Moving to Los Angeles from another country such as Canada or the UK can be an intimidating process. Even moving from another city in the US to LA has its challenges. As a Canadian ex-pat living in LA I have gone through the moving process first hand, and know the ins and outs of what you will need for a successful move. As a relocation specialist I will go over some of the things you need to know before you move, and when for when you arrive. There are several key items that you can research before your move which will help make the transition to La La Land that much easier.
Research Before You Move. LA is a big city, with many neighborhoods that offer an assortment of lifestyle and work environments depending on what your interests are. Do you want to be a beach bum? Are you looking to be the next Brad Pitt? Do you work in the entertainment industry, high tech, law or health sciences? Do you have a family? LA offers a vast array of choices that can cater to your work, play and family needs.
Researching a good school in the area you are thinking about is important. Will your child go to public or private school? Websites such as: https://www.greatschools.org offers a rating system so you can see how schools measure up in the different areas.
Neighborhood stats, demographics, socio-economic trends and crime, are very important to know before you move to an area. The LA Times offers a great resource for researching each area of the city. Just punch in the city, neighborhood, zip code or address, and you’ll be able to see a wealth of information about any given area: http://maps.latimes.com/neighborhoods/
As a real estate agent, I am always asked where in LA is the best place to buy? The answer unfortunately is not that simple. I always ask three questions: 1. What industry do you work in? 2. What type of lifestyle to you want? 3. What is your budget? If you say you want to live by the beach, that will have a higher financial impact then if you wanted to live deep in the Valley, where properties are more affordable. Real estate is all about compromises, it’s important to have your list of requirements before you move. And knowing what you need or want, versus what you can afford are two different things. So it’s always good to have an open mind because more likely than not, I will be able to help you meet most of your moving priorities, or at least find an alternative option to certain needs or wants. Since I have helped so many people relocate to the city, it has allowed me to explore more parts of LA than those who may have been here their whole life. LA is a city of neighborhoods, all offering something different and special. Feel free to call me before your move so we can discuss areas you are thinking about, or questions you might have about neighborhood amenities, walkability, schools, real estate prices, or investment potential.
Foreign Loans & Credit Options. If you are a foreign national who does not have any credit history in the US, this will play the biggest role in determining how much or if you can purchase a property at all. There are options for foreign buyers that can allow you to buy even if you don’t have any US credit history. This should be your top priority if you plan to buy a property in Los Angeles. Getting the paperwork in order can take time, so it’s always best to begin this process well before you move. I have contacts who specialize in foreign national loans and will help you start the qualification process right away. There are also other options if own property in your home country. Depending on the exchange rate, this route can sometimes be less involved. Making sure you get the best rate of exchange is important when moving to the US. Give me a call to discuss how you can save thousands during the exchange.
Picking a Neighborhood. As I mentioned above, the type of work, lifestyle or budget you want will have a huge impact on where you buy. For some clients who find themselves preparing to move because of a work transfer, may never have been to LA, making it very overwhelming. Or you’ve been to LA on vacation or for pilot season a few times, but don’t really know all the areas. I always recommend having a conversation with me to discuss your list of priorities. From there we can determine some keys areas that might suit your needs. After that I can set up a MLS property search for the areas we discussed. That way you can start to ‘window shop’ to see what you get for your money in the different neighborhoods. Sometimes people are heart set on certain areas, but once they see what they get for their money, become open to exploring different options or reevaluating their list of priorities. Instead of that 4 bedroom 3 bathroom house with a pool, maybe you can settle for a townhouse that is walking distance to the ocean. I always encourage clients to take a drive and explore the neighborhoods they are thinking about buying in. Find out where the local grocery store is. Is there public transportation near by. If you work 9-5, go there at rush hour to see how the traffic is. Find out if there is a walkable local bar, restaurant, gym or school, etc. The more research you do, and answers you get, the greater the peace of mind you’ll have before making such a large purchase.
Getting Settled. Once you’ve found the perfect place to live. Now what? If you’ve relocated from another country, there is a huge checklist of items to go over. Having gone through it myself, I’m always happy to chat with people going through a similar situation. There is no need to reinvent the wheel if others have already gone through the process before you. Assuming you have sorted out your work Visa, or have employment set up, getting the other things sorted out can be tedious. Such as getting your California driver license.
As a resident of California you are required to have a valid California driver license if you plan on driving in the state. If you have moved here from another country, you are also required to take the driver test, even if you have been driving for years in your home country. Here is the link to the California Department of Motor Vehicles: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/dmv/home
Car & Home Insurance: Getting car and home insurance takes some research and shopping around. There are major insurance companies that provide coverage, and smaller regional options as well. Getting a few quotes is always good. Depending on where you buy in Los Angeles, you may need to have additional coverage such as flood, fire or earthquake insurance. Certain lenders may require it, so it’s good to do your due diligence when you are considering a property.
Health Insurance: If you are new to the country, most credit cards will offer some type of travel insurance. This can help bridge the gap until you have sorted out a more permanent solution. If you have an employer or union, checking with them can be helpful because they may already have a solution that fits your needs. If you are self employed, Covered California may have options for you. Visit their site at: http://www.coveredca.com
Social Security Number: If you are new to the country and just got your work Visa, you’ll need to obtain your social security number. This is the key piece of info you’ll need in order to establish credit history and to work legally in the US. You can visit: https://www.ssa.gov for more info on local offices and how to obtain your SSN. Once you have received your number, it is important to provide this to your banking institution, so you can start building credit history with them.
Banking & Credit: Opening a local bank account is very important. Do research online to find a local or national bank, or a credit union that works for your financial needs. Each offers different fees and customer service options, so it’s important to take the time to research this topic. Applying for a credit card without US credit history may require you to first apply for a pre-paid or starter credit card. This is always important so you can begin establishing credit. Once you have obtained your social security number, it’s important to give that info to the bank in order to start building credit history.
Get involved. Now that you have either breezed through or dredged through all the tasks of buying your first property in LA, enrolling your kids in school, settling in at the new job, and completing all of the social, financial and legal paperwork in order to start a new life in LA. It’s time to play! There are countless meet up groups, social organizations and neighborhood events you should explore. Depending on your country of origin or home state or city, there is most likely a Facebook Group/Page in LA that already exists. Groups such as Canadians Abroad and Brits in LA regularly host social and community events to welcome people to the city, and gives you a taste of home away from home.