Buying a home is tough enough. After months of scanning property portals, comparing mortgage deals, viewings, haggling over prices and steering a way through to exchange of contracts, most of us feel that when the keys are in our hands, that’s the hard work done. Wrong: the move itself – alongside bereavement and divorce – is famously described as one of life’s most stressful experiences.
However, getting organised well in advance can make a relatively straightforward job of moving all your worldly goods from A to B and setting up a new home that works for you.
Change of address: who you need to notify — and when
Contact the Post Office and arrange to get your mail redirected, which costs £68.99 per year (https://www.royalmail.com/personal/receiving-mail/redirection). You should try to do this four weeks in advance.
Prepare yourself to listen to a lot of “hold” music because a lot of people need to know your new details – not just family and friends.
Your driving licence will need to be updated; and you need to tell your local council to change your details on the electoral roll. The good news is that you may get a council tax rebate on your current home – but simultaneously you will need to register to pay at your new pad. TV Licensing also needs to know you are moving on.
You also need to notify: banks, credit card companies, pension companies, store loyalty cards, car and home insurance companies, and any personal insurance companies you hold policies with, for example health insurance or life insurance.
Any company that bills you regularly will also need to know your new address – check your bank statements and make a comprehensive list, which should include utility firms and landline and broadband suppliers.
Let your GP and dentist know, as well as any hospitals you are registered at, and start shopping around for new practices to register with if necessary.
If you are renting, give your landlord notice and start the arduous process of clawing back your deposit.
You also need to update your employer – and you might want to book some time off work.
Plan for your arrival in your new home
Ask your vendors to leave you instruction manuals for the boiler, the alarm and the cooker, and for any complicated lighting or music systems. Locate the meters, fuse box and stopcock.
Arrange to go round to measure up for curtains and blinds. You don’t need to buy everything in advance, but get something lined up for the bedroom at least.
Use the to-scale floor plans drawn up by estate agents to work out where your furniture is going to go, and measure up to make sure it will fit. Websites such as roomstyler.com let you style your new home with real products from a massive virtual library.
If you need to buy furniture, start shopping early – sofas in particular can take a couple of months or more to be made up. White goods have a much shorter lead time but most firms will let you buy and then confirm a delivery date later. If you are buying several items from one firm, ask if they might give you a discount – or even throw in a ‘present’.
Declutter. Like mad. “Start a month in advance, and go through every room,” says Marc von Grundherr, director of London estate agents Benham & Reeves. “Don’t forget the loft and the shed, and get rid of anything you don’t wear. People always drag everything with them and it ends up costing them more. Moving can be stressful but you can turn it into something a bit cathartic.”
Shop smart at the supermarket in the run-up to the move. Try to eat your way through the contents of your freezer and store cupboards so you don’t have to take bags of defrosting oven chips with you.
If you are going to be doing your own packing you will need boxes. Double-walled are best. Check Gumtree, Preloved, and local freecycle-style groups which may well have ads for people looking to unload their used boxes for free – and do repay the favour by doing the same when you are finished with them. Otherwise you could ask local shops to save old boxes for you, and see if any of your social media contacts can help. If all else fails go to Amazon.co.uk.
Start early with packing up non-essential stuff, such as winter clothes if you are moving in summer. If you have a big collection of plants it might be worth finding someone to “babysit” them for you until you’re settled in your new home and can collect them. Plants are a pain to move. The same goes for pets and kids!
“We always say everything that can go in a box, should go in a box,” advises Steve Challis, director of removal firm Smarts of Northolt. “It is much easier than having lots of bits and pieces left loose.”
Label your boxes as you go – with what is in them and what room they need to go to. “It makes it quicker on the day if you know where everything needs to go, and you are not constantly asking,” says Challis. “You should also put a little sticker on the doors so we know which room is which. And if you do a floor plan showing where you want each bit of furniture to go it is also a help.”
