Moving home is one of those challenges designed to remind you just how stressful life can be. Even if you are the sort of person who ‘thrives on stress’ (as if), the upheaval of a house move is going to disrupt your life.
Whether you are moving directly from one property to another, or putting your belongings in self-storage, at some point you’re going to have to decide whether to do all the hard work yourself (including conscripting friends and family to haul your badly-packed boxes around) or to bring in the guys with the big trucks.
Here are some things to consider when you make that choice. Oh, and don’t leave this choice until the last minute – that’s going to slash your options (you can forget a weekend move) and push up your costs.
Doing it yourself will cost you less, unless you are doing something incredibly stupid. But you may have to hire a van for several days, depending on how much you have to move. Small vans start at around £40 per day during the week, but look out for special offers which can cut more than 50% off that price. Larger vans can cost twice as much, and don’t forget to factor in fuel costs.
Using a reputable removal firm (more on that later) will cost from around £500 for a modest two-bedroom home to several thousand for a large property. And you may want to tip the removal team, which can cost you another £100, depending on how many of them turn up.
Unless you know of a reliable, cost-efficient removal firm, do get three written quotes and make sure they all take account of things such as insurance and secure overnight storage, if it’s going to take more than a day to move your belongings.
One thing to remember is how much you value your own time – if you have to take time off work for a DIY removal, you may want to do a back-of-an-envelope calculation, comparing how much you’re losing in wages with how much you’re saving by doing it yourself.
Doing it yourself can be more convenient if you’re well organised. If you’re moving belongings into self storage then you can do it at your leisure, and in small loads if you have access to a car. If you’re not organised, time can run away with you and you’ll find yourself desperately chucking boxes and plastic bags of belongings in the back of a van at the last moment.
Professional removal companies will get the job done in a short space of time, because that’s how they make money. If you pay them to pack your belongings as well, you can sit back and make the removal team a cuppa, because it’s their responsibility to make everything happen.
Resist the temptation to pile all your stuff in the middle of a single room – removal teams need space to operate and they’ll prefer to pack big items in a particular order.
You’d like to think you’ll take better care of your belongings than a removal company would but, if you’re being helped by some clumsy friends, or if you’re rushing to finish packing and moving, things will get broken.
Reputable removal firms will probably be members of the British Association of Removers (BAR) or another trade body. Ask about their insurance cover – remember, your belongings could easily cost £20,000 to £50,000 to replace – and how you can complain if you’re not happy. If you decide to hire a shifty-looking geezer with a grubby van, don’t be surprised if things go wrong and stuff goes missing.
If you do go down the DIY route, check whether your home insurance covers you for damage during the move and, if it doesn’t, take out additional cover. For as little as £30, you can buy peace of mind.
If you do it yourself and you’ve got more than one van load of belongings, set yourself some deadlines and draw out a plan. Better still, get an organised friend to help you. It’s not just the day of the move that is stressful – as soon as you start packing or moving items into self storage, your daily routine will be upset and your home will no longer feel like your own place.
Getting professionals in can still be stressful, especially if you’ve left your packing to the last minute and there are removal men waiting for you to tape up those last boxes. But the pros will have worked out how big a van they need and how big a team they need to complete the job in the allotted time.
Finally, go easy on using big boxes to pack everything, whether you use professional movers or not. They’re harder to pack in a van, they’re more likely to get dropped and they will play havoc with your back if you’re not careful.