Most of the country is holed up at home right now because of the coronavirus pandemic, but some people are choosing to relocate. It might seem like a tricky prospect to move during a global health crisis, but there are some compelling reasons to do it now.
For one, many Americans now realize that their current financial situation won’t support their current rent or mortgage payments, especially if they have lost income because of the pandemic and lockdown. They may find it necessary to downsize or move to an area with a lower cost of living.
There are nonfinancial reasons, too. “As people are spending more and more time in their current homes, they are realizing they may not be living exactly where they want to be in the next chapter of their lives,” said Marisela Cotilla, executive director of sales for ALINA Residences in Boca Raton, Florida.
Of course, these times present unique challenges to moving. “The risk of infection while moving comes in two broad forms: Close contact with other people ― whether professional movers or friends loyal enough to help out ― and touching contaminated surfaces,” said Brian Davis, director of education for SparkRental.
There are many chances for you to come in contact with the coronavirus or to help spread it, whether you’re touring new apartments or touching rental equipment. But that doesn’t mean you have to choose between your health or a new home. Here’s how to protect yourself from COVID-19 if you have to move now.
Is It Possible To Tour Apartments And Homes Safely?
If you’re in the early stages of moving, you may wonder how to find a new apartment or house when social distancing orders are in place.
Many agents are offering prerecorded virtual apartment tours in place of in-home viewings. But people may not want to sign a lease based solely on pictures or video.
Karen Feldman, a licensed real estate agent for Triplemint, also hosts in-person virtual showings, incorporating video chatting with clients so that she can virtually walk them through an entire space. “I’ll show all the details, like water pressure, closets, under the sinks to show no mold, and tell them what I hear or don’t hear in the building,” she said.
If you’re serious about a property and want to see it in person before making a commitment, there are a few extra safety measures you can take.
“I have been getting around Manhattan via Citi Bike or walking, and I ask my clients to do the same if possible,” Feldman said. “It avoids using public transportation and ride-shares.”
Feldman also wears a mask and gloves and carries hand sanitizer at all times. “When we get to the apartment, I offer to take a separate elevator or head up the stairs a few moments ahead of my client to maintain social distance,” she said.
Should You Hire Professional Movers?
When moving, you risk coming into contact with contaminated boxes, rental equipment and other items, said Mike Glanz, founder of Hire a Helper.
But it’s rare to move all by yourself. It’s a lot of work and involves lifting heavy boxes and furniture, which requires at least two people. That means working in close proximity to at least one other person, lifting items and squeezing through tight doorways and hallways.
“They’re going to take the risk out of the equation because they’re trained to do this.”
The entire moving process puts you at risk of exposure to COVID-19, and you might think that avoiding a professional moving company eliminates some of that risk. But social distancing recommendations dictate against involving friends and family in your move, Glanz said.
Hiring a company lets them assume responsibility for everyone’s safety, and professional movers are incentivized to practice cautionary measures, such as wiping down all equipment, wearing face masks and maintaining at least 6 feet between themselves and you.
“They’re going to take the risk out of the equation because they’re trained to do this and know how to do it better, and they’re going to bring all the equipment and take care of it,” Glanz said.
It’s actually easier to stay at least 6 feet away from them, Davis said. “You can supervise them from outside your home, in between the door and the moving truck, or from a safe place inside,” he said.
Key Steps To Protect Yourself While Moving
Whether or not you decide to hire professional movers (after all, it can be pretty expensive), there are certain best practices you should follow during your move to protect yourself and others from coronavirus exposure.
Wear masks. Everyone involved in the move should have a proper face mask on at all times. “Whether you hire pros or enlist your friends, ask them in advance to please wear a mask,” Davis said. “While not perfect, it does prevent the shotgun blast of pathogens if they sneeze or cough.”
Use only new boxes. Studies show that the coronavirus lives for up to 24 hours on cardboard. That has several implications for your move. “In normal times, I recommend scoring free boxes for moving from liquor stores or friends. But right now, it’s worth shelling out the money to buy new boxes,” Davis said.
Pack everything ― and tightly. It’s important to be organized in your packing and make sure that every item goes into a box, with nothing left loose. You should also seal all boxes with packing tape, rather than leaving gaps in the cardboard flaps, Davis said.
“No last-minute shuffling around or just throwing stuff in bags and boxes on moving day,” he said. “Your movers should show up to a house with nothing but furniture and boxes ready to pick up and move. That’s common courtesy anyway, but it’s especially important right now.”
Don’t wait until the last minute. It’s also a good idea to finish up your packing at least 24 hours in advance to ensure that there are no living viruses on your boxes by moving day.
“This is a time for paranoia, as unnatural and unpleasant as that may be for healthy people.”
Communicate early and often. If you do hire movers, it’s important to communicate with them in advance and make sure they’re taking reasonable precautions, Glanz said.
“Make sure you’re communicating with the actual manager ― the person who’s actually going to be out there on the job ― and ask them what precautions they’re taking, and make sure you feel comfortable,” he added.
Unpack carefully. The same procedure you follow when packing also applies after moving. “Wait at least 24 hours before unpacking cardboard boxes. By then, the virus will have died on the cardboard surfaces,” Davis said.
You can pack your most urgent and important items in a separate, marked box and then wipe it down immediately once you’re moved in so you can access things you need while the rest sits in quarantine.
Wipe down everything. In addition to wearing masks and washing hands, everyone involved in the move should be regularly wiping down surfaces.
“If you rent a van or truck, wipe down major touch surfaces, including door handles, seat belts and buckles, the steering wheel, the keys, the stereo and cupholders and armrests,” Davis said. After all, you don’t know who drove that truck last or whether they followed the same precautions.
You should also wipe down the door handles and other common surfaces in your new home. Familiarize yourself with the CDC’s guidelines for properly disinfecting surfaces.
Moving is already a time-consuming and potentially expensive process, and the above might seem like a lot of extra trouble to go through. But if you must move, “This is a time for paranoia, as unnatural and unpleasant as that may be for healthy people,” Davis said.
On the other hand, if you don’t have an urgent need to move immediately, it may be a better idea to wait until the pandemic is under control. “Our stance to the public in general right now is that if you can avoid moving, then wait. Let’s be safe about this,” Glanz said.
The majority of apartment complexes, real estate firms, title companies and the like are sympathetic to the situation, Glanz said. You may be able to delay your closing or go month-to-month on rent until it’s safe to move.
“Moving services are considered an essential service, but we strongly recommend that people do what they can to be safe ― and the number one thing that you can do to be safe right now is just wait until your state or county eases restrictions on social distancing,” Glanz said.
Experts are still learning about the novel coronavirus. The information in this story is what was known or available as of press time, but it’s possible guidance around COVID-19 could change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.
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