So much can go wrong during a move. Add a coronavirus pandemic, and a lot more can go off the rails, and the consequences can extend far beyond a broken lampshade. They can affect your health.
Nonetheless, according to a survey conducted in late March by apartment listing site RENTCafe.com, 60% of renters planned to go ahead with their move, while just 9% are putting it off until the crisis is over.
“Not everyone gets the choice of when to move,” says Mike Glanz, founder of HireAHelper, an online moving services marketplace. “Predetermined corporate relocations and moves due to evictions or escrow closings are forcing some people to keep their move dates in place.”
Plus, transportation has been designated an essential service by the federal government, and that includes moving companies, according to the American Moving & Storage Association. Yet Glanz urges anyone planning to move soon to check with their state or city government to make sure no limitations or regulations exist preventing movers from operating.
And the truth is that moving can be done relatively safely right now, if you take some precautions. To help point you to the pitfalls, here are some common coronavirus-related moving mistakes to avoid.
1. Assuming a DIY move is safer than hiring help
Hiring movers can be pricey, costing between $600 and $1,700 for a move less than 100 miles away, according to HomeAdvisor. Add the possibility that movers might be sick, and it might seem safer and smarter to go the DIY route.
True, renting a truck and rounding up a few friends or family to help you move may be cheaper—but it won’t necessarily be safer. For one, your friends and family might just likely be as sick as the movers. And odds are, professional movers should have the training and equipment (including gloves and face masks) to move things as safely as possible.
If you’re determined to move your possessions yourself, make sure to take all the same precautions. If you rent a moving truck, you’ll have to spend time cleaning it. Ask local truck rental offices about their process for sanitizing vehicles between customers, Glanz says.
Bring your own sanitation supplies to clean and wipe down the steering wheel, door handles, and any other high-touch areas. Use gloves when driving the truck and while opening and closing the back door and loading ramp.
And since the novel coronavirus can survive on surfaces, “I would recommend disinfecting the walls and floors of the truck before loading your items,” adds Justin Carpenter, owner of Modern Maids, a housecleaning service in Dallas and Austin, TX, specializing in move-in and move-out cleaning.
2. Not vetting your movers
If you do hire movers, you should vet them thoroughly. Glanz suggests checking to make sure a company is licensed and insured, for starters, and also checking for wording on companies’ websites about their commitment to sanitation and safety.
“That tells you they are taking their responsibility to everybody’s safety seriously,” Glanz says. “If a moving company has a history of positive, active interaction with customers, they’ll shine even brighter under tough circumstances.”
Make sure the moving company you use is taking extra steps to ensure safety during the coronavirus outbreak, including providing virtual rather than in-home estimates and no-contact options, according to AMSA.
3. Using recycled boxes and packing supplies
The novel coronavirus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on plastic and steel for up to 72 hours, according to recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Using boxes and plastic bins that you already have on hand should be fine. But, if you need extra moving supplies, AMSA recommends purchasing new moving boxes and packing tape, and avoiding picking up free, recycled boxes from supermarkets and liquor stores.
Moving companies may also let you rent plastic bins, so be sure to wipe them down, inside and out, with disinfectant before packing your things.
4. Not prepping for your movers
Make sure you do what you can to pack and prep your boxes so they’re ready to go once the movers arrive. The reason: The less time spent moving your items means lower exposure risks.
“The faster a move can get done, the better and safer it is,” says Lior Rachmany, founder of Dumbo Moving and Storage in New York City.
This is also a decent argument to not DIY your move.
“The movers will do one straight transaction from point A to point B in less time than it takes the average person to do a DIY move,” Rachmany adds.
5. Moving in without deep cleaning first (and hiring help here, too)
Similar to hiring movers, hiring a professional cleaning service can be a cost-effective time saver, letting you focus on the move. A one-time housecleaning before moving into a new home averages $125 to $300, according to HomeAdvisor. And at a time like this, that may be money well-spent.
“A professional cleaning service already has years of experience cleaning hard-to-reach places or forgotten surfaces,” Glanz points out. “That comes in twice as handy now that it’s more important than ever to keep every touchable area cleaned.”
Before hiring a cleaning service, check online reviews and ask lots of questions.
“We’ve been getting a lot of questions about the products we use to clean and if we are taking any extra precautions,” Carpenter says. “Ask the company for recent references that have been served since shelter-in-place directives started rolling out. Call those customers and ask if they’d hire the service again.”
If you’re cleaning the place yourself, make sure to use products that actively disinfect and include ingredients such as sodium hypochlorite, ethanol, pine oil, hydrogen peroxide, citric acid, and quaternary ammonium compounds. And, don’t forget high-touch areas like doorknobs, light switches, faucets, and cabinet pulls.