Preparing for a Move: What You Need to Know

When undertaking a move, whether a relatively simple one of an involved one, there's a lot to consider before even packing the first box.

A move can be one of the most stressful experiences in a homeowner’s life. It can be uprooting and disorienting, but relying on movers or doing it yourself are two options.

What to consider:                          

When undertaking a move, whether a relatively simple one of an involved one, there’s a lot to consider before even packing the first box. Many homeowners will consider doing the job themselves. They should also think about hiring professional movers. To make the best decision, weigh the following considerations:

  • The Materials — Do you have all the right equipment to move an entire house? Do you have the proper vehicle padding? How about the dollies and pushcarts for large furniture? Do you have plastic to wrap furniture, and the ability to secure everything in the moving vehicle?
  • The Vehicle — Do you have the experience to drive a large van? Have you factored in the rental cost and the expense associated with gas?
  • The Manual Labor — Do you have workers willing to help? Will you hire people, if friends and family are not available? What will you pay them (and please say more than pizza and beer)?
  • The Time — Do you have the time to move everything from one house to another? Can you do so without being precious and sentimental about particular items? Are you efficient? Do you have the experience to know how to best move large furniture and to pack boxes?
  • The Distance — Are you going across the neighborhood, across town, or across the country? Or perhaps even to another country?

What can I move myself?

If you like to be in control of a situation, have no qualms about driving a large, unfamiliar truck, and have both the time and the strength — or strong friends and family willing to help — then by all means, move an entire house yourself. But many an ambitious homeowner has been undone by the desire to handle something “simple” like moving without professional help.

How to prepare before movers arrive

First, determine whether you are hiring workers simply to move your belongings, or to also pack and move them. Many moving companies have horror stories of showing up at a house expecting to move furniture and boxes of belongings, only to find a house looking untouched, with the homeowners expecting that the movers would do the packing too.

Packing services are certainly available, though this will significantly increase the cost and the likelihood that something gets mishandled or broken. It’s best to thoroughly pack all items yourself in sturdy boxes reinforced with good tape. Label all belongings not with what room they came from in the current house, but what room they will go to in the new house.

Ensure that all walkways, hallways and stairs are clear of obstruction. Depending on the scope of the move — if it’s simply across town, for instance — it may be best to move certain items yourself, in a car or rented van. Such items could include expensive televisions or electronics, family heirlooms, or extremely fragile.

The following items may require special packing from movers, and may incur an extra fee: electronics, artwork, large instruments (piano), heavy appliances (washers, dryers, refrigerators, etc.)

Also consider purchasing moving insurance — your homeowner’s insurance covers your items while they’re within the house, but your belongings are likely not covered while they’re on the road.

What are portable container moving companies?

A recent trend in the moving industry satisfies a middle ground between the do-it-yourselfer and the all-inclusive moving services. Portable container moving companies — national companies include Pods, U-Pack, Pack-Rats and U-Haul’s U-Box — are a hybrid best described by the slogan “you pack, they drive.” A company will deliver a moving container to outside of a home or apartment, and it’s up to the homeowner to load and pack the container as they best see fit. When completed, the company will return to the site, pick up the now-filled container, and move it to the new location.

Another benefit of portable container moving companies is that they may also double as a storage company — some will place a container in storage to deliver at a later date, if so desired. Portable container moving companies are often best suited for a small house or apartment, as they are not intended to accommodate the contents of a large, multi-room family home — it’s not impossible, though, as doing so may just require the rental of multiple containers.

The upside to using these services is the level of control a homeowner can have over the method of packing and securing, and it can also happen at a slower pace. An in-town move can cost in the area of $500, while a move across the country can cost thousands of dollars, while some companies will add a charge for storage. Another benefit of the container moving company is that homeowners will not feel pressure to tip movers. A drawback is that packing may not be done as efficiently or safely as when done by professionals.


This is perhaps the most important step in choosing a moving company. The sad truth is that a number of scam companies exist in the moving industry. Beware of any deals and prices that seem too good to be true. Ask friends for companies they’ve had good experiences with, and look on for good ratings and reliable reviews.

What to avoid:

  • Prices that seem too good to be true
  • Movers who can not provide a written quote
  • A company who is difficult to reach on the phone, or that will not return calls
  • Movers who will not guarantee a time of arrival

Should I Tip Movers?

Tipping movers is entirely optional, though it is often customary in this industry. Take into account the work involved in the move. Did you have any particularly heavy items? Did the movers have to go up stairs, around tight corners, or do anything that might complicate the move? Were there items that required special handling?

Keep in mind that movers are not robots, and though they are strong and experienced humans, they remain humans, and do not hold it against them if they need to take a break to recover their strength; after all, they’re the reason you’re not the one trying to move that piano.

At the end of a move, if you choose to provide a tip, give it in an easily shareable cash amount to the leader of the moving crew, who will divide it among his team — $10 per mover is not unreasonable. If a mover specifically asks for a tip after the job, this should be reported to the dispatcher.

Advantages of Hiring a Moving Company

Look for a moving company that has the following qualities:

  • Will provide written estimate: This is important to understand the scope of the job, and to protect your investment. Some movers will charge a flat per-hour fee depending on the number of workers and the size of the truck, while others will charge a minimum base fee that covers a certain number of hours, with incremental increases after that. Get multiple estimates from multiple companies.
  • Insurance: You’ll want movers who carry both General Liability Insurance and Workman’s Comp Insurance. The former is important because it protects against damage to your property, while the latter protects against injuries to those working on your property. Hiring a contractor without insurance exposes a homeowner to significant risk in the case of accidents.
  • Will offer an on-time guarantee: Avoid movers who use outside dispatchers, as the disconnect between drivers and head office can lead to delays. Try to book your move as the first job of the day to avoid lag time and delays caused by other jobs.

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