Dec 042020
Selling and Buying a House in the UK – Tips for Moving Day (Part 5)

We’ve now been in our house for a year (exactly 1 year the day this post was published). It therefore seems the perfect time to wrap up this mini-series on selling and buying property in the UK. For me, the most stressful parts of this whole process were exchange (see part 3), and when my computer died the night I needed to buy home insurance (part 4). Moving day went better than expected, and was actually an enjoyable experience (despite terrible menstrual pain and a cold!). This post includes all my tips for moving day to make your experiences as positive as mine was. Happy packing!

Other posts in the moving house series:

Selling and Buying a House in the UK: Part 1
Selling and Buying a House in the UK: Part 2
Selling and Buying a House in the UK (Part 3)
Challenges of Buying and Selling a House (Part 4)

For all of you reading this post because you’re about to move, good luck! A bit of advanced organisation will mean a lot less stress on the day, so I hope some of my tips are helpful.

Booking a Moving/Removal Company

One of the first tasks you need to do once you’re over the hurdle of getting an offer, but before you’ve exchanged, is organise your moving company. We both vowed we would never self-move again. There was no way we would be able to get our furniture down three flights of stairs ourselves. I used a website in the UK, which offers you five quotes from companies in your area. I also contacted two local companies.

Soon after, I had a barrage of emails and phone calls, and no responses from some companies. One company was incredibly rude at the home estimate, and overpriced. Our removal company was great – professional and efficient. Helpful tip: When I declined the other companies, I worded my emails as such to keep my options open, in case we needed a back-up.

If you’re in a chain, notifying your removal company in advance of your moving date is tricky. We had a difficult time agreeing on a completion date as our sellers were insistent on a date that didn’t work for us, and our buyers wanted to move on a date that didn’t work for anyone. It was helpful to keep communication open with our removal company about their availability. I double-checked that they were available before we finalised our date with our solicitor.

Check-list for finding a moving company

There is a LOT of information on the internet about what to look for and avoid with moving companies. As with valuations (see part 1), I arranged three quotation visits. One cancelled, one was terrible and overpriced, and the one we went with was great. I found that having a check list was helpful so that I didn’t get the information from each company confused. A good company will take the time to answer your questions.

Linked below is the checklist I created and used when vetting moving companies. It includes check on availability, penalty fees, restricted items, and insurance and accreditation.

Removals Quotations Checklist

De-clutter

We started by going through books, DVDs, clothes, and mementos. Our flat had a loft and wanted to make sure that the majority of the items were down for the removal company to do their estimate, so this was incentive to sort things out early. We always thought we didn’t have that much stuff, but when you see it all packed in boxes we realised we had (and still have) too much! I found the moving process helpful in determining which items still “spark joy” and which items I was holding onto because I felt I should (e.g. thesis notes and drafts) but did not don’t spark joy. For more on minimalism and decluttering see: Minimalism – Helpful or Detrimental to Sustainable Living?

Spend-down food

I started a few months in advance by taking inventory of our cupboards and using up a lot of our ingredients (less to move!). Meal planning used up most of the items in the fridge (and all freezer items) since we were buying a new fridge that wouldn’t arrive for a couple of days. I packed our remaining fridge items in a cooler and left it outside at the new house.

Start early and pack slowly

I have a bad back so I could only manage 2-3 boxes per day. By taking my time, it wasn’t too disruptive and we still had access to most of our belongings. Plus, as we didn’t know when our completion date would be, it was a bit of a game to keep packing enough so that we didn’t need to rush, but not pack too much in case moving was delayed.

Tip: Read the fine print of your terms and conditions with your removal company. For example, they won’t move expensive jewellery. Ours said they wouldn’t move wines or some food items, but when I queried it, it was fine.

Moving day morning
Some of these boxes were packed a month before we actually moved!
Master list

I did most of the packing (and unpacking), and I make lists for EVERYTHING. Start packing the items you don’t need like books, DVDs, and decorations, and then work your way up to necessities. For example, keep everyday kitchen items out until the night before. With every box, I numbered it, gave it a location, and listed the contents on the master list. This helped to: keep track of the boxes, what is in each box, and estimate the value of each box. This master list was helpful when it came to estimating the total value of our belongings for contents insurance.

Keep your master list with you! When I unpacked, I worked my way backwards unpacking the highest numbered boxes first because they contained the most used items. I didn’t approach packing room by room because I wanted to utilise the space available in each box and sometimes you need to use light things (like clothes) to pack around heavier/delicate items.

Low waste moving

Use tea towels, clothes, or free newspapers to wrap items. Our movers lent us used boxes and packing paper and we returned them afterwards. When you are decluttering, take things the charity shop early so that you don’t get overwhelmed and end up just throwing things out last minute. We had less than a bin bag full of waste from our move.

Moving Plants

One of the most stressful elements for me was realising that moving companies don’t generally move plants because they aren’t insured. We asked our company to move our big palm, and then I was planning on moving the rest of the plants in the car, along with our necessities. I very quickly realised we wouldn’t fit everything in the car.

In the end, we dropped my plants off with Lucy’s aunt for a couple of weeks, which was such a stress saver! We also left some of our valuables/ awkward to move items with Lucy’s parents. If you can, I suggest asking friends/family to store some items temporarily. There are also specialist plant moving companies.

Items you should move:

Keep a suitcase of a couple of days’ worth of clothes with you, all your valuables like laptops and passports, your house documents all together in a folder/binder, and needed toiletries/medication.

Food items and necessities – I packed snacks, water bottles, toilet paper, and had things like the kettle and travel mugs to hand.

Moving Day:

You need to wait until the chain has completed, and your solicitor and/or estate agents will keep you posted. It was very straightforward in our case. Our removers were at the flat by about 8am and were done by 11am. We cleaned and then waited in the car until we got a call from the estate agents saying we could go and collect the keys. We collected our keys just after 1pm and the movers were finished by 3pm.

Unpacking:

Unpack in the items you need first. Things like your bedding, toiletries, and kitchen items. Have a take-away/easy meal the first night.

Lucy got a bad cold/flu after we moved that wiped her out completely. I did most of the unpacking, which actually didn’t take me that long. One thing I am eternally grateful to myself for is that I unpacked the linen closet the day after we moved. We moved on the 4th December and on the evening of 6th December our water tank burst. If I hadn’t had all the towels and linens to hand to soak up the water (tank is located in the linen cupboard), I think we might have lost our ceiling.

Remember to take photos!

This is nice for the memories, but is also important if any of your boxes or furniture get damaged (thankfully ours didn’t).

Bye Flat!
Bye flat!

My organisation and methodical packing made moving day an enjoyable experience. We were lucky with the weather, and we had a great moving company and solicitor. A year on and we are are settled in, and renovations are in the works. Plus, with the little furry addition of Wilbur, it is already a family home. I’m glad to have the moving process behind us, but I certainly learned a lot. Let’s hope we don’t need to move for a long time!

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