Many people are a bit confused as to what’s actually going to occur when they move house! And often this begins to dawn on them as removals day draws ever nearer and a slightly nagging fear begins to make itself felt. Have no fear! I’m going to lay out here what exactly is going to happen and also include some really helpful advice that will make your big move as pleasant and stress free as possible.
The following article will be helpful for anyone moving house, regardless of whether you’re buying, selling or renting your home. What it is about is the actual physical process of getting all of your belongings into a variety of vehicles and moving them to your new place and getting them all in there in a timely and safe fashion. This article is not about the legal ins and outs of “exchange and completion”, you’ve signed something at some point which guarantees your solicitors some money and they’re going to do their jobs on the day and for anyone who isn’t a lawyer there’s not much more you need to know really. (that’s why you get the solicitors to do it, you're paying them to handle all that and invariably they will.)
This article also assumes we’re talking about small to medium size removals that take place over the course of 1 day. Very large removals and/ or removals that take place over the course of multiple days and probably also involve moving long distances will be covered in a different article.
If you rent your home you can skip this paragraph. If you’re buying or selling property your conveyancing solicitor will be completing contracts. Completion day IS removals day. Some people get a bit confused about this, they have this idea that they can take their time moving out of their old house using small vehicles and making multiple trips to their new home.
This is not possible because at lunchtime on completion day you no longer own your old house and have no legal right of access to it. There’s a cut off time on your contract (ask your solicitor about this), once you’re past this time you should be ready to give vacant possession of your house to your buyer.
If the buyers of your place are super keen and organised they could be on your old driveway at the cut off time, beginning to move all their stuff in, you appearing 10 minutes later for “the last few bits” just isn’t going to fly. So it is important to understand that by then all of your belongings must be on one or more vehicles and out of your old home.
The plan for your big day will have been outlined on your removals contract. Hopefully you’ve had a few phone conversations with your chosen outfit and a plan is in place, you should know how many people and vehicles are arriving and where each vehicle is going to park.
You must be fully packed and ready to go at this point, if you’re still packing when the team arrives you’re going to start getting very stressed out and stress is never good. You need to have stripped your beds and packed your bedding once you’ve got up on the day. So the vehicles park and various people start coming into your old home and removing all your worldly goods. If you’ve expressed any concerns about carpets then we’ll put down carpet protector.
Generally the guys like to load bedrooms first, then downstairs, with garden and garage type stuff coming in last. It’s a really good idea to label boxes with a destination room so that come time to unload it’s easy to work out what room to put them in. Going by name is always a good idea, “Jane’s room”, “Robert’s room” etc etc. So the team is here and your belongings are heading out onto a vehicle.
We have hanging wardrobe boxes that we’ll sell/ loan you for the duration of the move. So they’re going to remove all your hanging garments from your wardrobes, rehang them in these boxes and then you take them out at the destination. If we’ve lent you these boxes then the boys will take them away with them when they’re empty. We’ll also have a flat screen TV crate so as to keep that particular all important item safe. Additionally we’ll have custom made bags to protect sofas, armchairs and mattresses.
1) Have a backpack/ handbag which you keep with you at all times that contains items such as your wallet/ purse, passport, driver’s licence, bank and credit cards, definitely any medicines you may need, legal paperwork regarding your move, mobile phone, maybe your laptop & chargers. Anything that is really important for you to be able to lay hands on today and tomorrow should be in a bag that you ensure does not get accidentally loaded onto the lorry. Keep this with you, don’t put it down. For some removals, people do pack lots of stuff in holdalls and smallish bags, the removals team have had it impressed on them that “everything’s to go” so at some point someone’s bound to pick it up and put it on the lorry, once it’s obscured by a few other things it might be extremely difficult to retrieve once you realise you need to make a phone call about keys and you appear to have mislaid your phone!)
2) Have a plastic crate on the kitchen counter with a big note on it saying “Don’t take this !!!” In here you can have the kettle, tea, coffee, milk, sugar, biscuits and other snacks. Maybe you can take this yourself when you leave or if the team’s taking it, rip the note off and give it to them last. That way it’ll be the first thing off at the destination address and can go straight onto the new kitchen counter so people can have a cuppa when they need it.
3) If that plastic crate you’ve got on the counter is big enough you may want to put any essential toiletries you want to access this evening in your new place. It’s no fun at all when you’re in your new home and wish to go to sleep and suddenly realise you’ve no idea where your toothbrush is!
4) If you have dismantled your own bed then bear in mind that you will probably be quite keen to reassemble it later on this evening so that you’ve got a bed to sleep in at your new home. Therefore make sure the tools you need to do this are accessible to you and not in a box somewhere, ideally keep them with you. Also keep the nuts and bolts with you too, If you decide to secure the nuts and bolts that hold the bed together to a part of the bed then please ensure that they are in a tough bag/ container (not a flimsy sandwich bag) and also ensure that they are securely attached (2 bits of tape on each corner isn’t enough). This is really important as if those items drop off in the street and roll all over the place and get lost, reassembly of your bed may not be possible! Coupled with that the removals company won’t be replacing them either as their T&Cs will certainly contain clauses stating that they’re only going to be liable for damage to items that were packed properly in the first place, a sandwich bag and a bit of sticky tape doesn’t constitute “adequate packing”, so really, best bet, keep those bits with you!
