Whether you're considering relocation for a new job or closer proximity to family, it's important to figure in the cost of your move. Even if you're only going across town, it's likely to cost more than you think.
According to the latest figures from the American Moving and Storage Association, the average cost of an in-state professional move - based on 7,570 pounds of stuff - is $1,170. The average state-to-state move costs $5,630. If you're being transferred and getting employer assistance with your move, Worldwide ERC, an organization that focuses on that end of the business, puts the average cost of moving household goods anywhere in the country at $12,937.
What's the best way to control moving expenses? Start with a master checklist to collect data and consider all costs and personal aspects of a potential move. You may want to include a pro-and-con list that addresses all conceivable economic and lifestyle outcomes. After all, relocating isn't just about loading up a truck.
Your move might feature a new career and lifestyle, a home sale and purchase, a higher or lower cost of living in your target community and unfamiliar school systems for your kids. These elements are really about the long-term costs and benefits of a move; packing up is really just the short-term element.
Before you fill the boxes, consider the following:
Use time wisely. There's never enough time to organize a move, particularly as moving day approaches. That's why having months or a year to plan a move can be so beneficial. Get to work on it now.
Seek advisors. Whether or not you plan to sell a home with a licensed real estate broker or agent, most are open to do a market valuation of your property and suggest repairs or improvements that could maximize a sale price. If you use a qualified financial planner or tax advisor, include him or her in early discussions for insight on how a move will affect your finances. Also, if you're selling property, find an experienced real estate attorney to offer legal insight and review broker and sale contracts.
Get multiple estimates from movers. An early walk-through at your home or apartment by two to three registered movers can provide a reality check on how much you'll want to take and whether you can afford luxuries like storage.
Watch for fraud. Recent news reports have highlighted a trend called "hostage load," a practice whereby unscrupulous moving companies demand more money from customers before finishing a delivery. Getting references from trusted friends and advisors is a good first step to finding the right registered mover for your relocation. The U.S. Department of Transportation has launched a "Protect Your Move" site that allows you to download a moving fraud protection guide and offers tips on proper ways to investigate and hire a mover.
Start downsizing - now. Getting early estimates from movers certainly helps you decide what you're really willing to take. If there are valuables you think you can sell, consult professional appraisers and even general marketplace sources like eBay to get a realistic idea of value. Otherwise, consider garage sales and donations for the rest. For donations, get proper tax advice before you begin.
Go low-budget...or no budget. Depending on your stage in life, grabbing a bunch of friends and a rental truck may or may not be the best way to save money on a move. But there are other low-cost options. One of the newer wrinkles involves transportation companies that deliver semi-style trailers or stackable shipping containers directly to customers for self-loading followed by pickup and delivery. These options should be compared with the consumer protection options offered by registered professional movers.
Insure what you're moving. Whatever plans you're making for home or renter's coverage at the new destination, make sure you have proper coverage in place for the contents of your move. The Insurance Information Institute provides a useful guide to properly insuring the possessions you are moving.
Build a cash reserve for deposits, fees and incidentals. Keeping moving costs low can help you handle dozens of smaller and sometimes unexpected expenses that crop up immediately before, during and after a move. The bigger amounts might go to apartment or utility deposits or getting your old place professionally cleaned after your possessions are on the truck (particularly smart if you want your apartment deposit back or happy buyers at your old home). Also, if you're moving some distance, see if your expenses meet Internal Revenue Service tests for deductibility. Finally, moves generally mean multiple trips to the discount store, home center or grocery.
Bottom line: Moving expenses go far beyond loading up a truck. If you have months to plan, make lists, get estimates and reach out to qualified advisors so you can relocate affordably.
Nathaniel Sillin directs Visa's financial education programs. To follow Practical Money Skills on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney