A change of scenery

The kids have finally flown the nest, and you’re looking for a home that’s easier to manage, financially and physically. Or perhaps retirement has given you the freedom to spread your wings and move to your dream location — in Canada or out of country.

Whatever the scenario, a change of home means making a move — and as anyone who has ever uprooted themselves will attest, moving can be a stressful business. But careful planning will reduce the chances of anything going wrong. And Murphy’s Law does apply — who hasn’t heard horror stories of lost or damaged furniture, of delays… and perhaps worst of all, unexpected expenses?

There’s a lot more to moving than simply throwing your belongings into a few packing cases before shipping them off to your new home. While moving means the excitement of a different home and neighbourhood, new friends, a fresh lifestyle and a second career after retirement, it can also be a time fraught with uncertainty and anxiety. Chances are your move will contain all these elements. What’s important is that you recognize these feelings — good and bad — and deal with them as they arise. Be more understanding with spouses and family members, anderhaps most important of all… don’t rush things.

Too much planning is never enough
The key to a smooth move is finding a van line you can trust. A reputable company will provide a free quote (avoid those who want payment for this service). And don’t settle for an “uninspected” estimate. If a company wants to give you a quote based solely upon your destination and your “guesstimate” of the weight of your belongings, strike them off your list.

Remember: Estimates are based upon a number of criteria, including the weight of your shipment plus charges for extra services such as packing, insurance, storage and distance travelled. Carefully consider all the extras you need — and those you definitely don’t want — before beginning your search. Not only will it save time and money, but it will mean you’re better prepared to refuse any extras reps may try foisting on you.

The best way to obtain an accurate estimate is to have a company perform an in-home, no-cost, no-obligation inventory. Only if you already have more than one visual quote should you consider getting further quotes without an inspection. Fax copies of your master quote to other movers, including weight, destination, packing, amount of full replacement transit protection and any third party services such as appliance disconnection, reconnection, automobile shipping or storage.

Before signing on the dotted line
Before committing yourself to a moving company, satisfy yourself on the following — How do estimates compare? The lowest may not necessarily be the best, particularly if it doesn’t include the extras you need.

  • Does the estimate cover the unexpected, such as extra travel time, negotiating stairs, narrow doorways, inclement weather or unexpected delay during loading or unloading?

  • Can your mover provide authentic references from satisfied customers?

  • Is the estimate binding? Non-binding estimates are only ballpark figures, not a legal contract. Be sure your estimate commits the mover to honour a negotiated price.

  • Will the mover agree to a “best-price estimate?” If so, that amount will be considered the ceiling. If the final weight of your belongings is less than expected, the fee will be lowered accordingly.

  • Who’s financially responsible for breakages? Any extra insurance you take out should cover this eventuality if it’s not already covered by the mover. Full replacement coverage is a must.

  • Are packing materials included? If not, be sure to ask the cost. It’s not unheard of for companies to charge an arm and a leg for extra materials such as tape and foam — things you had expected to be included.

  • Was a written commitment obtained, ensuring the mover will be at the right place at the right time? A professional mover will give a target date, an important consideration if making a long-distance move.
  • Survival tactics: Check your list, and check it twice
    To help make your move as painless as possible, following is a week-by-week list of items to deal with once you’ve chosen a moving company.

    Moving-day minus four weeks:

    • Make a thorough tour of your home, not forgetting the attic, garage and those tucked-away basement corners you rarely visit. List exactly what goes with you and unwanted items. Be ruthless if you haven’t used something — get rid of it. You can make a donation to a local charity or hold a garage/yard sale.

    • Use up frozen and staple food and buy only groceries needed up to moving day.

    • Arrange the transfer of important records, banking documents and accounts. Close local charge accounts and clear safe deposit boxes.

  • Obtain referrals and introductions from your doctor, dentist, lawyer and accountant to their counterparts in your new location.

  • If necessary, make hotel and travel reservations.
  • Moving-day minus three weeks:

    • Return library books and videos, and get that lawnmower back from the neighbour — as well as any keys they have.

    • Make travel arrangements for pets, including kennels. Ask your vet about vaccinations, sedation, etc.

    • Dispose of flammables and liquids such as paint, solvents, cleaning fluids, insecticides.

  • Notify your post office and other institutions of your change of address. Send out change of address cards to trades-people, friends and even relatives. Also inform utility companies of when they should cut off hydro, water, phones etc.
  • Moving-day minus two weeks:

    • Begin packing — do a second cut on items you really don’t need.

    • Make a floor plan of your new home, indicating where furniture will go.

    • Have a service firm prepare major appliances for moving.

    Moving-day minus one week:

    • Drain water from hoses, and oil/fuel from machinery.

  • Defrost and wipe dry fridge and freezer.

  • Take down curtains and rods, shelving and other permanently attached items that were not part of the sale or rental agreement.

  • Do a thorough house cleaning. You’ll feel guilty if you leave a mess for the new tenants.

  • Apply a light application of wax to furniture for protection.

  • Have your vehicle(s) serviced and readied for the trip.

  • Pack a “survival” bag containing personal items needed during the journey. Find a safe place to carry valuable documents, currency, jewellery, irreplaceable mementoes, etc.