Moving In: Moving Day Disasters and How to Avoid Them, Part 2

Thanks to the homebuyer tax credit, the long holiday weekend will likely be one of the busiest times to move, in the busiest moving season of the year. And what better way to celebrate July Fourth than by fulfilling the American Dream of moving into your own home?

First, though, you need to make sure you get your stuff there.

Yesterday we introduced a list of five moving day disasters with a tale about a slipshod crew that dumped a mattress on L.A.'s Harbor Freeway. But try to break the conversational ice at a backyard barbecue with your own story of a moving day mishap and two other people might jump in with their own before you even get to the punchline. (Having occasionally worked as a mover myself during college, I also can tell you that they might have some stories of their own to tell about customers. And not necessarily about what big tippers they are.)

If you'll be packing up the grill this weekend instead of cooking on it, here are four more common moving day disasters to watch out for -- and if you already have enough conversation-starters, some ways to avoid them.

Disaster No. 6: Gee, I thought the weatherman said it would be clear today.

Water damage is one of the worst things that can happen to wood furniture or anything covered in fabric, like a couch, or stuffed with batting. And it can ruin electronics as well. To prepare:

  • Have tarpaulins handy to cover them, or plastic sheeting. Even blankets can work in the short run.Park the truck as close to an entrance as possible.
  • If you can enter through a garage or carport, that might help, especially if you can use it as a staging area to quickly unload the truck before a storm reaches full force.
  • To prevent muddying your new floors, put down tarps, old towels, area rugs, runners, or even unroll some heavy landscaping cloth inside the house, making sure these won't slip.
  • Make sure there's a good doormat at the entrance -- probably smart no matter the weather.
Aside from damaging your possessions, wet weather can of course slow delivery. You should hope that your driver errs on the side of safety, so weather and traffic may cause delays, especially over long distances. But the mover should stay in touch with you to let you know a load's progress and when a problem arises. This is why the expected time of arrival can stretch over a few days.

Disaster No. 7: No, I don't think that couch was already missing its cushions when you guys came to pick it up.

Realtor Laurie Manny of Long Beach, Calif. remembers a dispute that she had with a mover about a damaged piece of furniture. The mover insisted that a mirror attached to it had already been broken when they picked it up at her storage unit. Going to the scene she found shards of mirror where they had loaded her furniture on the truck, suggesting otherwise.

The mover refused to take responsibility. The mirror was irreplaceable, and she ended up having to junk the piece. To avoid this kind of dispute:

  • The mover should should make a thorough inventory before loading, including a condition report that the customer checks and signs off on. The customer should then again thoroughly check the condition of the furnishings when the move is completed before signing the receipt.
  • Typically, the moving company carrier also offers insurance. And they will offer the customer several options. Manny says to use the most reputable company you can find and make sure to get a certificate of insurance from the company so that you know they are insured and what's covered.
  • Your homeowners policy still might apply for theft, fire, flood or other occurrences -- but not against damage in transit. Ask your insurance agent if you can get a rider on your policy that would cover this.
  • Certain credit cards might cover damaged items, if they were purchased recently enough.

Disaster No. 8:
What's this charge for?

The driver says, sorry, the load weighs much more than estimated, so it's going to cost you more. You don't want to pay? It'll go into storage until you do pay more, along with storage charges.

Watch out for scams. SmartMoney described one like this and several others in its article, "10 Things Moving Companies Won't Say."

A quote that a customer gets from a salesman might not include taxes and other legitimate add-on costs. So ask about additional charges and get a thorough estimate in writing at the outset, so there are no surprises later.

The federal government has a website with resources on moving companies, including complaint histories, and explains how recent changes in the law can protect customers from unscrupulous practices.

Disaster No. 9: When's the last time anyone saw Fluffy?

Secure or relocate your small children and pets away from the job, and not just because something could bump or fall on them.

  • If it spends most of its waking hours protecting your home, your dog might react badly to those strangers rolling up the carpet. It can even make happy-go-lucky dogs nervous.
  • Cats especially might find a moving-van's interiors enticing, with its maze of furnishings and boxes to climb and explore.
  • Warn the neighbors, too. (Once, when I was introducing myself to new arrivals in the neighborhood, I turned away from my preschooler for a second and he was halfway up the ramp of their moving van.)

If Fluffy does go missing, and the movers are on the road in the middle of the country, you can hope that they will open the door and listen for a cat crying and try to get it out of there. If there are no obvious signs that it's there at all -- well, that can be a lot of stuff to unload and reload for nothing.

There are two things that those I spoke to seem to agree on, but they also might top the list of things-easier-to-say-than-do, especially if you've been focused on buying a home. They are:

  • Give yourself as much advance time as you can to plan and prepare, especially if you're doing it yourself. Major moving companies have a lot of useful information on their websites, even for do-it-yourselfers. You'll also find blogs and books on the subject.
  • Use the most well-recommended company that you can find. This might require some research online and especially through the network of people you know. Your real estate agent might be good to start with, along with your insurance agent.

You might be entrusting total strangers with all your worldly possessions, sohow much effort is it worth not to lose them -- or not find them along the Harbor Freeway?

Also at AOL Real Estate:
See homes for sale in Los Angeles.
First-time buyer? See our First-Time Buyer guide.
See how to calculate mortgage payments.
Decide whether to rent or buy.


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