A Little Planning Goes a Long Way
Moving is stressful under ordinary circumstances, never mind when you’re buying a home. So don’t be surprised if home inspections, last-minute negotiations, and getting your finances in order for the closing challenge your bandwidth. Often, you’ll be signing the mortgage on the same day you move.
Then, once you’ve finally made it over the threshold with your stuff, all the unpacking and general excitement can make it easy to lose track of the new-home tasks you should do sooner rather than later.
Suffice to say, some extra thought and planning will go a long way. So we’ve put together a complete package that will help you handle the transition like a pro.
Here's what we're going to cover:
- An eight-week pre-move checklist
- After you’re in, 10 things to do first
- What’s best for kids and pets before, during, and after
- Unpacking tips
- How long until it feels like home?
The Pre-Move Checklist
The last thing you need to worry about on closing day is packing. Many of us know from experience that it’s going to take longer than we think, yet time and time again, we don’t start soon enough. So we’ve outlined an eight-week strategy for you.
What if it’s too late for planning, by any reasonable definition of the word? Say a prayer and go directly to 4 Tips for Last-Minute Movers for great advice from a renter who had to move with 48 hours’ notice.
Eight Weeks Before
- Give notice to your landlord as soon as possible. Some require 60 days.
- Whether you hire movers or DIY with a truck or container, reserve ASAP. During moving season, dates can get booked up way in advance.
- If you’re hiring a mover, get at least two onsite estimates (decide beforehand what’s going and what’s not) and take a close look at various fees and surcharges when comparing.
- Are your things insured en route? Renter’s insurance (you have it, right?) may cover you if something happens on or to the truck, but do check your policy. Movers may offer coverage—consider full replacement value.
- Microchip your pets. If you’ve considered it but haven’t acted, now’s the time. Moving can disorient your pet, and if they get lost, a chip makes being reunited far more likely. It’s practically painless and easy to do at the vet’s.
Six Weeks Before
- A move is a great time to weed your stuff. Start now. Consider giving away or selling anything you haven't used for a few years. (Some donations might be tax deductible—get receipts.)
- Make a list of every person, business, and organization that needs your new address and get started on checking them off.
- If you’ll need to store some things, rather than move them, arrange that now.
- If you’ll be changing doctors, find out what, if anything, you need to do to get your records transferred.
- It’s not too early to start packing things you don’t need between now and moving day.
Four Weeks Before
- For each person who gets mail in your home, do a change of address at the USPS website. You’ll save a trip to the post office and get some coupons too.
- How will your pets and your plants get there? Make sure you have them covered. Moving across state lines? Check on whether you need a health certificate from a vet.
- Have children's school records and credentials transferred.
- Contact your utility companies with your disconnect or transfer dates.
Three Weeks Before
- If you’re moving long-distance, make your travel reservations.
- And make sure your car has been recently serviced and checked for problems.
- Start eating those frozen dinners. And using up or giving away anything else you shouldn’t put on the truck. Like nail polish (it’s flammable). Here’s a good list.
One Week Before
- Start packing in earnest.
- Pick up any dry cleaning.
- Return library books.
Three Days Before
- Pack a box of the things you’ll need immediately when you arrive at your new home and put it aside to bring in the car. Things like TP, cleaning supplies, kitchen basics, shower curtains, and bed linens.
- Cancel home deliveries such as newspapers.
- Arrange with your landlord where to leave your keys.
The Big Day
- Coordinate with your movers: make sure someone is there to meet and direct them.
- Make sure pets are safe and secure. If you have cats, you’ll be mortified but not surprised to hear that they’ve been known to get packed into boxes.
You're In! 10 Things to Do First
1. Small kids or pets? Do a whole-house pass for safety issues ASAP.
2. Make sure you know how to get to the nearest hospital and have the address and phone numbers for the police and fire stations.
3. Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
4. Make sure you know the locations of your main circuit breaker and your main water shut-off valve.
5. Get at least one fire extinguisher for each floor (more if your house is big), including one in or near the kitchen that’s rated for grease fires.
6. Put your closing documents in a safe place.
7. Introduce yourself to your nearest neighbors (if they don’t beat you to it).
8. Learn the trash and recycling pickup schedule. Check your town or city DPW website, or ask a neighbor: trash talk is a good icebreaker.
9. Condo? Refresh your memory on the homeowner’s association rules. Some HOAs are quite strict, and a fine wouldn’t exactly get things off on the right foot.
10. Change the locks (and the garage door opener codes). There’s no telling who the previous owner gave spare keys to.
What's Best for Kids and Pets?
Our small and furry family members need some extra care and attention before, during, and after a move.
Making a move easier on kids
Check out this Parents article by a mom who’s been there. After 15 years in NYC, she and her husband moved with their three kids to a suburb of Wellesley, Massachusetts, because of a career opportunity. She rates it a 37 on a scale of 1 to 10. But her pain is your gain as she shares the research she did afterward.
Doing right by your pets
Both dogs and cats can be very sensitive to how you’re feeling, so do your best not to stress. You’ll be making it harder on them too!
Try to stick to whatever routines your pets are used to. If possible, schedule yourself to be at your new home the first few days, so they won’t be alone in an unfamiliar place. It can be good to restrict access to a few rooms at first, especially if your new place is bigger.
For dogs, a couple of new toys can help make the change a positive experience. If the yard is fenced, double-check that it’s in good repair before sending your dog out to enjoy it — no gaps to slip through, nothing climbable that makes it easy to get over the fence and potentially get lost.
Most cats loathe change. Keep them in the carrier or a dedicated, secure “cat room” until everything is moved into the house and things have quieted down. If they’re indoor-outdoor, make them stay in for a few days to two weeks. Then let them out for short, supervised periods until they understand that they’re home.
Making a long-distance move? Look over these tips from the Animal Humane Society. And in the good-to-know department, here’s a must-read about how lost dogs and cats behave: What You Don’t Know About Lost Pets Can Hurt Them.
Clean before you unload. Second best: clean each room before you unpack into it.
Set up and make your beds first. Before you’re on the verge of first-day collapse.
Open every box. Unopened ones might sit in a closet indefinitely (know thyself on this one). Keep a few empties handy to fill with storage items as you unpack.
Designate a giveaway box. Maybe you purged pre-move. Still, you’ll be handling everything you own again, probably in a more leisurely fashion, so it’s a good time to further evaluate it all.
Fragile stuff last. When the chaos is tamed.
How Long Until It Feels Like Home?
Settling in to a new place is always a process, but perhaps especially for new homeowners. When does a new place feel like home? It varies for everyone. We enjoyed this comment thread at Houzz. Here’s a sampling.
“Any time I’ve moved, my house didn’t really feel like ‘home’ until the moment when I returned to it after going away on an overnight trip somewhere.” —smileyface2013
“After your first party. Could be a housewarming bash, or just a few friends for dinner. But hosting others, welcoming them to your space, helps you really own it. I don't wait for it to be perfect, I just invite some folk who care more about me than my decor, and start building memories into the walls.” —Melynda
“When I can fumble my way to the bathroom or fridge without turning on a light.” —kathleen MK
“The new house isn’t ‘home’ until it smells like your house. For me, it’s the light scent of the Pier 1 cranberry balsam candles I have always kept in a sideboard.” —rredpeen
“Once my furniture is inside and everything unpacked, I adjust right away. For me it is the content rather than the structure that defines the sense of home.” —feeny