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10 tips: Handle your family's move with care

By Laura T. Coffey, Times Correspondent
Published April 22, 2007


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Might there be a move in your future? If so, brace yourself: Moving is consistently ranked as one of the most stressful things an individual or family can do. Consider these tips:

1 Shop around. In addition to getting prices from full-service moving companies and U-Haul-type options that have you do all the work yourself, look into how much it would cost to use a shipping container or an over-the-road truck-trailer. Those alternatives involve dropping an empty box in front of your home. You do the packing, filling up and unloading of the box.

2 Talk to folks you know. Ask people who recently moved about their experiences. Find out whether they would hire the same moving companies again.

3 Get at least three written estimates. Estimates should include prices for specific services, such as loading and unloading the truck if you hire someone to do that and making deliveries to multiple destinations.

4 Ask detailed questions. Will packing materials be included in the price? Will the mover take beds apart, remove pictures from walls and prepare major appliances for the trip?

5 Choose an estimate. Estimates can be binding, meaning the mover guarantees the price before the move, or nonbinding, meaning the mover estimates the price and provides final charges after the shipment is weighed. Movers can't charge you more than 10 percent above the estimated price.

6 Don't fall for hype. Be suspicious of unusually low prices or promises that sound too good to be true - especially if they're given to you over the phone or Internet without an inspection of your belongings. If one mover's estimate is much lower than the others, ask the company if the estimate is binding.

7 Investigate the company. Check the mover's reputation through the Better Business Bureau of West Florida www.bbbwestflorida.org or toll-free 1-800-525-1447 and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (toll-free 1-800-435-7352). If you're moving across state lines, is the mover registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (www. protectyourmove.gov)?

8 Get the right insurance. The standard "released value" protection offered by most movers provides 60 cents per pound of damaged goods. Consider paying for "declared value," "lump-sum value" or "full replacement value" coverage. Also, find out whether your homeowners policy covers any aspect of your move. Make sure the mover has an appropriate level of insurance by calling the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at (202) 385-2423.

9 Read the contract carefully. The final contract is called the bill of lading. Read it before you sign it, and keep it handy until your shipment is delivered and all charges and claims are settled.

10 Seek out tax breaks. You'll get a break if you move more than 50 miles for a new job. The moving-expense deduction is an "adjustment to income," so it's available to you whether or not you itemize deductions.

Sources: U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (www.protectyourmove.gov); American Movers Conference (www.amconf.org); Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org); Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine (www.kiplinger.com)

[Last modified April 20, 2007, 18:43:15]


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