Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Moving the Goods (Choosing a Moving Company)

I approached the prospect of choosing a company to move my possessions to my new home with a great deal of dread. I have heard the horror stories of bad service as well as outright criminal practices. These generally fall into two categories bait and switch and the hostage move. It is estimated that about 5% of moving companies account for almost all of the consumer complaints.

Bait and switch might be the result of criminal intent or it just might be the result of incompetence. The cost of moving is primarily driven (a pun?) by weight and distance. The distance of the move can be quickly determined with great accuracy by Google Maps. Guessing the weight of a house full of junk strikes me as something of an art form. What is under that bed? How much does it weigh? How about those storage boxes in the basement? Hmm… Surprisingly all three of my weight estimates were very close. Either those guys all know what they are doing or they are all wrong. Once the estimated weight and the distance are determined a computer program generates the estimate in seconds. Generally, you will be presented with a non-binding estimate. That means if the estimator guessed low it will cost more. If he guessed high it will cost less. You will pay for the actual weight and distance. One of my estimates was a binding estimate. That means the cost of the move is capped. If the guess is high it will cost less, but if they guess low they eat the difference. I had to go back to one of the vendors and get a binding estimate. The third vendor’s non-binding estimate was higher than either of the binding estimates so I saw no point in asking him for a biding estimate. Some vendors intentionally low ball their estimates. If you see one vendor that is way out of line on weight with the competition, that ought to throw a flag.

I have heard two variations on the hostage move. In the more common version, your property is stored in a warehouse or on a truck. The company refuses to deliver until you pay more than the contract requires. In the second version, the low bidder shows up on the day of the move and demands extra cash. These practices are extremely illegal. They should be immediately reported to the appropriate authorities.

Another concern I should mention is insurance. Your home owners insurance only covers fire, storm damage, and the like, whatever is written into your policy. It does not cover the actions of a clumsy mover who drops Aunt Matilda’s porcelain gravy bowl. The law requires the moving companies provide minimal, nearly worthless insurance. I believe it is 60 cents a pound. This would place a value of about 30 cents on the aforementioned porcelain gravy bowl. The cost of the optional insurance, like all insurance, is driven by the total amount of the coverage and the size of the deductable. I selected the minimum recommended policy which given the weight of my move was $68,000 with the $250 deductible. The price seemed OK.

The three vendors I selected were supplied to me by realtors with whom I have long standing relationships. It turns out the major real estate offices maintain both a recommended list and a black list. Some realtors actually have established relationships with the employees of favored moving companies they trust.

Of course that generates the next question, “How does one select a realtor?” Let’s save that for another day.

My wife and I have made our decision, put down our deposit, and scheduled the move. I will let you know how it all turned out.

Here is a website dedicated to avoiding and putting an end to crooked moving companies and their practices.


No comments:

Post a Comment