NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Q: How much money should I ask a company to pay to cover my relocation costs?

A: There is no hard and fast rule for relocation fees except that you should feel comfortable asking for one if you need it. Just how much money you ask for should be based on your needs, and the overall salary and benefits that the company is willing to provide.

“It depends on what else you’re getting,” says Robert Hellmann, a career coach with The Five O’Clock Club, an outplacement firm. “If the company is offering you a ridiculously high salary that’s way above what you expected, but they don’t want to offer you relocation, then deal with it.”

On the other hand, if you can show the employer that the salary or benefits fall short of what you’re worth – based on a little research into pay standards for your industry – the relocation fee can be used as a bargaining chip. But according to Hellmann, it shouldn’t be the first thing you bring up with an employer during the salary negotiation process for one simple reason: No matter how much you can convince your employer to give you to cover relocation costs, it’s only a one-time fee.

Instead, Hellmann recommends working through some of the more “long-term” compensation increases first, like a higher starting salary, a bigger bonus or two raises a year instead of one. If you can’t get the company to budge on any of those, then it may pay to push for relocation costs.

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“I would first work on pulling all these other levers that will result in permanent increases in compensation… If they say no elsewhere, they will be more flexible to work on the relocation fee,” Hellmann says.

Again, there is no standard amount to ask for when it comes to relocation costs. Hellmann suggests you start by laying out everything you would like to have covered – moving fees, temporary housing costs, the price of a realtor to help sell your home and perhaps job-placement services for a spouse. It might sound like a lot to ask for, but it also gives you more room to negotiate.

“Maybe they can’t pay for an apartment to rent, but they can help your spouse find a job. Or maybe vice versa,” Hellmann says. “Sometimes they might just say, ‘We’ll give you $10,000 and we don’t care what you do with it. Call it a sign-on bonus, or a relocation fee, we don’t care.’”

After all, a relocation fee by any other name is still just as sweet.

Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter @sfiegerman.