Moving During the Pandemic? Here Are 5 Tips To Do it Safely

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Graphic: W+G Creative
It may seem ironic, but the same pandemic that has advised us to shelter in place is motivating many to permanently relocate. According to a June Pew Research Center survey, about 22 percent of adults in the U.S. either moved due to COVID-19 or know someone who did. The rise of people moving during the pandemic provides evidence that the question of "where do I want to live" is yet another way—along with how to work, date and socialize—that the public-health crisis has led many to reexamine their choices in life.

For instance, paying a premium for a big-city apartment within walking distance of public parks, bars, and restaurants probably doesn’t have the same appeal now that most of those attractions are off-limits. At least that's how 32-year-old Lily felt about living in her high-rise studio rental in Chicago. “Prior to the pandemic, I was hoping to purchase a home in the near future, but I wasn’t super motivated,” says Lily. “Once it hit, living in the small apartment was hard, especially since I was also working from home. It was also stressful to live in a 45-story building with hundreds of other people, sharing elevators, laundry machines, and other common areas during a public health emergency.”

Ultimately, the pandemic fast-tracked Lily on her personal goal to move. But regardless of why someone is moving during the pandemic—whether it's to seek more space or less virus exposure, downsizing to minimize personal expenditures, or any other reason that's motivated by the virus itself or not—there are new concerns to consider for making safe arrangements.

Below, learn 5 best practices for moving during the pandemic, according to experts.

1. Opt for digital over in-person tours

Right now especially, it's best to learn as much as possible about a potential property before seeing it in person as a means to minimize human contact with spaces (especially in the event a respective listing is still occupied). “Many of the normal steps in the home-buying process have been disrupted by COVID-19 prevention procedures,” says Romana King, director of content for Canadian real estate company Zolo. “Open houses are now discouraged or even illegal, and in-person visits are restricted to pre-qualified, serious buyers only.”

To avoid wasting hours fruitlessly scrolling through online listings, recent mover Lily recommends thinking through what you are looking for in an ideal living space, especially since your priorities may have shifted during this time. “Previously, I didn’t spend much time at home. I went into the office almost every day. Now, that has completely changed, and my home needed to change with it. I now have separate living and working spaces, which is better for my mental health.”

Having a mental checklist is also helpful for ideating specific questions tailored to personal needs and priorities. David Richardson, owner of property management company Property Managemently, suggests questions that aren’t easy to deduce from a virtual tour alone, like “What do the window views look like?” or “How is the cell phone reception?” or “Can you turn on the shower so I can see what the water pressure is like?”

2. When it’s time to actually move, DIY if possible

Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still strongly recommends staying home and sheltering in place as the best way to reduce the spread of the virus, the absolute safest option for moving is delaying the plan. If that's not in the cards, the next best thing is to do as much packing and moving on your own, with help from others in your quarantine bubble. “In regards to whether you should hire movers or not—if you can do it by yourself, then ultimately, this is the safest option,” says Richardson.

"On moving day, you can remain outside while the movers do their job. They can come outside to ask any questions, but you don’t need to be in the property while they’re working,” —Matt van Winkle, brokerage owner

If that's not possible—in the event that you're, say, moving many items and don't have a large enough truck to do it yourself, or you're moving a long distance and need a service to facilitate the process—social distance is still a best practice to exercise. In this case, Matt van Winkle, owner of RE/MAX Northwest Realtors in Seattle, agrees to pack as much of the space beforehand by yourself as possible. “Then, on moving day, you can remain outside while the movers do their job. They can come outside to ask any questions, but you don’t need to be in the property while they’re working,” says van Winkle.

3. Ask the right questions—and a lot of them

Feel free to ask specific questions about your moving company’s health and safety protocols before choosing to hire. For example, says, Lilian Chiu, owner of Peony Professional Organizing, you want to ensure the company is following the CDC's health and safety guidelines, and that movers will wear masks and gloves, and will adhere to social distancing guidelines. You also may want to ask what policy the company has in place for ensuring no employees have the coronavirus, what the protocol is for checking employees temperature, and what the company does if an employee exhibits symptoms. Or, get even more specific: “I would suggest working with a moving company that keeps teams together on a daily basis,” says Van Winkle. “This reduces the risk of movers being in contact with a lot of [different coworkers] on a regular basis.”

Also, people who are moving should take care to prioritize the health and safety of the movers they hire. This means sanitizing items during the packing process, and wrapping cloth-covered furniture and bedding in sanitized plastic.

4. Plan ahead

Given extra questions you and all other perspective movers likely have for moving companies, you'd be wise to allow yourself extra time to vet them. Rather than waiting until the month or week before you move, consider calling a moving company for a quote [and to ask questions] well in advance,” says King. “The more time you have, the more quotes you can get, and the better you will feel about the business come moving day.”

From there, do what you can to plan out your moving day in detail: make sure you have a permit to park moving trucks in front of your old and new home, secure sole-access to a service elevator (if applicable) to avoid contamination from other building residents, and coordinate with your new building to ensure previous tenants are completely moved out. “Once you've moved into your new place, thoroughly clean and sanitize high-traffic touch points,” says Ashley Peeling, regional marketing manager at property management company CLV Group. “This will eliminate all potential viruses and bacteria from those who have been in and out of your home before and after your move.”

5. Watch out for scammers

The last thing you want to deal with while moving during the pandemic is a company trying to scam you into paying more money. Unfortunately, it’s a trend Richardson has seen increase since the pandemic started.

“This pandemic has brought out the worst in some people and has led to a lot of rent scams popping up all over the place,” he says, noting common red flags, like companies demanding a large amount of money up-front or buildings requiring a very large security deposit. Also if, compared to typical housing costs in the neighborhood, the rental price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

So by abiding by a few extra safety guidelines, people looking to move during the pandemic should feel comfortable with their choice to relocate, no matter the reason.

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