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Smooth move: The art of a stress-free move

By   |  Posted in First-Time Homebuyers

When you were a young adult, preparing to move meant ordering a large pizza and calling your buddies. You and you pals then chucked your belongings into various cars, drove across town, and dumped them into your next apartment.

These days, you don't want your move to be an adventure--you want to get your family, pets and precious belongings from point A to point B intact, and you want the experience to be stress free and go off without a hitch.

Yes, you can move without the mayhem by following these tips from the professionals who do it every day:

The DIY option

Moving yourself does offer the most control and costs the least.

If you have a small household, a strong back and truck-driving skills, this may be a workable choice. You may be able to save even more by renting your truck mid-week.

Don't negate your savings by underestimating the size truck you'll need, though--no one wants to make (and pay for) unnecessary extra trips. Budget for insurance for the rental truck, gas and any special equipment you'll need, like dollies and quilted furniture covers.

You can also choose to pack up yourself and hire a company like ABF or U-Pack Moving to do the transporting. They provide a professional driver, who takes your things to your new home, and you unload them.

This option costs less than a full-service mover and lets you skip the truck-driving-with-children-and-pets experience. You can share the space on the truck with other customers and pay for only the space you use. Realtor Lisa Dority of Remax Advance Realty in Miami says that's a popular solution. "I am in the business of helping people move (I sell houses) and lately I have seen more people opt for the container moves. Fewer people hire a moving company to pack their belongings unless they have it paid for as part of a relocation."

Dority recommends that self-movers allot more time than they think they need to pack up their homes.

The full-service option

If you can't afford to spend a lot of time dealing with a move, you're moving a long distance and have a lot of stuff, or if you hate moving more than visiting the DMV and root canals combined, this is your best bet.

Good professional movers have the experience and equipment to do the job efficiently and avoid damaging your belongings.

Can you afford it? Use a moving mortgage calculator (Moving.com has a good one) to estimate your costs, including lodging, gas and supplies. Check out movers thoroughly--the Better Business Bureau says the moving industry ranks 14th in consumer complaints!

How to find a good mover

To find a good mover:

  • Ask friends
  • Screen movers by checking for complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the American Moving and Storage Association
  • Get at least three estimates.
  • Check with safersys.org to make sure the movers are licensed, insured and not axe-murderers
  • Check for safety violations and consumer complaints with the U.S. Department of Transportation at 888-368-7238 or fmcsa.dot.gov

Be smart with your lead time

Make moving easier by doing as much as you can as early as you can.

Here's a checklist:

  • Be merciless--don't move anything that you aren't crazy about or can be easily replaced. Now's your chance to unload ugly wedding gifts or those "as seen on TV" impulse buys.
  • Order boxes and other supplies like tape, bubble wrap, permanent markers, boxes and Maalox.
  • Start using up things that you don't want to move, like food and cleaning supplies.
  • Start packing the things that you don't use, like holiday decorations and winter clothing if you're moving in July.
  • Complete your packing in the days preceding your move.
  • Assemble your valuables and important papers; you'll want to move them personally.
  • Refill prescriptions just before leaving.

Avoid this big mistake!

Before leaving your home, arrange to have the locks on your new place changed. R. Brad Morehead of Safemart.com warns, "We hear from a lot of people who have just moved into new homes. One of the biggest issues for people who are moving is not changing the locks on the doors of the new home or office. In some cases, those who are less scrupulous who have your key may drive by and see your moving boxes and brand new TV as tempting targets, since you don't know they have a key."

Packing it in

Leave plenty of time for packing. How much time? Estimates from experts range from five hours per room to over a week per room.

The five-hour expert probably eats on paper plates, sleeps on a futon and watches TV on a laptop. The one-week-per-room guy could be a hoarder. Adjust your own planning accordingly, and use these nine tips for packing to protect your stuff:

  • Use the right-sized boxes (pillows and quilts in large containers are fine; heavy books, not so much).
  • Load heavy items first, on the bottom, and balance lighter things on top.
  • Fill gaps inside boxes with clothing, towels or packing paper. Don't let things rattle around.
  • Each box should contain items from only one room to make unpacking easier.
  • Label each box with its room and contents. Keep copies for your own inventory.
  • Tape boxes carefully. A couple of wraps all the way around the box's top and bottom edges help them withstand stress.
  • Make an "X" with masking tape across picture glass to strengthen it, then wrap the pictures in paper or bubble wrap and put them in a frame box. Or ask about special crating for valuable art.
  • Keep breakables together. Wrap packing paper around each one, and then wrap bundles of five or six together with more paper. Surround bundles with padding.
  • Electronics need special care (double box and pad them) and remember that plasma TVs can be ruined if you lay them flat.

Understand that if a container is not packed properly, the movers may ask you to repack it or they may repack the container for you and charge extra.

Moving can be done without trips to the urgent care center or calls to a suicide hotline. It just requires a methodical approach, advance preparation and probably a sense of humor.

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