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COVID-19 Preparedness Guide

The Complete Guide to Moving During a Pandemic

Moving is stressful under the best circumstances. Add a global pandemic to the equation and suddenly the normal challenges associated with moving can feel insurmountable.

While the safest course of action under these circumstances is to delay or postpone your move, for many, this may not be an option. There are a number of situations in which your moving dates might not be flexible:

  • Your lease is up and new tenants are moving in.
  • Your house is sold, the papers are signed, and your closing date can’t be moved.
  • Your new job is starting and you’re relocating to a new city.
  • You’re moving away to college in another city or state.

If you can’t postpone your move, don’t panic—while many states and jurisdictions have closed non-essential businesses in an effort to slow the spread of viruses like the novel coronavirus, moving services are deemed “essential”, and most professional movers and truck rental companies will continue to operate. However, the decision to operate is ultimately up to the individual business owner, so even if services are still operating in your region, your moving company may have voluntarily closed.

TSI TIP: Rules and regulations about what types of businesses are permitted to operate under emergency pandemic conditions vary by region. Research your area—where you are moving from, where you are moving to, and any regions in between—to confirm whether moving companies are still operating as usual and to determine whether there have been any changes to your plans.

This guide will provide our expert advice for staying safe before, during, and after your move. We’ll also cover what to do if you’re moving long distance, as well as offer tips for house hunting during a pandemic, and advice for selling your home.

Let’s jump in.

Before the move

If you’re moving during a pandemic, most of the changes you’ll experience compared to a “normal” move will be felt in the planning stages before your move takes place. This includes typical moving tasks like decluttering, packing, and planning your logistics.

Decluttering

Moving is a fantastic time to purge your belongings, but in the midst of a pandemic, it may be difficult to find donation centers that are accepting items like clothing, furniture, and other household items.

Before you load up your car and drive to a drop-off point, call the facility to confirm that they are taking donations and find out if there are any extra precautions you need to take before arriving, such as washing and disinfecting your items.

Packing

Packing up your belongings during a pandemic poses some unique challenges, but with a little planning and preparation, you can pack up as you normally would. Stay safe by following these tips:

  • Consider hiring professional packers. In addition to saving you time and stress, professional packers will provide all the necessary packing materials, which reduces your exposure to illness by eliminating the need to go to the store to acquire supplies.

TSI TIP: You can also avoid a trip to the store by purchasing your packing supplies online. Order what you need at our online moving supply shop and they’ll be delivered right to your door.

  • Avoid using plastic bins and bags. Studies have shown that the novel coronavirus can survive on plastic surfaces much longer than cardboard—up to 72 hours on plastic compared to 24 hours on cardboard.
  • Think carefully about your packing supplies. Estimate how many boxes you’ll need before you stock up on supplies to minimize the number of times you’ll need to go to the store. When in doubt, buy extra.
  • Opt for new boxes over recycled boxes. Though the likelihood of contracting an illness from a cardboard box is low, new boxes are still cleaner and safer than recycled boxes.

TSI TIP: You can also avoid a trip to the store by purchasing your packing supplies online. Order what you need at our online moving supply shop and they’ll be delivered right to your door.

  • Try to finish packing at least 24 hours before your movers arrive.
  • If you can, clean and sanitize your possessions before packing them into boxes.
  • Try to position boxes as close to your door as possible to minimize traffic in your home.

For more advice on how to pack up your home, check out our detailed room by room packing guide.

Planning your logistics

Figuring out how you’ll actually move your stuff is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face when planning a move during a pandemic. Your choices are the same as they would be under normal circumstances, but the best option for your move might differ from what you originally envisioned. Consider the following options carefully before finalizing your plan:

  • DIY move: If you’re able to load and unload your belongings yourself or with the help of others living in your household, DIYing your move is an effective way to minimize contact with others. Moving truck rental companies are considered essential and are continuing to operate, but they will likely have implemented contactless pickup and drop-off procedures and will require you to reserve a vehicle online or over the phone. This option may be best for smaller, local moves.
  • Moving containers: Portable moving containers allow you to take your time loading and unloading your belongings, ensuring that only you and other members of your household will handle your items. In most cases, contact with other people will be limited to the truck driver who drops off and picks up your container and the person responsible for loading the container onto the truck. Both of these tasks can be managed with minimal contact. Since you will be responsible for loading your own container, this option is also suitable for smaller, local moves.
  • Storage: Storage facilities are also deemed essential and are continuing to operate, but they may have reduced their hours of operation or implemented limitations on how many people are allowed in the facility at one time. If you are unable to move into your new home but can’t stay in your current place, or are moving long distance and will be staying in temporary short-term housing, storing your belongings in the interim might be a good option.
  • Hire movers: Movers are considered an essential service and will likely be operating in your area during a pandemic, but with some changes to their usual operations. While this method has the greatest risk of exposure, if you are unable to DIY your move because you live alone or have a large amount of stuff, hiring movers is likely your best option. Before you sign a contract and hire movers, ask about how their procedures have changed during a pandemic. Make sure you ask these questions:
    • Can you provide a virtual or digital estimate?
    • Am I able to sign documents digitally?
    • Are trucks and movers equipped with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE)?
    • Will the moving truck and equipment be thoroughly sanitized before furniture and boxes are loaded?
    • What is your cancellation or rescheduling policy?
    • What are you doing to ensure your employees are safe and not sick?

