Moving Paperwork 101: How to Organize, What to Keep, Who to Contact

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Listen, we are organized people.

At any given moment, our countertops are usually cleared of clutter, our files are neatly kept in labeled file folders, and our medicine cabinets are filled with colorful baskets of bathroom essentials. Organizing is our jam, mostly because we can’t take the stress that comes with living in a state of disorganization.

But recently when Bridget bought a new house and put her old house on the market, she became immediately bombarded with moving paperwork, emails and electronic files that quickly had someone who prides herself on her organization … feeling overwhelmed! All of the documents and information streaming into the mailbox and inbox were so important, yet it seemed like a whirlwind of information was getting lost in the shuffle. Not good.

With that in mind, today we’re diving into:

  • Who you can expect to hear from when you begin to move
  • What paperwork you need to keep tabs on, and
  • A few quick strategies that will help you keep track of your sanity (and those important docs!)

First, we go over the two different methods that helped me, then we get into the details about what you’ll be organizing (and with who!)

The Organization Must-Do’s

Create your official “Moving Binder” for the hard copies of paperwork.

No matter if you’re just moving, just selling, or possibly even both, the paperwork is bound to come streaming in right away. Heck, even when your home hits the multiple listings service (MLS) market or your name is given to a loan company, your address is often shared with businesses in the moving industry so they can start marketing to YOU. Some of these documents you receive in the mail are bogus and won’t really help you, but some coupons or information can be very helpful for your upcoming move. New furniture, carpet cleaners, deals on boxesyou name it and you’ll probably receive some type of paperwork for it. 

That’s why we think it’s important to set up a binder/folder system that will keep all of the hard copies of these important docs safe and together. You should immediately discard any information that is junk, but any paperwork that is important should be filed in this binder right away. We would also recommend adding a spiral or paper in the binder so you can take notes as you go. You can even add an envelope into the binder in order to save your receipts as you make purchases. Having this system in place before the paperwork gets out of hand is essential. Also keeping this binder out of the moving boxes and with you (even on moving day) will ensure you have access to paperwork up until, during, and even right after your move.

Start an official email folder for moving stuff.

Not only will your mailbox outside fill up quickly, so will your inbox! No one likes a cluttered inbox, yet sometimes it’s hard fielding all of these emails when they seem to never stop coming. Your lawyer, realtor and loan agency are going to bombard you with time-sensitive instructions for you to follow in order to move forward in the process. And if these emails get overlooked, you may have a serious problem!

We recommend starting a folder (at least one) in your inbox to start sorting out these important documents. You can always print the really important stuff to add to your binder, but also having the electronic copies of these items accessible and in one spot will be a lifesaver down the road!

But what exactly will you need to sort via email? Allow us to give you the heads up on which documents you’ll probably be receiving so you can have a better understanding of how you can manage your system accordingly.

Who Will be Contacting Me Before My Move?

The professionals that will be filling your inbox most frequently are your realtor, your real estate lawyer, your lender, and the insurance agent (and anyone from those respective teams of people). Although they will all eventually work on your behalf, communication with all of them is crucial for an on-time closing.

The Realtor

Right after the seller accepts your bid on a new house, you will most likely receive important documents from your realtorsuch as:

  • A copy of the home’s signed contract
  • Any correspondence about the property from the seller
  • A scanned copy of the receipt of earnest money
  • A timeline of the next steps (deadlines for the inspection, lender’s approval, home owner’s insurance, and written mortgage commitment)

Most of these documents can be saved and filed in the binder and/or electronic file folder. However, we would definitely suggest printing out the timeline for the upcoming deadlines. It’s imperative you meet the outlined deadlines so your closing isn’t delayed! Having these dates printed out and marked on your calendar will help you do this. We also want to remind you to ask your realtor about any questions you may have throughout the process because they are very familiar with this process and should act as your coach over the next 45-60 days. If your realtor is unsure of the answer, the next person on our list is the next best coach to guide you to your closing.

The Lawyers

Alongside realtor papers, you’ll probably simultaneously receive the following documents from your real estate lawyer and their team:

  • An introduction to the upcoming closing process, the timeline, and the fees associated with the attorney services
  • A request to sign and return a contract to work together throughout this deal
  • A request for you to send over additional information about the property including whether or not this is going to be your full-time home, the correct spelling of all buyers’ names as they will appear on the loan and/or title to the property, your current address, phone number, current marital status and your lender’s contact name/information.
  • Property Appraisal
  • Any negotiations that take place after the inspection with the seller
  • Any inspection problems that have been addressed by the seller (with receipts attached that identify proof of work)
  • Tax escrow information

Yep, it’s a lot! (That’s why you need to organize first!)

