While finding the right house to buy is tough enough, many home buyers find themselves way over their heads when it comes time to pack up the house and move to their new home.

But with more than 8.3 million existing and new homes sold this year, plus more than a million rental units turning over, more than 9.5 million families will pack up their belongings and move in 2005.

Figuring out what you’re going to do ahead of time can help. According to the American Moving and Storage Association (www.moving.org), you should start planning for your move at least eight weeks from the date of the move.

Eight weeks out you should obtain a floor plan of your new property, inventory your household goods, solicit bids from legitimate moving companies and choose a mover, contact your insurance company to find out whether your homeowners’ policy will cover your goods when you move, create a file for your moving paperwork, and begin the process of transferring your children’s school records.

Six weeks before moving day, you’ll want to fill out your post office change of address cards, notify your financial institutions, doctors, credit card companies, friends and family of your new address, and give away all clothing, furnishings, and households goods that you won’t be taking to your new home. Be careful, though, you don’t want your changes to take effect before you actually move to the new house and you don’t want your financial and medical records going to the new house until you have moved in.

Four weeks before the move, you’ll want to buy packing supplies, including boxes, labeling markers and tape. Although your mover will offer to sell you the packing supplies you need, you may be able to buy them for much less from an office supply company, like Quill.com, Staples, or Office Depot.

If you’re moving yourself, you’ll need to reserve your truck. If your mover is packing you up, you’ll want to firm up the dates of the packing, send out furniture and draperies to be cleaned (and ultimately delivered to the new home), use up your canned food products (so you don’t have to move them), gather up your records, and make any travel plans that are necessary, such as renting a hotel room overnight if you’re moving out of your house before you can move into your new one.

By three weeks before the move, you should have contacted your old and new utility companies (telephone, cable, electric, water, garbage, etc.) to arrange for shut off/turn on services, reserved the elevators for the day of the move out or move in (depending if you’re selling or buying in a building with an elevator), and called in the stop dates for any delivery services you receive, such as newspapers, milk, dry cleaning or laundry.

Two weeks before you move, you should think about how you’re going to transport your plants and your pets. If you’re moving with pets, you need to know that they cannot travel on moving vans. They should travel with you and wear special identification tags that include your name, address, and telephone number. If you’re crossing state lines, be sure to have your pets’ medical records on hand.

Some movers will not transport hazardous materials or items that contain hazardous materials. Some of these items may be gasoline for lawn equipment and even the lawn equipment, unless they have been drained of gasoline. In some cases, movers will not transport fire extinguishers.

When it comes to houseplants, they sometimes won’t take them, particularly in the winter. Plants are susceptible to shock when moving, and a plant could die if it is moved when the temperature is below 35F or above 95F for more than one hour. If your move will require your plants to be on a dark moving truck for more than a day or two, you may wish to give them away to a family, friend or neighbor, and buy a new plant when you get to your new home.

On your moving day, you’ll want to be on hand to work with the movers, as they complete the inventory of your household goods. Be sure you have a filled-out bill of loading and inventory before you give the movers the go-ahead. And once your home has been emptied, take a last look around to be sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

If you’ve hired a legitimate moving company that’s a member of the American Moving and Storage Association, you’re probably going to have a good move. However, scam moving companies are using the Internet to make themselves seem more experienced and reliable than they are. That’s why you have to check. The AMSA warns that moving companies have appropriated the AMSA symbols illegally and consumers should call to check if the company they are hiring is actually a member of the association and can also check with the Better Business Bureau.

In 2004, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration received more than 3,600 complaints about movers. According to MovingScam.com, there are fewer than 10 investigators who are trying to help customers with scam moving companies.

To be sure you haven’t inadvertently hired a scam moving company, do your legwork well before moving day.

At the Better Business Bureau (bbbonline.org) and the MovingScam.com website, you can research the companies you’re thinking about hiring. MovingScam.com blacklists companies that they have received complaints about from customers. The message board may prove helpful as well.

If you have a problem, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has a 24-hour hotline where you can file a complaint if you are the victim of a scam (1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238).

Published: Nov 14, 2005