April 3rd - 2012

Do your homework when choosing a mover

For some consumers, the most daunting aspect of the buying or selling process is the move itself.

Family packing for a move

For some consumers, the most daunting aspect of the buying or selling process is the move itself.

Moving is not only labour-intensive, but it can also unleash a range of emotions at a difficult time. If the catalyst for the move is a family death, divorce or other major lifestyle change, a bad moving experience can rub salt in the wound, aggravating an already challenging situation.

Since you as a REALTOR® have invested time and energy into making sure that your client’s transaction runs smoothly, it is good business for you to offer some guidance to prevent an unhappy ending.

Before you hand out a list of recommended movers, remember that every name you provide is an extension of your reputation. If your client is dissatisfied with your recommendation, it reflects on you. Unhappy clients don’t give out referrals, so if you’re going to suggest a moving company, do your research and gather solid information. You can also empower your clients with the information they need to conduct their own search.

Many resources are available to determine whether a mover is reputable. The Canadian Association of Movers (CAM), the Better Business Bureau, and any of the major national van lines (such as Allied, Atlas, Mayflower, North American or United) are all good sources. Also check out the Consumer Beware page through the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services for movers to avoid.

One of the best tips is to place more weight on reputation than price, says John Levi, president of CAM. With about 350 members across the country, CAM represents Canada’s largest moving companies, many small to mid-sized movers, national van lines, suppliers and many international movers. It also works with government agencies to represent member issues and with consumers to provide referrals and assist with complaints.

"Many people don't realize that their prime concern should be a having a good moving experience, not getting the cheapest price,” says Levi, who has been with CAM for 16 years. Be sure your clients understand that the lowest quoted price does not actually guarantee the lowest cost or a good-quality job, he advises.

Consider the value of your possessions as well as the potential cost of loss, damage, tardiness or claims, he says. All of those factors should be weighed to determine the move’s total price tag, and doing some homework before selecting a mover is well worth the time.

Because the moving industry is largely unregulated, Levi warns that choosing a reputable mover is vital in avoiding problems. His organization receives about 150 complaints a year about movers. The most common complaints pertain to overcharging, lateness, damage or loss, but issues also arise with inexperienced crews, poor communication, and failed promises.

To join CAM, a mover must be in business for more than a year, be reputable, and undergo a due diligence and verification process. The association checks out companies through the Better Business Bureau and asks other members to offer a fair opinion on potential members. 

Loss or damage claims can end up being drawn out for years, says Levi. Consumers who take steps to do some preliminary research usually avoid claims, he adds.

Many problems are preventable. A good mover should be prepared to answer questions and provide clear expectations about the move for the individual or family. Consumers can spare themselves grief simply by asking potential movers questions such as: 

What is your experience with moves like mine? How experienced is your crew? What is the bottom-line price? What is the not-to-exceed price, including all charges and taxes? What happens if loss or damages occur, and how will we be protected?

The most important step, often overlooked, is getting an in-home estimate. “Consumers can get sweet-talked over the phone by a company that claims it can do the job,” says Levi. “Unfortunately, that’s an invitation to disaster. If movers are willing to give you an estimate by phone, don’t hire them. If they can’t see your place or belongings, they have no idea how the move will go.”

An experienced mover will visit the consumer at home and examine furnishings and possessions, give a more reliable estimate, and outline difficulties that might occur during the move, he adds.

Remind your clients that damages sometimes can’t be helped, adds Levi. “There isn’t a mover around who hasn’t scratched, nicked or lost something – it happens,” says Levi. “Moving big objects through small openings means these things sometimes occur, but the crux of the matter is how the mover deals with the issue. A good mover gets the repair done quickly or pays the consumer for loss or damage if the claim is valid.”

Written estimates are vital, he adds. “Make sure that you get the company’s promises in writing,” warns Levi. “If they won’t put it in writing, don’t move with them. It’s as simple as that.”

Sharing these insights (and the tips below) with your clients before they pick a mover can make a world of difference to the outcome. It’s an extra step with the best possible reward – a happy ending.

Urge clients to do research when choosing a mover
John Levi, president of the Canadian Association of Movers, says these steps will help consumers to have aPacking for a move positive moving experience.

Pick three – Choose at least three companies and then check them out. Ask questions and check their reputation through available resources (see below) before settling on one.

Match them to the job - Choose a mover with the resources and crew to suit your situation. A large family move across the country and a one-bedroom condo move across town are completely different. Verify the company’s capabilities with CAM, or you may end up paying more than you thought -- or learning that your mover can’t do the job and has handed it off to someone else.

Invite them over - Refuse to accept an estimate delivered by phone, fax, text or email from a mover who has not assessed the space in person. An on-site estimate is essential.

Get it in writing - Get every promise made in the moving estimate in writing, along with dates of the move and specifics on what will and won’t be moved, and who will be doing the packing. If you promise to de-clutter and pack, you must follow through or else extra charges may be added.

Book well in advance – After you’ve chosen a reputable company, ensure that the mover has lots of time to meet your expectations.

Schedule with care – Avoid booking a move the same day as a property closing or a popular moving date. Closing dates have their own problems. There may be a deadline to vacate on one side of the move, while keys or titles are not ready on the other. Such delays can mean movers sit and wait at a site, creating extra costs and stress. Avoid the first and last days of the summer months like the plague. These are a mover’s busiest times, and steering clear of those dates will boost your chances of getting an experienced crew.

Be realistic – Damage and loss can happen, although good movers will do their best to prevent or minimize them. Ask questions about company policies on loss and damage and discuss concerns about particular items with them.

For more information - Before hiring or recommending a mover, you can contact the following organizations:

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Ontario Real Estate Association

Jean-Adrien Delicano

Manager, Media Relations


416-445-9910 ext. 246