The Mind-bending Challenge of Declaring the Average Cost of Relocation 08.3.2022 | Laura Levenson

“What is the total average cost of a relocation?”

Beware those who claim to have THE definitive response.

It’s a (frequently asked) question I’d love to answer myself, but that still eludes me.

As we know, companies’ mobility programs are vastly different. As far as I know, there is no magic response or formula that addresses the question of average costs of transfers and assignments across all industries. Whether we try to narrow this question down by compensation levels, locations, or family size, every company’s approach is unique when it comes to written policies, guidelines, and actual practices, and how costs are identified and reported within their mobility programs. Accordingly, the factors contributing to cost differ widely from company to company and from move to move. And perhaps more importantly, the degree of competitiveness a particular company faces in its effort to attract and retain the best talent will influence the investment associated with every move.

Looking for a total cost? Consider this:

One can’t realistically suggest a total cost of relocation without considering which benefits are being included in that cost. Not every program consists of the same set of benefits, so to derive either the mean or the average cost, one would have to assume that every policy contained the same components delivered at the same levels.

Assuming this was possible, the next question may be: what is included in the cost of any given benefit or provision?

Let’s take house hunting trips as an example.

  • Does the company cover a certain number of days, all or some meals, and transportation?
  • Does the coverage include the employee only, spouses, or children?
  • If support includes spouses and children, is the coverage the same or reduced? Are all components covered or only some (housing, but not meals, for example)?
  • Clearly, a new hire college graduate does not incur the same expenses as a mid-level homeowner, even if the program includes the same 3 or 4 provisions.

Calculating the average cost of each benefit will also differ for each move corridor (i.e., Boston to New York, vs. Boston to Seattle), as will amounts based on employee level or tier and by homeowner or renter, and even the timing of the move. Moreover, the gross-up provision will be different depending on the average tax brackets of employees in the relocation program.

The closest we can get to answering the elusive total average cost question involves setting up caveats or parameters that allow us to compare the costs of comparable programs. Apples to apples, if you will. Examples of these caveats include:

  • Actual salary range rather than the use of a title
  • The same provisions using the same cost per provision
  • The same family size, living circumstances, and children’s ages
  • The exact departure and destination locations

Finally, it’s essential to understand that using “averages” to establish costs includes outliers at both extremes. It is more accurate to look at the “mean” cost per provision within the mean cost per relocation rather than the averages of any costs to be evaluated.

In short, not all questions can (or should) have a quick and dirty answer. And often, average figures don’t measure up when it comes to giving a complete – or accurate – picture. Costs are a critical part of your mobility program; drilling down to the nitty gritty – like location, benefit structure, family size, or job tier – is necessary to make the right decisions, confidently. The great news is that mobility technology, like Weichert Go, has made leaps and bounds in its ability to project and compare costs specific to your program or industry so that you no longer have to rely upon lofty “total average costs.” Want to learn more? Talk to us!

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Written by Laura Levenson


Laura Levenson is a Practice Leader in Weichert Workforce Mobility’s Advisory Services group. She has worked in management capacities for workforce mobility and Big Four firms, and is well-versed in bringing clarity to the most pressing global talent deployment challenges. She brings over 25 years of experience to her role and is a frequent speaker on the mobility conference circuit.

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