- Kara Johnson - MortgageLoan.com
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Ok, so you’ve done all the work of finding a house, arranging for a mortgage and closing the sale. Now all you have to do is move in. So how do you go about finding a good moving company?
For many people, buying a home marks the first time they’ve needed a professional moving company. For years, friends’ vehicles and rental trucks sufficed as they moved from apartment to apartment. But eventually, they reach a point where they realize that’s not going to work anymore.
It could be because they’ve invested in some nice furniture, or have a number of heirloom pieces they don’t want damaged. Or perhaps they’ve discovered that, since their last move, they’ve accumulated a lot more stuff than they had last time around. Or it could be that they’ve just realized they can afford it now and don’t want to spend the time and effort hauling the stuff around themselves.
Better yet, they’re taking a new job and the boss is paying for it. In that case, they often have a preferred mover and you don’t have to worry about making a choice.
Professional movers come in several broad categories, the first is which is short- vs. long-distance movers. Short-distance movers tend to deal in moves within a well-defined area; a single city, a state or portion thereof, or a multistate region where they have several offices.
Types of movers
Long-distance movers, on the other hand, tend to specialize in moves of a few hundred miles or more, often clear across the country. They may be willing to handle shorter moves as well, but may charge more than a short-haul specialist for the same moves.
Another distinction is based upon how the mover’s business is organized. These fall into four general types: Van lines, agents, independents and brokers.
Van lines are the biggest moving companies and the ones that usually come to mind when people think of movers. These companies typically deal in long-distance moves and have offices in and serve most states, although some may focus on certain regions of the country. These include names like Mayflower, Allied and Atlas Van Lines. They tend to have solid reputations and professional employees, and are generally considered a reliable choice. About two dozen companies fit this category.
Agents are semi-independent movers who typically or often do contract work for van lines. This is why you may arrange for a move with ABC Van Lines, only to have a truck from XYZ movers show up at your door. Often, they act like franchises, in that they must meet certain standards established by the van lines they work with. They may be small or large, serving local areas or offering national service.
Independent movers have their own operations, but are generally too small to be considered van lines. Even so, they may have national operations, although many specialize in serving specific regions or localities. Many provide excellent and professional service, although it’s always a good idea to do some research on any company you’re not familiar with before hiring them.
Brokers don’t actually have their own trucks or do any moving, but instead find and arrange for an independent mover to handle your move. Unfortunately, they sometimes charge hefty fees up front for this service and typically can’t be held responsible if the mover they hire damages your goods or charges more than they estimated. If you do go through a broker, be sure to find out what their fees will be and check out any mover they recommended before paying anything.
Getting an estimate
You’ll definitely want to get an estimate before moving, and there are several ways to do this. Increasingly, many movers allow you to complete estimates online, by providing information on the size of your old home and number of rooms, zip codes for your old and new address and other info. Others recommend that an in-person estimate done at your home is the only reliable way of getting an estimate, and it does allow a more accurate assessment of your possessions.
Movers have different ways of charging you for the move, which can make it hard to compare costs. Some may charge for fuel, some may charge extra for moving items up or down flights of stairs, some may charge by the room, etc. For long distance movers, the most common way is by weight, which simply involves driving the truck onto a scale en route to your new home and giving you a copy of the weigh station receipt.
One of the main things to look out for is a low-ball estimate. The moving industry is lightly regulated, and consumers have few real options if a mover charges then considerably more than their original estimate. The best way to avoid this, of course, is by getting references from others or by researching for complaints, either through an Internet search of the company’s name (and adding terms like “complaints” or “reviews”), or by checking with the Better Business Bureau or similar bodies.
Again, past performance is your best guide. If there’s a company that multiple friends, family or co-workers are willing to recommend, that’s a pretty good sign. If not, at least do some online research into any moving company you’re thinking about using so that you at least have a sense of what others think of them.