1. Hire the pros
Resist the temptation to save a few bucks by hiring Uncle Joe and his pickup truck. For one, you will need a genuine receipt to deduct moving expenses on your taxes -- plus, you do not want to be liable if somebody drops a box. One crushed toe can be very expensive (not to mention the replacement value of whatever was in that box).
If you can afford the expense, let the movers pack for you, too. They pack faster: they don't spend time wondering if Aunt Gertrude's crocheted lampshades are worth keeping. And if they break, they buy.
Finally, if you're not paying someone, they're not likely to take the job as seriously. They see it as doing you a favor (which is true), so therefore, they can slack off, be late, have a few beers while loading up... and generally do the job halfway. And that's no favor at all.
2. Find a temporary place to stay
People fret about moving costs, but it's temporary housing that can eat a hole in your budget. Of course, it's always great to time the sale of your old home to match the purchase of your new house -- but it's not always possible.
When your moving date is coming up, you'll feel less pressured to make the perfect transition if you can at least budget for a few days at a hotel. Even if you have the keys to your new house, you may not have power, water, gas -- or, most important of all: internet and cable. (This solution also really beats having to rely on staying with a friend until your dream home is ready for you.)
3. Get clear on what you want
Before you move, visualize your perfect new home. Include as many details as possible. If you can't visualize the entire house or apartment, focus on the details that really matter to you, such as:
- his and hers walk-in closets
- a fenced yard for the dogs
- sunny windowsills where the cats to sleep and the plants can thrive
- a door wide enough to accommodate the sectional sofa
- enough room for a grand piano
- energy-efficient construction
- a separate dining room
- mature landscaping
- walking distance to shops and recreation
- beautiful views from the master suite
- a large, eat-in kitchen off the family room
- high ceilings throughout the home
- an actual foyer, not just a door into the living room
- located on a cul-de-sac so there's minimal traffic
- a 3-car garage
- close proximity to a park or community pool
- a separate home office or spare bedroom
- usable attic or basement space for storage
- all houses in the area are well-maintained
- a secluded, private backyard
You'll be more likely to make the right decision the first time.
4. Don't rush to sign a lease or offer
Better to lose an opportunity than to be saddled with an unlivable house or apartment six months down the road. My rule is, "Sleep before signing." If it is truly your home, it will still be there tomorrow -- and if not, there's something else out there just as good for you -- if not better. Breaking a lease or temporarily moving to a different address will be expensive and time-consuming... not to mention possibly heartbreaking.
5. Lost in a new town?
Let's say you have 10 addresses to check out in your search for the perfect new home -- and one traditional old map. If this is all the help you have, you may well want to just take the first place you see because it's such a hassle to find all the other houses you planned to see. Well, wander no more! Here are three solutions for you.
- Rent (or buy) a GPS device. It will help you figure out each neighborhood you visit, and will be super handy when do you eventually find your new home.
- Use a free online map service, such as Google Maps. Most web-based maps will even help you daisy-chain your tour plan -- so you can get directions from point A to point B, then from point B to point C, point C to point D and onwards.
- Hire a taxi or car service -- nearly all will allow you to hire them for two or three hours. You may have to pay $100 or more, but you may well get more than you're money's worth in terms of saved time and frustration. . Call ahead and ask for an experienced driver who knows the area. Ask him or her driver questions like, "What kind of fares do you get in this neighborhood?" or "Is this area considered safe?" Cab drivers know a lot.
6. Take time for yourself
The entire process of moving to a new house can be exhausting. On a physical level, you are packing boxes and running all over town -- while mentally, you face conflicting opinions from self-proclaimed experts and well-meaning friends and trying to make a thousand different decisions a day (where to put each box, how are they going to get the sofa inside when the front door is 6 inches too narrow, why isn't the power working?).
Stop! Treat yourself to a leisurely walk around your new neighborhood, a nice lunch or dinner, even a movie. Use all the stress-busters you know: meditation, exercises, listen to music, share some love with your honey, make a few pick-me-up phone calls to your favorite people.
A two-hour break can restore your perspective and save you two years of grief. And who knows? You might discover your sacred space in the new city.