As the spring house-buying season heats up, we thought we’d check in with some of the unsung heroes behind Washington’s real estate pursuits: movers.
Omar Soliman launched College Hunks Hauling Junk, a moving and junk-removal company, in D.C. in 2005 with a beat-up cargo truck he borrowed from his mom. Since then, the company has grown to 50 employees and 14 trucks in the Washington area, as well as 40 franchises across the country.
He and his co-workers do hundreds of moves per year, and here’s what they’ve seen so far in 2012.
What are you seeing in the moving industry these days?
Our business is very tied into the real estate market, so when everything crashed, we saw a 20 to 30 percent dip. In the past year, we’re starting to see everything coming back. This year we’re already seeing that the volume is better than last year.
The trend right now is that is that as baby boomers are getting older, a lot of them are moving from four and five bedroom homes into smaller units. If you want to downsize, it’s even more important to figure out which of your things you’re going to bring and get rid of clutter.
If you’re doing a big move, what are some good things to leave behind?
People always have stuff in their attics or basements -- old skis, old tennis rackets and such. A lot of that stuff you don’t need to bring with you. It’s good to make three piles: donate, pure junk (like old boxes, anything that’s not salvageable), and what you’re taking. You can save so much money and stress in your move by not moving the stuff you’re never going to use again. You should clear out all the old stuff you have and start fresh.
What should you look for in a moving company?
The first thing that I recommend is don’t look for the cheapest option. We always get people who went with the cheapest mover they could find and then say, “they never showed up” or “they broke all my stuff.” Moving is very stressful, and it’s a big project. It’s the most stressful thing you’ll do all year. Don’t go on Craigslist and try to find a couple guys with a truck -- it turns into a nightmare.
You should look for a licensed, bonded and insured mover who has a good reputation in the community. Look at what kind of training are they putting their movers through, and whether they use W2 [full-time] employees. Some movers use contractors who aren’t trained, and that puts liability on the homeowner. When you have someone in your house that’s not licensed or insured by the moving company and they break their leg on your property, they can then sue the homeowner.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever had to move?
We had someone who wanted us to move a tractor. The more weird stuff is the stuff they ask us to throw away: prosthetic legs, World War II ammunition, life-sized Superman figurines...I could go on.
What’s the biggest misunderstanding people have about moving?
The worst thing that can happen is if people just aren’t prepared. You should determine whether you want the moving company to do your packing or if you want to do your packing. The mover isn’t going to do the dishes and clothes on the same day that he does the move. Also, you have to figure out if the mover is going to be providing the boxes and other supplies, or if you have them. You have to have a game plan, and a good moving company will work with you on that game plan.
Moving is considered one of the most stressful experiences next to divorce and death -- and a lot of times when those two things happen, people are also moving. If you’re willing to spend $300 to $400 on a plumber, you should make sure you’re budgeting enough to have a stress-free move.
How should you pack breakable items?
If you’re doing the packing yourself, use bubble wrap and newspaper. You want to label it as fragile on the box, and it should go on top in the truck. Individually wrap each item.
IKEA furniture is not made to be moved once it’s set up. It often can’t handle the move, so figure out what you’re going to do with it. We’re not responsible for particle furniture that’s damaged.
What type of boxes should you use?
The two that I would recommend: the recycled cardboard boxes -- you can get them at moving companies or you can get them online at usedcardboardboxes.com.
There’s a second one that’s a plastic crate-type box that you can stack on top of each other, and they don’t buckle. You rent those at bungobox.com.
Have you ever broken anything?
We definitely have broken things, and that’s another reason that the company is insured. On the moves where something has broken, those customers tend to be our greatest fans because we take care of it quickly and get them the money right away.
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Have a real estate question or story idea? E-mail Olga Khazan.