- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Moving is one of life’s biggest headaches.

Sell the house. Buy another. Find a new school for the children. Establish ties to unfamiliar doctors, dentists and sundry specialists.

That doesn’t count packing every precious item one has in cardboard boxes better suited for hauling plastic-foam peanuts.

Moving out of state can be even more taxing, but there are ways to make such major moves less painful.

‘Tis the season for movers, says David Sparkman, vice president of communications for the Alexandria-based American Moving and Storage Association.

Typically, the months from May through September feature the most home shifting nationwide, says Mr. Sparkman, whose association represents interstate movers. U-Haul predicts as many as 17 million to 20 million people may move this summer.

Moving out of state means a different set of laws kicks in, Mr. Sparkman says.

Intrastate moves fall under said state’s regulations, but bigger moves mean the homeowner is protected by federal laws. The only exception is if the move is within a 50-mile radius, something that could affect, say, a Bethesda resident moving to Falls Church.

Federal regulations dictate that for interstate moves, moving companies must give clients in-home estimates of the costs.

“That way, they’re not giving you the estimate over the phone or Internet,” Mr. Sparkman says. This ensures that the client deals with someone local enough to pay a house visit; plus, a phone estimate can be used by shady movers to jack up the agreed upon prices.

“They can say, ‘You didn’t tell us about this or that,’ ” he says, because many homeowners may forget about certain items that require extra moving effort.

Another federal law homeowners should be aware of concerns binding and nonbinding estimates.

The law says movers operating under a binding estimate must unload their trucks after being paid 100 percent of the estimated cost, he says. For nonbinding estimates, the movers must unload their goods after being paid no more than 110 percent of the estimate.

Extra costs do pop up sometimes. If a person’s new home is on a very narrow street, a mover might have to transfer its client’s goods to a smaller truck to maneuver properly in the tight space.

Federal law also covers lost or damaged goods. Movers must provide full replacement or repair the goods in question unless the customer waives his or her rights, Mr. Sparkman says. In disputes, a third-party arbiter will declare the worth of the damaged items.

Vernon Rosemin, marketing company president for U-Haul’s District headquarters, says planning, or the lack thereof, is the biggest problem bogging down people on the move.

“They’re selling their house, acquiring another house. They forget to plan out properly for boxes, the right types of boxes. … You end up with stuff being broken,” Mr. Rosemin says, adding that a lack of preparation means a rental truck might not be available for last-minute movers.

He recalled one person who forgot he had to move his car as well as himself.

“He delayed his move because he wasn’t prepared,” Mr. Rosemin says.

Planning ahead means more than counting off the number of boxes needed for the move.

Homeowners should visit the rental company where they plan to pick up whatever truck or equipment they will need, Mr. Rosemin says.

“Make sure you’re comfortable with the equipment,” he says, especially if renting a large truck.

“It’s just a big car, really,” Mr. Rosemin says, adding that the customer should discuss what driving modifications are needed to stay safe on the road, such as going one car length farther than normal when making a turn.

“If you’re towing a car, know how to connect it so you have peace of mind,” he says.

Planning a move involves more than just knowing how to bubble-wrap a plasma television or protect china plates.

Sachin Gadhvi, vice president for sales and marketing with L.A.-based Starving Students Moving Co., says finding the best moving company takes its toll.

“Everybody’s heard a horror story of moves gone bad,” Mr. Gadhvi says.

He suggests visiting the American Moving and Storage Association’s Web site (www.moving.org) to find a licensed mover.

A reputable mover will have either a Department of Transportation number or a motor carrier number.

Consumers typically shop around for the best prices, but Mr. Gadhvi cautions homeowners against going blindly with the lowest price available when hiring a moving team.

“It’s your life’s belongings in there. It’s probably not the time you want to go with the cheapest person,” he says.

Better still, keep your most important items close at hand while moving.

“If you have things with emotional value, like family heirlooms … you want to make sure you pack it yourself and let the movers know, ‘This is really valuable to me. Let’s keep it separate,’ ” he says.

The more such items that can be carried by the homeowner, be it jewelry or something to be stored in his or her car during the cross-country trek, the better.

“You want to make sure it’s under your control,” Mr. Gadhvi says.

Many homeowners prefer taking all moving matters into their own hands.

John Tompkins, president of Atlantic Coast Portable Storage, which works in conjunction with movable PODS (portable on demand storage) containers, says his clients tend to be do-it-yourself types who work on their own schedules.

“They don’t have to be ready, exactly, on a certain day,” Mr. Tompkins says.

It’s the goal of any reputable moving company to make the move as smooth as possible, he says, adding that movers and homeowners alike often need to get creative before the job is wrapped.

“You’d be surprised how ingenuity plays a hand,” he says, adding that movers will do everything from building a frame around a difficult-to-move piece to using a crane to get their mission accomplished.

Those seeking more tips on moving can visit www.moving.org, the American Moving and Storage Association’s consumer Web site, or U-Haul’s EMove.com or www.jkmoving.com/residential/faq. htm by JK Moving & Storage, which serves the Greater Washington area.

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