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CaliforniaWith its economy in better shape than most of the nation, California is a popular destination for people who want to leave cold weather behind, as well as for those seeking employment in the tech, healthcare, and entertainment industries. Relocating isn’t without its challenges – and there are some things about moving to California that you definitely need to know ahead of time. Use these ten tips to ensure a smooth transition.

  1. Be prepared to drive to get where you need to go. You’re going to need your own vehicle. Public transportation is improving in California, but it’s far less comprehensive and accessible than in other parts of the country, particularly the East Coast.
  2. Brace yourself for the taxes. Some states, like Washington, have a higher sales tax than California, but many of them lack a state income tax. California has both. The chances are good that your tax burden, including sales tax, income tax, and property tax if you buy a home, will be significantly higher than it was before you moved.
  3. Speaking of expenses, the cost of living is high, too. Cities like Los Angeles and San Diego frequently have the highest gas prices in the country. A lot of people who move to California dream of living close to the beach, but it costs a bundle to live near the coast. You can expect to pay high prices for just about everything from groceries to utilities.
  4. Venice Beach CAUnless your car was manufactured prior to 1975, it will have to pass a smog inspection before you register it. California has stricter emissions standards than most states, so be prepared.
  5. You also need to have valid automobile insurance in order to register your car. Get the smog inspection first, and once you have your certificate showing that your car passed, you’ll have to take it to an insurance company, have it reviewed by an adjuster, and get a policy.
  6. The tight timelines continue. People who relocate to California must obtain a California driver’s license within 10 days of moving and register their vehicles within 20 days. The best way to accomplish everything is to get the smog inspection and find an insurer, and then make an early morning trip to the DMV to take care of your license and registration.
  7. Voter registration can be accomplished online or by visiting the DMV. The deadline for registration is 15 days prior to the election, so keep that in mind. The easiest way to get registered is to combine it with all of your other errands at the DMV.
  8. Speaking of voting, the democratic process in California differs from other states in some significant ways. Every state has ballot questions, but California has a lot thanks to changes that were made in the state to halt bribery during the Gold Rush years. In a presidential year, expect to see dozens of individual ballot questions on voting day.
  9. Understand the benefits and risks of earthquake insurance. No matter who you choose as your insurance carrier in California, they will probably try to sell you earthquake insurance. The costs can vary greatly depending upon the age of your home and the construction materials used to build it. Flexible wood homes built on bedrock can probably be insured for around $1,200 per year, while a brick home built on sandy soil might cost close to three times that amount. You will also need to keep the deductibles in mind. Many times, the deductible amount is equivalent to 10% of the policy’s value, and that can mean a steep bill that you’ll end up having to pay out of pocket in addition to your premium. For that reason, many homeowners in California simply opt out of earthquake insurance.
  10. Be prepared to conserve water in a major way. The drought in California is a huge problem and it’s not getting better. Water usage is strictly regulated. If you have a choice between a green lawn and using desert landscaping, take the desert option – and be prepared for an expensive water bill.

There are a lot of benefits to moving to California – stunning landscapes, beautiful weather, and a diverse and active population. As long as you undertake your move with the proper preparation and a positive attitude, you’ll be settled into your new home and enjoying the California lifestyle in no time.

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