Even if you’re only moving across town, it’s likely to cost more than you think.
According to the latest figures from the American Moving and Storage Association, the average cost of an in-state professional move – based on 7,570 pounds of stuff – is $1,170. The average state-to-state move costs $5,630.
How can you control moving expenses? Start making a master checklist to collect data and consider all costs and personal aspects of a potential move. You may even want to include a pro-and-con list that addresses all conceivable economic and lifestyle outcomes – the real long-term costs and benefits of a move. After deciding whether the move is worthwhile, consider these subsequent steps:
Seek solid advisors. Whether or not you plan to sell a home with a licensed real estate broker or agent, most are open to do a market valuation of your property and suggest repairs or improvements that could maximize a sale price. If you use a qualified financial planner or tax advisor, include that individual in early discussions on how a move might affect your finances. Also, if you’re selling property, find an experienced real estate attorney to review broker and sale contracts.
Get multiple estimates from movers. An early walk-through at your home or apartment by two to three U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)-registered movers (http://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/hhg/search.asp) can provide a reality check on how much you’ll want to take and whether you can afford luxuries like packing or storage. Online resources can also help you evaluate those estimates.
Watch for fraud. Recent news reports have highlighted a trend called “hostage load,” a practice whereby unscrupulous moving companies demand more money from customers before finishing a delivery. Getting references from trusted friends and advisors is a good first step to finding the right registered mover for your relocation. DOT has launched the “Protect Your Move” (http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move) site that allows you to download a moving fraud protection guide and offers tips on proper ways to investigate and hire a mover.
Start downsizing – now. Getting early estimates from movers certainly helps you decide what you’re really willing to take. If there are valuables you think you can sell, consult professional appraisers and even general marketplace sources like eBay to get a realistic idea of value. Otherwise, consider garage sales and donations for the rest.
Insure what you’re moving. Whatever plans you’re making for home or renter’s coverage at the new destination, make sure you have proper coverage in place for the contents of your move. The Insurance Information Institute provides a useful guide (http://www.iii.org/article/getting-right-insurance-coverage-moving) to properly insuring the possessions you’re moving.
Build a cash reserve for deposits, fees and incidentals. Keeping moving costs low can help you handle dozens of smaller and sometimes unexpected expenses that crop up immediately before, during and after a move. Budget for those hidden costs which can include deposits, fees and multiple trips to the discount store, home center or grocery.
Bottom line: Thinking about moving? Give yourself adequate time and resources to plan all aspects of this major life and money event.
Nathaniel Sillin directs Visa’s financial education programs. To follow Practical Money Skills on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney.