Real Estate Advisor: March 2013

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Moving: The P’s Have It

Planning, Purging, Packing, Paying and… Partying

No matter how far the move, next door, across town, or even across the country, a well-executed move begins with planning. This is the stage where you assess the time you have to get ready, what you are bringing with you, how it is getting to the new location, what help you might need, and the budget required.

When hiring a professional moving company, get recommendations, check their records with the Better Business Bureau to see any complaints, and only use moving companies that are licensed, bonded and insured. Get more than one estimate, and find out if those estimates are binding or non-binding. Be sure that everything you want to move is included in the estimate, or you might have some expensive additions to your bill. Get these estimates in writing, never over the phone.

If you can, moving in less popular months, from 0ctober through April, makes it easier to book professional movers. Having contracts out on the counter when you bring companies in to make estimates will show them that they have competition and may enable you to negotiate a better deal. When you do accept an estimate, read the contract very carefully and ask questions before you sign it. Moving scams are fairly common. Keep the contract easily accessible for quick reference. Remember: the movers will have your belongings and will expect payment according to the terms of this contract. The last thing you want is to have your possessions held hostage because there is a dispute about extra costs.

Professional movers charge by weight, distance of the move, and other services. Additionally, if the truck cannot park close to your new home, extra expense may be incurred if movers have to walk items long distances. Check to ensure that you can move in on the delivery date, as most companies charge storage fees if the truck cannot be unloaded on schedule.

Pets, Plants, and Potentially Hazardous Possessions

Pets and plants require special attention. A cross-country or international move may be game-changing. If you are intending to take plants or pets on a long distance move, you need to begin getting the details in order. Are their restrictions about bringing live animals or plants where you are going? How will you transport and care for living creatures or plants in transit? Temperature, water and care issues will need to be addressed.

If you intend to move exercise equipment, machinery or lawn tools, you will need to drain oil and fuel from them, and disconnect batteries. Many companies will not move batteries, and so they will need to be safely discarded. Additionally, there are numerous hazardous materials that cannot be transported by these companies. Anything corrosive, flammable or explosive is not allowed for safety reasons. The following items should not be among your belongings that are transported by professional movers: acid, aerosol, batteries, lamp oil, car oil, charcoal, gasoline, matches, fertilizer, weed killer, cleaning fluids, ammunition, bleach, nail polish and remover, chemistry sets, kerosene, fireworks, poisons, propane tanks, or loaded weapons.

Preparing the Places: Cleaning and Painting

How you leave a home speaks volumes about who you are – leaving a clean home for the new residents is good manners – and one that you will appreciate when you enter your new home, too. Plan on either cleaning your old home, empty as it is, before you leave, or consider hiring a cleaning crew to come in and clean before you hand over the keys.

When you arrive in your new home, you might want to do some basic cleaning if the space is not up to your standards. Painting prior to unpacking is also a good idea – after all, it is so much easier with your possessions out of the way. If you are able to pick out colors and paint prior to any items entering your new space, you will be rewarded further. While you are at it, shampooing carpets before moving in the furniture and boxes can be a fantastic idea. However, be aware that moving in with wet paint on the walls can be a hazard to your new paint job, your belongings, and to your movers’ clothes. Damp carpets can collect footprints and damage boxes placed upon them. Allow time for the paint and carpets to dry, and mark areas that might need special attention.

Actually Making the Move: The Personal and the Professional

Packing might seem obvious – get your stuff in boxes or bags and put it in a vehicle to bring it to the new place. Moving companies are aware of the best way to move pianos, grandfather clocks, tables or art that include large pieces of glass, and other items that require crating or disassembly, and this is one advantage of using them. When in doubt, do a bit of research and consult an expert.

Inquire with your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance company about their policies around moving to determine if you should purchase additional coverage. Most policies only cover your possessions when they are in your home – not when they are in a truck between two homes. There are policies that cover your possessions during a move, and they are generally available from the rental agency where you got the truck.

Professional moving companies that you hire to do the complete job may be responsible for breakage, but often that requires that you paid them to do the packing and it requires that you report the loss within a specific time period. If the item is sentimental, replacement or compensation is only part of the issue. Pack fragile items yourself in smaller boxes with adequate precautions and if possible move them yourself. If using a moving company, be specific if they are moving valuable objects that require special care. Companies might have limited liability and require insurance be purchased to cover certain items.

