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Moving? Don't forget to log on

A new Web site hopes to ease the pain of relocating by letting transferred staff and transplants thoroughly investigate a new area before pulling up roots.

    A high-tech dream job can bring home a fat paycheck, creative freedom, and in many cases, the movers.

    A new Web site hopes to ease the pain of relocating by letting transferred staff and transplants thoroughly investigate a new area before pulling up roots. MoveQuest, which launched yesterday, is a free service that lets people type in a street address or city to search for homes, rentals, schools, and businesses in a community.

    "According to the Postal Service, about 20 percent of the U.S. population moves every year. For people in the high-tech industry, that's even more--they are incredibly mobile," said Kia Seligman, MoveQuest product manager. "Our research shows that the people who are most likely to move are people between the ages of 18 to 34 that tend to be tech-savvy."

    MoveQuest was created by the makers of MapQuest, an online atlas publisher that lets people map out door-to-door directions. MoveQuest users can plot digital maps of an area's restaurants, schools, and local businesses in relation to housing. For example, once a town's schools are identified, visitors can click on an graduation cap icon to find a link to the school's Web site or access the school's enrollment, grade range, computer-to-student ratio, and the average yearly expenditure per pupil. There are about 106,000 school sites available, according to Seligman.

    For additional fees ranging from $5 to $20, surfers can request detailed information, such as how the school ranks nationally and regionally based on class size, test scores, and athletic competition. The priced reports document a school's spending budget for teachers, libraries, supplies, or maintenance. Compiled from public records, visitors also can find out how much money their neighbors make, the prices of their homes, and whether the Joneses are married or divorced.

    The site also includes tips on how to plan a move or apply for a home loan. By the end of the year, MoveQuest will add crime statistics for areas and new planning features, such as an online folder to save personalized maps and specific content from the site.

    MoveQuest aggregates the data through deals with other services, such as CyberHomes, a supplier of real estate listings for more than 300 communities nationally and Rent.Net, which posts available rentals online for 1,200 U.S. cities. Other partners include SchoolMatch and DataQuick, a service that generates reports on local demographics and home pricing comparisons.

    The site isn't for just Net-savvy movers, Seligman noted. It's also being marketed as a tool for real estate agents. "Real estate agents are more likely to buy the reports for a consumer. Or they can create detailed maps using the site in order to show clients what they can afford in certain areas."

    Moving is one of the most stressful activities people face in their lives, and the site could succeed if it eliminates some of that grief, according to Dr. Joan Starker, a clinical social worker in Portland, Oregon, who councils new arrivals or those preparing to leave town. Starker recently held a premove seminar for 400 Intel employees who were transferring to facilities in Lacey, Washington.

    "The people I work with tend to have a hard time finding a place to live. If you live in a community a long time, you have roots there and a sense of loss. This is an enormous stress, and it's like being on a roller coaster," Starker said.

    "I think [MoveQuest] sounds great because it's on the Net. When people move to a new city, they don't have a sense of neighborhoods, so at least this could give people some sense of control," she added. "I always tell people they need to be proactive when they're moving and to get as much information as possible. These services on the Net could save time."

    Aside from MoveQuest, others are trying to make moving easier via the Net, including the Relocation Journal, the Employee Relocation Council, and American Relocation Center, which offers tips and research services for buying and selling homes, finding child or elder care in a new area, and locating government services for communities nationwide.