What to do if you have already booked a truck or movers

If you already had a move scheduled before a pandemic is declared, you may not be able to postpone. It is generally safe to progress with your move as planned, as long as you do your research and maintain physical distancing guidelines throughout the process. Keep moving with these tips:

  • Confirm that moving is still allowed in your building or region. Some apartment buildings are prohibiting moves under shelter-in-place orders.
  • Whether you hired movers, rented a truck, or arranged for a portable storage container, call your moving partner to find out if there have been any changes to your plan. Find out how they are keeping their employees safe and inquire about new hygiene and sanitation procedures in case there are things you should do before the movers arrive or you pick up your truck.
  • Disinfect furniture and other surfaces before your movers arrive.
  • Make arrangements with utilities providers and other services as early as possible, including cancelling or transferring utilities, arranging for cleaners or contractors, and scheduling internet and cable set up.
  • Reserve an elevator in your apartment or condo to ensure there is a safe and consistent path in and out of your building.

What to do if you have not booked a truck or movers

If you are in the early stages of planning your move and have yet to give notice to your landlord, finalize the close of your home sale, or book movers, you may want to consider postponing your move. If you don’t have the option of postponing your move, follow these tips:

  • Call multiple moving companies to find out if they are still operating. Ask how their procedures have changed, how they are keeping employees and customers safe, and about their policies for schedule changes, cancellations, and refunds during a pandemic.

TSI TIP: Look for moving companies that will complete a virtual estimate. A virtual estimate will help your moving partner understand how much you have to move, as well as any unique challenges your move might present, such as long carries, stairs, or abnormally shaped items. With this information, your mover can supply the most accurate quote possible.

  • Plan to view new houses or rental properties virtually instead of in-person, especially if the house or unit is currently occupied. You may still be able to schedule in-person showings by appointment depending on local physical distancing restrictions.
  • Thoroughly research your new place. Compare photos and videos against the exterior appearance of the unit using Google Maps street view, research the landlord or property manager online if you’re renting, and don’t skip a home inspection (conducted virtually) if you’re buying.
  • Consider legal safeguards, such as adding addendums to your lease or sales contract to allow for delays caused by a pandemic, such as delays processing financial applications, government actions to quarantine, or the availability of parties and other stakeholders (such as property inspectors) should they fall ill.

What to do if you’re moving long distance

Whether you’re moving for a new job, college, or for any other reason, you’ll have a number of additional challenges to surmount while moving long distance during a pandemic. Follow these tips to streamline your move as much as possible:

  • Check with local and state officials to determine whether your move has been affected by local quarantine restrictions. Some areas, including New York City, prohibited all moves until the COVID-19 pandemic was contained.
  • Consider travelling by car. It may take longer (sometimes a lot longer), but travelling in your personal vehicle is the safest method of transportation and will allow you to maintain physical distancing guidelines as much as possible.
  • Consult CDC guidelines on travel. Research the state you’re moving out of, the state you’re moving to, and any states you’ll pass through along the way so you can understand the restrictions in place throughout your journey.
  • Plan your travel arrangements as soon as you can, including booking flights or hotels.
  • Research cancellation policies before you book travel, accommodations, or other services. Try to make refundable reservations or only work with companies that offer free cancellations.

Long distance small moves are TSI’s specialty. We offer personalized long-distance small move shipping services at lower rates than large van line movers, whether you’re moving to the next state or across the country. We can help you ship your household, including furniture, boxes, antiques, artwork, and other specialty items.

If you are only shipping boxes, our flat rate box-and-ship solution is perfect for transporting your belongings across the country. Order your boxes online and we’ll deliver them right to your door. Once they’re packed up, we’ll return to pick them up.

Ship boxes from home

Learn more about flat rate box shipping with TSI.

