So, your home is in escrow. You’re preparing for the next big phase of this experience - THE MOVE.

Of course, many horror stories abound about moves that didn’t go well. This entire section is designed to give you tips on how to avoid moving problems, and consequently to make your move as easy as possible.

Choosing The Right Moving Company

When trying to choose which moving company will ultimately get the job of moving your precious belongings, follow these suggestions:

  • Don’t be afraid to get as many quotes as you can.
  • Keep in mind that certain movers offer non-guaranteed estimates that are often 'low-balled', and then these movers present you with a huge bill when the move is complete.
  • Make sure that any estimates you receive from movers are either 'binding' or include a 'not to exceed' clause.

Here’s a checklist to follow when choosing and interviewing moving companies.

1. Licenses:   Check to see that the mover is licensed with your state's Department of Transportation. Simply ask for their mover's license certificate and call the DOT for verification. See the DOT phone number list for each state at the bottom of the page.

2. Estimates:   Estimating uses a number of unscientific variables factored into how long the move will take. Professional estimators use a variety of items in calculating the cost of a move. These include the size and weight of each individual piece of furniture, an estimate of how many boxes, and how much tape and packing material, etc. will be used. Then the estimator factors in how many trucks it will take, how many movers will be required, and the distance from point A to point B. Once this has been done, the final estimate is determined. Other companies eyeball everything and give you a quote based on past experience.

Here are some estimating tips:

  • Inquire as to what type of estimating the moving company offers. (See below)
  • Present the estimator with everything you are taking with you. This includes all items found in the basement, attic, shed/barn, closets, in other storage facilities, etc.
  • Inquire as to how binding the estimate is. Low priced estimates are especially crucial. If the estimate is binding, make sure the contract indicates it.
  • Inquire about purchasing extra valuation/insurance. Movers provide basic insurance that may not cover the cost of replacement for very expensive items.

There are several kinds of estimating used in the moving industry. These include:

Binding Estimate :  The mover offers a guaranteed price, within a small percentage of deviation, that is based on a complete list of items to be moved and the type of service performed.
Non-binding or hourly rate:   Essentially, this is not even an estimate. Instead, it is a protracted price list of costs based on the experience of jobs similar to yours.
Not to exceed:   This quote is binding only for the mover and states that the final price for the move will not exceed the estimated figure. If the move, however, is less than the estimated amount, you pay the lesser price.

Do not accept binding estimates over the telephone or the Internet! Accurate estimates must be given in person after an estimator evaluates all your goods. To receive the most accurate estimate, follow these instructions:

  • Be very clear as to which items you are packing
  • Be very clear as to which items the mover packs
  • Be very clear which items need to be picked up from a storage facility
  • Be very clear what packing supplies you'll need (boxes, wrapping, tape, etc.)
  • Be very clear as to the exact destination of the move
  • Regardless of which kind of estimate you end up with, make sure that the amount is written into the contract.

3. Customer dissatisfaction:   Check for dissatisfied customers. The moving industry is wrought with this type of customer. Some are justifiable, some or not. Beware of any mover who has received the same complaint from a number of customers, whether the complaints are about price, the handling of household goods, or punctuality. Contact your local Better Business Bureau or click here for the national BBB http://www.bbb.org. Also, check your state's DOT for more information on the movers you’re thinking about hiring.

4. Recommendations:   Ask those who you know have moved before for their recommendations. However, this should not be a substitute for your own research. Ask each of your prospective movers for references from previous customers and for documents on their history of service.

5. Local trade association membership:   Local trade associations maintain high standards and will give you detailed information about a company’s business practices. In the case of a dispute, you will have a higher power with whom to air your grievances. One such trade organization is the American Movers Conference.

6. Insurance:   Any reputable mover has insurance and will be glad to go over the coverage and transit protection options.

7. Price/Rates:   Remember, moving is not always about getting the best price. What it is about is protecting your personal belongings and having them arrive at your new home safely and unbroken. Do not select a mover on price alone. Moving companies must carry insurance, provide trained personnel, and maintain their trucks and equipment. These are costly expenses and are part of the reason why large, recognizable moving companies charge what they do. A cheap rate should serve as a “red flag”.

8. Storage:   Inquire as to whether your mover provides a storage facility to store your belongings in case they cannot be moved in your new home right away. Inquire as to whether they own their own facility or if they store goods in a public facility used by other carriers.

9. Watch them work:   Inquire if the mover is working with a local family. Pay that family a visit on the day of the move, and observe for yourself how they conduct themselves.

10. Visit the Mover:   If the mover is local, drive by and visit them in person. Look around the office, and check their facility. Make sure these are the types of people you want coming into your home, touching your belongings, and moving them somewhere else.

11. Check existing homeowner's or renter's policy:   To cover potential damage coverage as movers are limited by law regarding what they can give you for lost or damaged goods.

12. Gratuities:   Inquire as to expected gratuities and write these into the contract.

13. Overrun Guarantees:   Have the contract include a guarantee of how many hours the job will take, allowing an overrun of no more than 10%.

Packing

You have two choices when it comes to packing.

  • Packing it yourself.
  • Letting the movers do everything.

Packing Yourself

If you choose to do the majority of the packing yourself, you stand to save a lot of money. Study these tips to insure you do the best packing job possible.

  • Limit yourself to packing only non-fragile items such as books, linens, clothing, shoes, and replaceable items such as plates, dishes (not fine china), and small kitchen appliances. These items will be cheaper to replace in case of damage as opposed to hiring workers for the extra labor. For the large items, such as furniture, mattresses, and heavy appliances, let the mover pack these.
  • Pack everything carefully. It is important to buffer and separate the fragile items that you pack with old newspaper, bubble wrap, sheets, blankets, pillows, and towels.
  • Wrap each fragile item separately. Fill in empty spaces to minimize movement during transit. Pack plates and glass objects vertically, rather than flat and stacked. Purchase strong adhesive based tape such as duct tape or the plastic and strapping tape that professional movers use.
  • Create an inventory list of all your goods and cross reference them to their assigned boxes which should all be numbered.
  • Let your mover inspect your packed boxes, especially the fragile and valuable boxes. Movers do have the right to refuse to load any box they deem improperly packed. Any improperly packed boxes must be repacked either by you or the mover. All repacking services usually come at an additional cost. Professional moving companies use only sturdy and reinforced cartons. Although the boxes you can obtain from your neighborhood supermarket may be free, they are not nearly as strong or padded. They are more susceptible to causing damage to your valuables in transit. Keep in mind that movers are not liable for items they didn't pack.
  • Appliances - To protect themselves, many movers will not disconnect your major appliances. Before the movers arrive to pack and load, unplug and prep your refrigerator, dishwasher, stove, washer, and dryer.
  • Computers - Do this yourself. Make sure you back-up your important files and take them with you.
  • Plants/Pets - Movers will not transport plants or pets. If you do not wish to give them away, don't forget to prepare them for the move. They will need a 'plant/pet suitcase' of their own.
  • Hazardous materials - Movers will not transport or allow you to pack hazardous materials. These items include: paint, thinners, solvents, oils, varnishes, firearms and ammunition, bottled gas, propane, lamp oil, anything flammable, explosive or corrosive, motor fuels and oils, nail polish remover, bleach, and aerosol cans.

Check out the Moving Checklist. Click Here.