For most of us, moving is an unusual experience that can be stressful and difficult. It doesn’t need to be that way. Planning ahead, getting solid estimates, and engaging with your movers can give you a feeling of control over your move and provide you with a much better experience.
For most people, moving is like getting your car repaired. You don’t do it that often, you hate having to do it, you don’t understand it very well, and you worry that you’re going to get overcharged. We all fear the evil stereotype: movers who break things, lose things, or give deliberately low estimates before raising the price once our belongings are all on the truck.
Those really are just stereotypes, and your experience does not have to be like that. While predatory movers exist, most reputable companies do a terrific job helping customers move massive amounts of heavy and precious things across the region or the country, and they do it for a reasonable price. Your agent has experience recommending movers, so trust in a referral to someone who has a sound track record.
As with all things involved in selling your home, being proactive and engaged can help you have a better experience. Accordingly, here are some tips for ensuring that you have a great experience in moving:
Before the Move
Don’t wait until the last minute to start hiring a mover, or you’ll end up not being able to get scheduled in time, you might have to pay more, and you’ll be doing everything in a rush. You can start planning your move as soon as you are in contract, or at the very latest as soon as your buyer gets locked into the contract by waiving any contingencies. That’s a good point to start examining what kind of move you want.
Let the movers do the packing.
You basically have two options about the type of move you want. In the standard option, you need to pack all the small items into boxes, seal them up, label them, and then have them ready for the movers. You don’t need to box big items, or carry the big items anywhere, but you need to pack up things like clothes, books, dishes, cookware, silverware, files, knick-knacks, things like that. That can be an onerous job.
The other option is to pay extra for the movers to do all that for you. People who have experienced that full service option will never go back to packing themselves, because it is a glorious feeling to watch the movers descend upon your home and quickly pack, seal, and label all your things. It’s an easier way to move, but also a better one, because the movers are much, much better at safely and quickly packing your things than you are. Trust us, it’s worth the money.
For those people who choose to pack for themselves, more and more find that a portable storage locker that can be placed in on-site helps them to pack at a more leisurely pace. These large portable storage containers can be at your home for a number of weeks and allow you to pack while you have time. They are later picked up and moved to your new location on the day of your move.
Interview up to three reputable movers.
One of the reasons to get started early is so that you have time to interview up to three reputable movers to get estimates. Let the movers examine your things, get a full sense of the scale of the move, and give you an estimate. You can learn a lot about the movers just from the way they interact with you, and get a chance to choose a mover based on your gut feeling on who you would like the most. That said, if you get a referral from your agent for one mover, and you like that mover, you shouldn ‘t feel the need to go inter view two more just to feel like you’ve done your due diligence.
Get a physical survey as part of your estimate.
The mover’s estimation process should include a physical survey of all the things that you need to move, rather than simply an over-the-phone or internet questionnaire. Professional movers have a good eye for the requirements of a move, and most of us do not. They will pick up on things that you won’t. In our experience, many problems between movers and customers stem from a customer’s unreasonably low estimation of the amount of work that needs to be done, leading to an inaccurate estimate. Never hire movers that refuse to do an in house survey and instead assure you that they can give an accurate estimate over the phone or internet.
Do not pay a large deposit.
Very few reputable movers will charge a large deposit on a routine move. They might charge a good faith down payment to reserve their time, but nothing too substantial. Be wary of movers who want to charge you a large up-front payment or, even worse, charge you for the move before they have actually delivered your goods to your new location.
Consider your insurance options.
When you move, you have the right to get moving insurance. Insurance comes in three levels of protection: “Full Replacement,” which costs the most and guarantees the full repair or replacement of any goods lost or broken; “Assessed Value Coverage,” which is based on the estimated cost of replacing the assessed value of goods lost or stolen; and “Alternative Level of Liability,” which only pays out liability at a standard rate of 60 cents per pound. You will find that in most cases it is worth getting “Full Replacement” insurance, but it really depends on the content, distance, and comfort level associated with your move.)
Before you move, get rid of stuff you’re not going to want in the new home.
Don’t pay to move things that you’re never going to need or use again. Moving is a great opportunity to pare down your life, eliminating items that have been stored for years in the garage, attic, or more recently in a storage space you leased when you did your de cluttering as part of the detailing of your home. Go over those items carefully. A lot of times, you boxed them up in your last move years ago “just in case” you needed them. The rule of thumb is that if they have spent more than four or five years boxed up without being needed, you’re not going to need them in your new place, either. So donate them, hold a garage sale, or throw them away.
The Day of the Move
On your moving day, be engaged with the movers.
Moving day can be difficult and stressful, but you will have a better experience if you fully engage with the movers and stay on top of everything. Be home when the movers arrive with everything you need to do already done, so you can focus on discussing delivery arrangements. When the moving out is complete, and you are ready for transport, make sure the movers have a phone number to reach you, and that you have their number in case you want to contact them.
Pack your personal items separately and keep them segregated.
Even with the best movers, and the best intentions, delays can happen. That’s why you need to make sure that you separately pack your personal items: changes of clothes, medications , toiletries, etc. The easy way to do this is just to imagine that you’re going on a three-day vacation or business trip, and pack a suitcase with everything you’ll need in those three days just in case the movers have difficulty getting to your new home. Even if the move can be completed in one day, and you’re not worried about that, having your “three-day vacation” suitcase separately packed allows you to unpack the rest of your stuff without the pressure of, say, trying to find the box that has your hair dryer.
For truly valuable or irreplaceable items, keep them with you.
Even if you have great and trustworthy movers, you’re going to want to take certain items along with you, or have them shipped separately in fully insured packages with a shipping carrier. Personal mementos, cash, coins, jewelry, precious photographs, and important papers should not be packed into a box and sent along with your clothes and books. Keep them separate.
Once your goods arrive, let the movers do the moving.
Let the movers do the work, you supervise. Make sure they get everything off the truck, and let them do the unpacking of the boxes while you tell them where everything should go. Many people seem to feel guilty about making these poor movers carry all that heavy stuff, and they want to pitch in. Don’t pitch in. That ‘s not your job, that’s their job, and they’re getting paid for it. What you need to do is your job: supervise to make sure everything comes off the truck and the boxes are put in the correct rooms.
Provide your crew with coffee, water, lunch, and a tip.
This is not required, but it’s always a good idea to have bottled water and coffee available for the movers when they arrive, and to offer to pick up pizza or a quick lunch while they’re working. It’s better for you to run out and buy them lunch than for them to take an hour off in the middle of the day. And providing water and coffee is just humane for people who will spend hours lugging your things around. If you get good service, and want to tip the crew, the best guideline we can give you is about $10-$25 per person for anyone who was part of the crew for the whole day. As with all services like this, tips are not required but appreciated.
Don’t move and close on the same day.
Finally, one last piece of advice about moving: don’t move on the day that you close on the sale. A closing can be stressful event that doesn’t happen very often, and moving is a stressful event that doesn’t happen very often. There’s no reason to do them both on the same day. You should plan for your move a day or so before the closing, so you can get one big stressful day behind you before you turn to the next on.