Congratulations. Your contract has been signed! But before you break out the champagne, now is the time to begin planning your move. Next to divorce and marriage, moving ranks high on life’s stress meter. Because it centers on displacement and disruption, it requires preparation, organization and perspective. Here are some tips I’ve gleaned over the years.
If you’re buying and selling at the same time, you’ll need to orchestrate carefully the mechanics of each closing. It’s important to understand the options available. Since most homeowners require their sale proceeds to fund their next transaction, a simultaneous close with the sale occurring in the morning and the purchase following in the afternoon is the optimum scenario. When this is not possible, however, a short-term bridge loan is an effective, though costly, way to cover the time between closings. Other times, a holdover arrangement or interim rental provision, often spelled out in the contract, can protect against unforeseen delays. Additionally, some moving companies offer “storage in transit” and will hold your belongings on trucks for 3-4 days. Knowing your new building’s procedural requirements regarding move-ins and their policy regarding elevator use is critical.
It’s best to call the movers as far in advance as possible, but, at the very least, call 3-4 weeks before the move. Get estimates from 3 companies. Since move dates can change more than once for a variety of reasons, choose a company that will be the most flexible, especially if your timing is uncertain. “Everybody’s dates change,” says Gerry McGwyne, President of T&G Relocation Systems, “and no two moves are the same. Go with a recommendation,” he advises, “and get a fixed price with a written guarantee. A low quote from a disreputable firm may turn into a big headache at the end of the day.”
Moving presents multiple opportunities. It’s the best time to have your rugs cleaned and then delivered to the new place. There’s never a better time to sort through and eliminate stuff you no longer use or need. Donations to shelters, hospitals and schools are immensely gratifying and also tax deductible.
If the movers are packing for you, it’s best to leave items in place, since it’s safer to pack glassware and china from a cabinet than a cluttered counter. You can leave your clothes in dresser drawers, but don’t overstuff them. If you’re packing yourself, the rule of thumb is to pack heavier items in the bottom of the box and lighter things on top, keeping the box’s weight under 50 pounds. For heavy items, use smaller boxes. You can use newspapers for filler, but not for wrapping since newsprint rubs off and stains. Mark boxes with fragile items accordingly. Hire experts to move your grandfather clock and piano. Since plants don’t move well, consider finding them new homes or moving them yourself. Since you won’t have time for children or pets on moving day, arrange for favorite babysitters. Consider moving some cherished toys yourself.
Color Coded Chaos
Number each box, and use different colored labels to identify boxes by room. Paste the same colored labels on the door of the room being packed and on the door of the room in the new home where the boxes will be unpacked. Give the movers your floor plan indicating color coded rooms and furniture placement. Create a master list of boxes by room and number, and try to categorize contents as best you can. When you’re ready to make a final check of every room, don’t overlook your basement storage area. Remember also to shut lights, and close windows.
Notify the mover about high value items such as antiques and collectibles that may need special care. Moving companies are limited by law as to how much they can protect against lost or damaged goods. Check your homeowners’ policy to see whether you’ll need to purchase additional transit coverage. Movers are not liable for what they did not pack unless the exterior of the box is damaged. They cannot be responsible for jewelry or important documents.
Expect moving day to be organized chaos. Even with one person at the old place to supervise, and another at the new place, mistakes happen. Dee, a veteran mover, cautions, “If you’ve promised to leave the window treatments and light fixtures, make sure you tell the movers, or they’ll dismantle everything even if it’s nailed to the wall, as they did to my horror in my last move.”
Create an “unpack first” box and move this yourself. Include items you’ll need immediately like bed linens, towels, toilet paper, soap, large trash bags, scissors, hammer, screwdriver, cleaning supplies, bottled water, notepad and pen.
In many ways, moving is a lot like having babies or redoing a kitchen. You forget the pain and remember only the joys, and so you do it again. With good planning and a sense of perspective, you’ll manage the challenges of moving admirably, and the stresses will be behind you soon enough. Cheers!