Planning Your Move
No matter the size of your move, you should begin planning eight weeks ahead of time. This will give you enough of a buffer to properly prepare and go about your day-to-day life as you do so.
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Take Inventory of Your Home
The first step towards a successful move is taking a thorough inventory of your home. Starting at the eight-week mark ahead of your move, go through each room in your home and write down each major item to be moved while making note of all smaller items to be packed away into boxes. During this crucial step, you should make a list of any add-on services you may need from your movers. These can include:
- Packing (full or fragile-only)
- Furniture assembly and disassembly
- Custom crating
- Vehicle transport
- Cleaning services
- And more
Keep these lists on hand at all times throughout your move.
This is best done along with your thorough inventory. As you’re going through each room, take the time to clean the corners and under furniture. Throw away smaller unnecessary items, and make note of any mid-sized to large furniture items you’d like to part ways with.
Get Rid of Unnecessary Items
After decluttering, you’ll likely have at least a few items that you can either sell or give away. Organizing a yard sale, or posting these things on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or eBay is a great way to get started.
Set a Moving Budget
No matter how far your relocation takes you, moving is a major expense. If you opt for full-service movers, you’ll pay more money, but will be afforded far greater convenience. The average costs for such services are listed below. These averages have been derived from hundreds of actual moving costs. That said, getting quotes is highly advisable if you want to get a more reliable rate.
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*Local moving costs are calculated at hourly rates, while long-distance charges are based on shipping weight and distance covered.
Choose Your Moving Method
Full-service moves aren’t for everyone, although they are always the best choice for larger homes. For those who would prefer to save some money, or simply want more independence throughout the moving process, a container or DIY move may be preferred. Container moves are best for small to mid-sized moves, while rental trucks can accommodate most home sizes. Both rental trucks and containers come with the option of hiring moving labor for select items.
At around the six-week mark prior to moving, you should research movers near you and schedule quotes with each who you think will handle your move well. All moving companies offer quotes for free. If any mover asks for payment or a deposit at this juncture, then you should see this as a red flag. During your estimates, discuss the inventory and service lists mentioned above. Doing so will give you defined talking points, and will help ensure the accuracy of pricing estimates given.
Choose a Mover
The following factors should play the greatest role in determining your choice of moving company. Request proof of all registrations and insurance policies listed before booking. Reputable movers will be able to provide such documentation when asked.
- FMCSA Registration: This is primarily a requirement for interstate moving companies. Such registration also requires that these companies carry active USDOT and MC numbers. Using these, you can research a given mover’s complaint history through this link.
- Local or State Registration: Most individual states will have their own unique registration requirements. Those that don’t will often require USDOT numbers for all moving companies.
- Proper Insurance: Along with workers’ compensation and cargo insurance, all movers must provide some avenue for reimbursement in the event of loss or damage to your goods. Released liability coverage is included in the base cost of all moves, and will cover you at a rate of $0.60 per pound, per item. You can purchase additional coverage from most movers.
- Positive Reviews: Prior customer reviews are a vital resource when evaluating movers. Be sure to look into reviews from multiple sources, such as Google, Yelp, social media, and more.
- Compatible Service Profile: The importance of going over add-on service offerings during quotes cannot be overstated, especially if your move includes specialty items.
- Competitive Pricing: Getting multiple quotes from different providers is the only surefire way to book at the best possible rate for your move. Movers know that shopping around is a part of planning a move for any prospective client. This is why quotes are always offered for free.
Note that many movers will require a small deposit of $100 to $200 to confirm your spot on their schedule. Some movers will ask that you pay a percentage of your quoted price as a deposit. If this is the case, then 20% to 25% of the final price is to be expected.
Begin Collecting Packing Supplies
Between four and six weeks ahead of your move, you should begin procuring packing supplies. Boxes, packing paper, moving tape, stretch wrap for upholstered furniture, mattress bags, and more will all be necessary. Retailers like U-Haul have a wide selection of such goods, and they offer to buy back unused boxes at cost. If you don’t want to spend the money on new supplies, then Craigslist is a great place to look for free used boxes.
