Moving Without the Stress

I’ve moved a lot as an adult – 10 times in the 20 years between 22 and (almost) 42. That makes me something of an expert in what you need to do to prepare for a move. Now I’ll admit to being somewhat anal retentive about life generally – there are those who will scoff at the idea of beginning the moving process 30 to 60 days before a move. I say that enough unexpected last-minute stuff will come up that no amount of preparation will foretell – that’s why most everyone you meet has at least one really good “moving horror story.”

It seems logical that you’d want to find a new place before you give notice to your current landlord that you’re moving. You don’t quit an old job with having already accepted a new one. The problem is you might not have that luxury.

Most leases – and often it’s set by State law – require you give a 30 or 60 day notice of your intent to terminate your lease. Some leases automatically renew so be aware that, even if you only signed a one-year lease, you may be required to write a letter or the lease is considered to automatically renew.

Once you give notice to your landlord of your intent to not renew, there’s no reason to panic even if you haven’t found the new place yet. An organized, fast, inexpensive move isn’t a fantasy.

There is so much to consider in finding an apartment and obviously many of those considerations are very individualized. Having moved a few times to new cities, I think it’s a fair bet that almost anyplace you want to move to has at least one hard-copy newspaper listing of rentals and at least one online source for the same. For virtually every major city, craigslist.com remains the internet’s most intelligent starting point for an apartment search and city overview.

Now you’ve found the place and you’ve given the proper termination notice to your soon to be old landlord. Picking a moving date isn’t as arbitrary as it sounds or as certain as moving the day your old lease ends and your new lease begins. First off, in all likelihood, your old lease expires on the 30th or 31st of some month, and your new lease begins on the 1st of that next month. In theory that doesn’t give you much time to move – in between the seconds separating one month’s end from the next one’s start.

This is a universal problem and not only is it one every renter knows, it’s one landlords know about too. Your new apartment could be ready a few days early and you may even be able to negotiate entry a day or two early for no additional rent. If the new apartment isn’t ready a few days early, check with your current landlord – if your apartment isn’t rented yet, you may be able to stay up to several days longer than your lease term for no additional rent. There are ways to work around virtually any situation.

Be aware of the rules on moving out of your old building and into your new building. You may need to reserve a freight elevator.

Pick your mover – this could be its own separate topic but it is an important decision. Some movers like to come to see how much stuff you have to move and others will ask you to estimate and then not see you for the first time till moving day. Many moving companies offer insurance in the event something is lost or destroyed. Many moving companies in my experience will refer to insurance but they really just self-insure – i.e., they will pay you if they break something. This isn’t really insurance – and creates problems of what the moving company is going to be willing to pay on high-end furniture, on appreciable collectibles and art, and similar items. Don’t just ask if the company has insurance – find out who underwrites the insurance and precisely what is and isn’t covered.

Once you have a mover and a moving date, it’s time to end your existence at your old home and establish your new existence at the new pad. In no particular order, it’s important to address the following:

Telephone – You need to turn off your phone at the old place and turn it on at the new place. Do not turn your phone off at your old place starting the day you’re moving – you may need to use the phone to find out where the movers are if they’re late, or to make arrangements to pick up your new keys if you haven’t already gotten them. If you have a cell phone and plan to use it the day of the move, make sure your movers and your new landlord have that number.

When you turn the phone on at the new place, the phone company should be able to tell you when the old person is turning their phone off. If possible, I recommend having your phone turned on the night before your move so that it’s hooked up by the time you and the movers arrive.

When you think telephone, don’t forget your cell. It’s easy if your cell phone provider provides good service in your old and new location – you just need to call them and they’ll change your number. But remember even with a local move where you aren’t changing your cell service, you still need to update the address they have on their records (and you really ought to do this even if you receive e-bills to an e-mail address that isn’t changing).

Computer – Your computer provider again may be able to just transfer your service from your old place to your new place.