These steps need to be completed and returned almost immediately if you feel comfortable moving forward with this law firm. If you don’t, it is time to secure a new attorney immediately. You need this team right away, but you don’t want the time sensitivity of the process to force you to work with someone you aren’t comfortable with.

The Lender

While your lawyers are working closely with the realtor and the seller’s attorney, the lender is busy reviewing your finances in order to eventually approve your home loan. You can’t move forward with the contract on this property until your loan has been “cleared to close”, which is a process that can take up to (and even over!) a month. It’s a lot of stuff to cover, but here’s the information the lender will need over that month:

  • Permission from you to order the property’s appraisal (with fees associated, which is about $300-$500)
  • An itemized list of all of the updated documents he or she needs in order to update your loan and get that “clear to close” completed in time for your closing date. This paperwork will include (but is not limited to)
    • Copies of your 30 days most recent consecutive pay stubs
    • Copies of all of your W2 forms/1099 forms
    • Complete copies of your personal federal tax returns with all schedules/pages
    • Complete copies of your 2 months most recent consecutive bank statements for all assets
    • Copy of retirement funds
    • Copy of your most recent homeowner’s insurance renewal information, if you decide to purchase, non-contingent on the sale/close of your current home
    • Copy of Earnest Money Check
    • Proof of a homeowner’s insurance policy in the new home (needed two weeks prior to closing)
    • Copy of your Photo IDs for the Patriot Act
    • Signed and dated letter of explanation to confirm your intent to occupy the new property as your primary residence, if you are purchasing non-contingent on the sale/close of current home
    • Updated printout/activity of your bank account showing your Earnest Money Check clearing your account

Some of the paperwork you won’t be able to produce until right when the lender needs it (i.e., most recent paystubs, the Earnest Money Check, etc.), but some of this paperwork you probably already needed for the pre-approval process. We would advise you to put all of those documents into your moving binder system so they are easily accessible when your lender asks. This will save you tons of stress and will keep the process running as smoothly as possible.

The Insurance Agent

You’ll also need to provide proof of insurance on the new property around two weeks before your closing date. Therefore, you’re going to be in close contact with your homeowner’s insurance agent to secure this coverage.

You’ll need to send her the MLS information about the house. If you want to be considered for a few discounts, you may need to provide additional information (and proof) of the age of the roof or the home’s mechanicals. Make sure you ask your insurance provider about these opportunities so that you can save as much money as possible on your coverage!


Realtors, lawyers, lenders … oh my! The month before your move is a busy one that comes with a lot of paperwork, emails and new items on your to-do list. It can be overwhelming, even for an organized person like myself, so having a plan before the flood of information starts is key! Also knowing what to look for in your mailbox or inbox will help you get a better sense of how to stay organized and what you can have prepared in advance. The last thing you want is a delayed closing date because you missed a deadline. Use these tips so you avoid that at all costs.

House Hunting While Expecting? Don’t Forget About These Things

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As a mom-to-be, I had one thing in mind when my husband and I were recently house hunting while expecting: a space that was ideal for our growing family. We were no longer just looking for a home that was perfect for both of us, but instead, we had to think about our soon-to-be family of three (or someday even more!).

As if house hunting wasn’t hard enough, the “future family factor” can make the process even more daunting. If you’re expecting, or hope to start a family someday, then you’ll definitely want to keep the factors below in mind when searching for the home of your family’s dreams.

Floor Space

The most obvious and non-negotiable place to start is the size of any prospective home. Will it be able to accommodate you and your partner, along with one or more kids? Ask yourself these questions:

Where are the bedrooms located to one another?

Of, course you want to have enough bedrooms, but that alone isn’t enough. Like someone sketching out the perfect blueprint, you’ll want to consider where the bedrooms are located to one another. It’s preferable to have all the bedrooms on the same floor, so they can easily get to their child’s room at night.

Is there more than one bathroom?

Surprising nobody, people will walk away from incredible arrangements if this single factor is off – and it’s no wonder why. Whether this is your forever home or not, multiple family members getting ready for work and school in one tiny bathroom won’t cut it long-term.

Are stairs going to be a factor for you? (Probably.)

Parents who are city dwellers know how difficult it can be if you live on the third floor of a walk-up building. Even after pregnancy, bringing a stroller, a baby and groceries up and down three flights of stairs is quite the trek! Especially if you’re at the beginning of your family adventure, stairs may be a major factor to consider.

Is there an open floor plan?

These days, open floor plans are the most desirable, as parents can keep an eye on their kids playing while making dinner. Make sure whatever layout you choose is one that works well for you and your kid’s safety.

Where are you gonna store extra stuff?

