The pandemic has pushed these families to move abroad. Here’s what they learned

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With the dramatic increase in the number of people working from home, owners have more flexibility in where they live.

Regardless of office commitments, some families may decide where to live based on other factors, such as housing affordability, outdoor space, or the best weather.

We met two couples who navigated these choices and whose stories were featured on the HGTV show “Happily Wherever.” Eiman Hamza and Michael Scarpellini, as well as Nate Moster and Chuck Kippen. The show follows these families as they decide where to settle and buy a home. They both ended up making great strides and shared what they learned from their experience with NextAdvisor.

Here’s where they are now and what we can all consider before making a move across the country.

The story of Nate Moster and Chuck Kippen

Nate Moster with his daughter
Pictured is Nate Moster with his daughter shoveling snow during a cold Ohio winter. Courtesy of Nate Moster and Chuck Kippen
Chuck and Nate with their children
Chuck and Nate with their kids picking oranges in Florida. The warmer weather was one of their main reasons for wanting to move.Courtesy of Nate Moster and Chuck Kippen

Knippen and Moster’s episode begins with a debate: Should the couple stay in Cincinnati, Ohio, or move to the Southeast, choosing between the palm-lined towns of Savannah, Georgia, or… ‘Orlando, Florida?

“The decision to move was ‘100% pandemic-induced,'” Moster says. The couple wanted to save their children from being locked indoors for another winter and another school year in Ohio. “Children were the number one priority,” says Knippen.

The move from Ohio to Florida was not originally meant to be permanent, an aspect of the couple’s history not featured on the show.

“What if we took a year to go somewhere else and experience it, then come back to Cincinnati?” says Moster. The temporary sabbatical in Florida turned into a permanent move when they fell in love with Orlando and bought a house about six months into their stay.

Here’s what they learned:

Get to know the area first

As the saying goes, there’s nothing wrong with trying before you buy when moving to a radically new city. Being an Airbnb host gave Moster and Knippen the financial flexibility to do so, since rental income from their home in Ohio helped cover the original mortgage “while watching and exploring Orlando,” Knippen says.

They also found a buyer easily. Moster and Knippen ended up selling their Cincinnati home to one of the Airbnb guests, helping them check off a major item on their to-do list.

Next comes the transition to their new community, a major hurdle for many, especially during quarantine when social life isn’t what it used to be. Luckily, the couple reconnected with college friends who lived in the area.

“If you’re looking to relocate…and you’re pretty flexible about where you’re looking, go to places where you might have an extended community,” Knippen says. Reuniting with old friends allowed them to make an easier transition to the Orlando area.

Consider all costs outside of the purchase price of the home

The costs of owning or buying a home go beyond the simple purchase price, and these additional expenses can vary widely from state to state. Closing costs and property taxes will factor into your home buying budget, and there are cost of living differences to consider.

Florida has no state income tax, which was an unexpected surprise for Knippen and Moster. “That ended up being an added benefit for us, but we also found there were additional costs,” Knippen says. Even though they don’t spend as much on taxes or heating their homes, it costs them a lot more to register a car in Florida than in Ohio. There is also additional hurricane insurance to purchase for the home.

When budgeting for a move, be sure to factor in potential cost increases (or savings) outside of your mortgage payment.

The story of Eiman Hamza and Michael Scarpellini

Eiman Hamza, Michael Scarpellini and their son
Eiman Hamza, Michael Scarpellini and their son.Courtesy of Eiman Hamza and Michael Scarpellini
Hamza and Scarpellini's son feeds the chickens at their Nashville home
Hamza and Scarpellini’s son feeds the chickens at their Nashville home. The family says having more land was one of the reasons they moved from New York to Nashville.Courtesy of Eiman Hamza and Michael Scarpellini

Hamza and Scarpellini had been four years into what they thought would be a lifetime stay in New York City when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and upended those plans.

Driven in part by a desire to increase opportunities for their child to come out, Hamza and Scarpellini moved their family to Nashville. They were able to buy a relatively affordable house with land where their son could connect with nature. “We grew up in the wild…and we wanted the same for him,” Hamza says.

Like life (and the real estate market) over the past two years, the couple’s journey also includes some twists and turns.

As the show documented, the couple initially moved their family to Nashville to give their son more opportunities to be outdoors. But they have since rented out their Nashville home on Airbnb and are now based in Egypt, where Hamza has an extended family.

She wanted to reconnect with her roots while letting her son discover his culture: “I just felt, oh my God, with me that my culture was going to die,” says Hamza.

Even though the couple aren’t in Nashville right now, buying a home in a desirable neighborhood has worked for Hamza and Scarpellini. The value of their house has increased and they can make a profit by renting it out, even while living abroad.

“We decided to focus only on our family priorities, which were diversity and travel,” explains Scarpellini.

Here’s what they learned:

Visit before you commit and stay flexible

Hamza and Scarpellini’s story also demonstrates the importance of flexibility. Each location will have its downsides and upsides, but you just have to see if it works for you, Hamza says.

Hamza and Scarpellini still love Nashville, especially their house and the chicken coop. However, it was a “fish out of water” experience, says Hamza.

Moving across the country has helped them realize how much they value living in a city with a stronger connection to their home cultures and diversity in general. New buyers may want to learn from the couple’s experience and rent a long-term stay for a few months before embarking on a new adventure.

Nevertheless, Hamza and Scarpellini’s house worked out for them financially. Being able to rent out their home for profit has allowed the family to shift priorities. “When the finances are working, there’s no problem,” says Scarpellini. So if you’re considering a big move, it’s a good idea to not only thoroughly explore an area before moving, but also give yourself as much financial flexibility as possible with your home purchase.

Keep your options open and be ready to move quickly to buying a home

Although Hamza and Scarpellini bought their Nashville home in 2020, buyers still face stiff competition in many markets. “Be ready with the money or the approval right there,” Scarpellini says. Being able to bid on a home on the spot will give you a leg up on the competition. This means getting pre-approved before you do your homeshop.

Rather than signing an exclusivity agreement with a real estate agent, Scarpellini suggests keeping your options open and contacting listing agents directly. “You can do it 100% yourself,” he says. If you need to move quickly into a new market, you don’t want to commit to working with an agent who might not be an expert in your area of ​​interest. By contacting listing agents directly, you have the freedom to choose the region and work to find a home at the pace you prefer.

About Teresa G. Wilson

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