Beginning with your out-of-season or seldom-used goods, you should commit to packing a few boxes or organizing a little bit of your home each day. If you start this process between four and six weeks ahead of your move, you’ll be able to minimize stress as your moving date draws closer. It may seem like overkill to begin working this early, but many moving horror stories stem from under preparation. When packing, remember to label each box with the corresponding room they should go to in your new home.
Take Care of Any Minor Repairs
This applies far more to those leasing their homes, but can also be true when moving out of a newly-sold house or condo. Repainting, spackling, general maintenance for appliances included in your home, and more should all be handled around two weeks before moving day.
Arrange for Changes to Utilities
At least two weeks before your planned transition to a new home, you should arrange for the cancellation or transfer of any and all utility services. These include:
- Natural gas or propane delivery
- Internet and television service
- Water and sewer service
- Trash and recycling pickup
At this point, you should contact utility providers in your new city (if applicable) and set up accounts and switch-on dates with them.
If you haven’t done so already, you should measure all of your large pieces of furniture ahead of your move. This will help with establishing your new floorplan at your next home. If you’re in a situation where you’ve had to take virtual tours of your new apartment or house, with no in-person visits, then you should request a floorplan from your leasing or real estate agent, complete with room measurements.
Conduct a Thorough Deep-Cleaning of Your Home
This could be a requirement for a total return on a security deposit, or it could be a simple courtesy to the next residents of your home. Regardless, it’s a good step to take during the last couple of weeks prior to moving day. It could provide you with the last chance to go through all cabinets, closets, and hard-to-reach areas, which will help ensure that you aren’t leaving anything behind.
Take Time Off from Work
This applies mainly to moving clients who are relocating within the same geographical area and aren’t changing jobs while switching residences. If you’re moving during the week, or if your move date falls on a working day for you, then you should arrange to take some time off as soon as you can before your moving date. Even for a smaller move, taking two days off is recommended when possible.
The last several days before moving are sure to be hectic. However, if you’ve followed the above steps up to this point, then the following preparatory measures should be enough to ensure a smooth move.
Assemble Any Sensitive Documents
You should assemble a folder of all documents relating to your identity or bank records. This includes the following:
- Birth certificates
- Social security cards
- State-issued identification (if separate from your driver’s license)
- Any and all bank records and statements
At this point in the packing and moving process, you should have everything packed except the bare essentials. As moving day approaches, you’ll want to pack up all but your toiletries and a few outfits and pairs of shoes for your overnight bag. Similarly, you should begin to further pare down your kitchen utensils and cookware. Pack away all but the most essential items to day-to-day living.
Handle Arrangements for Children and Pets
If you haven’t already, you should arrange for any young children and pets to be out of the way when moving day arrives. Whether this means paying for qualified care, enlisting the services of a friend or family member, or cordoning off an empty room for their occupancy during the move, this deserves some thought. Doing this will allow for your movers to work more efficiently, and will reduce stress on the part of your smaller family members.
Change Your Address
Changing your address is as simple as visiting this link. You’ll need to do this, and set a date for mail addressed to your old home to be forwarded.
Update Memberships and Subscriptions
If you have any memberships dependent on your address or zip code, then you should update your contact information accordingly. Gym memberships, mail subscriptions, and even streaming services could be location-dependent and should be attended to.
Meal Planning and Preparation
In order to more easily pack your kitchenware away before moving day, meal preparation and planning are highly recommended before moving day. Whether this means staging a large meal prep session four to five days before your move or mapping out a takeout schedule for moving week, you should have this thoroughly planned for.
Pack an Overnight Bag
Your overnight bag should include a few changes of clothes, along with basic toiletries. If your move is within the same town, then your “overnight bag” could just be a backpack with your laptop, essential documents, some cash for tipping your movers, snacks, and water to get you through the day.
Collect Your Keys
Whether you’re ending your lease or are finalizing the sale of your home, you should be prepared to hand your keys or means of accessing the property to a leasing or real estate agent. Similarly, you should have arrangements in place at your new home for collecting your new set of keys. Failing to arrange for this ahead of time could stall the moving process, which you could be stuck paying for.
