Help is at hand for smooth moves

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In today's hectic working environment, organising your life outside the office has never been more important. So how do you fit in the dreaded moving process during these time-starved times?

In today's hectic working environment, organising your life outside the office has never been more important. So how do you fit in the dreaded moving process during these time-starved times?

Nowadays a great deal can be accomplished online. If you are lucky, hours of leafing through local papers and trudging along high streets can be avoided with canny mouse work. Tim James, from "virtual'"agent www.halfapercent.com, believes that the key advance in time management is email. The renter browses on the web, getting information in minutes rather than lunch hours: "Our rationale is to give time-poor renters access to all the information they would get from a high street agency in a much shorter timescale than is possible offline."

"Realtime" agencies may be able to prioritise the needs of the customer who walks through the door but the automated systems of virtual agencies continually match clients to new properties, making contact almost immediate. Property portals such as Asserta, Global Resident and The Move Channel are an outlet for many smaller agents so they compare well with other media. Nick Bishop from the Move Channel says: "There is no waiting for a new edition to hit the shelves where the web is concerned – adverts are uploaded night and day, and these days they usually hit the web well before they come out in print."

The portals provide a formidable resource but are by no means perfect. Like many online shop fronts, the rentals shopping experience can seem sparse when you get inside, especially in less fashionable postcodes. A web search returning a page with "no properties available" or with essential information missing is a wasted search. 10 such searches and you might as well have got the paper.

It seems that a "real" agent is hard to beat: finding a resourceful one who knows their area can save you time in the rental hunt. Champions specialise in properties in Kensington, Knightsbridge and Chelsea, director Charles Champion warns that finding the right agent is vital. "If you can find the specialist agents with energy, enthusiasm and hunger, you are half way to finding the right place."

But how do you find them? Checking working practices is key. "It's a good sign when agents are agreeable to a viewer's schedule. Evenings and weekends are the only times many people can look at properties, and we should cater for that need," adds Champion.

You've found your home and it's time to move in but a wrong step here wastes time that you can ill afford. If you have more than a couple of shoeboxes, a suit and duvet to transport, it's worth planning your strategy with care and that means ensuring you have enough boxes. The Box Company ( www.theboxcompany.com) deliver "moving kits" for all sizes of property, including everything you will need to get the job done efficiently. But when it's all packed, make sure you know exactly how much you have or your stuff could end up in the gutter. Mike Preece of Bishop's Move, a removals firm with 140 years experience, warns: "If the client fills in a form rather than has a visit, the onus is on them to inform the remover of everything. If they do not list all their furniture it probably won't fit on the vehicle and the contractor is quite within their rights to move only the listed items and not one box more."

For Marianne Craig, who advises busy people how to run their lives effectively through her website, www.coachlifeandcareer.com, an easy move is all in the planning. She suggests a ruthless systematisation of boxes: "Label each box with its destined room, and remember to pack a box for short-term kitchen necessities for moving day, and one with essentials for your first day back at work."

And after all that, you'll need a welcoming and restful place to relax in. Craig suggests: "Load rugs last so they can be laid down before boxes or furniture are unloaded. If you can, send a friend ahead to your new home to prepare snacks and coffee, and why not use the internet to order a week's shopping from a supermarket to be delivered the day after you move in?"

Telling people you have moved can seem like the final straw, but this is where the internet really helps: Ihavemoved.com is one of several services that offer to take this and other dry jobs off your hands.

The moving process always takes time and effort to get right. But following these expert tips shows that it can be a time investment that doesn't have to break the bank.

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