- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 16, 2004

Although the thought of moving into a new house is exciting, the moving process is often fraught with stress — endless lists of things to do and not enough time to pack. It’s no fun opening a box of broken dishes or realizing that the

moving van won’t accommodate your couch. Millions of people move each year and find themselves wishing they had done things differently.

Preparing to move takes considerable planning, whether you’re moving across town or across the country. Though there are similarities in planning short- and long-distance moves, there also are major differences to consider.

Just because you have moved from Fort Washington to Fairfax before doesn’t mean you can follow the same steps when it comes time to move from Fairfax to Atlanta.

The American Moving and Storage Association, headquartered in Alexandria, says moving is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life.

Planning and organization are essential to a worry-free move.

“The biggest mistake people make is not planning enough ahead,” says David Spartman of the AMSA.

Your moving timetable might hinge on the purchase of a home. If you’re not moving far, shopping for a new house means finding a Realtor and looking at homes for sale that meet your requirements.

However, long-distance house hunting requires more work. Real estate professionals suggest interviewing prospective Realtors to find out how much they know about the area where you’ll be moving because you will be depending on them to help you find your new home.

“Ask your current Realtor for out-of-town referrals,” says Craig Meledick of Long & Foster in Bowie. “Big companies have relocation departments that specialize in out-of-town transactions. You won’t get a rookie agent because you have to do volume sales to get into the relocation department.”

The Internet has become a major resource, assisting buyers with long-distance home searches. Web sites allow buyers to instantly see photographs of potential homes and find out everything from the price to the home’s features to specifics about the neighborhood.

Once you have settled on a home, all thoughts should turn to the actual move.

Moving company professionals say their busiest times are at the beginning and end of each month.

AMSA suggests that prospective movers begin soliciting estimates from moving companies eight weeks before the move.

“Plan early for your move — the sooner the better,” says Jim Whited, sales manager with Bekins A-1 Movers Inc. in Woodbridge.

Many moving companies offer local and long-distance moving services and have similar guidelines for determining the difference. For example, Bekins considers any move within 30 miles a local move. These moves usually are subject to an hourly rate.

Moving companies sometimes refer to long-distance moves as intrastate — within the state — or interstate, crossing state lines.

Two main factors, distance and shipment weight, usually determine the cost of a long-distance move.

For example, one moving company offered a guideline of the weight of the contents of a three- to four-bedroom single-family home as being between 7,500 and 15,000 pounds.

Mr. Whited says it’s even more important to be organized for a long-distance move because everything being moved has to be loaded onto the truck before it leaves. “In a local move, people will have access to both residences on the day of the move and are able to shuttle more things to the new house themselves,” he says.

Industry experts agree that too many times people pick a moving company in haste without doing their homework.

“A common mistake people make is not picking the right moving company,” says Mr. Meledick, who adds that a bad moving company can make a stressful situation even worse.

He suggests asking your Realtor for a referral to a moving company.

“When selecting a moving company, look for reputation and industry name recognition,” Mr. Whited says. “Check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints. But even if a company has a complaint, find out how they resolved it because that is what’s important.”

Before choosing a mover, AMSA recommends that you understand the rates and charges that will apply, the mover’s liability for your belongings, how pickup and delivery will work and what claims protection you have.

Mr. Meledick says he has noticed more clients and friends using companies such as Portable On-Demand Storage systems (PODS) for their long-distance moves. PODS will deliver large outdoor storage containers to your home that allow you to pack at your leisure. Once you’re finished packing, PODS returns to pick up the container and deliver it to the new location.

Some long-distance movers plan to do the entire move themselves, Mr. Meledick says, but “I can’t imagine getting a U-Haul and driving to Florida.”

Realtors agree that it’s worth the extra money to enlist the help of a professional moving company when relocating.

Packing isn’t glamorous, but it is an important step in the moving process, local or long distance.

Some buyers want to avoid this step completely and go for the pricier option of having the moving company pack and unpack for them.

AMSA says that although packing yourself can save money, movers usually will not accept liability for damage to items packed by owners.

“Moving to a new home is traditionally a very messy, unorganized process that most of us dread,” says Rick Constantine of Dymo, a producer of label makers and organizational tools for the home.

“However, planning is the key to an efficient move,” he says. “Taking a couple of minutes to strategize the packing and unpacking process will save you a significant amount of time, energy and frustration.”

“Most people assume that they’re going to get more done than [is] possible,” Mr. Whited says. “They think that they can do four to six weeks of work in four to six hours. Some people wait until they get ready to move to start getting rid of things, but my philosophy is, if you think you’re going to use it one day, then get rid of it.”

Mr. Meledick agrees.

“Before people put their house on the market, they should have their home decluttered and have a yard sale,” he says.

He adds that people who have been in their home for many years probably have accumulated a lot of belongings, which can affect the cost of long-distance moves because companies charge by weight.

“Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy new pieces of furniture rather than pay to ship furniture that you won’t use,” he says.

Dymo suggests investing in sturdy boxes, packing tape and bubble wrap. Avoid overpacking boxes, and pack one room at a time — keeping a detailed inventory of the contents of each box.

Moving experts also say that before moving, remember to switch utility billing, arrange transfer of bank accounts and change your mailing address.

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