How To Move House: A Definitive Guide
The Debrief: Pack a weekend bag and clean the bathroom.
Moving house is about as fun as cutting your hair with a bread knife. But, it’s got to be done. So let us answer some of those tricky little questions you usually end up howling across 14 dusty laundry bags at 2am while trying to find a spoon and some paracetamol.
How long should you give yourself to move house?
Moving house, like the ability to buy sourdough bread or the likelihood of getting called ‘duck’, changes depending on where you live. Things move pretty fast in London. When I first moved within the capital, the whole thing took less than a fortnight. Flats and houses get snapped up in less time than it takes to whisper ‘deposit,’ almost nobody can afford to rent two places for a month (giving them more time to move) and most people have less stuff to move than if they were living in a four-bedroom townhouse.
But, says Emma Lannan of female-run woman and van company Van Girls, who recently featured on Dragon’s Den says, you can start packing weeks before you move. In fact, you should give youself months. ‘People do tend to underestimate how hideous moving yourself can be,’ says Emma. ‘Packing yourself takes ages because you go through every thing trying to decide if you want to keep it.’
How much does it cost to move house?
This depends, hugely, on whether you’re renting or buying. Let’s be honest – nobody can afford a house any more. If you were, it would, according to a study compiled by Post Office Money and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (you know, those guys) cost £12,000. Even if you’re renting, you can still be looking at a cool couple of grand. You can actually calculate it (very roughly) on RightMove.
What? Why? Where’s all my money going?
Well, there’s the deposit, which tends to be six weeks’ rent. The holding deposit, which you may have to pay. The agent fees (which is, sometimes, literally paying someone to make a photocopy of your tenancy agreement). You’ll either have to pay for a removal van, for the petrol if you’re using your own car or – as one friend did when we were 20 – a taxi fare with all your belongings pushed into two giant laundry bags. There’s also insurance (for both the building and your stuff), money for cleaning and patching up the old house and you might need to pay for the storage if you’ve got a lot of shit.
Give yourself a contingency fund of a couple of hundred pounds in case something pops up that you hadn’t expected. Then, if you don’t need it, you can spend it on a house-warming party once you’re settled in.
Talking of laundry bags, what’s the best way to pack? Boxes or bags?
People can get pretty hot under the collar about this one. The main thing, whether you’re using boxes, crates or laundry bags, is to simply make sure you don’t make them too heavy. Top up a bag full of books with a duvet. Don’t put all your pans in one box. Try using teatowels to protect plates and glasses, wrap your lamps in jumpers, use cushions to pad out a record player and wrap framed pictures in your bedding and towels.
‘Small laundry bags are fine – I accept them,’ says Emma, ‘but they come in such giant sizes that people just put their entire house in it. Then the handles always fall off and you can’t even put your arms around them to get them off the floor. Also, people pack whole bags of mugs. I hate bags of mugs.’ Boxes, she also points out, are much easier to stack in the van than bags, which will protect your stuff.
You might, if you can, try to keep things in some sort of room order. Bedroom stuff with bedroom stuff; kitchen stuff with kitchen stuff. It makes things much easier to unpack at the other end. People can go to town with labelling bags (I know a woman who had a bag of ‘red jumpers’ and another of ‘pink tops’ ffs) but at the very least you should write on the outside which room it belongs in. Also, never, ever just label something as ‘miscellaneous’. That’s bullshit. You might as well just stick a flag to it saying, ‘Your guess is as good as mine, pal’.
Bubble wrap is expensive, so maybe look into alternatives. ‘Grab a stack of free newspapers,’ says Emma. ‘Scrumple that up to fill the bottom of the box, pack fragile stuff on top and then fill it with more scrumpled paper so the box doesn’t collapse if you put other things on top.’ And tape the bottom of the boxes – folding them is not enough.
How can you make sure you get your deposit back?
We’ve actually got a whole article dedicated to this knotty little task over here. The main thing is to leave it clean. Like, staying at your friend’s parents’ house clean. Patch up any holes in the walls, clean the floors (including trying to get that stain out of the carpet), empty all the bins, clean the bath and – most of all – take photographs of how you left it (just in case there’s any discrepancy with the new tenants).
What do you do with your post?
To quote everybody’s favourite Martin, MoneySavingExpert Martin Lewis, ‘If you don’t know who is moving into the property you’re leaving, use the Royal Mail’s Postal Redirection service to ensure that any bills or other mail you’ve not changed your address on still reaches you.’
You can get your post redirected for three, six or 12 months. It’ll cost £29.99 for three months per surname (so couples may need to pay twice).
Can I keep using my old gas and electricity account?
No. The account is address-specific. When you move into a new place you can just take on the previous tenants’ account by transferring the names. But, this might mean you pay way more than you have to. MoneySavingExpert.com has a pretty useful comparison tool, so you can see what energy deals there are out there.
Why do I need to read the meter?
I had no idea you were meant to do this when I first moved house. But, basically, it’s so when you set up a new account with the gas and/or electricity companies you only pay for what you’ve been using. It means you start with a blank slate (even if the boiler is covered in someone else’s old club flyers and fridge magnets).
Will I automatically go on the electoral register?
No – you need to register, which you can do on the gov.uk site. Otherwise you can’t vote and not voting is the absolute worst.
How about council tax?
It might just be worth checking that your council tax band is correct. Apparently, up to 400,000 homes in England and Scotland may have been in the wrong band since the early ’90s. You can either ask your neighbours (possibly a little clunky as an introduction) or look on the Valuation Office Agency or Scottish Assessors Association.
There’s lots, lots more information about council tax on the gov.uk website.
How long does it take to set up the internet in a new house?
Imagine an eagle’s wing brushing the top of a mountain once a day. Every day a sprinkling of dirt is brushed off the top of the mountain and into the sea. By the time that entire mountain has crumbled into the sea, your internet will be about ready to use.
Is it worth using a removals company?
‘Removal companies have got lots of tips,’ says Emma. ‘And they’ll pack up everything for you, if you’re willing to pay. Don’t just get the cheapest quote for the van – it will always be shit. Read the Ts+Cs and remember – if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.’
Emma also warns against underestimating or actually lying about how much stuff you’ve got to pack. Although it might help you get a cheaper quote, it’s a false economy in the long run as the removals company will then have to bring in extra resources – a bigger van or a second van – that you’ll be charged for.
Is there a good order to unpack?
The brilliant Katherine Jewkes on Twitter suggests packing yourself a weekend bag when you move house, with a couple of changes of clothes, a towel, your toothbrush, some loo roll but also a saucepan, the kettle, a mug, a bowl and most importantly, a bottle opener.
Move your furniture into the new house first, otherwise you’ll spend the rest of the move shifting bags around wardrobes and knocking into tables. Try to put up curtains fairly soon, unless you want everyone on your new street to see you weeping into a cardboard box full of forks at 3am wearing some underpants and a leather jacket (it’s funny what ends up at the top of the clothes bag). You can leave things like paintings, books and records until last.
And, most importantly of all, try to enjoy it: this might be the beginning of a brilliant new era.
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