You’ve sold your home and have a buyer under contract…finally! This deal is sure enough that you need to think about the next phase: moving.
Fear not, we’ve assembled a definitive guide on how to move, covering each phase of the transition in detail:
- Plan your move while your home sale comes together
- Declutter to save time and money
- Pack your belongings in an organized fashion
- Assemble a moving team and method
- Set up services and security at your new address
- Join the community
- Settle into your new home
Dive deeper into our topics with links to insightful resources and heed advice from our expert moving panel including top-selling Bakersfield, CA real estate agent Louise Juracek and Juliette Suarez, a seasoned mover who’s relocated 13 times in the past 8 years, most recently from Lafayette, CO to Berkeley, CA.
1. Plan your move while your home sale comes together
The no. 1 piece of advice all our experts stress is to plan ahead.
“From the time the contract (is) signed with the buyer, you’re looking at 30 to 45 day escrow on average. During that escrow time, there’s a lot of room to play with to get prepared to move,” Juracek shares from her experience helping over 600 real estate clients who were transitioning to a new home.
Utilize this window to create a moving plan and get quotes from moving services:
Agree to a realistic occupancy date
When you negotiate contracts with your buyers, agree to a realistic occupancy date, the legally binding date the buyer can move into your home. Do not underestimate the amount of stress this date can induce or eliminate. Give yourself enough time to move your belongings to your new place.
Make the most of final walkthroughs to exchange information
Once the contracts are signed, it benefits both buyer and seller to arrange a final walkthrough a week before the occupancy date. During this time, parties can take care of the following necessary steps:
- Exchange home maintenance contacts such as landscapers and pool cleaners
- Ask for alarm and door codes
- Find out the trash and sweeper days
- Cover how to work operation systems like AC and heating
- Get a picture of the homeowner’s associations
- Cover any extraneous home quirks
Measure your new space
Take photos and measurements of the rooms in your new residence so you can begin planning. Follow this how-to measure guide with easy steps to create a floor plan to scale. If you want a detailed digital floor plan to play with, level up with the Magic Plan app, an app which uses your smartphone or tablet camera to scan the room, automatically measure the space and draft 2-D plans.
Schedule remodels and repairs before you move in
From the moment you saw slide 3 on the photos of your new place, you knew that the ‘70’s wallpaper in the bathroom would have to go. Schedule painting and any immediate upgrades or repairs while the house is still empty to reduce your project cost and timeline. Plus, you’ll feel more at home when you move in if you’re surrounded by colors that appeal to you, not to mention match your furniture.
2. Declutter to save time and money
Decluttering may not be the most fun part of moving, but it is one of the most important, saving you time and money in almost every step of moving. Specifically, decluttering can:
- Add value to your house:
Start decluttering before you sell your home to increase its value by 3-5%. On average, you’ll spend $486 to gain $2,584 on your sale price.
- Reduce your box load:
The cost of boxes adds up, even if you only purchase new boxes for specialty items (we’ll share how to suss free boxes under Packing).
- Speed up packing and unpacking:
The less you have, the less you have to pack and unpack.
- Lower the cost of moving services:
Most moving services charge by the hour. The last thing you want to do is pay to move items you plan to throw out later.
Sell unwanted items online
Follow HomeLight’s How to Declutter Checklist for steps to reduce your belongings in every room. Garage sales can be effective depending on your neighborhood, but you’re likely to fetch more money by selling items individually online on sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Take high quality photos from multiple angles and of any necessary brand labels. Reduce the amount of back and forth by including details such as dimensions, damage, etc in the listing.
There are countless specialty websites where you can sell your unwanted items; here are a few of our favorites:
This app is your best bet to sell clothes, shoes, handbags, and fashion accessories.
Sell anything here, but be prepared to deal with unreliable people.
Similar to Craigslist, you can sell almost anything on Facebook Marketplace. In addition to sharing the listing on Marketplace, post in local buy and sell groups to reach a wider audience.
eBay is a bit of a fallen titan compared to newer, specialized selling websites, but is nevertheless an excellent place to sell antiques, collector’s items, and old electronics.
An online furniture consignment store, Chairish edits your listing photos for you to attract buyers, but they do take 30% commission.
