-profit charities. Federal grants do not go to individuals. Therefore, you have some detective work to do if you want this “free money” to cover your costs.

State Efforts

Research the laws and government programs available in your state that might help with your moving costs. We cannot list every single relocation initiative here but can provide a starting point and several examples of free services you might find.

  • The California Tenant Protection Act (AB 1482) requires property owners to provide financial help or a rent waiver after a “no-fault” eviction.
  • Departments of Transportation provides aid to families impacted by one of their projects. For example, a home might be displaced to make room for a new road or highway.
  • Departments of Children and Family services often offer change of residence help for victims of domestic violence to provide single women and children with physical distance from their abusers.
  • Departments of Health often provide financial aid for the moving fees of elderly Medicaid recipients who choose to live in their community rather than a nursing home or long-term care facility.
  • Human Resource Administrations help municipal employees in large cities with moving costs, security deposit vouchers, broker fees, and temporary storage charges.

HAFA

The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) Program provides relocation support to families who can no longer afford their underwater mortgages.

HAFA helps homeowners transition to affordable housing through a short-sale or deed-in-lieu arrangement. The government provides extra cash to qualified applicants to cover moving costs even if the proceeds from the home sale do not satisfy the outstanding mortgage balance.[1]

FEMA

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) often provides financial help with relocation to affected individuals and families who lose their homes after a presidentially-declared natural disaster.

For example, FEMA helped thousands of families find temporary shelter after hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Floyd.[2]

Unemployment

Unemployment benefits are a possible source of indirect help with your moving expenses. Both federal and state governments combine to administer the wage support program, but each state determines the final parameters as to who qualifies.

Most people are ineligible for unemployment benefits when they quit their job – unless their state laws permit exclusions for good cause reasons. Relocations for spousal job changes and domestic abuse are two typical exemptions.

Therefore, research the laws in your state and file a claim if appropriate.

Military One Source

The Department of Defense backs the Military One Source resource, which provides connections and answers for members of the armed forces. Their relocation assistance office supports permanent change of station moves.[3]

  • Classes and workshops
  • Loan closet of essential items
  • Sponsors familiar with the station

Tax Deductions

Federal tax deductions for moving expenses are no longer allowed for most citizens, according to IRS Publication 521.[4] Only active duty military members can tap into this indirect form of government help when they transfer to a new permanent duty station.

  • Home to the first post of duty
  • One permanent post of duty to another
  • Last post of duty to home

The change in tax law became effective in 2018 and will expire in 2025.

Charitable Organizations

While charitable organizations sometimes receive federal grant money to support their missions, you will be hard-pressed to find a non-profit entity that provides cash to needy families to help with moving costs.

Instead, groups such as Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, and the Red Cross focus on transitional housing to combat homelessness – with few left-over resources for needs outside of their stated missions.

You might fare better by looking for local entities that generate excess capacity in the three primary areas driving the costs of changing addresses.

  1. Local food banks and pantries could have large trucks that sit idle periodically after scheduled runs
  2. Grocery stores and other retailers frequently discard boxes which you need to pack household items
  3. Faith-based addiction recovery programs often emphasize the value of hard work in the service of others such as carrying boxes and lifting heavy furniture

Senior Citizens

Senior citizens looking for free moving help should be cautious when researching alternatives. Many fee-based organizations publicize relocation services, knowing that elderly individuals often have extra cash after downsizing and estate sales.

In other words, entities such as the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) are not charitable organizations. Instead, NASMM is a professional trade association that helps its members to run a successful business.

Also, while AARP is a non-profit organization, it earns income from membership fees and a wide array of affiliate relationships such as its discount arrangements with Wayforth Home Transition, and Budget Truck Rental.[5]

Veterans

Likewise, veterans seeking free moving help should be on the alert for businesses who want retired military members as customers and educate themselves on VA policies, which could make a difference.

For example, some for-profit companies such as Arpin Van Lines publicize that they help veterans – for a fee. However, their online quoting tool does not ask about your military service history.

The Veterans Administration (VA) now publishes its Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service Manual (M28R) online. The M28R is a lengthy document VA employees refer to when making claims decisions. Disabled veterans could garner “Interregional Transfer at Government Expense” when changing rehab facilities – if they do their homework and learn about their rights.

Footnoted Sources:

[1] Department of Housing and Urban Development

[2] Federal Emergency Management Agency

[3] Military One Source

[4] IRS Publication 521

[5] AARP Affiliate Relationships