If real estate agents do their job well, clients will have to move—and sometimes quickly. Moving is often a forgotten element of the stressful home selling process, as sellers are caught up in fixing up the house, preparing for showings, negotiating offers, and, in many cases, searching for a new home themselves.
“I think every agent should have to move every seven years just so we remember how much work it is to move,” says Bonnie Fleishman, a top real estate agent in Maryland with over 32 homes sold in 2016.
Real estate agents are intertwined in the moving process and after watching clients struggle through move after move, they have some sage advice to offer.
The National Realtors Association’s 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers puts the median time on market for a home around a month. Trouble is, the actual move date for the homeowner will vary. It depends on how long it takes to get acceptable offers and ultimately, whatever close date the buyer settles on.
With this expedited time frame, it’s wise to start preparing for the move before a home even hits the market, especially if you’re moving a large family or little kids. An early start to the move can even help sell your home. We’ve put together this list of moving tips to get you all the way from start to finish.
Moving Tips 101: Start Working Even Before You List the Home
Hold a Garage Sale or Donate Items to Charity
You only have to pack what you still own. Now’s the time to get rid of excess items to save you time and energy when you begin packing.
“A lot of times people are so rushed they end up moving things they don’t really want or need, and think, ‘Oh, I’ll go through it at the new house,’” Fleishman says. “It’s better to take that extra week and eliminate those things because a) you’ll have less clutter in the house you’re selling and b) you’ll have less to move in the long run”
Fleishman has one No. 1 pet peeve when listing a home. “Clutter is No. 1 with me. Cluttered homes do not show well in photographs,” she says.
Get rid of toys that won’t fit in the toy box, empty closets filled to the brim with clothes, knock off the knick knacks on every surface, and you’ll be amazed at the difference in buyer perceptions.
Make sure you write a kick-ass ad online for your garage sale: Garage Sale Ads that Attract Buyers
Rent a Storage Space for Anything You Can’t Sell Off
Home staging is a crucial element for selling a home, so, as Fleishman says, “it’s never too early to start packing.”
A great realtor will recognize items that don’t fit in the marketing of a home, and they can give you an idea of what to pack and what to throw in storage..
For things you can’t bear to get rid of, spend the extra money to rent a storage space—or if call in favors from friends and family with space in their attic or basement. You can declutter their home without scrapping beloved pictures, treasures from travel, winter clothes, or the mismatched furniture that’s been in the family for years.
Use this site to find a storage space near you: Find Local Storage.
Moving Tips 102: How to Pack When Your Home Is on the Market
Offer Furniture as Part of the Home Sale
Fleishman recommends that her clients sell furniture and other large items as part of the house, saving loads of packing time, especially for long distance moves.
Sell a fully furnished home, down to the linens and silverware, or offer to include a large piece of the decor. Literally anything is on the table:all appliances, including washer and dryer, the huge sectional couch, the 10-person dining room table, etc.
Listen to your real estate agent. They can buyer gauge interest in the furniture during showings and can make a recommendation.
Get Written Estimates from Multiple Moving Companies
The cost of a moving company should never be guesswork. If you’re moving a small studio apartment, getting phone estimates should suffice, but for a large home, try to get estimates based on in-home surveys. Movers can be far more accurate and won’t tack on extra surprises if they physically go through the house.
Before anyone comes to give you a quote, always mention difficult items, like pianos That way, they’ll be prepared and won’t shock you with a hidden costs. Gather a few estimates, search for reviews and referrals, and make a decision on a moving company. You may not be able to certify the exact date yet, but you can have a top three list of movers to work under.
Here’s a list of the best moving companies (as named by Consumer Affairs) to get you started.
Pro-tip: if you have trouble packing, or just don’t want to deal with it, most moving companies will tack on a packing service too for little extra charge.
Don’t Make a Mess
A seller’s job is to keep a home presentable for showings, so sellers should have already brought all excess clutter to a storage space or gotten rid of it. Now that the home is on the market, it’s getting down to packing business. The clock is running down on the one-month timeline, and a home can sell even more quickly.
Locate New Doctors
If you’ve already found a new home, now’s the time to investigate new doctors, dentists, and other important medical contacts nearby. Ask for referrals from present physicians or get advice from friends or family in the area.
Consider Temporary Housing
Some sellers find it less stressful to find a temporary, month-to-month, furnished apartment to live in while their home is showing on the market and they’re searching for a new one.
