Moving house is a bit like childbirth - it’s a major life event, and if you ask anybody else who’s been through it, they’ll all have a horror story to tell you. Usually, though, they’ll finish their tale of woe with a vague reassurance that, “It’ll all be worth it, in the end…”
Will it, though? Of course it will. Just be aware of some of these potential issues when moving house so you can hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
1. You own more stuff than you could ever imagine.
If you’re selling your house, your estate agent will probably have advised you to declutter, so that your rooms look larger and more inviting to potential buyers. Most of us achieve this by cramming everything into cupboards. This is a very bad idea, though, and you’ll be really cross with yourself later if you do it.
Instead, take this opportunity (before you put the house on the market, or while it’s on the market) to gradually reduce the amount of stuff you own so you’ll have less to pack and transport to your new home. This applies, too, if you’re just buying and moving from a rented property.
- Identify anything you no longer use or need (including any clothes you haven’t worn for at least a year, any toys your children have grown out of, and any furniture that only gets used occasionally).
- Sell what you can make a profit from.
- Give away what you feel you can afford.
- Store anything you don’t need right now but might need in your new house - a self storage unit can be really useful for this, and will also act as a place to keep everything safe until you’re ready to move it into your new home.
You might still be astounded by how much you own that you want to keep and take with you. While it’s all spread across your house, the amount you own will seem reasonable - when you try to condense it into boxes and then into a moving lorry, you might feel a bit overwhelmed.
- Label all boxes with the room they are going to, with a little note to remind yourself of which room they have come from and what’s inside. This will stop you having to open and close boxes multiple times.
- For heavy items, use smaller boxes so you don’t herniate yourself or your removals person.
- Keep essential items (tea, kettle, crumpets, clean underwear, all the stuff we British people can’t function without) together and accessible - take them in your car, rather than in the removals van.
- Keep valuables together and with you at all times.
- When things are in boxes, they take up more space than they do when they’re in their proper places (like wardrobes and cupboards). Consider storing what you can in a self storage unit if you don’t need them immediately upon moving in; this will also reduce the cost of your removals firm on the day as they’ll have less to transport. You can put boxes into your unit gradually in the weeks before your moving day, and remove them gradually as you settle into your home.
2. Searches will take much longer than you think they will.
Once you’ve put in an offer on a house and agreed a sale in principle, there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure you’re buying what you think you’re buying. The average time from agreeing a sale to completing it is a whopping 4 to 6 months.
Those pesky solicitors/conveyancers, hey? Wanting to make sure your new house isn’t built on a coal mine or that you won’t have a motorway running through your garden in six months’ time… tsk, tsk. Then there are all the hold ups with people in the chain getting their mortgage offers sorted, or realising they only own part of the land they’re trying to sell, things like that.
When agreeing your sale and planning your move, bear in mind that when you actually move, it might be in a completely different season to the one you’re in now. When booking the removals firm, remember that there might be more/fewer hours of daylight on moving day than there are now, for example. You might also need to factor in delays caused by the weather.
3. If there is a chain, you won’t have much control.
Nobody likes feeling out of control. If you’re buying and/or selling a house, though, there are so many factors that come into play that are beyond anything you can do, you just have to resign yourself to that feeling. Shouting down the phone at your solicitor/estate agent/mortgage lender will achieve nothing.
There are things that can go wrong anywhere in the chain that might ultimately mean that the house of your dreams has to remain in your dreams and you need to look elsewhere. The worst thing that can happen when buying or selling is for that purchase or sale to fall through altogether, but thankfully that’s relatively uncommon.
Try to have a Plan B in place so that if there are delays that would leave you between houses, you can still go ahead. Are there any relatives who could let you stay with them for a few weeks so you can still sell your house even if your purchase isn’t quite ready yet? Could you rent somewhere on a short-term basis? Again, a self storage unit could be an option for keeping the majority of your possessions safe, clean and dry, so all you’ll really need to do is find accommodation for you and your family.
4. Some people don’t understand what ‘fixtures and fittings’ are.
You could find, when you arrive in your lovely new home, that the previous owners have taken rather more with them than you might reasonably have expected them to take. It’s not uncommon, sadly, for owners to take not just lightbulbs but light fittings, and even shrubs, bulbs and plants from the garden.
Sellers are all required to fill in a ‘fixtures and fittings’ (TA10) form, to say what will be left behind.
Fixtures are things that are physically stuck to your house - such as your bathroom suite, tiles, boiler, built-in wardrobes and so on.
Fittings are things that you could take with you, but normally wouldn’t - things like carpets, curtains, white goods - and large items that you might be expected to take but might offer to leave if the buyer wants them - things like beds, freestanding wardrobes, sofas etc.
If you’re selling your house, it’s important to fill that form in accurately, and abide by it, because it’s part of your legally binding contract.
If you’re buying a house, read the sellers’ TA10 form carefully so you know what they’ll be leaving. If they say they’re leaving their sofa and you don’t want it, tell your solicitors that the sellers need to get rid of it! If the sellers have gutted the house and not left the items listed in their TA10, you can claim compensation to replace the missing items but it’s a bad start to moving into your new home.
If you’re selling a house and want to leave large items but the buyers don’t want you to, you’ll need to do something with them. You could try to sell them, give them to charity (some charities will collect large donations from your home) or put them in a self storage unit until you decide what to do with them. That way, you can give proper vacant possession to your new buyers and not be left with a bill from the buyers for having to dispose of them.
Hopefully, your move will go without a hitch and in 6 months’ time you’ll be sitting in your new home all comfortable and happy, moving day just a dim and distant memory. Forewarned is forearmed, and a little preparation can reduce a lot of stress on the day.