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10 Tips for Hiring the Right Mover

October 9, 2014 | By

Buying your first home can often be a coming-of-age moment, including the process of actually moving in. By now, you’ve probably accumulated too much stuff to get the job done in a couple of packed car trips. And you’ve called in too many favors to lure your friends with more pizza and beer.

For many first-time homebuyers, it’s time to call in the experts. But don’t think clicking on the first professional moving company you find will translate into a worry-free moving experience. Do your research, because the moving and storage industry is one of the most complained about businesses, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). What could go wrong?

Movers collecting payment upfront but never showing or companies holding goods hostage until you renegotiate the “delivery fee” — these are just some of the issues reported to the BBB. Hire a company like that and you stand to lose a lot more than your peace of mind.

So how can you find a reliable mover that will deliver as promised? Here are 10 tips from the pros to get you started:

  1. Keep your move the ‘now’ priority—Perhaps you’re moving to a bigger space, you’re relocating for a new job or you’re simply ready for a change. Whatever the reason for your move, don’t let the stress or excitement distract you. “Not keeping your eye on the ball can put your move at risk,” advises Linda Bauer Darr, president and CEO of The American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA), the national trade association for the professional moving industry.
  1. Start with strong candidates—Word-of-mouth referrals are a good starting point for finding reliable movers, but you may opt to search online or use the Yellow Pages. Regardless of how you find movers, check their credentials with the BBB and ask for referrals in your area. Additionally, AMSA lists thousands of pre-screened “ProMovers” on its website.
  1. Meet in-person—Insist movers meet with you at your home to provide their estimates. This lets the mover ask questions you may not have considered—like if larger pieces will fit up the stairs of your new building—and it gives you the opportunity to ask questions too.
  1. Get at least three estimates—It’s a good idea to meet with and compare estimates from at least three moving companies. Also, be sure to ask each mover for all of the names they are doing business under in your area. It’s not uncommon for moving companies to advertise under different names and you could unknowingly be comparing bids from the same company.
  1. Ask about extra fees—Some movers may ask for a “good faith” deposit to hold a date (especially during the busy summer season), but be wary of carriers seeking large down payments, or payment in advance for any reason. Movers may charge extra for stairs or long driveways, so be sure to fully describe your new location.
  1. Understand liability—”Full-value protection” must be offered as an option in interstate (moving from one state to another). Should you opt out of full coverage to lower the cost of your move (a typical savings of $200), you’ll be provided with minimal coverage that reimburses at $0.60/pound. So if your 20-pound plasma TV is broken, you’ll receive $12.
  1. Ask questions—If you don’t understand something, ask the mover to explain it. “The moving business has its own terminology and can be complex,” Darr says. “If you aren’t satisfied with the answers to your questions or if the mover hesitates when you ask for clarification, talk to another carrier.”
  1. Get it in writing—Make sure all agreements between you and your mover are in writing, and get a copy of everything you sign, especially the bill of lading (legal document that lists what’s being moved, by whom, its destination, etc.).
  1. Value reputation—When you’re ready to choose your mover, the BBB recommends weighing reliability and customer service, not just price, in your final decision.
  1. Know your rights—Two online brochures from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (which regulates interstate carriers) can help you understand your rights and responsibilities: Ready to Move? and Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move. In fact, interstate carriers are required by law to provide you with these documents—so it may be a red flag if they don’t. For information specific to in-state movers, contact state moving associations or state consumer affairs offices.

Ready, Set, Go

Want to hire movers? Research them first.

On moving day, be present and be patient. Packing and moving is labor intensive and during prime moving months (May – September) can be a sweaty job! There will be many questions and details to think through, so it helps to have an organized to-do list (some movers will supply you with one). And, of course, pets and kids should not be underfoot.

Before the truck leaves, write down the driver’s full name, ID, and truck number and make sure the driver and moving company have your cell contact number(s) in case there are delivery schedule changes. And don’t forget to keep some things off the moving truck and in your possession—take valuables like cash, coins, jewelry, photographs, and important papers with you.

Now relax! It’s time to switch gears—and make settling in your new priority.

Laura Lang Haverty is a senior writer with Fannie Mae and editor-in-chief of Housing Industry Forum, a sister Fannie Mae publication.

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