Statistics Canada reports that 4 in 10 Canadians picked up and moved between 1996 and 2001, but during our recent real estate boom, record home sales also mean escalated moving patterns. Even though Canadians are doing more of it, moving unfortunately continues to be an event that ranks along with death and divorce on the scale of all-time stressful events.

Retired software executive Richard Stephens has moved 19 times over 2 decades and 4 continents and after making what he believes was every mistake possible, he developed the Simply Essential Home Moving Kit (International Self-Counsel Press ISBN 1-55180-369-0) to help others escape learning the hard way.

His easy-to-read book explains potential problems and provides practical, cost-effective strategies so you can anticipate complications and, therefore, avoid the most common moving mistakes which include:

  • Leaving too much to the last minute.
  • Thinking a cross-town move requires little planning.
  • Assuming you'll remember everyone who should be notified.
  • Believing utility companies will all provide service when promised.
  • Assuming you can look after the children and pack at the same time.

Clever, detailed lists of what to do over a six-week, pre-move timeline put essential activities in perspective. Thorough instructions on packing anything from a computer or a refrigerator to your precious CDs will help you decide whether to "do-it-yourself" or use professional movers. Valuable guidance and checklists cover relevant topics including budgeting, terminating services and troubleshooting.

According to the Canadian Movers Association (CAM) which represents owner-managed moving companies across Canada, "The first rule for a good move is to get a good mover." Finding a reputable, efficient moving company may be the first rule, but it is not the easiest step. CAM offers members a Code of Ethics that is also a good standard for consumers intent on evaluating moving services.

Through analysis of consumer activity at Canada's 14 Better Business Bureaus, the Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus (CCBBB) reports that moving consistently ranks at or near the top of its monthly "Top 10 inquires and complaints" lists. For instance, in March 2004, consumers checked out over 100,000 businesses, asked more than 200,000 questions and made almost 6,000 complaints, with moving companies ranking high on both lists.

Consider these consumer tips from CAM before you sign up with a mover:

  • Be sure you know exactly what you want moved and what you'd be willing to move yourself. Long-distance moves of more than 50 miles are based on weight and mileage, while local moving generally involves an hourly rate for a truck and crew.
  • Remember that the lowest price may not be the best value. Be wary of low bids and cash only deals that duck taxes. If you're using a small firm, for example, be sure that the price includes loading and unloading. Don't be shy about negotiating a rate or timing the move for winter's seasonal specials.
  • Read the contract carefully since it explains how much compensation must be paid if your belongings are broken, damaged or lost during the move. Ask to see the mover's insurance certificate to be sure of coverage. To increase the coverage, you can buy Replacement Value Protection from the moving company, which makes the mover liable up to the declared value. However, the mechanical, electrical and internal workings of any electronics or equipment are usually exempt unless physical damage to the housing is evident and proper servicing can be proven.
  • Check with your insurance broker to find out what your existing policy will cover during the move.
  • If you (rather than your employer) are paying for the move, you may be asked to pay before the truck is unloaded, especially on long-distance moves. However, one of the most common scams involves unscrupulous movers who refuse to unload a client's possessions from the truck unless the client pays an inflated price in cash. Recommendations and above-board payment schedules should protect you from this.

Here are a few resources to help in your search:

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