Label Your Furniture
Your movers should wrap all of your furniture, but if you tell them to take note of any labels you’ve placed on these items, then they will oblige. If they know exactly where your goods are supposed to go, you can hope for a far more expedited move.
Arrange for Parking (If Necessary)
If you’re living in an apartment complex or building, or in a city with on-street parking, then you should arrange for this in advance. Notifying a building or complex manager of your impending move, and reserving space in a loading dock or parking lot, will allow for far easier access for your movers.
On Moving Day
Now that your moving day is finally here, your preparation will finally pay off. If you’ve hired a good mover, then you should be able to relax a bit knowing that your goods are secure.
Expect a Call
Most moving companies will have their crew leaders contact you before their scheduled arrival to ensure that you’re ready to begin. Inform them of any parking arrangements or notes regarding general access to your home at this time, so they can adequately prepare.
Direct Your Movers
When your movers arrive, be ready to direct them to a parking space and to conduct a thorough walkthrough of your home. Inform them of any pieces that require special attention, while making note of any labels you’ve placed on furniture and boxes.
Have Water Available
Movers should always bring water and food to their jobs and will take periodic breaks throughout the day – typically five minutes each hour, or a couple of fifteen-minute breaks over the course of the move. However, having some form of refreshment available is an easy way to show appreciation, and to help ensure efficiency.
Watch the Loading Process
Long-distance or overnight moves will require that your moving crew chief keeps a detailed bill of lading for your move. This document includes a full inventory of goods loaded and is attached to your original written estimate for the move. Inspect this and request a copy before your movers leave. At the unload, you should keep track of all unloaded goods, while checking them against the bill of lading. This will help ensure that nothing is lost in transit. At the end of the move, you’ll be asked to sign the mover’s copy of the bill of lading.
All movers collect payment after services have been rendered. You should be ready with cash, a check, or a credit or debit card for final payment.
Tip Your Movers (Optional)
If your movers have done a good job, a tip is the best way to show your appreciation. Of course, this is entirely optional. Etiquette for tipping is $5 per hour, per mover for more local moves, or $40 per day, per mover for long overnight moves.
After Your Move
After at least a few hours of well-deserved rest, you’ll want to begin settling into your new home. The following steps should get you well on your way.
Conduct a Second Inventory and Inspection
Before unpacking, you should go through your home and ensure (once again) that all of your boxes and furniture are accounted for, and are in their proper room. At this point, you should place your larger furniture items in their intended place in each room. If any of your goods are missing, or have damage that you hadn’t noticed previously, you should contact your moving company as soon as possible. Pursuing claims against any mover after the conclusion of any relocation is challenging, but still worth the effort in the event of major damage.
This is likely to be a weeks-long process, but you should start with your essential items and work your way through gradually. Kitchenware, cleaning products, often-used clothing, food products, and toiletries should all be at the top of your list.
Update Your Driver’s License
Contact your local RMV office to arrange an appointment for your driver’s license to be updated. Bear in mind that you’ll need multiple forms of proof of your new address to successfully make the changeover. A lease or proof of purchase on a new home should suffice for at least one of these, while a letter or notification of service from one of your new utilities companies could provide another.
Take a Tour of Your New Town or City (If Changing Communities)
Finally, you’ve arrived at a non-labor-intensive step. Getting out and about and taking time to relax in your new community or neighborhood can allow you to loosen up after what was likely a stressful experience.
Moving Checklist FAQ
What is the 10% rule?
This is a regulation that all movers must follow. If your mover provides you with a written estimate for service, then the final price you’re ultimately charged cannot exceed that stated figure by more than 10%. This holds true unless services or inventory are added to a move.
Will movers refund a deposit in the event of a cancellation?
This varies from mover to mover. Often, refunded deposits will be contingent upon canceling before a certain date or time frame. Some movers will refund your money until a week prior to your move date, while some will not do so under any circumstances. You’ll have to ask about this during your moving quotes.
Are my movers responsible for damage to packed items?
If a given box has its structural integrity compromised due to the way it was placed inside your mover’s truck, then they will be liable for damages incurred to items inside. Similarly, they are liable for damage to items inside of any boxes they pack, under any circumstances. However, you’re responsible for goods inside any boxes you’ve packed on your own.