Kids come with a lot of stuff. Strollers, clothing, toys, sports equipment … is there storage space for all of these things in your potential home? Make sure you have a concrete plan to contain the clutter!

Safety Concerns

Even if there weren’t any kids to consider, safety is a priority when house hunting. Add kids to the mix and you become even that much more aware of potential safety hazards that lurk in a potential property.

Is this home near a busy street?

A busy street can be a potential deterrent for a number of factors. First, it may be pretty noisy which isn’t ideal for sleeping babies, trust us. But (somehow) even more importantly, you don’t want your kids playing in a yard that’s on a street with lots of traffic. Here’s a protip: Google Maps highlights streets by their traffic. The darker the color, the more that’s “happening” there. A double-edged sword, to be sure!

What about a fence?

A fence in the backyard or front yard may be a priority for some expanding families, as it allows kids to roam the patio without wandering off too far. If there isn’t a fence (and you want one), budget in the cost of adding one when checking out potential properties.

Can kids play in the neighborhood?

When house hunting, you’ll want to get a feel for the neighborhood. If kids are out riding their bikes and playing in the streets, it may be a kid-friendly spot where your future kiddos can hang with their neighbors. If you want to get a feel for the crime rate, there are definitely handy websites that show you the police blotter for any given area. Your notes shouldn’t begin and end at the front door!

How far are you from your personal doctor or an urgent care/hospital location?

You know that scene in movies where a nervous husband carts his “in-labor-and-about-to-burst” wife into the car before zooming through traffic? Well, planning out where the hospital is not a one-and-done trick. While we hope you won’t be using this route often, make sure where your health insurance is accepted and where you live aren’t majorly out of sync. Speaking of this tip …

Location

Location, location, location. It’s always the number one factor when buying a home of any kind. But throw a kid or two into the mix and where you live is more important than the view.

What’s the school district like?

We’ve chatted all about the importance of house hunting with a school district in mind on the HireAHelper blog before, and we maintain this shouldn’t be overlooked. Do your research, look into the numbers, and make sure you’re in a school district where your children can thrive!

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How long does it take to get to school?

When my husband was a kid, he had to take a 30-minute bus ride to the other side of town for school every single day. If you don’t think about this before buying, trust us, you will afterward. Can your child walk to school? Can you drop them off on the way to work? Is the bus ride manageable? Even if your kid is far from their first words, this is a crucial variable to think about when searching for your perfect home.

Are there other families in your neighborhood?

When narrowing down locations, it may be beneficial to take a stroll through the neighborhood on a weekend afternoon. Are there young families at the park? Are the kids a lot older? Is the demographic mostly older people without families? Do some research online (like with this app) and get a feel for the demographics of the neighborhood to see if your future family will fit right in. It helps to have a helping hand and a night out once and awhile!

Where’s the closest park/library/swimming pool?

When you’re a parent, you want to keep your kids entertained to prevent anyone from saying the b-word (no, “bored”). Having parks, libraries, swimming pools and other fun activities nearby is always a good idea. Nobody wants to have to make a field trip out of every excursion.


Starting a family. Buying a home. These are big milestones for anyone! But combining these two life events? You’ve got the recipe for a lot of important decision-making. Our advice is to be thoughtful, consider every angle, and think about your life 5, 10, or even 25 years from now. That way, you’ll be certain you’re making the best choice for you and your future family no matter what it looks like.

What to Do When Movers Break, Steal or Won’t Give Back Your Stuff

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At HireAHelper, we hear other people’s stories of bad movers all the time.

Whether these stories come to us through emails or from customers calling us after a moving company has wronged them, these same cries come up time and again: “All my stuff is missing,” or “All my stuff is damaged,” or even worse, “My movers are holding my stuff for ransom!”

There’s one word we always hear from these customers-turned-victims: “helpless”.

In these situations, it’s painfully clear: these movers aren’t playing by the rules. But what recourse do you actually have when your movers refuse to pay for damages, replace missing items, or opt to not deliver your stuff unless you fork over another thousand bucks?

Unprofessional movers get away with a lot of crap. That’s the unfortunate truth. But if you believe your movers have acted illegally and they aren’t taking responsibility, there are ways to fight back.

Here are four options you should immediately explore.

Alert your state’s Consumer Affairs Division.

Not only can investigators help you resolve your complaint about broken items or track down your stuff – or your movers – but they may also work with law enforcement authorities in getting unlicensed, unethical and illegal movers off the streets, just as they have in New Jersey. From New Jersey’s official website:

“Horror stories about predatory movers are all too common. By its very nature, the moving industry touches the lives of consumer when they are vulnerable and when they must rely on strangers to transport their valued possessions,” Acting Attorney General Hoffman said. “These situations create the potential for abuse. We are enforcing New Jersey’s licensing laws in order to protect consumers and, just as importantly, to ensure a level playing field for New Jersey’s many honest and licensed moving companies.”