This is the top site to sell analog music collections; be prepared to invest time cataloging the details of your collection.
Donate items in good repair
Goodwill, Salvation Army, local libraries, and animal shelters are almost always accepting donations. Some charities conveniently offer pick-up service; find and book a pick-up service near you at Donationtown.org.
Hire junk removal services to facilitate the whole process
If you need to speed up the decluttering process, bring in the pros. Junk hauling services will work with you to sort your clutter and remove it to appropriate avenues.
“Our eco-friendly cleanup experts remove all non-hazardous items from anywhere on the property—yes, even up in the attic, down in the basement, and out in the backyard,” shares Jacqueline Chavez of College H.U.N.K.S. Hauling Junk Moving, a top-rated junk removal and moving service which recycles more than 70% of waste.
3. Pack your belongings in an organized fashion
When it’s time to pack, keep the mantra in mind, “how can I make unpacking easier for my future self.” The more organized your packing is, the faster and more efficient your unpacking will be.
Stock up on necessary equipment
Tools: Your bare minimum set of tools for a move should include a tape gun, tape rolls, box cutter or multi-tool, markers, and a dolly (available to rent at Home Depot for as low as $14 for 4 hours).
Bags: Never underestimate the power of a Ziplock bag to protect your belongings. Keep all lotions, perfumes, sunscreens, etc. in bags when packing. For the extra cautious, wrap delicate clothing and upholstery in bags to protect the fabric from snagging. Condense duvets, pillows, and insulated jackets with Spacebags to reduce volume when packing.
Padding materials: You can purchase bubble wrap and packing paper or use alternatives you already have at home like newspapers, towels, clothes, tissues, and paper towels. Cellophane is also handy to wrap and protect furniture to protect wood and delicate surfaces from scratches.
Boxes: To source all the free boxes you need, check out HomeLight’s Guide: How to Get All the Cheap Moving Boxes for Your Stuff in a 24-Hour Quest. You should also consider purchasing some new boxes and specialty boxes such as dish barrels to protect fragile items.
Consult HomeLight’s detailed Moving Supplies Checklist so you can stock up on everything you need at once.
Create a label system
Labeling your boxes accurately will facilitate the move and unpacking process. Suarez suggests naming miscellaneous boxes after the place where the items were stored (i.e. bedroom nightstand). At a minimum, each box should include the following:
- Destination room (i.e. living room, master bedroom, etc.)
- Weight: heavy, light, medium
- Fragile (if needed)
- Bullets of main contents inside
Best apps to facilitate the organization process
Moving Van: Name boxes, assign them to rooms, detail the content in writing or with photos.
Sortly: Create custom printed labels on Avery sheets detailing room names, color codes, main content items, and scannable QR codes.
4. Assemble a moving team and method
Evaluate whether you want to move with a hired moving truck, pod, or professional moving service.
Pros: The cheapest way to move your belongings, total control over the process, your stuff moves with you on your schedule.
Cons: You’re responsible for the heavy lifting and loading, the moving process will take longer than with professional movers, and driving a large truck has its risks.
Price: Price ranges according to truck size and distance. On average, you’ll pay $155 for a local move to $971 for a long distance move, plus the price of gas.
Pros: The least stressful, no heavy lifting, fast service, professional packing and loading protects belongings.
Cons: The most expensive way to move, less control over where your items end up.
Price: Price varies by your location, moving distance, volume of belongings, and chosen service package (starting from basic loading, moving and unloading to full service packages which include packing with provided supplies through to unpacking). Consumer Affairs provides a useful chart of average prices, but you’ll need to get quotes for an accurate picture.
Top tip: “Make sure that you begin the moving process far enough in advance that you’re not scrambling the day of the move,” Chavez of College H.U.N.K.S. shares. “Create a detailed checklist, start junking things you don’t need, and have proper materials on hand to keep your boxes organized.”
Pros: Most affordable way to transport your belongings, and excellent for out-of-state moves, you don’t face the stress of driving a large truck.
Cons: You’re responsible for the heavy lifting, and your belongings move separate from you, risking delivery delays if moving long distances.
Top tip: “If you are going to put your things in the pods, make an inventory of what you have and take pictures just in case anything gets broken or lost for your insurance claim,” Suarez recommends.
