The high cost of moving: Financial and emotional potholes

Dallas Morning News

Kevin Drewery has moved from Pittsburgh to Oregon to Texas and recently back to his native city over the past 12 years for family and other personal reasons. He says all the moving has practically emptied his bank account and left him in a deep hole of debt.

“Moving from state to state due to life changes has taken a toll on my pockets,” said the 44-year-old man, who has disabilities. “I got in trouble with the bank for letting my debit card go negative, and I even owe relatives and friends.”

Drewery’s experience is not unusual, according to a national survey of 300 people who have moved recently, commissioned by Our Town America, which reveals moving creates a financial nightmare for 1 in 6 people who find themselves in debt after a move.

Money problems aren’t the only challenges. Our Town America, a mover marketing company based in Pinellas Park, Fla., found 49 percent of people reported a recent move not only caused them serious financial stress but lasting friction with a significant other.

“Moving is a very difficult time,” said Denis Byrd, owner of an Our Town America franchise in the Pittsburgh area. “We have found through surveys how stressful and expensive moving can be.”

The marketing company helps build relationships between local business owners and people who move into town by delivering personalized welcoming packages full of gift certificates to new residents each month.

The company is similar to Valpak, except it focuses exclusively on people who have relocated.

Moving business has picked up in recent months, according to Our Town America. An improved economy means businesses are hiring and people looking for work will move for jobs. But employers don’t always cover the cost of moves. Almost half of those surveyed said their employer did nothing to help pay for relocation.

One in 10 people said the average cost of their move was $5,000 or more.

That might help explain why 35 percent said moving tarnished personal relationships, citing financial strain (49 percent), increased bickering (51 percent) and decreased intimacy (49 percent).

“A lot of the stress occurs due to people not financially preparing for the move,” Byrd said. “Ultimately, the financial stress leads to other stress and it can affect relationships.”

A checklist to de-stress moving

Almost half of moves occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Here are some tips for cutting your moving costs:

▪ Get estimates from at least three moving companies well in advance. Ask your friends to recommend moving companies they have been happy with, and check out the companies’ records with the Better Business Bureau.

▪ Know your rights. Movers must give you an estimate in writing. Insist on a binding estimate. Be sure that the estimate has all relevant shipping information, except the actual shipment weight, and any other information necessary to determine the final charges for all services performed. If you agree to a nonbinding estimate, at least confirm in writing the method of payment.

▪ Nail down when the movers will pick up and deliver your goods. Insist ahead of time that the mover reimburse you if your belongings aren’t picked up or delivered on the promised date.

▪ Understand movers’ responsibility for loss or damage. A mover is legally liable for loss or damage that occurs during the transportation of goods and the delivery of services listed on the shipping and transport document. However, hazardous, perishable or dangerous materials can limit or reduce the mover’s liability.

▪ Pack the nonbreakable stuff yourself, if you want. But let the movers pack the fragile things. If the mover doesn’t pack it, the mover is not liable for damage, unless it’s due to negligence.

▪ Hold a garage sale or donate to charity. You save money by reducing the volume or weight of what you’re shipping. Get rid of the stuff you haven’t used for years.

▪ If you’re paying for your move, take advantage of tax breaks associated with moving expenses. See a tax adviser for details.

Dallas Morning News