Movers must usually be licensed with the state. (Here’s a list to check your’s.) If they are doing moves across state lines, they must additionally be licensed by the federal government. Cross-checking this with your Consumer Affairs Division is a quick way to begin the resolution process. Get ahold of Consumer Affairs Division in your state via this directory, which is a government-run database with the corresponding phone number, website and/or email address of your local division’s office.

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If this was an interstate move, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) can also get involved. How they can help, along with the info and links you need, can be found on their Protect Your Move page. Their toll-free hotline is 1-888-368-7238.

Call your local police.

In the past, there was not much local law enforcement could do in disputes between moving companies and customers due to the fact such disputes are civil and not yet criminal matters. But recent changes in some states’ laws have given those local authorities the power to mediate; In particular, some laws now intervene when a moving company is sitting outside a customer’s home demanding more money before they unload.

Just this year, Arizona passed House Bill 2145which in Arizona requires moving companies to unload customers’ belongings in case of a dispute regarding payment on an intrastate move. We’d hope that this would be standard lawful procedure across the country, but sadly not all states are up to speed on this loophole.

But regardless of civil versus criminal matters, a mover being properly licensed is something the police can act on. Knowledge is power – but only if it is used! 

Get in touch with MoveRescue.

This organization can assist you by obtaining information on your move, advising you as to your options and, in some hostage situations, working with the moving company to get your goods released. Plus, they’re vetted by United and Mayflower, two of the larger Full-Service moving companies in the industry. 

From their website:

Approximately 1.6 million Americans hire interstate household goods movers each year. Unfortunately, a reported 3,000 cases of possible mover fraud occur annually. Many of these cases involve criminals who offer low estimates and then hold customers’ possessions hostage in undisclosed warehouses, demand thousands of dollars in additional payments and threaten auction. MoveRescue is devoted to ending this problem by seeing that moving companies abide by the federal consumer protection regulations.

Move Rescue does offer a disclaimer that they cannot offer immediate and complete assistance to everyone who calls. Call them anyway: 800-832-1773.

Contact your local news.

More often than not, whenever we do hear of a customer finally getting their belongings delivered it was because they sought the help of a local news station. In this case, the victim had refused to pay her movers what amounted to extortion, and the movers drove off with her stuff. The victim then contacted a local news station and their consumer reporter got the recovery ball rolling by calling the FMCSA, who got right to work. From WFTV9:

“Every day I don’t have my stuff, I can’t work, it’s put me farther and farther behind,” said Smith as she fought back tears.

Todd Ulrich contacted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that oversees interstate moves.

After federal regulators reviewed the company’s estimates, and the final bill, the agency took action. It ordered the company to honor the $1,200 estimate and return her belongings or face a possible $10,000 fine.

“They felt there was negligence, and generally they were out of compliance,” said Smith

A week later the mover released the storage unit address and key.

Smith took a huge step toward starting her new life in Winter Park.

“I don’t believe I would have gotten here this quickly without your intervention, so I appreciate it,” she said.

Understand that the process took weeks, not minutes. If you find yourself the victim of a bad bunch of movers, you may also need weeks, or even months, to get the situation resolved. So before you find yourself a victim, protect yourself by doing your homework on any moving company you contact. This list of recommendations by the Illinois Movers’ and Warehousemen’s Association covers everything you need to know and do before you hire a mover.

Or to likely avoid any of this …

It’s harder to tend to these issues after they’ve already happened, which is why we built HireAHelper around holding movers accountable from the get-go; movers on our national database live and die by their reviews. We also work seven days a week to take care of any potential claims, or if something drastic happens, to find replacement movers as soon as possible (often for the same day).

Small claims court, calling the police or filing reports take a long time. Booking a vetted mover through a marketplace is much safer because even if something goes wrong, we work with you to fix it.

We believe it’s important to keep movers accountable, so you don’t have to.

As for opting to work directly with moving companies, you can help others from falling victim to the same irresponsible, illegal movers by writing an online review (which might more accurately be called an online warning), informing the Better Business Bureau of your situation, and filing a complaint with your state authorities as well as the FMCSA. These governmental agencies don’t usually have the resources to go after every moving company that pulls a fast one (sad but true), but if the complaints on a company start piling up there’s a chance that company will have the hammer of the law come down on them.

And that’s really all we want.

That, and getting all our stuff back, undamaged, on time and at cost. That shouldn’t be too much to ask.


