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The Ultimate Guide to Relocating During COVID-19

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So, you’ve decided to take an exciting new step in your life and relocate to a new town or even a different state. You may be feeling stressed and overwhelmed with all the scheduling, packing, and expenses that go into relocating, not to mention you have to do it all while the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting most things around you. Whether you’re relocating to a more rural area because of COVID-19, or you no longer have to commute into work every day and moving to a small town just seems more ideal for you, there are important steps in the relocation process that can often be overlooked. That’s why we’ve created the ultimate guide to relocating during COVID-19, including steps to take before, during, and after the move.

Before Relocating

Learn about your new city or town

Once you find a new area that you are interested in, make sure you do your research about how your new city is handling the coronavirus pandemic and what restrictions and guidelines they have in place. In addition, become better acquainted with your new community by researching the local culture, weather trends, cost of living, public transportation, while also finding out how much house you can afford in different neighborhoods. If you have any relatives or friends who live in the city, reach out to them for any suggestions or advice. Familiarizing yourself with the new area will help you begin thinking like a local in no time.

Find the right neighborhood for you

The best way to truly get a feel for every neighborhood is by simply visiting and spending time in each one. While you’re exploring and keeping socially distant, decide what qualities are important to you and don’t hesitate to jot down the pros and cons of each area. Perhaps you value restaurants and shops within a short distance, parks and schools nearby for convenience, or just the quirkiness of a quaint neighborhood. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, you’ll be able to compare information like median home prices, walkability, school reviews and rankings.

Lean on your realtor

It’s the real estate agent’s job to support you through the homebuying process, so take advantage of their neighborhood expertise and industry knowledge. And during this time of Coronavirus, you’re still able to get an in-person perspective while reducing the risk of being exposed to the virus. You can see homes virtually through live video-chat tours or 3D walkthroughs, make an offer online, and close on your new home electronically if need be. Your agent will be aware of housing market trends, potential red flags, or anything else you may have concerns about. When it’s time to make an offer, they will help you make a good offer and assist with the negotiating process. Buying a home is a big decision and can be an emotional process, but working with an agent you trust will give you the support you need.

Research storage options

If you are choosing to move some of your belongings in stages or looking to store items for an extended period of time, you’ll need to consider all of your options and factor in storage costs. Research storage companies and compare rates while keeping in mind the length of time you’ll be storing items, the size of the storage space, and any additional services offered, such as central air/heat and surveillance.

Most storage companies are still operating but are taking extra precautions to protect their customers from COVID-19. Make sure you do your research prior to showing up so you can be prepared, in case they have limited hours or a reduction in the number of customers allowed at any given time. You may also be interested in the portable storage option, a popular alternative among those storing belongings for a short duration. The company will drop the container off at your home and once you’re done packing it with your belongings, you have the option of storing the container at their facility or shipping it to a specified location.

Research moving companies

Hiring a reliable moving company to do the heavy lifting can relieve some of your stress, and generally results in a safer moving process. If you’re worried about your upcoming move during the pandemic and haven’t scheduled movers yet, it’s hard to say what will and will not be available in the months to come. For now, continue to do research on companies and ask the movers questions about what precautions they’re taking at this time.

Moving companies typically offer different levels of services – full service, basic service, and specialty services – so it’s important to weigh the prices and options when deciding who to work with. Full service typically handles everything from packing, moving, and unpacking. If you opt for basic service, you’ll be responsible for packing and unpacking, while the movers will handle transporting your items. It’s true you’ll save money upfront by handling everything yourself, but you may find that it takes significant time and effort.

Ask for a quote in writing, and don’t forget to double-check customer reviews, licenses, and credentials – knowing you’re working with a reputable company will provide peace of mind. Even if you’re relocating from Sacramento to New York City, their job is to transport your belongings from point A to point B safely.

Hire a cleaning service

Before getting settled into your new home, save time and start fresh by hiring a cleaning company to clean your new home before all your belongings are moved in. During this age of COVID-19 it is very important that your new home be completely cleaned and sanitized before you move in to help you and your family avoid any illness. Sometimes the previous owners of your new home haven’t done a thorough cleaning (which they are not required to), so paying for a cleaning service will allow you to focus on packing and moving safely. The cleaners will be sure to leave your home spotless.

Update your mailing address and retrieve important documents

Before relocating, remember to forward your mail and notify banks and credit cards of your new address. If you have kids, inform the school district of your upcoming move, and request transcripts in advance for a smooth transfer. Don’t forget to retrieve medical records, and cancel any subscriptions or memberships – anything from gym memberships and magazine subscriptions to utilities, electricity, cable, and internet. Consider creating a moving checklist to revisit while you’re packing and on moving day.

Organize and declutter

Set aside a binder for move-related paperwork so you’re able to access any documents quickly. Before packing, remain organized by creating a detailed inventory of your belongings noting the condition, location, and size of the items. This will help you get a better idea of how much you’ll actually be moving and if any belongings require specialty packing services because of their size or fragility. Also, if your belongings are damaged during the move and you need to submit an insurance claim, an inventory list will come in handy. You can also begin to sort through your belongings and decide what items you’ll keep, discard, or donate. If you’re downsizing, don’t be shy when giving items away – consider organizing a garage sale or donating to a charity. It can be helpful to hire a professional organizer or decluttering service to help you with these tasks.