If most of your items are already out of the house—leaving enough to keep it staged appropriately—temporary housing protects you from having to offer on new homes with a contingency, which can be a detractor.
“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. “Remember after you close in escrow your monthly mortgage payment isn’t due until a month or a month and a half. So you already have a built-in,” he adds.
Negotiate For Temporary Occupancy
As a buffer between closing date and moving date, top Atlanta real estate agent Janice Overbeck always tries to negotiate for temporary occupancy for the sellers.
“I try to get temporary occupancy for a few days after closing so they have money in the bank,” Overbeck says. “I’ve sold hundreds of homes, and I’ve seen buyers die the day before closing, I’ve seen trees fall on houses right before closing, I’ve seen deals fall apart. You don’t want to spend all that money moving until you’ve closed.”
Negotiate for temporary occupancy, then you can avoid having to move twice or rush moving in and out on the same day.
Moving Tips 103: What To Do After Your Home Is Sold
Book Your Movers
Pull out that top three list of moving companies (remember this list?) and make the calls. Book the date ASAP.
Research Purchasing Moving Insurance
Most moving companies will offer insurance—both by pound and comprehensive—but weigh it against your existing homeowners policy to see if you require extra coverage. Accidents happen.
Change Your Mailing Address
It’s super easy. Visit USPS.com/move and change your mailing address online.
Transfer School Records
“There’s a lot more things to think about than just physically moving,” Fleishman reminds sellers, but people can get so bogged down in packing and stress that important paperwork elements fall through the cracks.
Arrange to have your children’s school records transferred so they can hit the ground running after moving day. Greatschools.org has a guide for that.
Call Utility Companies
Call heating, cable, internet, phone, water, electric, and other utility companies to arrange for disconnect or a transfer to the new home. The same goes for newspaper delivery. Keep these phone numbers on a notecard or in your phone’s contact list in case there are any issues.
Let Everyone Know About a Change of Address
Send out a mailing to friends and family about your new home address. Contact credit card companies, insurance companies, student loans lenders, and other crucial people to notify them. Many of these places allow you to change your address online.
Fill Up Your Prescriptions if You Have Them
Ensure your vital prescriptions are filled and on hand leading up to the move. If necessary, contact the pharmacy to transfer the prescription to another store near your new home.
Finish Packing, Pronto.
Pack every last thing that wasn’t sold with the house in boxes.
Moving Tips 104: Tips and Tricks for Packing
First, watch this quick video of moving hacks (at least a few of them are pretty good):
There can be a lot of chaos, between searching for a new home, selling a home, and renting a storage space. Save yourself the headache and label every single box packed up—multiple times, and specifically.
When boxes go on a moving truck or into storage, if it’s labeled only on one side, you might not be able to identify it without moving everything around it.
Use permanent marker or large labels different colors from the boxes themselves and write exactly what’s inside—kitchen appliances, winter coats, kids’ toys—on every side of the box.
Repurpose linens, throw blankets, and towels as padding for delicate items to save on space, time, and money. Every minute counts during this busy time.
Separate Valuables and Important Documents
Pull aside medical records, birth certificates, car titles, and other crucial documents and put them into a folder that you’ll carry with you on moving day, instead of packing up. The same goes for jewelry, watches, and other valuables, including important prescription medications. You’ll be less likely to lose them in the shuffle.
Eat Down the Fridge
Don’t leave the perishables until moving day or the night before. Start to get rid of food, drinks, condiments, and other things in the fridge in the days and week leading up to moving day.
Also sort vitamins, over-the-counter medicines, and other non-kitchen perishables and toss anything expired or soon to be.
Moving Tips 105: How to Get Through Moving Day
Bring Pets and Kids To Day Care
Hire someone or have friends and family watch both your pets and your children on moving day. It will be chaotic enough without extra bodies running around.
Keep Your Valuables On Your Person
Whether it’s a backpack or another means, keep those important documents and valuables on your person during moving day. This way, they’re ready at hand when you need them and they won’t get lost in the shuffle.
Make the Move and Don’t Look Back
Moving is a very stressful process, Fleishman understands, but she offers this bright spot for when you’re settled in the new home.
“When people move, they’re often panicked about their elementary school kids changing schools and homes,” she says. “But almost everyone I talk to later on… they’re usually saying, ‘The kids are doing great! I’m the one getting used to this change.”