The last step in most real estate transactions is moving, and it takes a separate kind of planning. Four to six weeks in advance is a good time to begin contacting moving companies to get estimates and schedule a date.

Need to know: Usually, the size of what's being moved is not as important as how far it's being moved. And if you go for the lowest price, you take your chances. By law, payment for the move must be made before your possessions can be unloaded at your new address. Payment also must be made by certified or cashier's check, traveler's checks, or a money order payable to the mover. No personal checks are accepted. Credit cards may be accepted, but a processing fee is often charged.

Bad advice: "Get an estimate over the phone." An accurate estimate is only possible when someone comes in person to see what needs to be moved as well as any physical barriers that may create delays, such as lots of stairs and difficult turns.

"Pack it yourself." That may be the cheaper way to go, but professional movers tend to do a better and more efficient job.

Good advice: If you plan to do the packing, find out in advance what the mover requires. Some movers want everything to be in a box before they transport it -- plants, waste baskets, brooms, etc. Better to know in advance how many boxes you'll need to scare up.

Be sure to ask: For references, certainly, but also whether the mover will transport your possessions on climate-controlled trucks with air-ride shock absorbers that minimize road vibration.

Don't do this: Don't move things you'll just throw away at the new house. Give the stuff away or sell it at yard sales, but get rid of it any way you can.

What it will cost: The final cost of a move is based on the weight of the shipment and whatever additional services you ask the mover to perform, such as packing your belongings or crating delicate items such as computers and TVs or works of art. The packing materials also cost extra. In pricing a move, the company takes a number of things into consideration other than weight, including how much space the items being moved will take up, how large a truck will accommodate it, and how much one mover can move in a certain number of hours.

Jargon alert: A lot of moving jargon involves insurance coverage. There is "no-cost basic liability," where goods are covered at 60 cents per pound per item (30 cents on local moves), regardless of their actual value. For example, if your 40-pound TV is damaged, the mover gives you $24 toward repair.

"Declared value protection" is coverage for replacement value of an item minus depreciation. "Replacement-value coverage" means that if your color TV is damaged, the moving company will pay to replace it with the same model.

Then there are "extra ordinary value items" that must be identified by you in writing. These are defined as items having a value greater than $100 per pound per article and are recorded on a "high-value inventory sheet" by the person preparing your estimate. If such items are not listed on the sheet and are damaged in the move, coverage is limited to no more than $100 per pound per article.