Moving and anxiety tend to go hand in hand for a variety of reasons. You’ve found your next home, you’re sure you’ll love the home itself, but location and amenities might still be unknown prospects. Multiple drive-throughs can help, but how do you really capture the feel of a neighborhood before you move there? You can review safest cities, and look over school rankings, but does that really give a feel for the neighborhood?
You’re not only leaving a place of familiarity, you’re in charge of coordinating this migration and making sure everything arrives in tact. Not a simple matter for anyone to manage, especially if you’re working with a realtor, movers, a broker, an interior designer, home inspectors, contractors, and a host of other people involved with helping get you comfortably into a new home.
We’re here to help you sort out how to plan your next big move with sensible advice that anyone can use to find a safe neighborhood, evaluate moving companies, make smart decisions about neighborhood crime, have a better first week in your new space, and get a jumpstart on the next phase of your life.
Evaluating a Neighborhood
The first step you want to take when you decide to relocate is to get a feel for the neighborhood. We’ve looked at how to tell whether a neighborhood is safe, but there are some key indicators you can look for that tell you more about the area itself. Do a drive-through to look for neighbors working and playing outside, and to find all the well-kept yards. It’s also a great idea to get out and talk to neighbors, especially to ask about their experiences and whether they like their home and those around them.
If you notice a lot of poorly kept yards, it could be a sign that your prospective neighborhood has a lot of rental properties. Rental properties may build the costs of upkeep into the tenant’s costs, but not every landlord thinks about the standards of the neighborhood. Renters aren’t reliable when it comes to keeping the property in prime shape. They can also create undesirable situations if they break the law around you and your family. Too many landlords don’t perform due diligence, like background checks.
But if you want to know more about the demographics, driving around will tell you a lot. A high concentration of liquor stores and fast food restaurants are key indicators of poorer neighborhoods. Abandoned businesses and boarded-up shops also signal poorer areas more susceptible to high crime rates.
Police presence could be an indication of crime, or a routine patrol meant to keep things safe. It’s hard to say unless you witness more than a few patrol cars. Query crime report websites for more information on the neighborhood, and check sex offender databases for addresses near you. You can also contact your local police station with any questions you have about safety in the area. They may be able to tell you where local neighborhood watch programs and meetings are held, or provide some crime prevention information specific to your area.
Another hidden tactic for checking the general trustworthiness of a neighborhood is to look at the home values over time. You can chart the progress or decline of a neighborhood or city by how its costs have risen or fallen over time. Your realtor usually uses comparable property data to evaluate whether the price you’re paying for your home is fair, so he or she might already have access to this information.
If possible, look for a town magazine. These have risen in popularity over the years, and they are great sources of information for local events and alerts to be aware of.
Finding Trustworthy Movers
Good movers do more than carry boxes carefully into your home, but you don’t know a good mover until you’ve been through enough bad ones. Bad movers are never on time, often don’t perform within the intended time, and may break some of your furniture. They might also make medical claims against you and cause you legal drama.
Finding good movers takes some effort, but it’s worth the time. First, look at the company’s website for an “About Us” page. If a website or About page don’t exist, that’s your first sign they might not be reputable. Do they have a DOT number, are they insured? These are simple questions they should be able to answer over the phone.
Online reviews can be tricky because they are easy to fake and hard to verify. You can’t reliably do a background check on a Yelp user, even if you want to. Therefore, look at multiple sites for an overall opinion. It’s easy to fake reviews on one site, a bit harder to do it on more than two or three. Yelp and BBB are good places to start. Google, Angie’s List, Yellow Pages, and Consumer Affairs will also help.
When you request a quote, be sure you define what you’re paying for in its entirety. That includes how much time the movers will spend with you, how many boxes they will bring for you, what supplies they will have on hand, what supplies you need, costs for overtime, size of the truck used, distance traveled and anything else. Logistics is difficult to plan for, but you want to try and cover every potential contingency. If you’re moving in the winter, ask about snow or water damage. Ask everything you think you’ll need to know to be satisfied with what you’re paying for.
Before moving, make sure you pack some “Open First” boxes that have all the stuff you need to get moving by the following Monday. Start early and get good sleep the night before. Also, avoid feeling trapped by circumstance and pack survival boxes that stay with you and your family. These should include some of the following basics:
- Necessary medications
- Blankets and towels
- Basic electronics
- Favorite toys and comfort objects for kids
Check your home insurance policy as well. You may be surprised to find that some of your more valuable objects are covered during transport. This isn’t always the case, but it’s worth considering to help save some costs and provide peace of mind.
Creating a Safe Space
Safety in the neighborhood is everyone’s responsibility. Does your home pass the basic safety audit?
- Lighting: Dark areas are hiding spots for criminals. Use flood lights and daytime bulbs for attractive and illuminating security fixtures.
- Surveillance: Doorbell cameras are inexpensive and basic methods to improve home security without a lot of effort on your part. More expensive options offer far more comprehensive surveillance and may impact your home insurance costs too.
- Obscured Views: Hedges and curtains obscure the inside of your home and make it hard for criminals to look for valuables without seeming suspicious to neighbors.
In addition to the audit above, be sure you walk your property and look for potential problems. Loose fence boards could lead to unwanted entry, and an unlocked power box represents a major hazard to your family in the event of a break in.
Be sure to practice basic safety as well, such as picking up debris and flyers so the home looks lived in. Lastly, get a dog. Even a small dog can bark and alert you that a thief is coming.
Your First Week
Movers have left, you’ve spent the first night at your new home. It’s time to get truly acclimated. Spend the first few days looking at your furniture and valuables to make sure everything made the trip in one piece, documenting any dings received along the way. These will be useful for insurance claims if you need to make them.
Spend time with your kids and the pets, who are no doubt curious but also maybe a little anxious about the new space. Explore with them and discover this new home from their perspective.
Dine out. Your kitchen needs time to recover, and it’s a good idea to scout out the local food to see your options. What’s healthy? What’s affordable? What does everyone love? Now is your time to think about traditions in your new home too.
Take lots of pictures as you’re setting up. Start with kitchens and bathrooms, then work on bedrooms and living spaces. These places tend to take longer for us to arrange, so it’s a good idea to prep the essential parts of the home first. Those pictures will be fond memories in five years, so document everything.
Moving into a new space is always an uncertain time, but it carries a bittersweet feel of losing the old and exploring the new, which makes moving fun once you get past all the stress. If you take the time to evaluate where you’re moving, the company getting you there, and life after the boxes come off the truck, you’ll have a better first week and a head start on a new phase of life for your family.