There is a hybrid method of moving: pack and move yourself, but hire a bit of help when you need it. Often local moving companies have laborers that may be hired by the hour to load and unload furniture and boxes. Their knowledge can help you to maximize space in the truck in addition to saving your back. Whether using professional movers, doing it all yourself, or taking a hybrid method, inventory all your rooms, and create a system to identify where the boxes go in the new home – use colors or labels on the boxes and then clearly mark the rooms where those boxes are to land.

Paying for a move seems obvious – from packing materials to trucks, there is a need for a budget, sometimes hiring help, and incidentals. One of the important but sometimes neglected parts of payment is to ensure that those who are handling your possessions feel as valued as you feel about the items that they are moving. While most companies don’t expect a gratuity, tipping is appreciated by laborers who work long hours for low pay. Of course, tipping usually happens after the important work is done. Offering movers refreshment, drinks and even a breakfast or lunch won’t break the bank and will often result in your belongings being treated with increased respect.

If you are doing the packing yourself, it will take more time, but you get the control. Unlike hiring a professional company with many experienced hands to pack boxes and put them on the truck, packing yourself usually has to begin much sooner. When packing boxes, ensure that they are sturdy and sized for the contents you are putting into them. If a box is too large and filled with heavy items, it will be impossible to lift. Boxes should be no more than 50 pounds in weight, and preferably closer to 30 pounds. Furthermore, mixing fragile items into a large box that is poorly labeled might result in breakage or loss.

Label boxes well and seek to organize the contents so that unpacking can be achieved in an orderly way and contents can be identified easily should the need arise. Keep like items together: books go with book ends, lamps with their extension cords and shades, pillows and bedding together, and so on. Each room might have one or two boxes with a tag that reads “Open First” so that essential elements of the room are easy to find.

When moving boxes, don’t be ashamed to use a dolly or get help with heavier items. Lifting boxes and moving furniture is hard work that can cause injury. Bending from the knees is a rule of thumb, and when in doubt, get a hand with large or awkward items. In the truck, pack heavy boxes on the bottom, and beware that boxes might topple in transit.

Whether you move yourself or a moving company is doing the work, designate a few boxes that are clearly labeled to be put in central places in key rooms to ensure a “soft landing”. For example, have a Kitchen Box that contains key items for making the first few meals in the new home. You might want a good frying pan, a pot or two, a coffee maker (with a few filters and ground beans), a few plates, glasses and mugs, some silverware, napkins, salt and pepper, some cooking utensils, a cutting board and a couple of good knives, can opener, corkscrew, matches and anything that might be helpful before you get to unpacking every kitchen box. In this manner, with a quick trip for some essentials at the grocery store, you could be “up and running” in your new kitchen within a very short time.

Have a box or perhaps two for personal care items, ensuring that towels and necessary products are easily found if your schedule requires that you are immediately on-the-go once you reach your new home. Consider tucking a clothes iron into this box, to enable people to look their best if packed clothes are too wrinkled. Never pack prescription or other important medications in boxes that you are trusting to a third party; keep prescriptions with you so that you can be responsible for them. Having a first aid box in the car or at the top of an identified box could be most helpful.

When packing clothing, consider packing a suitcase or box for each family member that contains clothing for the first week of your arrival. Have them clearly labeled and ensure that there are a few pieces of clothing that are appropriate for the weather you will be facing. Consider adding clothes for both casual and fancy occasions since having a small wardrobe of clean clothes ready to go, means that people won’t be fumbling through boxes to find something to wear that first day or week. Don’t forget to pack a few pairs of shoes in these bags, as well.

When you are moving a long distance, ensure that you keep passports, extra checks, tax records and other useful, personal documents with you for peace of mind. In the event that you need them, you’ll know just where to find things. For extra insurance, scan or photograph and email yourself a copy of your passport, your health and other insurance cards, prescriptions or other medications you take, and the phone numbers of your credit card companies.

After the Move: Plan to Party!

Finally, make the new home yours by hosting an event. Not the day you bring that first box through the door, but plan to reward your efforts and bring joy into the home with some event that will mark the occasion. If you are new to a town or city, it creates an opportunity to meet your neighbors or get to know people in your new circles better. Even having one or two people over for coffee can put you in the role of host, opening your home to a guest, and announcing to yourself and the world that this is your new domain. Often planning for a company creates a deadline or a goal, encouraging “settling in” and getting the majority of those boxes unpacked.

And, after all the work, you’ve earned some fun.