Managing Transition

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Household Goods: Being Prepared 

Knowing what to expect from a Household Goods Van Line (your mover) will keep you well prepared once moving day nears. An understanding of these simple guidelines will help you through the process and will let your van line representative know that you are fully engaged in the move. The mover will provide you with a more details of their specific processes and directions specific to your move at the time of your move estimate

Move Preparation

Determine what you will move: now is the time to do a major cleaning of all your belongings, keeping in mind that you pay for everything you move. Knowing exactly what you will be moving and how the items will be moved before speaking with a van line representative will help you obtain a more accurate move quote. 

  • Throw away old or unneeded items
  • Consider selling large items to the buyer of your home or give items away. This is the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to remove them
  • Determine what items need to be moved by you, like valuables and important documents
  • Understand which items you may want to pack on your own to save packing costs. Caution: items you pack on your own are usually not insured by your mover
  • Determine if you will ship your automobiles or drive them to your new home
  • Determine what items may need additional insurance, like antiques
  • If you will need to store your goods for a period of time, know what items you must keep possession of. It is costly to retrieve individual items once they are placed in storage.
  • Know what home fixtures (e.g., lighting) need to be removed and who will do the work
  • Know what appliances (e.g., clothes dryer) need to be disconnected and who will do the work
  • Know what equipment (e.g., home gym) needs to be disassembled and who will do the work
  • Know when you need to move, or at least rough dates. It is often difficult to schedule move dates during busy seasons

Move Inventory: fill out ReloTutor's Move Inventory Form before choosing a van line and scheduling your move estimate. The form will help you organize your thoughts for what you are moving, how you will move it and how certain items will be serviced. Follow the directions at the top of the form and complete all sections. Your mover will require this basic information when completing their estimate. Take pictures of items for to verify their condition in the event you need to file a damage or missing item claim.

Choose your mover: become familiar with the traits of van lines and follow the steps outlined in Moving Companies when selecting a reputable van line agent. You'll need to choose two or three agents to interview and get estimates from.  

Schedule an at-home survey: schedule at-home surveys with each of the potential movers to get an estimate.  The survey is a pre-inventory of items that allows for an accurate move estimate. Inventories should never be attempted or calculated over the phone. Although a mover can guess at an approximate cost based on the size of your home and items that you tell them about, the actual cost could be thousands of dollars off. Let each agent know that you are getting multiple estimates prior to making your decision on who to use. .

Verify the services you will receive: there are many additional services and charges that your mover may require, so you need to ask about them up front. Some of the common ones to note are: packing/unpacking, extra pickups or deliveries, fuel surcharges, long carry charges, debris pickup, ‘maid service’, disassembly or reassembly of goods, disconnect or reconnect of goods, removal or replacement of goods. Be direct when asking what charges that you will be responsible for.

After Choosing a Van Line

Obtain and sign the moving contract: verify all of the contract terms and ensure that all charges and requirements are noted. If it is not in writing you are not legally protected. Ask the agent for clarification if there is something you do not understand.

Obtain phone numbers and contact information: You will need to speak with your mover many times before the move. The more ways you have to contact them (and they have to contact you), the better off you are.

Plan move dates well in advance: Set packing, pickup, storage (if needed), delivery and unpacking dates. Delivery dates can be more than a week after pickup depending on the amount of goods you have and the distance traveled. 

Insurance: always be sure to get insurance for your items through your mover. Understand your movers terms for damaged or lost items.

Just Prior to Move

Verify phone numbers: your move crew will be different from the van line people you have spoken with up to this point. It is critical that you verify how it is best to communicate the day(s) of your move.

Gratuity: be ready to get cash from the bank for tipping your move crew. These are the people that pack, load, drive, unload and unpack your goods. Their care of your goods will make all the difference during your move. There is no formula to determine what a good tip is. Ask the lead person of your move crew what he/she suggests. At the very least they will know that there is a cash reward if they do a good job.

Packing: although it sounds counterintuitive, packing and box charges is an additional service charged by van lines. Your mover will let you know what the can or cannot move based on state law and what they don't want to be responsible for. Plants, firearms and wine collections may be excluded. Additional costs will be charged for dismantling, disconnecting and removing certain items. Never leave jewelry, important documents or other valuables with the care of your mover.

Packing may take place several days in advance of the physical movement of your goods, so prepare to have a place to stay in the meantime. Any packing that you do on your own may not be covered under your move insurance. 

Day of Move

Review and sign documentation: You must review and agree with all forms and documents for completeness before signing them. Never take the movers word that it’s ‘okay’ to give a quick review or to leave it unsigned. This is the single most important task to protect your rights.

  • Bill of lading: This form lists basic information about your move such as addresses, contact and van line information
  • Accessorial form: This form (the name will vary by van line) documents all of the services you receive, like long carry charges and debris pickup, as well as the number of boxes packed, and more
  • Inventory form: This form must list every item that is being moved. It also will list the condition of the item, location in the home, who packed it and other information
  • Valued inventory or insurance form: This form will list items that require insurance beyond normal coverage. 

Broom clean your home: Most real estate transactions, including leases, require that your home is handed over in “broom clean” condition. This means that dust and debris should be swept up, and no trash should remain in the home. Clean the home after the move crew has loaded all of your belongings.

Day of Delivery

Unpacking: if you've paid for unpacking services let the move crew do their job. They will tell you when to look over the items and compare them to the move inventory form. If you need to do your own unpacking, begin while the move crew unloads the truck so that you have ample time to inspect your household goods. Unpack the items with the inventory form in-hand and verify their condition as they come out of the box.

Verify delivery and condition: Do not sign delivery documents until you have verified the condition of ALL items. Don't let the driver or moving crew rush you into signing the forms. Once you sign the documents the mover releases themselves from future liability.  If you notice that an item is missing or damaged at a later date, the mover is not responsible.

  • Verify that all items on the inventory list have been delivered. Never assume that everything arrived and open all boxes to inspect their content
  • Verify that your items arrive in the same condition that they were before the move. Ensure that no items are scratched, broken or otherwise damaged
  • Verify that all of the services listed on the accessorial form were provided
  • Note any missing or damaged items directly on the inventory form

Gratuity: Let your move crew know if they were courteous, professional and did a good job by providing them with a cash tip

Trailing Spouse AssistanceTrailing Spouse Assistance

Your spouse is following you on this important move, but what's on the other end for him or her? Finding a job or going back to school might be what's needed.


Taxes: Personal vs RelocationTaxes for Personal Moves and Relocation

You can deduct moving expenses on your income taxes as long as you move as part of a job change, regardless of whether a company is paying for it.


Moving Company MysteriesMoving Companies and Van Line Practices

More than 40 million household moves take place every year, creating a growing need for legitimate moving companies. Most companies are above board, but you need to be aware.


Packing Your OwnPacking Your Own Household Goods

You can save a lot of money by buying your own boxes and packing yourself, but are you creating more expense by not being properly insured?

Move Acronyms

AMSA  American Moving & Storage Association

CWT   Cost per one hundred pounds

DOT    Department of Transportation

PBO    Packed By Owner

SIT     Storage In Transit


Real Estate Acronyms

BPO   Broker Price Opinion

CMA  Comparative Market Analysis

FDR   Formal Dining Room

MLS   Multiple Listing Service

TI      Tenant Improvement


Relocation Acronyms

CRP   Certified Relocation Professional

COLA Cost of Living Allowance

FMV   Fair Market Value

MVA   Market Value Analysis

PCS   Personal Change of Station (military)



Also see Definitions and Terms