Young son helping father move items from moving truck into new house

Waiting to move is recommended, but if you can't postpone your move, you have options to keep your family safe. (Getty Images)

It’s no question that the global COVID-19 pandemic is affecting businesses, and the real estate industry is no exception. As home shopping and renter activity have swiftly declined, movers are seeing fewer people looking to relocate in the midst of stay-at-home orders and quarantines.

In a survey of 334 moving companies across the U.S. conducted in late March by mover booking network HireAHelper, more than 71% reported a decrease in moving business since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

But while many businesses have ground to a halt, people will continue to need to move regardless of stay-at-home orders.

“Initially we saw some cancellations, but (moving has) been a lot steadier than a lot of other industries,” says Luke Marklin, CEO of moving company Bellhops, which serves 64 cities throughout the U.S.

While some people are making the choice to put off a move, not everyone can. Professional movers are currently considered an essential service throughout the U.S., so you won’t be left pushing a couch out the door on your own. However, there are certain precautions you should take to make moving as safe as possible.

[Read: Should You Delay Homebuying During the Coronavirus Pandemic?]

Here are 10 things to consider if you’re planning to move during the pandemic.

  • Wait if possible.
  • Get a virtual estimate.
  • Buy new boxes.
  • Wear gloves and a mask.
  • Disinfect everything.
  • Ask movers about precautions.
  • Pack ahead.
  • Ask for a no-contact move.
  • Reserve the elevator.
  • Disinfect as you unpack.

Wait If Possible

If you have the flexibility to remain where you are for now, wait out the pandemic.

The HireAHelper survey reports that nearly 75% of moving companies have experienced at least some cancellations of scheduled moves. If you can reschedule or push your move to a later date, you may be less likely to put your family or movers at risk of contracting the virus.

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or are currently quarantining after being exposed to someone diagnosed with the coronavirus, it’s safest to put off the move. “They’re going to want to work with their mover and possibly reschedule until after the quarantine period is over,” says Rachel Peretz, director of marketing and business development for the American Moving and Storage Association.

Get a Virtual Estimate

Traditionally, movers visit your home to provide an estimate, taking into account the amount of furniture and other items, the size of doorways and how many stairs or elevators have to be used.

But to keep distance between customers and professionals, moving companies are now turning to virtual estimates, which often include a video call walk-through of the space. You may need to provide some measurements so the moving company is prepared for large furniture or tight spaces.

Buy New Boxes

In different times, you can often find free, used boxes for your move from neighborhood networks or at your local grocery store. However, due to concerns about the coronavirus’ ability to remain active on surfaces including cardboard, play it safe and get new boxes.

“Right now our recommendation is to get brand-new moving boxes from the mover,” Peretz says.

Wear Gloves and a Mask

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone where a face mask in public to help curb the spread of illness during the pandemic, and that advice should carry through when you move.

“Our recommendation is that consumers do things like wear gloves, wear masks (and) do things that will keep their families safe, and movers will be doing the same,” Peretz says.

[Read: Tips for Renters During the Pandemic]

Disinfect Everything

As you pack up your home, your hands will touch everything from lamps and books to dishes and appliances. As you pack or prepare for movers to come in and pack, disinfect every item in your home while you have a mask and gloves on, ensuring that everything has been wiped.

That goes for the boxes as well, says Rachel Stults, deputy editor at realtor.com. “Probably just to be safe, disinfect them before you pack them,” she says.

Ask Movers About Precautions

With stay-at-home orders in place, you can’t simply ask your friends to help you move in exchange for beer and pizza. While you may not have planned to pay for a moving company, it’s the best option for moving safely during a pandemic.

“If you can, hire a moving company – you just want to make sure you research to know that they’re taking proper precautions,” Stults says.

Moving companies today are reporting that their employees are wearing masks and gloves, refraining from close contact with customers, washing hands frequently and disinfecting trucks in between moves. Ask a potential moving company – or even a truck rental company you plan to use for a DIY move – how often packing materials and vehicles are disinfected.



Pack Ahead

Many moving companies offer the option of fully packing and unpacking your home without you having to touch a single box, which is a pricier option in exchange for convenience. While the U.S. tries to curb the spread of COVID-19, the safest option is to pack your belongings yourself – that way you’re in control of disinfecting individual items, and the movers don’t have to worry about touching more surfaces.

“It comes down to the person’s ability to do the prep, but in general the rule of thumb is the more the (movers) can be in and out the fastest, the better,” Marklin says.

Ask for a No-Contact Move

On moving day, maintain as much distance as possible by designating one member of the family to interact with the movers. Many moving companies, including Bellhops, are offering moves with no contact at all – the mover will simply call or text shortly before arriving, so the customer can leave the door unlocked for movers to get started.

For a no-contact move, prepacking before the movers arrive makes it easier. “It’s really better if you do it yourself, and then leave at the time the movers come in to take it out of the way,” Stults says.

[Read: How to Set Up a Home Gym]

Reserve the Elevator or Loading Area

Basic moving advice includes reserving the elevator and loading dock if you’re moving out of or into an apartment building. As movers are trying to reduce contact with others, it’s important that they are not confined in tight spaces with your belongings and other residents of the building.

If you live in a neighborhood where street parking is hard to find, see if you can get a temporary no-parking area in front of your home for the moving truck to park during the moving process.

Disinfect As You Unpack

You disinfected when putting your belongings into boxes, and you should disinfect again as you unpack at your new place. Marklin explains: “Out of an abundance of caution, it doesn’t hurt to after (the movers) leave, go through things and sanitize again, just given the situation.”

Updated on April 17, 2020: A previous version of this story misspelled Rachel Stults’ name and incorrectly identified her position at realtor.com. She is the deputy editor.

Tags: real estate, housing, housing market, renting, pending home sales, moving, coronavirus


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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