Moving On? What to Know Before You Pack Up and Go
Carol Parish is happy for a lot of reasons. First, she sold her lower Westchester home quickly; she and her husband got their asking price; and they plan to settle in Florida, closer to their college-aged daughters.
Now comes the hard part: Moving. The couple has a houseful of furniture and memories to pack and transport. After wading through a pile of unsolicited mailings — “as soon as we sold the house, I was getting mailings and cold calls from movers. There must be some kind of a list that goes out,” she says — Parish narrowed down her list to five companies and asked for estimates. One company never called her back. “It was a little surprising considering they solicited us,” she says.
If you’re planning a move this spring or summer, you’ve got company. Between now and Labor Day, an estimated 36 million Americans will relocate, according to the American Moving and Storage Association, a not-for-profit trade group that represents professional movers.
The No. 1 thing consumers can do to ease the trip is to know with whom you’re dealing, says the association’s John Bisney. “People shop for a mover like they do for a new DVD, and that’s fine if you’re buying a DVD,” Bisney says. “In this case, you are hiring people you don’t know to come into your home, lock up everything you own in a van, and drive it away.”
Parish says of the four bids she considered, one was extremely high. “It didn’t have specifics on the weight that we were moving or the cost of supplies, so I cut them. Then the low bid was so low, I was concerned.”
Bisney says that’s a common concern, and if an estimate seems to good to be true, “it usually is. You’ve really got to read the fine print.”
If you’re using the Web to find a mover, Bisney says to make sure the company has a physical address and local phone number. “The word to the wise, if you are going to shop online, examine the website and the business clearly. Our advice is that a mover should come over, give you an estimate in person and provide it in writing.”
Parish narrowed her search to two local moving companies, one in White Plains and the other in Mount Vernon. Both did thorough, in-home estimates. “The walk-through took over an hour; they looked in every room,” she says. Since the family had some larger, delicate pieces to move, Parish was impressed when one company sent its president, who knew exactly how to handle the fragile freight and gave her a detailed plan on how the movers would pack and ship the pieces.
Her one issue? “It was really hard to research the companies online,” she says. She relied on a Department of Transportation site, www.safersys.org, where, with the company’s DOT information, you can check out reliability and consumer complaints. “Everyone has a horror story with moving and it’s usually people who rant and rage on these sites,” Parish says. “I think it’s rare that people who have had a good experience post their comments so it was hard to really get a sense of how bad or good these companies actually were.”
Bisney says to make use of all the resources at your disposal. You can check his site for reputable movers, www.moving.org, as well as the Better Business Bureau and your local Consumer Affairs office.
Credit: Karen Croke for Lohud.com