Editor’s note: All of HomeLight’s coronavirus information for buyers, sellers, and agents is available on our COVID-19 hub.
Roughly 80% of people who move every year do so between the months of April and September. That puts the coronavirus outbreak hitting the U.S. precisely before — you guessed it — peak moving season. While some people can delay or cancel their move, anyone who recently sold a home does not have the ability to change plans easily. Their move date is tied to their closing date, and one way or another, they need to find a way to be out on time.
Moving services are considered essential, but prepare for delays
People selling homes aren’t the only ones in this situation. It also applies to anyone who bought a house or has a strict lease. The Feds have deemed moving an essential service, and generally individual states and municipalities have followed suit. That means you can still rent a moving truck, hire professional movers, arrange for a shipping container, or line up any of the moving services you need.
However, moving — like everything else — looks a lot different than it did pre-coronavirus, and you could face backed-up mover schedules or unexpected delays. Fortunately, large moving companies remain open and are adapting to these new circumstances to help customers move as safely as possible.
We spoke with Allied Van Line and PODS to find out what the new moving landscape looks like and how they’re protecting customers. We also consulted guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Moving and Storage Association so we could relay their advice on what’s recommended for movers during this time.
Decide how you want to move
Off the bat, you’ll have to decide how you want to move. Some methods might prove more challenging than others when it comes to social distancing. Full-service moves are going to involve more contact with others than a DIY or shipping container move where you load up your furniture yourself. Your decision should be based on the traditional moving criteria: How much stuff you have, how far you’re moving, what your budget looks like. But now there’s another factor to consider: What’s the safest way for me?
DIY your move
Movers on a budget facing a local move might opt to do the entire move on their own, using their own vehicle and manpower to save a bundle of cash. Just remember, in the time of social distancing, you won’t be able to call on friends or neighbors for assistance. This is a true do-it-yourself route that cuts out any interactions.
Rent a truck
Call this option, DIY-plus. Truck rental services like U-Haul have responded to the coronavirus outbreak by offering completely contactless pickup. Customers can check-in online, then pick up the freshly disinfected truck (with the keys in it, of course) all without meeting face-to-face.
Use a self-storage container
PODS and other portable self-storage solutions offer contactless dropoff and remote support. You can fill out an online form with all the information about your move, explains PODS community development manager Trent Brock. Instead of knocking on the customer’s door when the POD has arrived, the driver will call the customer to answer any questions via phone. Everything else, including where to drop off the storage pod and when, is gathered from online forms and emails.
Professional moving services are taking extra precautions to limit interactions, explains Ricardo Ramos-Seyffert, marketing manager of Allied Van Lines. “We’re offering virtual survey options,” says Ramos-Seyffer, which includes video chat consultations in lieu of in-person visits to the home. However, keep in mind that movers will need to enter the home at some point to load your belongings, which can make social distancing more difficult.
Kick-off your move and address contingency plans
With a preferred moving method in place, you’ll want to double- and triple-check your plan to stay on top of unexpected delays and changes due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Call to confirm that a company is still providing all services
In her dozen years of real estate industry experience, top-selling agent Kriston Gallop has never dealt with circumstances that change as frequently as they do in the age of coronavirus. The Greensboro, North Carolina agent has helped clients with constantly shifting business hours and delays due to backed-up mover schedules.
She recommends constantly checking in with all parties involved with the move — the van rental, the movers, and the storage unit companies, too. “A lot of people use storage units, and depending on where you are, those are operating on limited hours,” Gallop explains. “They’re reducing the number of people that are able to access their units at one time. Be aware of that.”
On top of confirming the details, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask how the company is adapting during COVID-19, Ramos-Seyffer recommends. “We’re in compliance with all guidelines outlined by the CDC,” he says. “That includes social-distancing while in a customer’s home, frequent hand-washing or use of hand sanitizer by our crews, and use of PPE whenever available.”
Give as much information as you can online via forms, email, and video
If you don’t feel comfortable with in-person consultations, ask for virtual alternatives. Most services — DIY truck rentals and full-service companies alike — are providing online tools or calls to gather information, survey the home, and answer any questions.
Allied, for example, is offering virtual survey options, which are readily available to customers who may feel uncomfortable with a physical survey in the current environment. Instead of entering the home, the company will do a video chat to scope out the move.
Cover your contingency plans
Moving services are generally considered essential across the country, and it’s unlikely that they’ll shut down fully. That being said, you’ll want to prepare for the unexpected cancellation, delay, or hiccup on the moving process.
Ask about the cancellation policy
Check with your moving company to see if they have a flexible cancellation policy in place related to the coronavirus. With so much uncertainty about the future, don’t sign a contract unless your reservation is refundable. Work with companies who are willing to waive any fees for delays or cancellations. If you already made a deposit on a move and had to change plans or cancel, it’s worth asking whether you can get a refund as many companies are being flexible and accommodating in these unique times.