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What to do if you want to cancel your move

If you have a move planned and you want to cancel, contact your moving provider as soon as possible—most moving contracts are non-binding, so you can likely cancel without financial penalty provided enough notice is given. Movers may be more lenient during a pandemic, but deposits might not be refundable.

During the move

Your actual moving day will probably progress much like a routine move, but your moving company may have altered their day-to-day operations, such as:

  • Following federal and local guidelines about physical distancing and sanitation
  • Increasing the frequency of truck and equipment sanitation
  • Practicing physical distancing with customers and among moving teams
  • Wearing masks and gloves

You might also be asked to limit the number of people in the home who will interact with the movers, or even leave your home entirely while the movers load your belongings onto the truck.

You may also be working with a smaller moving team than you originally planned. As a result, your move might take a little longer, so be sure to factor this into your plans, especially if you’re moving long distance.

How to keep everyone safe on moving day

There are a few simple things you can do to keep yourself, your family, and your moving team safe on moving day:

  • Keep a supply of hand sanitizer, soap, and paper towels accessible at all times.
  • Make sure it’s easy for your movers to wash their hands by keeping a clear path to the sink open.
  • Talk to your landlord or realtor about how to safely drop off and collect keys.
  • Stay as far away from your movers as possible.
  • Ask about tipping your moving team via credit card instead of cash.
  • Designate one person in your household to oversee and manage the move, and limit your moving crew to as few people as possible.
  • Wear a non-medical face mask. Gloves will protect your hands from injury but they likely won’t do much to prevent the spread of a virus. Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly and avoiding touching your face is more effective than wearing gloves. 

You should also keep disinfectants and cleaning supplies easily accessible and clearly labelled so you can open this box first at your new place.

If someone in your family gets sick, call your movers right away regardless of what they are ill with. In most cases your movers will still arrive as usual, but they may want to take additional safety precautions. 

After the move

If you’re renting, you may notice some differences to your move-in as well. Under normal circumstances, many landlords or property managers will do a walk-through of your house or unit upon move-in to note any damage. With physical distancing guidelines and other pandemic restrictions in place, this walk-through might not be possible. Instead, see if you can schedule a virtual walk-through, or do your own and make note of any existing damage with videos or pictures.

TSI TIP: Make sure you date the pictures and videos so you can prove the damage existed upon move-in.

Unpacking

It can be tempting to start unpacking as soon as possible, but there are a few things you should do to ensure your safety and the safety of your family before you start opening up your boxes:

  • Clean and sanitize all surfaces, especially door knobs, cabinet pulls, and other frequently touched areas. Wear a mask as you do so, and take care not to touch your face.
  • If you can, let your boxes sit for 24 hours before you start to unpack.
  • Plan to self-isolate for 14 days or longer based on legal requirements of your city or state after your move-in to limit the spread of a virus, especially if you are moving long-distance. Cities and states are regularly updating their quarantine policies, so make sure you do your research before you depart and be prepared to self-isolate if necessary. You may wish to include some essential groceries in your moving day kit so you don’t have to go to the store right away.

Buying a home during a pandemic

Just like moving companies have adapted to new physical distancing guidelines, the real estate market is adjusting its normal procedures to ensure buyers, sellers, realtors, and all stakeholders are as safe as possible throughout the process

If you are in the process of buying or selling your home, the most important thing you can do is to find a real estate agent that you trust, ideally with the tech skills to arrange virtual showings and sign and receive documents digitally. The right agent will also understand your priorities to help you limit contact to only serious buyers or focus your house hunt on properties that meet your needs.

Open houses and showings

Many of the changes you might experience when buying a new home will depend on the sellers’ comfort level, as well as what is permitted in your locality. Even if the sellers are comfortable with you entering their home, restrictions vary widely based on local regulations—some have prohibited open houses and in-person viewings entirely, while others are still allowing these activities as long as physical distancing guidelines can be maintained, such as limiting the number of people who can be in the house at one time.

If you are able to do an in-person viewing, take the following precautions:

  • Focus your house hunt on vacant properties or new builds.
  • Expect to wear a mask and gloves while you tour the home or interact with your realtor.
  • Select one person to do the viewing, and maintain physical distancing guidelines throughout the tour.
  • Verify that no one in the house you are viewing is sick before you enter.
  • Don’t touch anything. Ask the seller to leave all closet doors and kitchen cabinets open so you don’t need to touch the handles.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from your realtor, seller, or other open house attendees at all times.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after you leave the house.