Illustrations by Nicole Miles

The Important Things to Take Pictures of While Moving (and Why)

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Getting ready for the big move? Don’t pack that camera away just yet!

Besides getting those great social media shots (“I’m driving a U-Haul, everybody get off the road!”), taking pictures before, during and after your move can help protect your stuff – not to mention your wallet.

The main reason for taking pictures when you move might be obvious, but it is worth iterating. No matter how skilled, experienced and careful your movers are, accidents do occasionally happen. And if you don’t prepare, you may not be properly reimbursed for damage that occurs.

So before your movers show up, go around and take pictures of anything and everything you deem valuable. This means furniture, electronics, breakables and anything else you think would be difficult and/or expensive to repair or replace. Then when your move is complete and you find that something has been damaged, you will have proof that the item was in fact damaged in transit.

 

What Moving Insurance Actually Does

(And why it might not help you!)

This also means taking pictures of existing damage: a scratch on your kitchen table, a dent in your dryer, or a small crack in the corner of your mirror. Why? Because if you suddenly find a bigger scratch, a deeper dent or a longer crack, your movers can say “That was already there.” “Yes, but it’s much worse now!” you will cry. And you will lose.

Knowing all that, here are some crucial tips for everything you’ll especially need to take pictures of.

Take photos of your cleaned-out apartment.

Believe it or not, there are some crafty landlords out there who would love to pocket your security deposit. Taking pictures of your old place before you leave for good can help you defend yourself against false claims of damage. And if you did damage something? Take a picture of that too, so that same unscrupulous landlord can’t charge you hundreds of dollars for fixing a couple of nail holes.

Protip: Take pictures of the bathroom and the shower. Yours truly got nailed for leaving the toilet “a filthy disgusting mess” after moving out of his Boulder, CO apartment, even though it was sparkling and sterile when I locked the door for the last time. I don’t even want to know.

Likewise, take pictures of your new place.

Again, don’t just photograph any existing damage you may find. Photograph everything! Why? Because walls, doors and light fixtures (and door jambs and floors and ceilings) can suffer damage during the move-in process. Your movers might be a great bunch of professionals, but you probably won’t want to have to pay for the gash they accidentally put in the kitchen floor.

Protip: Also take pictures of your rental truck! Get shots of any existing damage, inside and out, as well as the general condition of the interior of the cab and the back where all your stuff will be going – especially if these areas are less than pristine.

Take a picture of the back of your TV, for reference.

You know all those dusty wires back there? The ones to your surround sound system and your Blu-Ray player and your four different gaming consoles? It’s all going to have to be disconnected (and, probably, untangled). Having a photo of which wires go where can save a lot of time and aggravation when you are setting up your system at your new home.

Protip: Snapping a pic of the make, model and serial number of each of your electronic components can be a huge help in case you have to track something down – or, if something goes missing, to confirm that component’s age and value.

Take pictures of large, especially valuable or just unusual items.

This isn’t to highlight damage, but it’s simply a good idea to have pictures of things, from furniture to expensive décor to items that we’d rather not have to try to describe. Because if something goes missing, a picture helps A LOT in finding it. (Use your inventory sheets, people!)

True Story: A week or so after delivering a long-distance shipment we’d taken into our warehouse, I got a call from the customer. “I’m missing a chair,” she told me.

This was not very helpful.

We had literally hundreds of chairs on the 30-foot-high racks in our warehouse. Knowing that this chair was upholstered with a flowery fabric was only slightly better, and as the woman lived up in the mountains two hours away. She wasn’t about to come down and help me find the right one. “Let me fax you a picture of the chair,” she said. (Yes, this was a few years ago.) And even though the picture was black and white and a little blurry, I recognized it right away, saving me hours of searching during the already-hectic summer season and saving the customer from days, if not weeks, of inconvenience and uncertainty. (Not to mention a two-hour drive to our warehouse.)

Take photos of the water, electricity, and gas meters.

Do this both at your old place before you leave, then at your new one before you move in. Why? To protect against being charged wrongly for utilities. Not that the utility companies are out to scam you, but it’s quite common for them to charge based on usage estimates (which saves time and money on meter readers). If their baseline reading is off, then so is your estimated usage. There may also be a lag – or an overlap! – between customer accounts. Bottom line is, there are plenty of ways you can end up being charged for another resident’s utility usage. Taking photos of your meters can help immensely if such a situation comes your way.

Take a video of your electronics in action.

On their inventory sheets, movers describe anything electric, electronic or mechanical using the acronym “MCU” – mechanical condition unknown. This means they don’t know if something works. Which also means you can’t prove something was rendered inoperable during your move. Without proof, it’ll be difficult to get reimbursed for the flat screen that has suddenly gone to plasma heaven.

