Find a top agent in your area

Get started

20 Moving Tips For a Smooth Relocation

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

When you’re selling a house, finding a buyer means you can start thinking about the next big step: actually moving. This includes packing up your stuff, booking a trustworthy mover, and getting everything to your new home. With houses on the market for an average of 18 days as of February 2022 (according to statistics from the National Association of Realtors®), you don’t have much time to sell, pack up the house, and go. Follow these expert moving tips and packing advice for a smooth transition.

Moving tips for handling logistics

1. Book a mover early

When hiring a mover, it’s best to book your moving date several months in advance. Waiting until the last minute, especially during peak moving season, can limit your chances of locking in the right-sized truck and the moving date you want. Always book early, when possible.

2. Find a reputable mover

Finding a moving company you can trust takes some legwork. Make sure the mover you hire is licensed, insured, and has an established history with the community. Ask the professional for the company’s DOT number issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or their state regulator. Check online reviews and the BBB website to read company ratings, reviews, and complaints.

3. Get at least 3 estimates

To receive a competitive price and find the best mover, arrange three in-person estimates. Make sure the mover is licensed, insured, and offers a binding estimate which guarantees the price won’t change after your items are on the truck. It’s always a smart idea to prepare a list of questions for the estimate such as the timeline and downpayment. Never pay a mover more than 50% upfront.

4. Protect yourself from moving scams

Unfortunately, consumers have been targeted by moving company scams and fraud, where unscrupulous moving companies have disappeared with the customer belongings and their cash. To prevent this from happening to you, look out for the following red flags:

  • The mover doesn’t accept credit cards, only cash or direct deposit payments
  • You can’t locate the company’s address online
  • The mover isn’t registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) or their state regulating agency
  • The company requires a large deposit
  • The mover hands you a blank contract to sign
  • The moving carrier has unresolved complaints with the Better Business Bureau

5. Choose a mover that offers the services you need

Do you need temporary storage until you find a permanent residence? Your vehicle shipped? Your baby grand piano moved by an experienced piano mover? Know that not all movers offer the same services.

If you’re transporting expensive artwork, collectibles, and valuables, make sure the mover you hire provides full value coverage, and you might need crating for oversized art.

6. Understand your insurance options

Whether you’re moving around the corner or cross country, the proper moving insurance will help protect you in case something happens. Your homeowner insurance policy might cover you for items damaged in transit or in storage, but they won’t cover you if a mover drops your precious antique mirror while packing it into a box. Some insurance covers just 60 cents per pound. When you need more coverage, consider full value coverage or third-party insurance.

Minimizing stuff to move

1. Consider listing your home as furnished (or sell furniture to buyers)

If you plan on buying new furniture when you move, consider selling your home furnished. Bonnie Fleishman, a top agent in Glen Burnie, Maryland, recommends selling furniture and decor items as part of the house. [Doing so] “saves loads of packing time, especially for long-distance moves,” says Fleishmann. You’ll have items for staging and a buyer looking for a second home will likely appreciate the furniture, silverware, dishes, and linens upon their arrival.

2. Decide what to keep, discard, donate, and sell

If you’ve lived in your home for more than a few years, you’ve likely accumulated lots of stuff. To cut down on your moving bill, sort through items you want to take with you and make a plan for the rest, for example:

  • Rent a dumpster for discarding large items
  • Donate clothing and home goods to charities
  • Give stuff away to friends and family
  • Hold a garage sale
  • Sell antiques and collectibles to a local antique store or an online auction

Packing tips

As a rule of thumb, give yourself one day to pack up each room in the house. Add an extra day for rooms that contain a lot of contents such as the kitchen and the garage. Here’s an estimate of how long it takes to pack up a house.

  • Studio apartment: 1 day
  • 1-bedroom apartment: 2 days
  • 2-bedroom house: 3-4 days
  • 3-bedroom house: 4-5 days
  • 4-bedroom house: 5-6 days

You can save time (and stress) by hiring two or three experienced movers to pack up your belongings but plan on tacking on 75% to 100% of the moving costs for packing.

1. Learn how many boxes you’ll need (per square foot)

You’ll need different sized boxes for your move, but how many? Here’s how to judge the number of boxes you likely will need based on the square footage of your home.

Estimated number of packing boxes needed by home size:

House size Small boxes needed Medium boxes Large boxes Extra-large boxes
400-700 square feet 7-15 9-15 6 3
700-1250 square feet 17-23 15-22 7-11 4-6
1200-1700 square feet 32-37 25-35 16-20 10-12
1700-2200 square feet 38-42 36-47 21-26 13-15

Moving boxes are of course available for purchase, but you can pick up moving boxes for free at grocery and liquor stores, or ask a friend who recently moved if they can donate a few.

