Unless your family is in the military, the Foreign Service or scrambling up the corporate ladder, chances are you've forgotten the trauma of moving.
Whether it's within the neighborhood, across the country or halfway around the world, moving ranks close to death in the family and divorce, say psychologists, as the most stress-producing change in our lives. Yet the average American remains undaunted and mobile, undertaking 11 moves in a lifetime, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
While literally thousands of relocation services and moving companies are ready to deliver your family and furniture from location A to location B, entrepreneurs are invading the moving business by reminding you that changing addresses isn't only a matter of packing and hauling. They're not "movers," they're "movers and shakers."
It's the bothersome details they attend to -- those secondary but necessary tasks related to a move that once might have been chores for a nonworking spouse. But today, with single parents and dual-income families the rule, who has time to call the power company and file address-change cards at the post office?
"People may think settlement is the big thing," says James F. Lofton, who recently founded Making-Your-Move in Arlington. "But that's really when the moving marathon begins."
Lofton insists that his outfit takes the worry and pain out of moving by handling niggling details such as:
*Stopping and restarting your utilities and services, with deposits refunded directly to you, and companies notified where to send closing or new invoices;
*Rerouting mail to your new address, including starting, canceling or moving magazine and newspaper subscriptions; Handling change-of-address notification for credit cards and other charge accounts, banks, insurance companies, division of motor vehicles and club memberships;
*Notifying friends, relatives and business associates of address change.
The 29-year-old Lofton says Making-Your-Move is set up to help three types of clients: people moving into the area, people moving within this area, and people moving out of the area. It is modeled, he says, on Smooth Moves, a firm founded in Los Angeles 1 1/2 years ago by Californian Gregg Silverman.
Lofton had sold his Arlington condominium last spring and was on the verge of moving to an advertising sales job in Los Angeles. He had read an ad for Silverman's service in Los Angeles magazine, and was going to use Smooth Moves for his own move West. "I looked at it the ad and looked at it and finally decided, 'I've got to try this myself.' "
Taking credit for dreaming up the first detail-oriented relocation service, Silverman says he decided a year ago that he wanted to have a business of his own. The catch was, he didn't know what kind of business, so he polled people in shopping malls and supermarkets, asking them, "What do you hate the most?" Moving, along with death and divorce, was near the top of most people's lists.
Silverman, also 29, has gone national with Smooth Moves, soliciting out-of-state clients moving into Los Angeles with a toll-free line. "It seems obvious," Silverman says, "that everyone and his mother would want to move to L.A.""
But the momentum of the one-phone-call-handles-it-all service isn't determined by location alone, as Lofton confirms. The $145 fee both companies charge is attracting individual consumers and corporate relocation services, and moving companies, Realtors and chambers of commerce are passing on word of their services.
Joan Rees, director of the Relocation Counseling Center in McLean, and Anita Brienza of the Employee Relocation Council in the District, both say their organizations are aware of the two services and that they may be the only two of a kind.
"We get 150 to 160 people a month," says Rees, "and they're the kind of people who are too busy to deal with these kinds of things. I think most busy people would look at their services as a pretty good bargain, especially when you have moved before and you know all the time it takes to take care of those little things."
Making-Your-Move offers "substantial" volume discounts for corporations, builders and Realtors. Lofton says takers include builder/developer Michael R. Kay, of Rozansky & Kay Construction, who is offering the service as a settlement gift to buyers of his $600,000-and-up homes in Foxhall Crescents.
Emily Miller paid Making-Your-Move to handle her local move from a rental apartment in Vienna to the town house she bought in Oakton this spring. A 27-year-old, single teacher, Miller says the details of a move have to be taken care of during weekdays, when she couldn't take time off from her job.
"It was super," she says. "All I had to do was give them some information. They took care of the works, credit cards, bank, utilities . . . It went beyond my expectations."