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How to Properly Vet and Hire a Moving Company

David Bradley is dedicated to his community and clients before, during, and after the sale of a home, and one of the things he is most frequently asked about is advice for finding a reputable moving company after buying or selling a home.  

Selecting the right company to move all your worldly possessions is an important decision. And sad to say, the moving industry doesn’t have the best reputation for honesty and follow-through. How can you avoid being taken for a ride along with all your stuff? It will require a bit of work—but when you break it down, there are really only three things you have to do.

Understand What Kind of Company You Are Talking To

Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of moving companies: movers and brokers. Movers (or moving companies) own the actual equipment and employ the people who do the actual work. They own trucks. They employ people to pack, load, ship, and unload your things. Brokers, however, are middlemen. They typically work with a number of different movers. When a job comes in, they put it up for bid among their partners. The low bid usually gets the work. 

Both kinds of companies have their strengths.

Movers take responsibility for everything: the accuracy of the price, the safety of your stuff, the shipping, the loading and unloading, and the insuring. You will deal with the same company from your first request for an estimate until the move is concluded and any claims have been processed. 

Brokers can often get you a better deal. By working with multiple moving companies, they know who has trucks where, who is going where, and who has the best prices. Since they make their living as go-betweens for the clients and moving companies, their reputation depends on the job that the moving companies they work with do—so they have an interest in weeding out chronically troubled movers. 

However, both kinds of companies also have their weaknesses.

Moving companies can be great, but they can also be disasters. And it’s often hard to tell which is which before you use them.  They can also be more expensive than brokers, because they aren’t immediately competing with other moving companies for your business.

If things do go wrong with your move, though, it’s often more difficult to make things right if you’ve dealt with a broker. You have no personal relationship with the people who are doing the work—and the company that was contracted to do the move has little incentive to do right by you.

Follow the Rule of Threes on Estimates 

Getting moving estimates is a hassle. You will need to make time for the company to come to your house to see what the job entails. You may have to endure sales pitches. But this is one hassle that’s worth it. A good rule of thumb is to get at least three estimates.

By “estimates” here, we are talking about written estimates based on someone physically inspecting your stuff. A drive-by estimate or an oral approximation is all but worthless come moving day, when you are at a serious disadvantage. All your stuff will be packed. Maybe there are new people moving into your house or apartment the following day. You will find yourself over a barrel if the mover decides to charge you thousands of dollars more than an over-the-phone approximation suggested. Make sure your written estimate includes notations for any unusually heavy, bulky, valuable, or breakable objects.

Play Detective

Hiring a mover or a broker is one of life’s more expensive tasks. The expense is not only charged in dollars, but can also be paid for in worry, anxiety, and frustration. So before you write out a big check and go through what some people say one of life’s most stressful events, there’s one last step to take: go sleuthing.

Find out what licenses the company you are dealing with holds. Get their physical address and check it out in person; if the address is a residence or a vacant lot, look for another company. 

You can also look at review sites on the internet for insight into how the company has treated other customers. Be aware, though, that a lot of customer reviews about moving companies tend to be fake. As a general rule, the most reliable reviews are the mixed ones—the reviews that are not wholly positive or wholly negative but seem to be balanced and careful. 

The truth is that even if you take all three of these steps, there is no guarantee that your move will go smoothly. But you owe it to yourself to do whatever you can to help it come out that way.

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