2. Learn how many boxes you’ll need (per room)

Ordinarily, you’ll need around 10 small, 8 medium, and 5 large packing boxes per room. However, it can vary depending on how much stuff you own. Here’s a ballpark estimate of how many boxes (and their sizes) you’ll likely need per room:

Standard size kitchen
  • 2-4 small boxes
  • 5-6 medium boxes
  • 4 large boxes
  • 2 Extra large boxes
  • 4-6 dish packs
Living room
  • 2-4 small boxes
  • 3-4 medium boxes
  • 2-4 large boxes
  • 1-2 extra-large boxes
Dining room
  • 1-2 small boxes
  • 1-2 medium boxes
  • 2-4 dish packs
Primary bedroom
  • 1-3 small boxes
  • 5-6 medium boxes
  • 5-8 large boxes
  • 4-6 wardrobe boxes
Secondary bedroom
  • 1-2 small boxes
  • 3-5 medium boxes
  • 3-5 extra-large boxes
  • 2-4 wardrobe boxes
  • 2-3 small boxes
  • 1 medium box

You’ll also need boxes for storage areas such as the attic, basement, garage, and the laundry room as well as any artwork boxes, wardrobe boxes, and boxes for electronics. You can pick up heavy-duty boxes for heavier items at Home Depot. Never pack boxes too heavy.

3. Pick up packing supplies for your move

Other than boxes, you’ll need packing supplies that include:

  • Packing tape
  • Bubble wrap
  • Shrinkwrap
  • Thick permanent markers
  • Ziplock bags
  • Labels
  • Blank newsprint paper
  • Scissors and tape
  • Moving blankets when you’re moving yourself

Use sheets, towels, and blankets to wrap glassware and breakable items and you’ll save on the cost of bubble wrap. To ensure you don’t have empty spaces that could shift around in boxes, use newspaper and newsprint paper to pack things nice and tight.

4. Begin packing months in advance

Waiting until the week of your move to start packing puts a lot of pressure on yourself. You can make things easier by starting ahead of schedule. Begin packing items you don’t plan on using until after the move, for example, books and magazines. If you’re moving in summer, you can pack winter clothes, snow boots, and skis a few months out.

5. Label boxes by rooms and contents

Labels are lifesavers when you need to find a box among a stack of 50 boxes. Stick labels on the sides of boxes (not on the top), so they don’t get covered up. Label the description contents and the room where they belong on each box. Consider keeping a notebook nearby to jot down an inventory list to keep things organized.

6. Place furniture hardware and electrical cords in baggies

When taking apart furniture, place screws and hardware in plastic bags and tape them to the back of the item. This makes it easy to find your HD cable to watch TV or your computer cord to power up your laptop when you arrive at your new digs.

7. Organize important paperwork in a folder for easy access

Your passport, deed, rental lease: these are some of the critical documents you might need at a moment’s notice and don’t want to wonder where you put them. By keeping them in a folder, you can access them quickly and conveniently without having to open up boxes.

Other important items to keep on hand for moving day include:

  • Toiletries: Keep shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and toothbrush, shaving cream, combs, brushes, and a blowdryer in an overnight bag.
  • Tools: Leave out a screwdriver for a loose screw and a hammer to remove nails from walls.
  • Cleaning supplies: Leaving your home spotless can help you get more money back from your security deposit if you’re a renter — and it’s always nice to leave the house clean for the buyer.

Important tasks to remember

1. Small but important items for your new home

Remember small tasks like turning on the utilities in advance will provide light, water, internet access, and energy in your new home.

2. Change your mailing address with the post office

You don’t want to miss any important mail that could get stuck at the old house. You can change your mailing address in advance online or at the post office if you know the date you’ll be in your new home.

3. Notify companies and creditors about your address change

To avoid the potential of important bills and documents getting lost in the mail, notify your credit card company, insurance companies, and other important businesses about your address change.

Options if you need more time

1. Rent-back agreement

If you’ve found a buyer and you need extra time to move out, consider negotiating a seller rent-back agreement. This addendum allows you to stay in the house for a set period of time after the house is sold. This is especially helpful when you need the capital from the sale for a down payment on a new house–– or there’s a construction delay with your new home build.

2. Find a short-term rental

Another option is to find temporary housing to give yourself extra time. “I’d rather live in temporary housing in a month or two months and that way I can be more relaxed buying my next property and not rush into anything,” says top Los Angeles real estate broker Todd Jones Plus getting out your stuff shows better and enables you to paint and clean the carpets more easily.

If you’re relocating for a new job and don’t have a new home to call your own, HomeLight can connect you with top agents in your area. Just enter your address and some details about the home you’re looking for and we’ll do the rest to find the best local real estate agents that match your criteria.

Header Image Source: (Africa Studio / Shutterstock)