Virtual walk-throughs

Virtual showings and Facebook Live open houses are the new normal. Over the last weekend in March, the real estate brokerage Redfin reported that 30% of all home tour requests were virtual compared to just 0.2% in the first weekend of the month.

You may still wish to do an in-person showing before making your final decision, but virtual walk-throughs can help narrow down your options and limit your exposure. Make the most of your virtual showings with these tips:

  • Focus on the structure of a home, such as the layout and lighting, instead of superficial appearances such as paint colors or window treatments.
  • Take a tour of the outdoor spaces as well, including the front lawn, backyard, garage, and surrounding street.
  • Ask for a video after your virtual walk-through so you can review again on your own time.
  • Ask for a seller disclosure. This will tell you if the roof, HVAC, or other critical components or systems will need replacing in the near future.
  • If you can, drive through the area to get a sense for the neighborhood. If you aren’t able to drive through the area in person, check it out on Google Maps using street view.

While the “raw” aspect of a virtual showing can give you a better idea of the space than a polished professional video tour, you can get an even better feel by asking questions like:

  • How many people can fit inside the bathroom at one time?
  • How close together are the bedrooms?
  • What size beds will fit in each room?
  • Are there any smells that might pose a problem?
  • What is the neighborhood like? Are the neighbors friendly?
  • Can the seller supply photos or video footage of details such as finishes or crown moulding?
  • Can the seller or realtor open windows, turn on faucets, show under cupboards, and any other things you might want to test?

You should also ask for a floor plan of the entire home to get a better understanding of how the rooms flow together, as well as their square footage.

When you’re reviewing listings or conducting a virtual walk-through, keep an eye out for these red flags:

  • More photos or footage of the exterior or building facilities than the interior of the house or apartment
  • Closed curtains and blinds in an interior shot—they may be hiding a less-than-ideal view
  • Photos that look stretched out—the space might be small and the agent may have stretched the photos to make it appear larger
  • Terms like “fixer-upper”, “vintage”, or “cozy”

Remote home inspections and virtual home appraisals are also available and are highly recommended before purchasing a house sight-unseen.

Closing the sale

The closing process has changed as well. Some states have loosened legal requirements to allow for video or curbside closings where documents can be slipped through car windows in order to reduce exposure.

Because of complications from shelter-in-place and social distancing orders, as well as longer processing times for mortgage lenders, the length of time from accepted offer to home closing is also longer than usual—up to 60 days on average in March, compared to 26 days in January and 43 in February. You can shorten this timeline by getting mortgage pre-approval before you make an offer.

Selling your home during a pandemic

If you can, you may wish to consider postponing your home sale till some restrictions have been lifted. If you are unable to postpone your home sale, you can still move forward with minimal disruption.

As a seller, you have control over how many people may enter your home at any given time. In addition to limiting guests, there are a number of actions you can take to limit your exposure and prevent the spread of a viral outbreak while selling your home:

  • Cancel any in-person open houses. Even if you limit the number of people allowed inside, it may still be difficult to regulate.
  • Be prepared to help out with virtual walk-throughs, such as opening cupboards and cabinets or showing close-ups of details.
  • Make sure you have good lighting to show off your home, a strong internet connection, and a capable smartphone for virtual walk-throughs.
  • Talk to your real estate agent about creating a video tour. Capable realtors may also be able to take 360 degree pictures using a special camera.
  • Research teleconferencing and e-signing programs as a means of closing the sale. Your realtor should be able to help with this.

Virtual tours will help narrow down prospective buyers, but serious parties may still want to do an in-person viewing. If you do welcome someone into your home for an in-person viewing, clean and disinfect your home before they arrive and after they depart, and keep hand sanitizer and disinfectant available for people as they tour your home.

Staging

Traditional home staging services may be difficult to arrange during a pandemic. Instead, look for virtual staging services that use software to reimagine your space using new decor that will enhance its appearance, such as changing the colour of a bright accent wall or removing ornamental pieces that might otherwise make a space seem cluttered. Virtual staging can even enable options that may have been too costly otherwise, such as removing wallpaper, changing window treatments, and replacing furniture.

Wrapping Up

Moving during a pandemic poses a number of unique challenges, especially if you’re moving long distance or are buying or selling a home.

Postponing or cancelling your move is the safest option, but this may not be possible. Don’t worry—your move will likely be able to progress as planned, but with a few alterations. These alterations could be as simple as maintaining physical distancing guidelines, or as reaching as cancelling your professional moving team and opting to DIY your move instead. The best option for your move will depend on your individual circumstances.

If you’re moving long distance during a pandemic, TSI can help. With both full-service and DIY solutions, we can help you create a customized plan for your household or small move.

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