Archive for August, 2009


How Much Will You Pay for a Local Move?

We get this question at a lot:

How much will I pay for local moving?

The answer: It depends.

If you’re moving locally, you’ll pay by the hour for a certain number of workers — many local moving companies charge around $90 an hour for 3 movers, but that varies around the country, of course, based on local labor costs.

As far as how long it will take, a good rule of thumb is one hour per room, using bedrooms, living rooms, family rooms, kitchens, and other whole rooms.  The other areas usually even out, with the main rooms not always taking the full hour. Loading generally takes twice as long as unloading. Please note:  Transit time will count toward the total, so be sure to keep that in mind.

The only way you’ll know for sure how much you’ll pay is to call local moving companies for moving estimates. Based on the stuff you need to have moved, they’ll give you a better sense of the costs you’ll be looking at.

And before you choose a moving company, check to make sure the local company is licensed.


Housing Bubble Popped, Western Cities Face Long Road Back

I wrote a few months about Richard Florida’s assertion that Western cities that in the past have enjoyed huge influxes of folks from the ‘Rust Belt’ face significant challenges in this recession.

We’re starting to see just how significant.

An article in the New York Times points out some startling statistics for 2001-2007.

“About 20 percent of private industry growth in the United States was tied to real estate and construction. In the Phoenix area, almost 36 percent of growth in the private economy during that period — more than $34 billion worth — came from real estate and construction.”

I’m sure these areas have always had higher proportions of their economy tied to construction and real estate. However, it shows the danger in that overreliance, and it shows that these areas, more than most, will have a hard time digging out from the aftermath of this recession.


Moving in the News – An Interesting Week

Flickr: InjuIt’s pretty rare to see even a few interesting moving-related articles in the media  — most are retreads: how to avoid a moving scam, packing tips, etc.

These, however, are actually worth reading.

The New York Times profiled a young Serb, Vladimir Cvijovic, who came to the New York this summer to work for FlatRate moving company. He tells of his experiences moving, and reports that there are over 30 Serbs alone working at FlatRate this summer. He explains why that is:

“While all the SerbsYou can’t find a lot of guys to do moving jobs in New York because they think it’s very hard to do it. In Serbia, it’s not that kind of situation. A lot of Serbians, they do moving, and they are not afraid of physical jobs. It’s not hard for us.”

Just the day before, the Times chronicled Rabbit Movers, which tends to hire folks with a creative background as moving company employees. Company ranks include photographers, musicians and novelists. Rabbit Movers owner Shawn Lyons, a would-be writer himself, said he finds employees of a creative bent easier to work with because they more closely share his own values and background. “He decided that, for better or worse, he would hire only people who were passionate about art, as he was, and had creative ambitions, as he did,” the Times reports.

This morning, the Wall Street Journal came out with an interesting article about tax collectors combing through social networks for tax dodgers. They specifically look for any information that can give away where they can be found, and people talking about an upcoming relocation are good ways to get that information.

Minnesota authorities were able to track down one man who posted on his MySpace that he would be moving, giving the town he’d be moving to as well as his new employer’s name.

Tax Man 1 — Tax Cheat 0


Mayflower Tops Van Lines in Customer Satisfaction

jdpower_awardMayflower Transit came out on top in a recent Customer Satisfaction survey from consumer survey powerhouse J.D. Power and Associations about moving companies, followed closely by Allied Van Lines.

Overall, J.D. Power said overall quality improved in its most recent survey of major van lines customers, saying there were “considerably” fewer reports of lost or damaged items.

J.D. Power bases its rankings on evaluations from consumers who used a full-service moving company in the past 12 months. You can see the complete van line rankings at this link. The van lines were scored across five factors: shipping estimate process; packing services; loading and unloading; transportation of belongings; and insurance/valuation coverage.

J.D. Power says overall satisfaction with movers averages 804 on a 1,000-point scale in 2009, which is up 16 points from 2008. Satisfaction was up from 2008 in all five factors. Also, the admount of customers who report lost or damaged items has decreased to less than a third in 2009, compared with nearly one-half in 2008.

“In the current economy, consumers may be tempted to pack and transport their belongings themselves; however using a full-service moving company to orchestrate and execute a move can be a smart economic decision and provide them with valuable peace of mind,” said Michael Drago, director of the real estate and construction industries practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

“Whether a move is completed independently or through a professional full-service moving company, there is a risk that items will be lost or damaged.  Moving companies have reduced their lost and damaged items rates, but if any does occur, the customer is typically protected or insured to some extent through the moving company, which can help mitigate a problematic move.”

Mayflower Transit showed much improvement from 2008 to rank highest in 2009 with a 831 score. Allied Van Lines came in second with a score of 812.

The survey found that moving estimates are a key consideration for people picking a moving company. The survey found that shipping estimate satisfaction is nearly equal among customers whose estimates are done in-person and online, averaging 807 and 805.  Shipping satisfaction among customers who get an initial quote over the phone averages 12 to 14 points lower than that of customers who get their estimates online or in-person.

“Savvy customers recognize that the initial quote process provides more than just a price point to use in differentiating among the moving companies under consideration,” said Drago.  “The process offers insight into what it will be like to work with each company, as well as how accommodating, comprehensive and proactive they are.  The price that is quoted is important, but the process is equally as revealing.”