5) Most people feel obligated to do a bit of cleaning as their home empties out. If you feel it’s important to leave your old place nice and clean for the new occupants then it’s going to be up to you to make sure your hoover and mop don’t get loaded onto the lorry. Have a corner somewhere where it’s clear that you don’t want this stuff taken. Removals guys like to get to a point where they’ve got 1 or 2 rooms completely empty and that’s your chance to get in there and start to clean as you go!
Okay, the team work away, slow and steady is the ethos, safety first, well organised loading second. Once everything’s loaded, have a look around and make sure everything that you want moved has been taken out. If you’re leaving some stuff for the new occupants please make sure that these items are clearly labelled as “not to be taken.” If you’re leaving furniture you don’t want to sellotape these notes in place as you might damage it, post-it notes are a good idea, maybe 3 or 4 all over it for larger items just in case 1 or 2 fall off. Okay, wonderful, loading is finished.
Your removals team is going to head off and get some lunch and have a well earned rest. If you’re moving rented to rented then straight after lunch they’re going to arrive at your new home and begin to unload your belongings into it. If you’re moving into a place you’re buying then you’re now ready to drop your keys off with the buyer’s estate agent and go and collect your new keys from the seller's estate agent.
Completion does get delayed sometimes, it can be a bit frustrating, everyone’s made the effort to get out quickly and now everyone’s sitting about in limbo unable to access their new homes. Not much you can do about that though, you have to just trust that the legal boys and girls are sorting out any technical hitches and be patient.
It’s important that you’ve read through the contract that your chosen removals company provided you with. Some companies charge quite a bit in waiting time if there’s a delay, we don’t. Hopefully everything’s sorted by early afternoon and you have your keys, you enter your new home and the team begins to unload your belongings into it. If keys don’t arrive until late afternoon we’ll do our best to move you into your new home as efficiently as possible.
Keep it simple, at the new home you can put post-it notes on each bedroom door, the guy comes up the stairs with a box marked “Sarah : bedroom”, there's the door with a “Sarah” post it note affixed, easy peasy! Try and avoid overly complex plans. Some people have a floor plan that looks like an architect's drawing, everything is numbered. This nearly always goes at least a bit wrong, it can be difficult to look at a drawing and translate that into the reality of the actual place. Numbering stuff is not as intuitive as people’s names, after your seventh trip up the stairs attempting to remember which room was 3B can get a bit blurry whereas once Letitia’s room has got that standard lamp with the pink shade in it then you can start taking ‘Letitia’ boxes in there without even really consciously thinking about it.
Some clients go for a colour coded idea, different coloured squares mean different rooms, this is not such a great idea. Some people are colour blind! Also if it starts to get a bit dark then differentiating 1 colour from another can get awkward. There really is no beating getting a permanent marker and writing “Steven”, “Lily” etc etc on the top of each box and then getting “Steven” and “Lily” post it notes onto the relevant doors.
Here’s another super important point, if you’re a couple, try to make sure that you’re both in agreement about which room is for whom and where everything is going. If you don’t get this right then the day can start to go a bit downhill, if you’re directing people to stop what they’re doing so as to relocate loads of stuff that has been put in the wrong place then the pace of the whole operation begins to slow down and obviously the quicker it all gets done the more of your first evening in your new home you’ll have available to unpack some stuff and take a breath.
Some clients like to hover around the back of the lorry and direct each guy to put this item here, that one there, and so long as you’re not getting underfoot, this is actually a pretty sound idea. Other people prefer to loiter in the hallway or near the front door and do the same thing. Again, so long as you're not underfoot or in harm's way this is a good idea, you’ve only got the team here for today so make the most of them and get your stuff where you want it.
Try and avoid falling into the trap of deciding that the best thing you can do as the guys unload is hide away in the kitchen and start unpacking ‘kitchen’ boxes into cupboards and onto shelves. Lots of stuff coming off the lorry, particularly big, heavy items, really needs to be directed to it’s destination in a quite detailed way. That is to say that a large display case destined for the lounge needs to end up resting against the correct wall, facing the right way, if you’re not around to make this happen then all the team can do is ‘wing it’ and put it where they think it looks okay.
The guys love to be told exactly where something’s going, follow them in there and point and say “left a bit”, “back a bit” and then “perfect!” (“I bet the guys don’t love that” I hear you saying but you’re wrong, if everyone’s confident that the really heavy, cumbersome display unit is indeed in the correct place then the guys are very happy to know that they’re not going to have to pick it up again!) As with so many things in life, effective communication really is the key to a successful removal.
As the guys are bringing in the last few items you can breathe a huge sigh of relief, you’re in your new home, fantastic! Time to think about reassembling your bed, “oh no! Where are the fixtures that hold the bed together? Oh that’s right, they’re with me in my ‘important items’ box, along with the tools I need for reassembly, thank goodness, what a good idea of mine that was!”