If you plan to do your own packing, don’t overfill boxes – they won’t stack in the lorry properly, their contents are more likely to break, and hefting really heavy boxes will be a pain. Tape them top and bottom to avoid accidents.
Line up a locksmith to change the locks on your new home – for security reasons this is really important.
Finding a removal company
If you’re not moving much then a few willing friends and a rental van might be all you need.
Some of the “Man with a Van” outfits do a brilliant job and will be a lot cheaper than big firms. If you can’t find someone through a personal recommendation, ask if you can speak to some previous customers before committing.
But if you are going to have to hire a proper removal firm, choose one which belongs to a trade body like the National Guild of Removers and Storers (www.ngrs.co.uk) or the British Association of Removers (www.bar.co.uk). Both offer arbitration if things go wrong.
Again, personal recommendation is the best way to pick a firm. Rather than go by rave reviews online, put the word out with friends and family.
Get at least three quotes – and if one seems exceedingly good value, be suspicious. Some things are cheap for a reason.
Make sure your remover has insurance to cover losses or breakages, during loading and unloading as well as in transit. Check whether boxes you have packed yourself will be covered for breakages on moving day – some insurance policies only cover professionally packed items.
Most firms expect payment upfront. If you use a credit card, that payment will be covered should the company fail to deliver. Don’t hand over a wedge of cash.
You are probably going to need to think about parking for the removal van. A visitor’s permit should be enough if you are only using a small van (apply to your council if you don’t have any), but if you are having a removal lorry and you live on a main road, you may need to contact either your council or Transport for London to arrange to get parking bays suspended or for permission to park on yellow lines. This can cost several hundred pounds but it is an unavoidable expense.
The final countdown
Get completely up to date with your washing so you’re not moving bags of unwashed laundry.
Book a supermarket delivery for the day after the big day – you can have a takeaway the first night but you’re going to want to do plenty of comfort eating as you unpack.
Communicate with your agent. “Make sure you know where the keys are going to be and when you can pick them up,” says Marc von Grundherr.
Gather together the items you need to leave behind. “Don’t forget things like keys to the patio doors and windows,” adds Von Grundherr.
Put your box of essential items, including the kettle, into the lorry last of all so that it is the first thing to come out when you arrive at your new address. This box should also include your overnight essentials, snacks and any regular medication. And wine, obviously. “Don’t forget things like car keys,” says Challis. “We have had it more than once that people have left their keys in their jacket pocket and the jacket has gone into a garment box and into the van.”
Box up the bedding you will need that night and load it last so it comes off the van first. “After a long day what most people really want is a good night’s sleep,” adds Challis.
As flat-pack furniture is being dismantled, put the screws and bolts into a freezer bag and use masking tape to stick the bag to the furniture so it doesn’t get lost.
Take down pictures and remove fixings from the walls.
Don’t pack your light bulbs and do leave some loo roll. It will be good for your karma.
Defrost and clean the fridge and freezer. It would be polite to clean the cooker, too.
Do a final sweep to make sure you’ve not left anything behind, switch off plugs, lock windows and doors, and vacuum. “It amazes me the state people leave their homes in,” says Von Grundherr. “It beggars belief. The least you can do is clear the cupboards and the fridge if you are leaving it behind.”
Moving to a new home in a pandemic: the new rules
The coronavirus pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives, including moving house.
When the UK property market reopened in May the British Association of Removers drew up a list of recommendations for its members.
Rather than come to your home, removal firms may use video footage to draw up inventory lists and offer quotes. And you may have to sign a disclaimer confirming you have not been recently exposed to the virus.
On moving day, gloves and masks or visors will be de rigueur. Some firms will ask you to deep clean your home pre-move. Others may limit packing services to breakables only, and may not dismantle and reassemble furniture.
The inevitable requests for rounds of tea will continue – some things never change – but rather than expect to make endless brews, the new normal is for you to provide a kettle, cups and teabags and let the crew get on with it themselves.