Congratulations, you’ve bought a new home (and perhaps sold your old one)! Now you need to plan your move. With my clients, I always recommend that you use a professional mover – even if you’ve moved dozens of times, as I have, they’ll usually be faster and better at everything, including packing up your precious possessions.
As soon as you have a closing date, it’s time to reach out to a mover, as well as your insurance company. Are you thinking of moving yourself? My experience is that many homeowners find, as closing day approaches, they simply don’t have time. Movers are booked tight and solid, especially over key moving times, such as the summer, and by the time you decide a DIY moving job isn’t for you, you may find it is too late to find a reliable professional.
Here are some key tips for finding, and working with, a mover.
First, your cousin Harry and his buddies are not professionals. And won’t you feel bad if they ruin something? They’re not trained, and they’re not insured. Hire someone who knows what they’re doing. It’s worth it.
Do not plan to move on closing day. If you are a seller, you need to be out of your property the day before closing, because in today’s digital world, your lawyer may complete the closing as early as 9am, and your buyer has been promised vacant possession. If you are a buyer, the APS, or Agreement of Purchase and Sale, here in Ontario, specifies that closing must happen no later than 6pm on the day in question (and sometimes it may take right up until 6).
Moreover, there can be delays. (Did you ignore your mortgage agent and put something big on your credit card after receiving your mortgage commitment? You might need to scramble for more money. Or the person selling to you may not have listened to their agent, who said they need to be out before closing).
My personal advice re closing and moving, also, is that Fridays and Mondays are the worst days to sort out problems if something goes wrong – so avoid those if at all possible.
If you are moving to or from a condo, you’ll need to book the moving elevator. Generally, these are booked with a four-hour window, so you need to be hyper-organized. Make sure packing and organizing of furniture for loading is done in advance of that.
Find a trusted professional by using the Find a Mover service provided by the Canadian Association of Movers (who can also advise and guide you for cross-border or overseas moves).
Get quotes from three movers. Even professional estimators will vary. If one of them is way cheaper than the other two, they may have missed some essential detail. If you are moving from a house to a condo, or vice-versa, ask them about their condo moving experience.
The movers will want to know a lot of things – things you may not have even thought about. It will help them provide a detailed, written estimate (pros do not ask you to pay for your move up front). Examples include whether you need special crating or handling for antiques or other pieces, whether you plan to move plants, how you plan to move things that they won’t (flammables and liquids come to mind).
Ask for any special handling details in writing as part of your quote. The person doing the selling of your move is not the team doing the work – and when they claim they didn’t know they were supposed to crate your grandma’s china cabinet or disassemble your modular sofa, you want to be able to show them that you thought of that, and that that’s what you’ve been promised.
Be sure to pack one or two “open me first” boxes. These can include everything from your coffeemaker and coffee, to some simple tools like a hammer, adjustable wrench, and multi-head screwdriver. My mom always liked to have a kettle and an electric frying pan, so she could rustle up a meal even if the stove wasn’t properly hooked up.
Speaking of that, don’t schedule other professionals like the gas hookup people on the same day. And appliance deliveries – same. Imagine two or three teams all trying to manage their deliveries at once. It will be the kind of chaos you simply do not need on moving day.
And speaking of chaos – please, please, please send your kids and pets to a friend or a kennel or a family member on moving day. It’s overwhelming for them, and tough for the movers as well.
Are you doing your own packing? Heavy things in small boxes, and light things in big ones, please. (Honestly, since most movers will mark boxes packed by you as “owners’ risk”, let them do it). Also, before they arrive, make sure you have taken down any curtain rods or chandeliers or shelves that aren’t staying behind (double check your agreement of purchase and sale that you didn’t include those curtain rods – because you probably did!). Also have all appliances disconnected if they are coming with, or mark with a bright post-it or piece of colourful masking tape, if they are not.
If you’ve paid for an unpacking service, bear in mind that this doesn’t mean they will put everything away – so you need to be at-the-ready. No kitchen counter is big enough to hold the contents of all those boxes. Believe me.
When they load the truck, double-check any instructions with your driver – arrival time, special notes or directions for the other end, and your cellphone number – even if all of that is in your contract. And get theirs, in case you run into an issue on the road! Or, if like me, you arrive at your brand new home to discover the builder has dumped a load of gravel in the driveway and the truck won’t be able to get near the front door.
Feeling like you’ve got it all under control? That’s just the movers! Here are the other jobs you need to do before you head off to your new home:
Did you decide to DIY it? Sigh. Do purchase boxes and moving supplies. Do you know how many you’ll need? A mover could have helped with that. And they always bring backups – not to mention specialty boxes such as ones for artwork or clothing wardrobes.
Before packing, or before packers arrive, purge, purge, purge! (If you’re downsizing, make a floor plan and divest anything that can’t come along). Hopefully if you were also a seller, you got rid of junk and clutter before staging your home to sell.
Also clean out your fridge, clean the stove, and your freezer.
Get rid of harmful chemicals, and toxic waste items such as batteries. They shouldn’t be packed and transported, no matter who is doing it.
There are lots of things to set up and notify. The sooner the better, but do allow at least two weeks for these items:
Arrange mail forwarding and change address with credit cards, phone, and other important contacts.
Set up disconnection of gas stoves, cable TVs, TV modems, or any other items that you need help with.
Contact your insurance company about the move. Especially if you are making a long-distance move, or if your things will be stored, you need to ensure the right coverage. You’ll also need to set up coverage for your new home, and change over your auto insurance.
Change your address – your bank, of course, the Canada Revenue Agency, Driver’s license, Health cards, and your employer. Also any memberships you have with health clubs or other organizations – especially if you are making a long-distance move. Moving is a good time to re-evaluate what you’re really using.
Kids’ schools should be notified, and records transferred (get a copy sent to you – these get lost with surprising frequency). Register at new schools as soon as possible. Similarly, ask for a copy of your medical and dental files, if you will need to find a new doctor and dentist in a new town.
Organize disconnection of utilities as well as connection at the new property – including water, electric, gas, hot-water tank rentals, and internet. Still a landline user? Phone, too.
Pack a suitcase with the clothes and toiletries that you'll need the first day in your new home – or longer if you’re moving for a number of days.
Fill a file box with all essential paperwork including your moving documents and your agreements of purchase and sale. Collect all keys for your old place and deliver to your agent, your lawyer, or your landlord, as appropriate. Make sure you know how you will receive keys for your new home – for example, we often provide a single key through the lawyer or a lockbox, and the remainder of keys and fobs are left for you in a specific location in the new home.
At your old home, take a final walk around and take photos. Look in every closet and drawer, in the garage, and in the back yard, before your truck leaves.
In your new home – walk through and document anything that seems out-of-order, before the movers arrive. Myself, I like to leave myself a day to paint and organize. Don’t expect a spic-and-span house – your APS will specify “broom swept condition”. So a good cleaning may be required. Try out any appliances on the first day – and if anything is not in good working order and this was specified in your agreement, get in touch with your agent, and your lawyer. They’ll work to make sure it gets sorted out so you can settle in and enjoy your new home.
Are you tired yet? Make sure you’ve planned a takeout meal for day one, and planning to sleep in a hotel for one night isn’t a bad idea either – unless, like me, you’re just too excited to be in your own bed, in your new place.