When you’re planning to relocate, convenience is a major factor in the decisions you make. You’ll pick up the phone to order pizza while you pack up your personal items, you’ll make travel reservations through online booking websites, and thanks to real estate agencies, you may even have placed an offer or entered a rental agreement without personally having step foot in your new home.
When you’re shopping for a moving company though, it might be wise to go “old school” and insist on on-site estimates. Otherwise, short-term convenience can lead to long-term hassle.
Following are the three most compelling reasons why you want your prospective moving company to make a visit to your home before building an estimate for their services.
1. You just can’t get an accurate quote over the phone
You wouldn’t trust a surgeon to diagnose you without a thorough exam, would you? While relocation isn’t brain surgery, if your mover doesn’t know the specifics of the job, he can’t properly determine how much it will cost to prepare your valuables for shipment.
And, like a botched surgical job, you’ll end up with–at the very least–a bad headache. At worst, you’ll end up with additional charges when your moving company arrives at your destination and no choice but to pay them if you want your valuables back.
Skilled movers know to make note of potential parking issues and trouble spots such as steep stairways. When you’re present during an estimator’s visit, you can point out items that require special care, and estimators can take crucial measurements as needed.
2. “Bait and switch” is all too common
The relocation industry is competitive, and many companies are eager to quote you unrealistic prices or “specials” in hopes that you’ll book their services without reading the fine print. Often, you aren’t even dealing with the same company that will show up at your door. Many companies sub-contract jobs to outside moving outfits who aren’t as concerned with their brand.
When you’re collecting estimates for moving companies, be sure to ask if the estimator who comes to your home is employed by the same company as the team that will handle your move. Also, ask who is responsible for fees beyond the estimate and if there is any “standard variance” by which the contract requires the customer to pay additional fees. The last thing you want is for your belongings to be held ransom as the movers demand additional payment.
3. Contract negotiation is best done in person
When you set an appointment for your estimate, ask for a copy of the contract so you can review the fine print before the representative arrives. It’s always better to ask questions related to the contract when the other party is in front of you.
If your moving estimator can’t clearly explain any portion of the contract, ask them to call a supervisor for an explanation while they’re there. Professional, reputable moving estimators understand the need to clarify estimates, and won’t balk when you ask tough questions.
Make sure you’re clear about what may cause the moving company to cancel or refuse to complete the service. Moving companies hired over the phone have been known to refuse to fulfill their side of the agreement if roads are too narrow, it’s raining too hard or sidewalks pose a challenge.
Be sure that, when you’re handed an estimate, you’re not signing anything you haven’t read, and insist that any special instructions are carefully included and signed off by both you and your estimator.
• Any time you’re interviewing prospective moving companies insist they provide proof of liability insurance, a US Department of Transportation number and your state’s Department of Transportation license. Check the USDOT number with protectyourmove.gov to make sure the company is current on all insurance and certifications, and not a fly-by-night operation.
• Take lots of notes, including time and date, whenever you’re dealing with your moving company, including during their representative’s on-site visit or any phone calls related to your job.
• Photograph all furniture your moving company will pack and ship, making notes of existing damage.
• Provide your moving company with a basic map of your street, and any hourly or permanent parking restrictions. Ask the representative to note where you might want to put cones to reserve a space for the moving truck and to make notations of areas that might cause access or parking issues. Have the estimator sign a copy for you, and keep a copy in their records.
• Make copies of your notes and agreement, and be sure they’re handy when your movers are scheduled to arrive at your destination.
The wrap-up (pun intended)
Relocation companies who are in it for the long haul rely upon good references to stay in business. The best movers know that surprise charges mean unhappy clients, and poorly-prepared moving teams can mean broken furniture and lost belongings. Get referrals from friends, do a bit of homework, and feel more confident that your stuff will make it to the other end without hassle or headache.