Tuesday, August 5, 2008

9 Steps to a Smooth Move

So you're going to move. (smiling face.) You're going to move. (anxiously looking around the house at all your stuff.) You're going to move. (full blown panic attack!)

Yes, moving can be intimidating - even overwhelming. But it's also exciting - a fresh start on life. Your goal during this endeavor should be to make the process as smooth as possible. Understand that it's a lot of work and it's very complicated with many "moving" parts. But if you think ahead and make a good plan, you can minimize the chaos. Here are some ideas to give you a smooth move.

1. Attitude

Moving is generally listed as one of the most stressful events in a person's life - right up there with marriage, divorce, job change, and having a baby. You're dealing with the mortgage company, the title company, selling a home, buying a home, utility companies, school districts, etc. etc. (ok, take a breath now.)

Sometimes you need to take a step back and remember the big picture. Millions of people move every single month. It's a one-time event, and soon enough you'll get your life back. There was a reason you wanted to move in the first place, right? Try to focus on how great your new home is going to be.

Smile. Be friendly. Take a deep breath. You'll get through it - and a good attitude will go a long ways towards making a good move.

2. Money

You can make all the budgets you want, but be prepared for unplanned expenses. Buying moving boxes, renting a hotel for a night, ordering pizza, calling a handyman/plumber/electrician, making an emergency trip to the grocery store/mall/hardware store. There are a million little expenses out there, odds are you're going to run into a few of them.

3. Paperwork

You're going to get bombarded with paperwork - loan papers, real estate contracts, title paperwork, moving estimates, repair estimates and receipts, contact names and phone numbers, travel arrangements, to-do lists and other brainstorming ideas, paint colors, furniture ideas - the list goes on and on. This is no time for sticky notes and scratch pads! (which tend to get lost during packing).

I recommend using an Accordion File for your move. You can put anything inside it - file folders, brochures, loose leaf papers, etc., and you can label various sections if you'd like. This way you won't have to worry about when to pack the file cabinet, or finding a phone number that's only inside your computer. You'll have everything related to the moving process all in one place. Once your move is completed, you can go back to your regular filing system.

4. Packing

Packing everything you own can be a monumental feat, especially if you have a large family, a large home, and/or you've been in your home for quite some time. This is one of the areas where you can reduce a lot of stress by starting early. (or add a lot of stress by procrastinating - your choice!)

Get LOTS of Boxes. Go buy yourself a bunch of boxes so you can start right away. Then, over the next couple of weeks, you can keep your eyes open for any used boxes that become available. You might even contact your Realtor to see if he knows anyone who has recently moved and can part with a few dozen boxes.

Pack Early. It's Phoenix, it's summer, it's 112 degrees outside. Why are you waiting to pack your winter clothes? Get those puppies boxed up and out of your way! And while you're at it, why not box up your holiday decorations, formal dining sets, and power tools that won't be used this month? Anything you can pack up today is one less thing you'll need to worry about later, when the pressure's really on.

Purging. Take a good, long, realistic look at the things you don't use very often. Use the move as an excuse to overrule your inner packrat; the more you can get rid of, the less you'll have to move! And I know from experience, it's very frustrating to take something out, think about discarding it, clean it, wrap it, find a box for it, move it, unpack it, and then put it in the "donate" pile. Grrrrr. You can hold a yard sale, donate things to charity, or call a junk removal service. (or all 3.)

Pack Completely. On Moving Day, you'll find the 80-20 Rule in full effect. 80% of your time will be spent on the 20% of the small, left-over, "no big deal I'll grab it as we're leaving" items. All the big items and all the pre-packed boxes will move very quickly and easily. All the small, one-off, don't-want-to-put-in-a-box items will take 3 times as long as you expect. Bottom Line: pack it, wrap it, do whatever you need to do, but put it in a box.

4a. Personal Items

Pack a suitcase or duffel bag with a few necessities for each member of the family. A change of clothing and some toiletries at the least. Keep this bag with you during the move. This way, if worst comes to worst on moving day, you can at least stay clean & fresh.

5. Going Pro?

You can have movers do all your packing and moving for you, or you can do the packing and let them carry everything. This is a question of time, money, and personal preference - there isn't a right or wrong answer. If you decide to enlist the help of the pros, do plenty of research and get a few estimates. Read your estimates & contracts carefully, and know the payment terms beforehand.

Load-at-your-house Storage Units (PODS, Mobile Mini, Door to Door). Here is an option that may be a compromise between hiring professionals and moving yourself. These companies will deliver a large storage container to your driveway. You then fill the container with your own belongings. When you're ready, the company will pick up the container and either place it in storage for you, or deliver it to your new home, where you can unload it at your leisure.

We used PODS when we moved in 2006, and it was terrific. We had one POD delivered as we prepared to put our home on the market, which allowed us to store excess items from the garage, closets, and other bulky, rarely-used stuff. Then, we had a 2nd unit delivered the week before our move, and we were able to fill it with all the boxes we had pre-packed. Once we moved into the new home, both PODS were dropped off for us to unload.

6. Utilities

Don't forget to arrange for the utilities to be disconnected from your current home, and connected at your new home. Here are some of the key providers:

Water - whether public or private

Trash Collection - if not included with your water company

Sewer - if applicable

7. Change addresses

Write down a list of ALL the people and companies who will need your new address, then cross them off as you notify them. Here are some of the most common ones:
Friends and family members

Employers, especially your W-2 Form

USPS - complete a change form with the Post Office 2-4 weeks in advance of the move.

Credit Cards


Investment Brokers/Accounts

Department of Motor Vehicles

Social Security (if receiving benefits)

Veterans Administration (if applicable)

Cell Phone Providers

Insurance Agents/Companies - auto, life, health, disability, umbrella - etc.

Doctors - primary, specialists, pediatricians, dentists, chiropractors



Schools &/or School Districts

Magazine Subscriptions

8. Timing

There are 3 basic scenarios for moving: Buy the new home before selling the old home, Sell the old home before buying the new home, and Moving from the old home to the new home on the same day.

Buying First. The moving process is much less stressful, since you can move at your own pace. However, the cost of owning 2 homes can be a financial stressor for many people. This is a personal decision, and there are many variables to consider. I'd be happy to discuss this process in more detail with you anytime.

Selling First. This is almost the exact opposite of Buying First. You remove the financial stress by having your cash in hand and knowing exactly how much you have to work with. And you might have some flexibility with the actual moving process, depending on your temporary situation (if you rent until the end of the month but close escrow in the middle of the month, for example.) However, the stress of moving twice can be more than some people want to deal with.

Same-Day Close. This is easily the most stressful alternative, but for many people it is the only viable option, generally (but not always) due to financial restrictions. There are so many things that have to go right to pull this off - multiple buyers' lenders, and multiple title companies, multiple buyers & sellers (and each of their Realtors), and multiple movers... Let's just say it's a nail-biter when things go well, and it can go sideways in a hurry, often without a particular person at fault. If this is the route you're going to take, do yourself a favor and be ready with a contingency plan - just in case. (And re-read Item #1 about Attitude!)

9. Time off work

Some people like to schedule time off before the move, so they can make sure everything is packed and ready to go. They figure as long as everything gets to the new home, they can move in over time. Other people like to take time off on moving day, to ensure everything actually gets moved. Still others will take time off right after the move, so they can put the new home together just the way they want. And the luckiest people will do all 3! This is a personal preference item - do what works best for you.

That's it. 9 Simple things and you'll make Moving Day a non-event.   (well, maybe that's a stretch...)

Your really doesn't like moving Realtor,

Chris Butterworth