Sell your home

Before listing your home on the market, be proactive by hiring a home inspector, then make any repairs or minor updates necessary. The time you would save sure beats having to do repairs during the negotiation phase when the homebuyers hire out their own home inspector. Also, research the U.S. housing market and homes that have recently sold in your area to get an idea of what your home is worth and how competitively you should price your home. This will just be an estimate, so don’t forget to hire a professional to get your home appraised. Make your home stand out by hiring a cleaning service and working with a staging company to prepare your home for professional photos and open houses. Staging your home to sell with professional real estate photos will, on average, sell for more.

Make sure you are taking all the necessary precautions if you are holding open houses and during house tours. Have hand sanitizer ready at the door and supply extra masks in case someone forgets theirs. Your real estate agent will be able to assist you with all the proper COVID-19 safety measures.

During the Move

Pack strategically and stay organized

It’s common to begin packing and realize that you’ve accumulated far more than you’ve ever imagined. In this situation, staying organized and creating a plan of attack is essential. While tossing everything into uncategorized boxes may be the quickest option, unpacking identical boxes will create unnecessary work. Instead, label your boxes strategically using stickers, a numbering system, or even color-coding.

About three weeks before relocating, pack non-essential items that you won’t be needing during the move, such as decorations and books. One week before moving day, begin packing the essentials, with the exception of enough plates and silverware for everyone in your household. Be sure to label “open first ” on a few of your boxes containing bedding, toiletries, towels, and tools, and a “valuables” box including birth certificates, fragile belongings, and passports.

Check-in with yourself

Make sure you are staying healthy during the moving process. It is most important to keep you and your family safe and healthy. It’s common for people to experience moving anxiety and relocation depression, especially when relocating during a pandemic. We tend to underestimate the toll moving can have on our bodies, physically and mentally. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed during this time activities like napping, journaling, exercising, and refueling with food and drink can change your mood and give your body the break it needs. Your health comes first so be sure to listen to your body and recharge when you need to. And if you’re not feeling comfortable with any of the steps in this process, you can forgo them and figure out an alternative.

Settling into Your New Home


If you’ve labeled your boxes and can identify the contents of each, unpacking should be a breeze. Be sure to check all boxes and furniture for any damages associated with relocating, especially valuables and appliances such as the stove, dishwasher, washer or dryer. Refer back to your inventory list to make sure nothing was lost in the transition. As a safety measure, it is best to sanitize all items before placing them in your new home to avoid the further spread of germs. To avoid becoming overwhelmed when you’re unpacking, focus on one room at a time, and if possible, even one box at a time.

Perform a general safety check

Even if you hired a home inspector during the homebuying process, it’s important to perform a safety check throughout your new home. Change locks on the doors, be sure all windows lock, and perhaps look into installing a new security system. Other precautions include checking the electrical system and water pipes, the fire and smoke alarms, and the air filters and HVAC systems.

Decorate with purpose

With the help of an interior designer, you’ll get expert guidance and can make your new space feel like home even prior to moving in. Examine the floor plan or blueprint to find what works best with the layout of your new home, and begin creating your masterpiece. Not only will you get amazing results and save time, but your interior designer can help your vision come to life while staying under budget. Moving into a space that already has a touch of your style can even support an easier transition.

Register to vote and update your driver’s license

If you’re moving to another state, visit the DMV with a couple of forms of identification – like your current driver’s license, social security number, and proof of residency – to obtain a new state driver’s license. Pay attention to time restrictions as some states require you to update your driver’s license within a certain time-frame. You may be able to kill two birds with one stone by registering to vote while at the DMV. Otherwise, register online or visit the local town hall to update your voter registration.

Find new services and professionals

During this time it may be more difficult to find new services providers, be patient and stay persistent. Find new healthcare providers, including a new dentist, doctor, veterinarian, day-care, and optometrist. Research different options to find one that is best for you and your family’s needs. When you’ve chosen, keep the contact information handy, and make sure all family members know where these numbers are located.

Check-in with your kids

Moving can be tough on kids, especially during a pandemic, and could possibly affect their mental health. They may have concerns of their own that you’ll need to talk through with them – like going back to a new school, being in a new area that is affected by COVID-19, leaving their friends, or missing their previous home. Explain that the feeling of uncertainty is only temporary, and illustrate the move as a positive shift. Make sure your kids are comfortable in the new spot, maybe even unpack and decorate their room first. Stay consistent with any daily routines they’ve developed and don’t forget to stay positive so your children will too.

No matter your reasoning to move, relocating is no doubt a stressful task, especially right now, but staying organized, planning ahead, and using your resources can help. Follow this guide so you can focus on what is important: enjoying your new adventure.

Originally Published on Redfin. Reprinted with permission of Redfin.