What You Should Consider Before Moving During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Updated on Thursday, August 13, 2020

As the country reels with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, people are learning to adjust to a new way of life. For some Americans — particularly those in small apartments in big cities — that means deciding it’s high time for some outdoor space and cheaper digs.

Hannah Lawson, a small business owner in Brooklyn, moved across the country with her partner, Amy, while the virus was still ravaging New York City last spring. For the couple, the stars aligned — Lawson is originally from Portland, Oregon, and her parents had purchased an investment home next door to their own more than a decade ago. With the pandemic effectively ending her parent’s Airbnb business until further notice, it made sense to the whole family for them to start renting the home.

But with flights being canceled and strict stay-at-home guidelines being announced, their move was hardly seamless. The couple ended up staying with Amy’s family in Maine to try to wait out the bulk of the storm.

“We originally were going to move to Portland May 31, but once we had been in Maine for a while and realized the quarantine wasn’t getting better in New York, we decided to leave May 1 instead,” Lawson said.

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Ask yourself these 3 questions first

Moving is never a stress-free event, but the coronavirus pandemic has left many, like Lawson and Amy, scurrying to cancel, delay or move up their departure date. Whether or not you were planning to relocate for a job or change of pace, there are new considerations to make before your move gets underway.

Do you need to move right now?

While there are plenty of reasons to move, a new job or sick family member may make it harder to change your plans. However, if you have the flexibility, consider asking for it. Some jobs are well suited for working from home, and your new employer may be willing to let you delay your move without delaying your start date.

How can you plan accordingly?

Lawson’s lease on her Brooklyn apartment was ending, so she and Amy didn’t have the luxury of changing move dates. If you’re in the same boat (or are just determined to make your move regardless) there plenty of factors you need to consider.

Can you tour homes and apartments?

Depending on the location, you might be able to tour homes or apartments in person. If states did have guidelines prohibiting real estate services from operating, many have been lifted. Still, it’s wise to ensure safety precautions, such as wearing masks and social distancing, are taken at in-person appointments.

However, if you can’t see a home in person, you’ll have to rely on photos or video tours. This may make it harder to visualize yourself in the home or feel confident in your decision.

Can you find a moving truck?

Moving companies are generally considered an essential service, meaning they can stay open during stay-at-home mandates. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll be easy to come by. Peak moving season is April through September in a regular year, when an estimated 80% of moves take place. So, not only will you have to deal with normal increased demand, but some companies are limiting their services to protect employees from the virus. U-Haul, for example, has remained open nationally, but local hours may be subject to franchisee discretion.

What are the moving company’s health and safety procedures?

Like many businesses, moving companies have updated policies to meet safety standards during the pandemic. When looking for estimates from moving companies, ask a representative detailed questions about their procedures, like whether or not movers will be provided with masks or gloves.

If you’re renting a truck, make sure the company has instituted proper cleaning procedures. To be safe, consider bringing some disinfecting wipes with you to wipe down the interior of the vehicle when you pick it up. Some companies, such as Clutter, are also offering contactless services, like curbside pickup.

How hard will selling a home during the pandemic be?

While the procedures for buying and selling a home during the pandemic have changed pretty dramatically, the market is still abuzz with shoppers. Realtor John McClintock recalled being unable to go about business as usual for over a month due to Pennsylvania’s shutdown restrictions, but once they were in the clear “the floodgates opened.”

While real estate agents have been unable to host traditional open houses, buyers have still more or less been chomping at the bit to see the homes for sale. McClintock also estimates his firm sold around 50 homes while only showing virtually. Once in-person showings reopened, sales continued to rebound.

How can you minimize health risks?

Follow local guidance when you’re shopping for supplies and wear a mask when you need to go to stores. Utilize contactless delivery when possible and keep a safe distance from others when you can’t. And although used boxes would have been great for your budget, it’s safer to use new supplies to limit the risk of contamination.