Other findings from the survey:

  • For customers who have loss or damage to their belongings, only 50% filed a claim. For those who suffered damage but didn’t file a claim, 60 percent said the items damaged or lost were not valuable enough to be worth filing a claim.
  • There is a 59-day window between the day when a customer decides they are moving and the day their possessions are loaded into a moving van on moving day.
  • Fewer people are asking for packing services. The percentage of customers that had their movers pack their belongings decreased by 10 percentage points from 2008 to 44% in
print Survey: More Make Moves for the Better

A recent survey we commissioned has found some optimism for the real estate and relocation biz: 50 percent of people who recently moved did so to improve their living situation, whether to move into a bigger home or move to a better neighborhood. It’s quite a change from a similar survey in March 2009, which found the recession played a much larger role in the relocation decision.Moving Van

As the primary reason for moving, No. 1 on the list was to live in a bigger/better home (26 percent), followed by living in a better neighborhood or area (24 percent); to be closer to family/friends (12 percent); living in an area with a lower cost of living (9 percent); or a move that was sparked by a change in marital status (6 percent). Moving because of school, job loss, retirement or foreclosure each garnered 3 percent or less.

The change between the March and July surveys could indicate that consumer attitudes are shifting. With more people taking advantage of favorable real estate deals and falling rents, even as the recession continues to pinch most Americans, they suggest a boost in consumer confidence.

While finances still factor into relocation decisions, the survey indicates that fewer people were feeling the need to move due to job losses, foreclosures or downsizing to cut costs. The people who looked to improve their living situation were a mix of those buying a home or renting that were seeking to take advantage of lower rents and home prices to move smart.

Government incentives to buy a home, coupled with market forces lowering housing prices, have helped boost home sales in recent months.

The overall slowing of demand for housing has also produced lower rents in many major metropolitan areas, benefitting renters. Of the people who indicated they were looking to improve their housing situation in the survey, 54 percent were renters who moved into a new rental.

Nearly 42 percent were people buying a home or planning buy one: either renters who became homeowners (15 percent), homeowners who moved to a new home (16 percent), or homeowners who moved into a temporary rental as they continued their search for a home to buy (11 percent).

A similar survey in March found that people were more likely to list symptoms of the economic downturn as reasons for their move: 41 percent said that the recession had a moderate to strong influence on their decision to relocate.

Family reasons also played a larger role in the earlier survey: 23 percent said their primary motivation was moving closer to family or friends, while 13 percent cited looking for work or starting a new job. Only 14 percent listed moving to a bigger home or moving to a better neighborhood as a reason for their move.


Homesellers Finally Getting Real About Home Prices

One of the biggest hang-ups in the housing market is sellers’ stubborn refusal to lower the sales price of their home. We’re seeing some flexibility on this — thanks for the rash of bank-owned properties in certain communities — but not nearly enough to get us to a sustainable bottom.

That could be changing, as a couple of recent studies point out, marking a key psychological turning point in the housing crisis.  

istock_000008214703smallThe first was a Boston Fed study that found most people, when it comes to a relocation decision, are disproportionately influenced by the price of their home. If they won’t get as much as they think it’s worth, they’re less likely to move, regardless of the opportunity they’re passing up. Housing prices, more than anything else, influence moving rates.

And now, just a few weeks later, comes a survey from Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., that finds that 18.2% of the folks who took a new job in the first quarter did so by relocating.

That’s up from 14.3% in the previous quarter, and 11.4% in the second quarter of 2008.

In fact, it’s the highest job-seeker relocation rate since the second quarter of 2006, when it was also 18.2%. (By contrast, the relocation rate was a whopping 42% in 1986 — it fell under 20% in 2001 and has stayed there since.)

So what’s the significance in this rising relocation rate?

People are finally, finally, willing to acknowledge the inevitable economics and cut the price on their home — and cut it to a price that will compete with foreclosures and appeal to all the folks out there who are looking for a bargain.

The stubborn homeseller mentality — that I won’t sell for less than I paid for it, or not as big a gain I could have had a couple years ago — is loosening, which means house prices will be priced more realistically. This will help the market find the natural bottom.

Lower homes prices + less risk of further price drops = consumers who will be more comfortable buying a home.

And once homes start moving again (as we’re seeing in communities like Phoenix that have been hard-hit by the housing bust), we’ll all have less of that sinking feeling that our homes might be worth less than a Happy Meal.

As that lousy feeling gets replaced by more confidence, we’ll be more confident in making purchases that maybe we didn’t before as we watched our home values drop. That will benefit the economy as a whole.

A friend the other day was lamenting to me that his house was off $10,000 from where he bought it 5 years ago.

My answer, which he probably didn’t appreciate for its succinctness, was “So what?”

He plans on living there for another 20 years. He would have paid out far more in rent than he would have buying and paying for upkeep on his own. He’s ahead now, and he’ll be far ahead in 20 years.

Still, he and millions of others clung to the good old days of 2006, when our home prices were less realistic than the sweet-nothings that mortgage brokers were whispering in their client’s ears in 2001-2005.

As soon as we get beyond the opiate of 2005 housing prices, the sooner our economy will recover.