To guard against this, videotape your TV, stereo, air hockey table, pinball machine, lava lamp, or whatever to show that these things were indeed working properly before the movers showed up. 

And ALWAYS timestamp your photos!

Imagine having pictures showing that you left your old place in perfect condition, but then having your old landlord claim that you took them before you did the damage he is trying to charge you for. Or owning a picture of the damage the movers did to your new place, only to have them say “No, that was like that before we showed up.”

How do you answer that?

There are a few ways.

  • Set your camera so the time and date show up on your photos.
  • Email your photos to yourself as soon as you take them.
  • Make sure your time and date is correct on your phone’s camera roll.
  • Even print out the photos you take and snail-mail them to yourself.

Protip: It may be easy for someone to claim that you simply changed the time/date setting on your camera before you snapped those incriminatory photos. So keep them on your memory card, sandwiched in between other pictures you took along the moving process – or even in between photos from before and after the process – to prove your timeline if need be. Most people are reasonable.

Are we being too cautious?

After all, the majority of moves – and the vast majority of HireAHelper moves – are completed without a hitch. But remember: accidents happen. Taking pictures can save you a ton of time and aggravation – not to mention a bit of cash – if something does go wrong.

7 Embarrassing Lessons I Learned While Moving People

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Learning to be a good mover is not something you can get from a book. Like riding a bike, playing the piano and getting your black belt – like so many things, really – we all have to learn how to move stuff by going out to the job and getting to it.

And as with just about anything, it involves making mistakes.

This month I want to share with you seven lessons I learned during my earliest days on the job. Lessons learned both through the mistakes of others and through my own errors. They made me feel stupid and embarrassed, but nevertheless taught me things I needed to know if I wanted to stay on in this business.

#1. The nicer the furniture, the more likely you’ll damage it.

This isn’t some sort of karmic law. This is pure woodworking and physics.

The finest dressers and desks have drawers that slide out nice and smoothly – meaning you only need to tip that piece so far before gravity grabs hold of those drawers and start pulling them out and onto the floor. Quality furniture also (usually) means good, solid wood. And it’s heavy. Drawers will gain speed fast and hit the floor hard. Armoire doors, once they start to swing open, can come down so hard they put cracks in themselves; if they don’t bang against the floor, they can end up playing “irresistible force meets immovable object” with their hinges.

Yes, I’ve seen all this firsthand. A lot of it happened on a local move during my first week as a mover. I don’t know about the other guys on that crew, but that was the first and last time I let something like that happen.

Protip: Pad-wrapping items like dressers and armoires can obviously keep all those drawers and doors in place. So can a layer of shrink wrap. But if you prefer not to pad-wrap or shrink wrap those big pieces until you get them out the front door another option is using those big movers’ rubber bands, which are easy to put on, easy to adjust (by knotting up and tying off any slack) and totally economical since you can use them for years.

Extra advice: Gravity works on all kinds of furniture, not just the most expensive stuff!

#2. Sitting in the passenger seat does not mean you get to take a break from helping.

Unfortunately, one guy I worked with didn’t seem to understand this. “Watch that side,” I told him as I began backing half-blind into a slot between two other box trucks. “Aw-right,” he said, glancing lazily at the side view mirror before letting his eyes glaze back over.

I suppose it was my fault. I shouldn’t have taken it for granted that he was going to keep watching that side for me and warn me when I was about to sideswipe the truck parked on his side. Which, of course, he didn’t. And he didn’t get socked with a bill for the damage either.

Protip: This “help your driver” rule is always in effect on the road, because so are blind spots. When your driver is pulling up to the curb along a tree-lined residential street, pay attention not only to how close the tires are getting to the curb, but also how close the top of the truck might be coming to any big fat tree branches. Trust me, tree branches can do some serious damage.

#3. Don’t blindly trust a dog or its owner.

“He’s real friendly,” the customer with the mixed-breed said. “But I’ll put him out back so he doesn’t get in your way.” That seemed fair enough to all of us.

He was a quiet pup, actually, and after a while, I’d totally forgotten about him. I figure so did one of the other guys by the time he went out back to take care of the patio chairs. From the living room was where I heard the barking and the shouting, and I was walking through the kitchen when my fellow mover busted through the back door, cussing and bleeding in three places.

Protip: Quiet dogs are still dogs. With teeth.

#4. If you put things out of the way, remember where you put them.

After moving non-stop for six hours, our three-man crew was finally done with the unload. All we had to do was have the customer sign off on the inventory sheets.