Agree up front on how to handle roadblocks or delays
Most companies have adopted a policy for coronavirus-related delays. PODS and other self-service storage solutions typically offer pay-as-you-go pricing, but they’re loosening it further, explains Brock. Customers can get in touch last minute if they need to extend the use of their PODS, or delay its delivery: “Our customers are only paying for the time that they actually use our container,” Brock says. However, restrictions might apply based on availability in your area. Ask about how your moving company is addressing COVID-19 related delays before you’re faced with a roadblock.
Stay in contact with your moving company for updates
While moving companies are doing whatever they can at this time to ensure smooth service, they don’t know what they don’t know. Unexpected delays in service could crop up, or additional restrictions could mean limited service or operating hours.
Adapt your packing strategy
You can save a few bucks with DIY moving solutions, but when it comes to moving supplies, you can’t be as thrifty as you once were. The priority right now is safety over cost savings.
Don’t use free or recycled boxes
The average three-bedroom home will require between 80-100 boxes to move, but experts recommend you buy these new. “I would be careful about using free and recycled boxes when you’re packing,” Gallop says. “Use ones that are already in your home, or buy new ones.”
These retailers sell boxes, and are still shipping on a regular schedule:
Order your own moving blankets or use household blankets
Brock suggests customers buy new moving blankets or use blankets from their homes to pad furniture instead of renting them. Running low on padding around the house? You can pick up a 6-pack of (unused) moving blankets for $29.49, or a discounted 24-pack for $69.99 from U.S. Cargo Control, which is still shipping regularly.
Move what you can yourself
The more you can move, the less you have to worry about moving professionals in your home. Alternatively, we can’t think of a worse time to strain your back if you’re moving on your own. So, grab these helpful DIY moving tools to stay safe:
- Hand truck: Minimize trips to and from the van with a multi-use dolly. Glide your load of boxes onto the truck instead of struggling to carry two at once.
- Moving straps: Make moving bulky items a breeze with these funny looking body straps. They better distribute the weight of objects up to 700lbs.
- Moving apps: Keep track of what you’ve packed and where you’ve put it with a moving app. It can help you reduce contact with the boxes and movers.
Stage your belongings in the garage to minimize contact
With some planning ahead and clear communication, you can keep unnecessary contact to a minimum. “We encourage [customers] that need assistance loading their containers to do as much as they can in advance, and consider moving items from their home into their garage to limit the number of times the crew they hired needs to actually go into a customer’s home,” Brock says.
Sanitize as you go during your move
CDC guidelines recommend regularly cleaning and disinfecting your home to prevent the spread of coronavirus. “We need to keep the health of the community front and foremost,” says Gallop.
Provide hand soap and towels
Make it as easy as possible for those coming through to sanitize their hands. “If you’re hiring movers, leave hand soap and towels out for them,” says Gallop. “Let them know that they’re welcome to use it. At the very least, leave hand sanitizer out.”
Wear a household mask and ask your movers to do the same
Most states recommend wearing face masks when out in public, and you should plan on wearing them when the movers come. With shortages all over the country, it might not be possible to purchase even the simplest medical mask. However, with a few common household items, you can fashion your own in minutes.
Try the following tutorials based on skillset, equipment, and time:
- If you have no sewing skills — but you do have some bandanas and rubber bands on hand: Go with a CDC’s no-sew Bandana Face Covering.
- If you have no sewing skills — and no rubber bands or bandanas: Go with the CDC’s no-sew Quick T-Shirt Face Covering.
- If you have a needle and thread or sewing machine, plus spare cotton fabric and elastics: Go with this New York Times face-mask tutorial.
Confirm with the moving service that employees will also be wearing protective masks, or plan to make a few extras to keep everyone safe.
Make your own disinfectant if supplies are low
With hand sanitizer and other cleaning products scarce, you can also whip up your own disinfectant and cleaning wipes, which are just as effective as store-bought products. With high-proof spirits, rubbing alcohol, essential oils, and paper towels, you can make a fresh batch of Lysol wipes in minutes at home. Wipe surfaces down, then wait until they dry before considering them safe to touch.
Always maintain a safe distance from your movers
According to the CDC, the primary way COVID-19 spreads is through close human contact. Coughs, sneezes, or droplets make their way from one party to another, potentially spreading the virus. Maintaining the recommended six feet of distance between yourself and the movers minimizes the chance of either party sharing droplets. So, don’t crowd your movers, and clear some floor space to avoid having to cross paths.
If you or a family member is in a high-risk group, delay the move
While you can move safely during COVID-19, your health and safety is paramount. If you’re in a high-risk group or have preexisting conditions, you should see if it’s possible to delay your move altogether. Similarly, if someone in your home is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or was recently in contact with someone with the virus, you should work with your movers and do everything in your power to delay the move so you can quarantine properly.
Header Image Source: (Anna Shvets / Pexels)