This guide will help you navigate the surprises that come with moving into your first home.
If you're leaving your parent's house or a college dorm, moving into your first apartment or home can be a major lesson in all the things you didn't know you didn't know.
There's so much more to moving than stuffing things into boxes and unpacking them at the new location, but this guide will help you get through it.
Record your new address
As soon as you sign the paperwork on your new place, be sure to write down your new address. You won't be able to do the following steps without it. Put it in your phone so you have it with you, or better yet, try to get it memorized as quickly as possible. You'll be amazed at how often you'll be repeating it over the next few weeks.
Switch on utilities
When signing your paperwork, be sure to get a move-in date. This should be the earliest day that you can move in to your home. As soon as you know the day, you need to get your utilities turn-on dates scheduled, since it can take companies days or weeks to schedule some services.
What you need
There are several utilities that you'll need to set up in your new home. They are:
- Gas (if your home has a gas heater, water heater or oven)
- Cable, satellite (optional)
- Many water, gas and electric companies will ask you for a deposit. This is often determined by your credit score and can end up being a couple hundred dollars or more. If you can't afford a big deposit at the get-go, some companies will let you make your deposit in payments that are added to your first few bills. All you need to do is ask.
Finding a utility company
Your water billing office can be found with a simple Google search of your town's name and "water billing office."
Electricity is a little trickier. In some states there is one provider while other states have several. If there are several choices, you'll need to do a price comparison. Click around their websites until you find the price in kilowatt hours (kWh). Electric companies charge somewhere between 7 and 12 cents per kWh. The lower kWh you use, the better.
Keep an eye out for new customer incentives, whether they're free nights and weekends, a free Nest thermostat or other perks. Just be sure to read the fine print. Some providers offer these perks for a limited time, then raise your bill. Typically, you'll also need to sign a long-term contract of one to two years. If you're planning on staying in one place for a while, a contract may not be a big deal when compared to the benefits of the perk.
Here is a sampling of plans found on one electric provider's website.
Many of these services can be set up through a chat service on their website. This is a lot faster than calling them and waiting on hold in most cases. Schedule the turn-on date for the same day as your move-in date.
Some utilities, such as internet and gas, will require someone to be at your home when the service is turned on. If you can't be there, have a relative or a trusted friend be there and let the company know the name of the person beforehand.
As soon as you know your move-in date, you'll need to plan how you're going to get your stuff to your new home. There are two options.
If you're cash-strapped
If your down payment on your home and utilities zapped your funds, then you may need to find a buddy to help get your stuff from point A to point B. You'll need around four people and one of those people needs to own a pickup. If all your friends own cars -- or take public transportation -- you'll need to rent a pickup or moving truck.
Renting a pickup
Some home improvement stores, such as Home Depot, rent pickups. All you need is a valid driver's license. The cost is a relatively low daily fee.
This is a better bet than trying to rent a pickup from a car rental service. Home improvement chains expect some wear and tear on their pickups, while rental services may charge you extra for even a little scratch.
Renting a moving truck
Another option would be to go online and book a moving truck from a place like U-Haul, Penske, Budget or Enterprise. Google "moving truck rentals" and a list of businesses nearby will pop up. The price you pay will depend on the size of the truck and how long you need to use it.
If you have a lot of stuff, go ahead and rent a bigger truck so you won't need to make as many trips. A word of caution, though: The bigger the truck, the harder it is to drive. If your driving skills are less than awesome, go with a smaller truck.
You can't get a friend to drive at the last minute, either. If your friend gets into a wreck with the truck, you could end up in legal trouble. If you do decide to let a friend drive, make sure they're included in the contract.
What you need
With either rental option, you will need a valid driver's license and your new address. Using a debit or credit card instead of cash can help you avoid a deposit with some companies. Typically, the rental company can provide you with insurance while you use their truck if you don't have car insurance of your own.
If you want professionals
Professional movers are the best way to get your stuff to your new home if you have a lot of stuff and very few people to help. Some companies also offer packing services for an extra fee, so you wouldn't even need to do that. Don't just jump on the first company that turns up on Google, though.
The best way to find a good moving company is to ask others. If you don't know anyone who's used a moving company, head over to Facebook and ask in some local groups. You can also try sites such as Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, movingscam.com and Angie's List to find the best movers in town -- or at least to weed out the scammers and plate breakers.
Get an estimate
Once you've got the list of moving companies narrowed down to a couple that seem trustworthy, get an estimate. Do not let them guess at what they'll charge you, though. Have them do a walk-though to see all the stuff you need moving, or send them photos. Have them give you a written binding estimate or an estimate that the price won't exceed a certain amount. This way you won't be shocked at the bill later on.
The total cost of your move can vary, depending on how heavy your stuff is, how far it needs to be moved, how long it will take to move or a combination of those three.
Before any moving happens, grab your phone and video or photograph all your stuff. This will document the condition they were in before the move.
When the movers load your stuff up, you should get a packet of documents. One of them should be an inventory list of all the things that the movers loaded up. Another should be labeled written binding estimate. Make sure it is signed and dated. You'll need this in case the mover tries to over-charge you later.
Check things over
Once the movers unload your items, check everything for damage before you sign anything the movers hand you.
If you find damage, document it using the camera on your phone. If you need to go to small claims court over the company's negligence, photos will help you tell your side of the story.
Part of the USPS' change of address form.
Change your address
Finally, you need to make sure all of the important people know your new address. No, I'm not talking about friends and family. Here's who to contact.
The post office
First, you need to get all of your mail forwarded to your new address. This used to mean going to your local post office and filling out a form. Now days it is all done online. Simply fill out this address change form and you're done.
Bank and credit cards
Changing the address for your bank account and credit cards is just as easy. Simply go to their site and change your address through your online account.
You may think this is unnecessary, but trust me. If the banks don't have your new location on file, things can go awry. You won't be able to get new checks without your new address, for one, and when your card expires your new one will be sent to your old address. Better to get it changed now, while it's on your mind than run into problems later.
Don't put off changing the address on your periodical, either. Newspaper subscriptions and periodicals will keep going to your old address, even after changing it with the post office. All you need to do is go to their customer service site to change your address.
Did you know that in some states it's against the law not to change the address on your driver's license? If you get stopped by the police, an old license can cost you a ticket.
You can change your address and get a new license at your state's Department of Motor Vehicles' website. There are a lot of scam sites out there, so don't trust a web search. Call your local department and ask them what their website is to avoid lookalikes.
Getting your own place to call home is no small task. Moving there can be just as challenging. Taking these steps will get you through the transition smoothly.
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