Hire cleaners to leave your home pristine for the buyers
Before you say goodbye to your old home, hire a cleaner to tidy the space for the new buyers. Juracek advises, “don’t wear yourself out totally by trying to clean the old house yourself. Plan ahead to have a cleaner come in and give it a nice, thorough, clean after you’ve moved out. That will save you so much time and energy.” Leaving a home in “broom-clean-condition” is expected, if not explicitly stated in your contract.
5. Set up services and security at your new address
Nothing says home sweet home like the first round of bills to your new address. Dedicate a few hours the first week to changing your addresses, setting up utilities and entertainment, and securing your home.
Change your billing and mailing address
- Change your address online with USPS to forward mail to your new address.
- Change billing addresses for your bank, credit cards, shopping accounts, insurance, car registration, toll roads, AAA, magazine and digital subscriptions, medical physicians, employer, and school.
- Share your move with friends and family with custom moving announcement cards so they know where to send this year’s Christmas cards.
Shut down and transfer utilities
A couple weeks before the move, set a shut-off date to cancel utilities under your account at your former residence. Make sure to request a reading for your water and electricity meters as insurance to protect you from paying for the new owner’s usage. If you’re sticking to the same provider, you can transfer the service to your new address at the same time; otherwise, you’ll need to set up a new account before you move in.
Connect internet, phone, and entertainment
Similar to utilities, you can transfer these services to your new address. Research the coverage in your neighborhood and ask your internet provider if they have a 30-day free cancellation policy—nothing taints settling into a new home like slow Wi-FI. If you stick to the same provider, transfer the service over the phone and take advantage of the opportunity to negotiate a better deal. Most satellite and cable companies transfer their service for a small fee or for free with a contract renewal.
- Change garage, door, and security system passcodes
- Hire a locksmith to change out door locks
- Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working
- Check expiration dates on fire extinguishers
6. Join the community
Longevity studies conducted by research leaders such as Harvard reveal that a strong sense of community is key to living a long, healthy life. Contrarily, a third of Americans don’t know any of their neighbors by name. Introducing yourself to your new neighbors is one of the simplest ways to connect with your new community and increase your overall well being in the transition period.
7. Settle into your new home
Change is exciting but it can be hard on you, not to mention your family members. Here’s how to make the transition a little easier on everyone (furry friends included).
Keep your kids happy
Moving can be stressful for children; change can be scary and they have little control in the decisions made. Get them excited and settled in with these pro tips from Parenting.com:
- Let them design their own room
- Throw a goodbye party
- Share memories of your old home together and say goodbye
- Make a memory book with photos of the new home and friends they make
- Prioritize unpacking their room together
Ease in senior family members
Seniors may find moving difficult for similar reasons to young children: lack of control and fear of change. Be patient and respectful when helping them adjust.
- Walk through the house together to ensure everything is accessible.
- Install necessary modifications such as bathroom handrails and wheel chair lifts.
- Make outlets in their room are easy to reach by employing extension cords and power strips.
- Identify how close the nearest hospital is and identify a physician in the area.
- Help them find community groups and activities in the area.
Transition your pets
- Pets add extra steps to many of the moving steps so plan ahead with the following:
- License your pet with your city or country licensing department
- Update the address on their microchip online and gift them a new tag
- If you move out of state, check state laws to ensure your pets have all required vaccinations
- If your move includes a long drive. buy your pet treats with calming ingredients such as chamomile and tryptophan to sooth nerves
- Outdoor cats require extra special attention during the transition. Keep your feline friend inside for 2 weeks, then slowly transition them back to their outdoor lifestyle with these how-to tips.
Savor the moment
When all the boxes are in, take a moment to be present and recognize that the hardest part of your move is over. Now it’s time to enjoy setting up your space and getting to know your new home.
“I love finding new little quirks or corners about the house you’re moving into,” Suarez says, sharing this is always her favorite part of moving. “If you have your favorite salt lamp or tapestry, figuring out where those little things will go in your new home—really, creating your space in a new way with the same things is special.”
She thinks a moment and adds, “honestly too, once everything is unpacked it’s great. But that’s obvious!”
Header Image Source: (Estrada Anton/ Shutterstock)