“Looks like we’re missing something, fellas,” he said, showing us the lone unchecked box on his bingo sheet.

On the inventory, it just said “screw box” – which was exactly what I wanted to do. But the four of us – the crew plus the customer – spent the next half an hour looking for a screw box, not sure what one was even supposed to look like. Walking through the garage a fourth time, I looked over at the customer’s big old rolling tool chest and the sliding compartment doors at the bottom. Inside, to everyone’s relief, was a small PBO half-filled with nuts and bolts and washers and flanges and… yup. Screws.

Protip: Keep sticky notes and a marker in your pocket for anything that needs special denotation. That way, an out of the way item will be clearly visible and explained. A lot can be forgotten during a five-hour move, trust me.

#5. Pressboards can’t really be pressed.

During my first week as a mover, I was introduced to a pressboard entertainment unit in the customer’s living room. It held a big TV, stereo equipment, a VCR (this was 1996). When we got it cleared off and picked it up, it immediately started to wobble. I could feel the thing getting progressively looser as the lead guy and I eased it as best we could down the apartment building’s stairwell.

Out on the truck, the lead guy pulled out something called a ratchet strap. There I learned that when you introduce a ratchet strap to a piece of pressboard furniture, the ratchet strap will waste no time crushing that piece of pressboard furniture to pieces.

Protip: When confronted with a piece of pressboard furniture, give the customer two choices: a piece of paper called a Pressboard (Particle Board) Waiver that releases the moving company from liability for damage to a piece of furniture that shouldn’t be moved, or a piece of paper that says “FREE”. Read this discussion on MovingScam.com for more on particle/pressboard waivers.

#6. You know that the name is painted on the side of the truck, right?

One day, one of my fellow crew guys and I were asked to go help another van line agency handle a job in Manhattan. My buddy and I sat in the cramped space behind them, our knees pinned against our chests for the 90-minute ride into the city.

Granted, driving in Manhattan can suck. Driving a 26’ box truck around Manhattan is brutal. It takes patience. It takes nerves of steel. Our driver for the day had neither.

At one point there were three lanes being squeezed into two. New Yorkers generally have a grasp of the concept of merging though evidently, they don’t seem to like it. And, well, the driver let everybody on that ride know from out the window.

Protip: Most people on the road can both hear you AND read the name on the side of your truck.

#7. Shrink wrap comes in rolls, but you can’t reroll it.

“Hand me that shrink wrap, Kevin,” my buddy said from the back door of the box truck. Hands full (with what I don’t remember) I gave the shrink wrap at my feet a push with my boot and sent it rolling across the floor of the truck toward my buddy – and the boss, who had just materialized out of nowhere.

“Don’t EVER do that!” he barked in his usual intimidating way.” You know how much a roll of that stuff costs? You get one little rock in that plastic and the entire roll is shot! Where’s your head?!”

I wouldn’t say the whole entire roll would be shot. I wouldn’t say anything – not to that guy’s face. But he was right. Get even a small nick or cut or bit of debris in that plastic and it’ll drive you nuts the way it comes apart next time you try to use it. Money down the drain.

Protip: When someone asks you to hand them the shrink wrap, do just that.

Got any of your own lessons to share?

We know some of you have been around a while – long enough to have some good stories of your own about the hard lessons you’ve learned. We’d love for you to share them, so all of us can learn the easy way what you guys have learned the hard way.

Which brings me to one final tip.

Admit your mistakes. Spell them out to your team when they happen. This way you’ll be helping people avoid doing the same thing down the road.


Illustrations by Marlowe Dobbe

The Perils of Driving Your Truck Uninsured

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In the heat of the summer rush or in a pinch, have you ever had one of your guys drive when they weren’t supposed to? We don’t want you to answer that – but think about it. Were you nervous they might get into an accident? Or even just get pulled over? How relieved were you when you saw them pull safely back into the yard?

If you’ve ever had to let one of your guys drive down the road and around the corner, or if you one day find yourself stuck without a driver and feel like tempting fate, we want to share the story of Seattle’s Can’t Stop Moving who, true to their name, didn’t let Washington’s driving regulations slow them down.

On the road, they had no evident issues. But it was a routine inspection by the state that put the brakes on them, fining them $51,900 for the violations, which were as follows: Drivers without medical certification, drivers with suspended licenses and trucks that hadn’t been regularly inspected. The guys operating Can’t Stop Moving’s trucks may have been extremely safe drivers. Nevertheless, their crimes were uncovered. 

You movers out there all have your own unique set of circumstances. You know what you can and can’t do. And we all know how crazy things get in the summer.

For all practical purposes, being safe on the road is what counts.

But for the state, following the rules is just as important. Just ask Can’t Stop Moving.