Television – If you have cable or satellite television, you need to move that service from the old place to the new. Many providers will move your service for free in the hopes you’ll stay with them as your provider. But just as many providers of course offer incentives – special packages of premium channels for new accounts, etc. It is good to consider your options which are usually limited to one satellite service and one or two cable services. Remember if you are going satellite, a dish has to be installed on the roof of your apartment – the satellite company may require written permission from your landlord to install the dish. In any event, it’s a good idea to confirm that the landlord will allow you to put up a satellite dish – you are only renting your apartment and the right to use common areas and that doesn’t necessarily include the top of your building’s roof.

Voter Registration – I recommend this be as high a priority as the cable TV and the DSL service. Otherwise, you’ll forget about it and miss an important deadline and wind up unable to vote in a primary.
Tax Information – While there’s nothing you need to really do here, if you prepare your own taxes, consider that your first year in a new apartment, the IRS may fail to send you tax forms. You can get tax forms at the Post Office at many forms on the IRS’s own web site.

Motor Vehicles – This means your car’s registration, your driver’s license, your car’s title, your car’s insurance, the bank administering your car’s loan – it helps to keep track on a list. Even if you are moving within the same state, you are required to update your address on your drivers’ license. Often this can be done by snail mail and you’re provided with a supplement that you keep with your license that has your new address on it.

Magazine Subscriptions – As soon as you know when and where you’re moving, you can take care of magazine subscription address changes just by telling them the date you want to start getting your magazines at the new address.

Insurance, Memberships and Professional Associations – Depending on the membership, there may be by laws or rules requiring you to always provide them with a current address. In the case of renter’s insurance, your rental insurance company may actually provide some limited coverage for when you move. In any event, you want to keep your insurance in effect until you are in the new location – if you are able to remain with your current renter’s insurance carrier, remember depending on things like locks, fire alarms, sprinkler systems, burglar alarms and security systems, and even things like back doors and gates, your insurance premiums could increase or decrease even if the amount of coverage stays the same.

Bank Accounts – Even if you are moving to a location where you can bank at another branch of your bank, you may want to move your home branch and that could – depending on the bank – require you to have to close the account and re-open it at the new branch even if it’s the same bank. Some banks require that you can only do certain transactions at the branch where you opened your account and that’s why you may need to do more than just change your address. Banks are draconian and often require a utility bill from your new address in order to effect an address change. This is ridiculous if you don’t have a utility bill coming to the new address for 20 to 30 days after you move. I hope my bank is listening to that.

Utilities – I like to keep my utilities on a day or two longer than I’m going to be in the old place – it ensures that they’ll be on the day of the move and that they’ll be on should I need to return for anything. For the same reason, I like to turn the utilities on at the new place at least a day or two early.

Confirm with movers two days prior to the move that everything is set for the day and time you have scheduled.

On moving day, say a prayer, use a mantra, take a valium if you have to, but stay calm. Expect things to go wrong so that, when they do, you approach whatever it is calmly. Offer your movers something to drink at your old place and at your new place – it’s not required but it is polite.

Pack what you said you were going to pack so that you’re done the night before the movers arrive. Your moving costs will rise if you are still packing things as they’re trying to move things.

If you have children or pets, try to make arrangements for them elsewhere during the move. If that isn’t possible, there should be someone present who is responsible for taking care of the kids or pets who is separate from the one responsible for supervising the move. And when that isn’t possible, your job while the movers are working is to keep your kid and your pet from interfering with their job.

You – not your movers – should be the last ones out of your apartment. You may need to return to clean the place up. If possible, snap some digital pictures that show the apartment’s condition with the furniture removed. In the event your landlord gives you a hassle over your security deposit, you have photographic evidence of the apartment’s condition.

Organization is paramount to a successful move. You don’t need to be an organized person generally, you don’t need to be organized once you’re at the new place – but the more homework you do preparing for a move, the easier it usually goes. Good luck.

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