The hassle-free guide to moving house

After death and divorce, moving home is the biggest cause of stress.

Moving home is renowned as being one of life's biggest cause of stresses, close behind divorce and bereavement. Yet 2011 looks set to be the year for moving. "The total number of homes for sale is 44 per cent higher than a year ago," reports analyst Henry Prior who runs www.housingexpert. net. Meanwhile, the Association of Residential Letting Agents reports that rentals have reached an eight-year high, with demand far exceeding supply.

The good news is that if you plan ahead, the potential for things to go wrong is significantly reduced.

Who to tell

This is the most tedious part of moving, but a comprehensive checklist of people to notify helps – available online from websites including www.iplan2move.co.uk and www.bbc.co.uk/homes, as well as some estate agents.

Most important are banks, credit and store cards, pension and share providers, insurance companies, loan providers, council tax, employers, schools, your cable provider, and your doctor. Remember to organise switching off your phone line, nternet connection and all your utilities, as well as arranging them to be connected at the other end. Shop around for best prices using websites such as www.uswitch .

Rob Hill, director of Greater London Properties, advises using the Royal Mail redirection service. "It's vital with identity theft on the increase," he says, adding that the quicker you tell the council, the quicker you'll get your refunded council tax.

Pushed for time? www.iammoving.com allows you to change your address details and notify over 1,500 organisations ranging from utility companies to club cards for free. Meanwhile, estate agents John D Wood (www.johndwood.co.uk) provides a service for buyers and sellers, that includes reading meters, closing or transferring utility accounts to the new property, valuation and auctioning of unwanted furniture and chattels, house clearance and locks changing. The service is free except for supplier charges. For a charge, moving specialists such as www.abels.co.uk handle absolutely everything to do with your move.

Removals

Get at least three written quotes from established removal firms, ideally using personal recommendations. Alternatively, www.moving-quotes.co.uk and www.moveme.com can provide a list of local removal companies. Ensure they are members of either the British Association of Removers (BAR) or the National Guild of Removers and Storers (NGRS), both of which can also recommend firms.

"Find out as much as you can about the firm," says Martin Rose, spokesman for NGRS. "How long have they been in business? Will access to the new property allow for the size of their vans? Can they provide references? Most importantly, don't assume cheapest is best. A lot of people do. They see removals as an unskilled job, but there's lots of risk involved. Also remember quotes may not be comparable. Does the quote include VAT? Does it cover insurance of yourpossessions in transit?"

If possible, get the packing done professionally. "Contrary to popular belief, it's not expensive and there's a chance insurance won't cover anything you've packed yourself," says a spokesman for BAR. "Also, packing can be the most time consuming and frustrating part of any move."

Don't take for granted that all your furniture will automatically fit into your new property, says Andrew Scholey, founder of www.helpiammoving.com. "If you have any doubts, check the removal company can dismantle it."

Ensure you get cancellation protection in case the date is changed at the last minute and label all boxes, says Linda Jeffcoat, regional director of Stacks Property Search and Acquisition. "A sensible belt-and-braces approach to this is colour-coding boxes and rooms."

For DIY moves, hire a van from a reputable hire car or van company such as Thrifty, Enterprise or Europcar and always check around the van before collection for any scratches or dents. A man with a van is another option, but always check they have a valid address rather than a PO box number and a landline rather than just a mobile. Don't forget insurance and if you need boxes, www.helpineedboxes.co.uk and www.theboxstore.co.uk sell good quality ones, while www.eco-boxes.co.uk supply ones that can be collected afterwards.

Declutter and clean

There's no better time for a clear-out than when moving home. Declutter one room at a time, including all cupboards, cabinets and drawers – not forgetting the loft and garage - and remember William Morris's dictum that "everything must either be useful or beautiful." Can't face it? Hire a professional clutterologist via www.housedoctor.co.uk, www. workingorder.co.uk or www.clutter- clinic.co.uk.

Delcuttering will save you time and money, insists Romaine Lowery, who runs the Clutter Clinic. "Get together ornaments, clothes, jewellery and furniture you could sell, then use the money to buy one thing you really need for the new house. You can easily sell items on eBay, at auction or on Gumtree." And if you dispose of unneeded items before your removal quote, it will be less.

If you can afford it, employ an established cleaning company to clean the carpets in your new gaffe – it's much easier than when your furniture is all in, although avoid a wet system, which takes more time to dry out.

Better still, give the whole place a once-over. Some companies such as www.servicemasterclean.co.uk do both. If money is tight, then consider a carpet cleaning machine rental company, such as www. rugdoctor.co.uk.

Fact files

Fact files, which include instruction leaflets and service information for the heating system and appliances you're leaving, are a godsend and can save you a lot of "How do I?" phone calls. Compile one for the people who are moving into your home and ask for one to be put together for your new property.

Fact files should also include details of rubbish collection and recycling schemes, doctors, tradesmen and other useful services. Better still, detail paint brands an colours used on the walls, as well as useful informationsuch as where the stopcock is located.

"Speak to the tenant or owner of your new home too if you can," adds Rob Hill. "They have lived there, so will know all the pros and cons of the house from rubbish and recycling collection to the technique to unlocking that sticky side gate."

If the new property has a burglar alarm, get the code. "We had a buyer move into a house where the vendor had set their alarm as they always did. None of us could turn it off and the vendor had moved to Australia," recalls Graham Lock, co-founder of www.housenetwork.co.uk.

On the day

Get someone to have your children and pets and round up all the keys to your old home from neighbours, friends and relatives. Change the locks in your new home too – you never know who has a set of keys. "Better still, arrange a security assessment, says James Grillo, associate director of Chesterton Humberts' country department. "Statistics show that you're almost twice as likely to be burgled in the 12 months after moving house – 4.6 per cent compared with 2.5 per cent."

If you're using a removal firm, make sure they have the colour- coded layout of your new home. Arrange for permission for vans to park outside the property if necessary and if you're renting, check the itinerary very carefully and always get your new version countersigned by the agent or landlord. Even the smallest crack in the paintwork can become a big crack during the time you live there and you don't want to lose your deposit.

"Give yourself a deadline of when all boxes will be unpacked at your new home. Mine is three days," says Romaine Lowery. If you can't face unpacking, www.reallymoving.com provides details of trained workers to do it for you.

"Introduce yourself to neighbours if you can," advises Lock. "It's a nice way to start your new life and they'll be able to give you some advice about the area."

Two (super-quick) men and a van

Sorting through, packing and moving the assorted bits and bobs you acquire from several years of moving from rented flat to rented flat is a task you don't look forward to – moving house is stressful. And when you work five-days-a-week you can multiply the stress rating by four. So when a friend suggested Green Man and Van, a carbon-neutral removal company who come into your house, pack everything (they'll even take your pictures off the wall), move it and then recycle the boxes and wrapping paper, I was as close to excited as you can be about such things. The first question though, was would it be too expensive? Surprisingly not. For £55 an hour you get two super-quick removal men who managed to wrap, pack, box and deliver a full Transit van's worth of my stuff from west to east London in little more than two hours. They arrived bang on time and even labelled the boxes with the rooms they were taken from: cups in "kitchen" box; clothes in "bedroom". And while a £110 isn't a insignificant sum, when you considered they turned a day's work into half a morning, it seems thoroughly worth it. (020 3086 9775; www.greenmanandvan.co.uk)

Samuel Muston

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