How much will moving cost?

The national average cost for a local move (under 100 miles) is around $1,200. The cost of your move will depend on a number of factors beginning with the size of your move and the distance you are traveling. Whether you use professional help or do it yourself, those two factors can give you a sense of how much it will cost to move. In general, fewer belongings and shorter distance traveled will mean a cheaper move. But the total cost will ultimately depend on how you move it all.

Skipping professional services can save hundreds of dollars while helping to prevent possible spread of disease amid the ongoing pandemic. With fears of an economic recession and how that can impact retirement savings, doing what you can to keep some money in your pocket may provide a welcome peace of mind.

Do you trust your instincts?

If you’re feeling uneasy about moving during the pandemic, consider rescheduling. Your health and the health of those around you should be a priority. You certainly won’t be the only one putting a major life decision on hold. If there is nothing forcing you to move during this time, it’s probably best to sit tight. It’s a constantly evolving situation, and even waiting a few weeks, like Lawson and Amy, could make a difference.

7 ways to minimize exposure during your move

Visiting an open house might look a little different for the foreseeable future. McClintock noted how Realtors in his area have been instructed to turn on all lights and leave all doors open among other details to keep homes safe and sanitary during sales.

Use these tips to minimize your chances of getting sick or getting others sick while you’re moving.

1. Follow CDC guidelines for preventing contraction and spread

By now, we at least have a better idea of how the virus spreads than we did a few months ago. For example, contrary to popular belief, it is far less likely that you will contract the virus by touching a contaminated surface than coming in close contact with an infected person. The CDC strongly recommends wearing a mask in situations where you cannot practice social distancing — such as if you have a couple of movers working in your home.

There are still plenty of uncertain factors, but your best bet is to follow guidelines set by the experts to avoid contracting COVID-19. Wear a mask when you need to go to stores and make sure to wash your hands frequently.

2. Skip the movers

If you’re able to use roommates, partners, family members or loyal friends to help you move, it’s cheaper and may be safer to do so. While you should ensure any moving company you use would take the same safety precautions as your friends and family, it’s recommended to minimize contact with people outside of your home. Speak with the company beforehand so you know they will be taking adequate safety measures.

3. Request virtual processes

For steps in the moving process that might traditionally require in-person appointments, such as tours, appraisals and paperwork signing, request that they be done virtually. While many companies have offered this service or required it based on government regulations, it can’t hurt to ask if it’s not presented as an option.

4. Provide personal protective equipment to anyone coming to help you

Should you require help from movers or invite friends to help out, provide masks and hand sanitizer to ensure anyone entering your home is able to take precautions. Even if the moving company says its associates will bring their own protective equipment, it’s best to be prepared in case someone forgets a mask.

5. Weigh your travel options carefully

Several factors confirmed Lawson and Amy’s decision to fly rather than drive to Portland, including a furry friend. Your decision might involve cost, distance or availability, but you should consider all options available. A road trip might be safer than flying if you don’t have to make a ton of stops. But driving across the country would mean stopping at hotels, gas stations and restaurants, which could increase the possibility of exposure.

6. Settle in safely

The pandemic is happening everywhere, even in your new hometown. Ensure you are following any local guidelines for quarantining if you are coming from an area with a higher infection rate.

While you might be eager to explore your new surroundings, remember to avoid crowded indoor areas such as bars and restaurants. Reach out to new neighbors with a postcard or other contactless greeting rather than visiting in person. If you need to change financial institutions, consider looking for local banks or credit unions that are offering some kind of relief during the pandemic.

7. Delay your move if you feel sick

Should you start to feel any of the COVID-19 symptoms or any other illness while you’re preparing to relocate, delay your plans. Exerting tons of energy packing and moving boxes could make it harder for you to get better. Plus, any time you leave your home, you risk getting others sick.

While it might be difficult with deadlines, your health should always come first. Take care of yourself and help stop the virus in its tracks.