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Relocating to Fort McMurray? 7 Essential Hints & Tips

By Tom Albrecht | Nov 28, 2019 | Buyers

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Relocating to Fort McMurray?

If you clicked the link to come read this, you might have a job offer already, or perhaps one in the pipeline. Or, maybe you’re just planning to relocate to the Wood Buffalo area and search for opportunities once you get here.

I’ve lived in Fort Mac for 13 years now, and I wouldn’t exactly say I planned my relocation with precision (more on that later!).

In my career, I’ve seen people come and go (and everything in between). Some people seem happier than others, and for sure some people have softer arrivals than others.

So here it goes. Hopefully, these hints & tips help…

  1. Do Research Online
  2. Build Your Team
  3. Identify Stakeholders
  4. Identify Risks
  5. Rent, Buy or Something In Between?
  6. Decide Objectives
  7. Plan Then Relocate

1. Online Research

When I got off the bus in 2006 (with a borrowed $20), I was expecting Fort Mac to be a bunch of site cabins with men doing drugs in them. I guess I didn’t do enough online research before choosing to relocate here, because it’s nothing like that (for example, see our list of date ideas here)!

What followed was about 5 years of me getting on my feet. I probably only survived because the boom was on. Needless to say, you should probably do more research than I did. Knowledge is power, afterall...

On our website, you’ll find hundreds of helpful blogs about the community, the housing market, and tips for people thinking of buying a home locally. Click the categories, and search words in the box to get to grips with everything Fort Mac!

  • Other Useful Online Resources
  • Fort McMurray Tourism
  • RMWB
  • Keyano College
  • Library
  • Catholic School District
  • Fort McMurray School District
  • YMCA
  • Multicultural Society of Wood Buffalo

2. Build Your Team

You’re not alone. Though relocating to a new city can be daunting, one of the hardest parts is probably losing your networks. So don’t be afraid to make new connections. Call around. Call us! People in Fort McMurray are genuine and helpful. We’re here to help.

Generally speaking, if you’re thinking of moving to Fort McMurray, then your buyer’s agent won’t have a consultation with you just yet. We just pick up the phone and answer your questions for half an hour. We know Fort McMurray and we’ll tell you the good, the bad and the ugly...that way you can decide if it’s right for you.

Later you can choose to have a guided tour of Fort McMurray (without going into homes), and/or to sit down with us for a consultation. We offer this via screen-share if you haven’t relocated to Fort McMurray yet.

We can connect you with all kinds of useful people to give you further information about the town. We will likely know people at your future workplace, for example!

3. Identify Stakeholders

Here are some people/organizations who will likely be involved in your relocation:
  • Banks
  • Employers
  • Providers of temporary housing (short-term or hotels)
  • Vehicle rental
  • Schools
If yours is a corporate relocation, there is a fair chance that your employer will be arranging for a relocation company to take care of your transfer. Some of the main relocation companies that we work with are:
  • Weichert
  • Cartus
  • RCMP Relocations
  • MI Group
  • Lexicon
These companies do a great job of helping you transition to your new location, and we are used to working alongside them to help you. We have experience with all of these companies, and we are happy to pay referrals to them if they require it.

Most people want a REALTOR®️ who will inform them (starting with online research) all the way through until possession. At some point, you will need to let your relocation company know your choice of agent. Who you choose to represent you is your decision, nobody else’s. We’ll all just need to understand what (if any) requirements the relocation company has so we can swiftly navigate the process all together.

4. Identify Risks

Reality check time:

It’s not the boom anymore, and while Fort McMurray incomes are still high compared to the rest of Canada, there is unemployment here. Further, the cost of living is extremely high - we’re still up there with some of the more expensive places in the world.

For those reasons, a large number of Fort McMurray residents last year accessed the Food Bank.

If you are planning to move to Fort McMurray looking for work, then anyone working for one of our overstretched non-profit organizations (and your financial advisor) would advise you to come with savings.

Financial risk isn’t the only risk associated with relocating to Wood Buffalo. Fort Mac is amazing for families (seriously), but have you considered the impact of the big move on your family? Moving north is probably the best decision you’ll ever make, but understand that we are 4 hours north of Edmonton, and the winters are long and dark. You’ll want to take necessary provisions to ensure your family’s mental health.

The more people you talk to, the more risks you’ll be able to identify, then you can plan for them!

5. Rent, Buy or Something In Between?

One thing I’ve noticed about people (especially families) relocating to Fort McMurray is that they tend to prioritize housing, and I completely understand why.

Prioritizing it doesn’t mean you have to rush, however. And you don’t have to buy, especially if you’re only planning to be around for a year or two.

It’s no secret that we have a high-priced housing market (although prices have fallen significantly - see how much here). This means we’re going to want to be careful with those big decisions.

My message is that there is nothing wrong with renting for a few months so that you can make sure of your decisions of whether to buy, what to buy, and budget, prior to taking the plunge.

With corporate relocations, temporary accommodation is often paid for by your employer (usually 1-3 months). They usually set you up with something that fits your family.

If you don’t have relocation benefits, why not find something temporary yourself? The rental market is quite slack at this time, after all, so there’s lots of availability.

On the other hand, if you’re coming up for a 5-day home-finding trip, we’ve got a history of successfully finding people excellent houses in that timeline. But we’ll need to plan in advance with a consultation.

By the way, every home on the Fort McMurray MLS system can be found by searching here or navigating these popular searches and communities.

Our specialist buyer’s agents can coach you through the process, and are up for anything. You’re the boss, after all - we just provide the sound advice and representation.

6. Decide Your Objectives

What’s the point of relocating to Fort McMurray? Here are some of the reasons I have heard (in order of most to least common):

- Career advancement - Get out of a tough financial position - Get paid what you’re worth - Fort McMurray is a great family town - Be closer to family

A little secret I’ll let you in on (in case you haven’t heard): People move here, generally on a 5-year plan, and they find it much harder to leave than they had expected.

I came for 6 months and that was 13 years ago, and I’m not going anywhere. My wife came here 7 years ago for 5 years and I don’t think she’s going anywhere either!

So I’m not saying you should necessarily stick to your big plan, but it’s good to have a plan. Perhaps if I had come with a more realistic plan, then I would have had a smoother landing in Fort McMurray. I only found true happiness once I made commitments (home, business), but that might not be true for everyone. There are, undoubtedly, many people who regret commitments that they made during the boom, after all.

It doesn’t have to be detailed, but here are some of the things I would try to figure out if I was you (possibly by coming up for a few days to check it out):

- Employment goals (for you and your spouse, if applicable) - Job first, or move first? - Rent or buy, or rent then buy? - What will you do to stay social? (see our list of things to do in Fort Mac) - Favourite parts of town - Schooling for children - Duration of stay - Do you have enough savings if things go wrong? - What’s your plan B? - Time of year to move?

7. Plan Then Relocate

Here is an example of a timeline so you see what I mean:

Conclusion

Life in Fort McMurray is wonderful. But it’s not for everyone. It can seem like a scary place to move to. If you relocate to Fort McMurray, you will have a different relocation story to anyone else who has come here before you.

For personalized advice tailored to you and your situation, please reach out to us. We’re the #1 team in Fort McMurray and our specialist buyer’s agents have tons of experience helping people relocate. If you have questions or concerns about your possible future in Fort Mac, please let us hear them, and we’ll answer them accurately and honestly.

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Tom Albrecht founded The A-Team with his wife, Breanna. He holds a Masters in Economics for Developing Countries from The University of Oxford. Tom is licensed at RE/MAX First, and is a specialist buyer's agent in Fort McMurray as well as Calgary.

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