Inventory Sheets Legally Keep You From Losing Your Stuff on a Move. Here’s How to Use Them

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Among the many pieces of paperwork that a full-service mover will ask you to sign is a piece of paper called a “Household Goods Descriptive Inventory”. It’s more commonly known as an Inventory Sheet, and it’s basically an itemized list of everything the movers are transporting for you, from your furniture to your boxes to every last golf club, garden tool and garbage can in the shed.

We know, you hardly have time to search for a coffee filter, let alone make a list of every single thing you own. But why is writing all that stuff down so important before the movers haul it away?

You Probably Want Your Stuff Back

On move day, before the rest of the crew starts carrying your stuff out the door, the lead person or someone else who knows the drill will be going around putting numbered stickers on everything and writing a description of each item on the corresponding numbered line on the “IS”. So if you make one, you’ll get a copy of that inventory sheet – or more likely several inventory sheets – and when your stuff is delivered you’ll check off each numbered item as it comes off the truck. Armed with your inventory sheets, you can make sure everything is there.

Here’s what happens on a move with completed paperwork.

Example #1: Your movers have emptied the truck, everything is moved in and accounted for according to the inventories. You and the mover both sign each IS as documentation that all items have been received.

Example #2: Once the movers have emptied the truck, you find that one item on your inventory sheets has not been checked off. You and your movers search high and low for the item (because you both want to find it!), but it is nowhere to be found. Near the bottom of the IS you will write very clearly which item is missing, then you and the mover both sign off on the paperwork. (Make sure to keep a copy!) This is your documentation for filing a claim for your missing item.

Inventory Sheets Also Keep Track of the Condition of Your Stuff

Nobody wants to end up with a scratched and dinged up dining room table. Likewise, your movers don’t want to be held responsible for any scratches and dings that were already in that table. A special column on the inventory sheet, where your movers can record any existing damage, serves as a safeguard for both of you.

Example #1: If your dining room table is all scratched up upon delivery, but those scratches are documented on the inventory sheet as already existing when the movers came to move you, you cannot hold your mover falsely accountable.

Example #2: If there is any discrepancy between the condition of your dining room table as recorded on the IS with the condition of that table when it gets delivered, you’ll have the legal evidence and documentation you need to get reimbursed for the damage. Describe clearly the new damage in the “Remarks/Exceptions” box, then take pictures of the damage as further proof. (These pictures can also help your moving company determine whether to repair or replace the item.)

It’s Important to Prepare Ahead of Your Move

It’s hardly practical to follow your mover around to witness every notation they make on every inventory sheet and to check every box, every piece of furniture and every loose item in your garage. Go ahead and try if you like, but I bet you’ll drive both yourself and your mover crazy.

Instead, be proactive before the move. On the day of your relocation, check your furniture, your appliances, your bookcases and your bicycle. The actual paper itself is pretty straight forward: Just plainly denote any significant scratches, gouges and dings. Then point them out to your inventory taker. Seeing how you are paying attention, they’ll be inclined to do more of the same.

On packing: If you’re doing your own packing, keep track of how many boxes you have. Number them as you label them with what is inside. Make a rough list of your boxes if you like, noting what size or kind each box is. Such a list may not amount to a legal document but you can use it to make sure your mover has the same number of boxes listed on their official inventory sheets.

Finally, familiarize yourself with a typical IS, including the most common abbreviations movers use when taking inventory:

  • PBO – a box that was packed by the owner, i.e., you
  • CP – a box that was packed by the mover, i.e., the carrier
  • MCU – Mechanical Condition Unknown, to prevent false claims by the customer that something “was working before I moved.”

For a good example, take a good look at this standard Household Goods Descriptive Inventory form:

The inventory sheet is your best (and perhaps only) friend if something gets lost or damaged. Make sure you are well-acquainted – both before and after your mover fills it out – before it’s finally time to sign off at the bottom.

What Moving Insurance Actually Does (and Why It Might Not Help You)

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So you’re moving and you’re worried about your stuff arriving dented, broken, shattered and splintered… you’re definitely not alone. But you’re also not sure what kind of insurance to get, right? You’re still in good company.

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Save Green/Go Green: 5 Moving Hacks That Do Both

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Ah, St. Patrick’s Day! A time for silly green sweaters and spilling green beer on ourselves!

What’s that? You’re too busy moving to a new apartment to get your Irish on? Well take heart, lads and lassies, you can still celebrate St. Paddy’s! With these five tips for saving some green on your move while being greener along the way, you’ll be drinking in the An t-áadh na n Gael more than any of your fellow muckers heading out on the lash for a craic.

Anyway, you get the idea.

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