Your Moving Manual: All the Boxes You Need to Check (and Pack!)

Buying a Home? All the Financing, Insurance, Supplies & Moving Tips You Need to Know

moving checklist

Moving is a big thrill, a big hassle, and all-in-all, a big deal. For many people, it’s also the biggest expense you’ll have in your life – rent or mortgage payments often account for roughly a third of your income. So when it’s time to close on your condo or buy your first house, it’s stressful – but also exhilarating.

As with many big life events, you should anticipate that some things (maybe many things!) will go wrong during the moving process (and as you settle into your new home), but you can take steps to reduce the risks. We put together a list of # things for you to check off your list so important steps in the moving process don’t get lost in the shuffle.

Before Closing Day

A lot of your most important moving decisions will need to occur before you close on your home. Once your offer has been accepted, you’ve got a few steps to take that can make a big difference in how your time as a homeowner will go.

1. Find the Right Homeowners Insurance

Know your coverages:

Most homeowner’s insurance policies chiefly provide coverage for three main things:

Property: your house

This part of the plan covers the costs of repairing or replacing your home structure if it becomes damaged – walls, floors, roof, even your garage.

Property: your stuff

Just as your renters insurance protects your belongings (and your liability—on to that next) in an apartment or condo, your homeowner’s policy does the same for all the odds and ends you fill your home with. So if a burglar steals your TV, your laptop, your clothes, and other possessions, your homeowners insurance has your back.


This protects you from potential expenses if you’re sued by someone who gets hurt or injured on your property (or if their property gets damaged). So say someone trips on your front steps and breaks a leg, your homeowners liability coverage would protect you from a lawsuit if that person sued for medical payments.

These coverages are all critical to protect you and your home. So while you may begrudge those monthly premium payments, the first time a water pipe breaks or a tree falls on your house during a storm, you’ll realize their worth.

Neil Richardson, licensed insurance agent and adviser for The Zebra, adds that the value of a homeowners policy is exponential when considering all the risk you and your home face .

“The replacement cost of a home is often even more than the actual value of the property,” Neil says. “This means that if your home burns to the ground, your homeowners insurance is going to pay for your home to be rebuilt, minus your deductible, to it’s pre-fire condition.”

To find the best home insurance for your needs (and budget), avoid making a rushed decision. Take time to do a little research.

Consider bundling

For many people who own homes and cars, bundling can offer some solid savings. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, though, so consider these factors before choosing to insure your vehicle and home with the same company:

  • Your auto and home policies will be separate entities, and will therefore likely start on different days. This might become a hassle if you’re paying multiple bills due at different times.
  • You pay a lot more for homeowners insurance than auto, so if you might bundle, it’s probably a better bet to find your homeowner’s policy first, and then see if you can add auto coverage affordably. If not, separate policies will work.
  • Insurance companies know customers are likely to stay with a company just because of a discount, so they may increase rates, expecting that you won’t switch out of the convenience of consistency.

Know the difference between “named-peril” and “open-peril”

  • “Named-peril” policies include specific losses for which your homeowners insurance kicks in.
  • “Open-peril” policies cover any loss except for things specifically excluded by your insurance company.

HO-2 Basic Form coverage: Named-peril

If you experience a loss that falls outside of what is specifically covered by your policy, you will be paying for repairs or replacement out of your own pocket.

HO-3 Broad Form coverage: Open-peril for structure only

These offer much broader coverage for the structure of your home, but not your property (though you can still cover your personal property on a “named-peril” basis).

HO-5 Comprehensive Form coverage: Open-peril for structure and property

This coverage protects both your home and your personal belongings on an “open-peril” basis.

“It’s important to consider the difference among HO-2, HO-3, and HO-5 policies and the premiums being offered depending on the policy type,” Neil says. “If you are being quoted a rate for an HO-5 policy that is only slightly more than an HO-3 policy, you might consider paying a bit more for a much more comprehensive policy.”

See Neil’s breakdown of the policies here.

Shop around

Compare multiple quotes so you can see how the costs and coverage details differ among home insurance companies.

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily want to go with the insurance provider offering the lowest cost; the quality of your coverage is imperative.

Getting multiple quotes will give you a good idea of the price range that’s reasonable so you don’t end up overpaying.

Check reviews

Not all insurance companies are created equally. Reviews are a good way to get an idea of which insurance companies are best at paying claims and providing satisfactory customer service, or even which ones are unable to pay claims.

For the latter, check out the company’s A.M. Best rating, which rates insurers on their financial solvency. If a company has a low rating, it means they are less likely to have the funds to pay your claim.

Other resources? Consumer Reports offers home insurance ratings based on customer feedback for national insurers. And subscribers to Angie’s List can also see their ratings of local agencies.

Ask questions

Before committing to a particular home insurance plan, talk to the agent at a few different companies to get a better idea of what the plan covers and what it doesn’t.

Some good questions to consider are:

  • What types of disasters does the plan cover? Are there types of natural disasters it doesn’t cover, like floods or hurricanes? (Flood insurance is a completely separate policy available through FEMA. Earthquake insurance may be available as an endorsement through some insurance providers or it can be purchased as a separate policy.) In particular, ask about natural disasters you know are common in your area. If the policy covers your home against damage on an open-peril basis, ask to see the exclusion list to check the breadth of the coverage offering.
  • Are the items within the home covered in the case of theft? As long as personal property coverage is included on a policy, theft should be covered. But it’s important to find out the limit of coverage concerning categories of items such as jewelry. Just because you have $X amount of personal property coverage does not mean that every one of your items would be covered in a loss. Talk to your insurance company about “scheduling” high-dollar items like jewelry or fancy bikes that may exceed the amount available to for certain item categories.
  • What’s the out-of-pocket deductible? This is the amount you’ll have to pay yourself before insurance kicks in. “Some policies have a set dollar amount and some are a percentage of your home’s replacement cost,” Neil says. “There can be a huge disparity in the amount you’ll have to pay in the event of a claim so it’s important to consider how much you’ll be required to pay.”
  • Are there steps you can take to earn discounts? Often installing items that help protect the house like new smoke detectors or a security alarm system can bring your costs down.
  • Does the plan cover the cost of a hotel or apartment while waiting on repairs after a disaster?
  • What are some common reasons that claims are denied?
  • Will submitting a claim affect my cost of coverage moving forward?

Asking the right questions upfront can help you avoid ending up with a policy you’re unhappy with down the line.

family moving into new home

2. Find the Right Home Warranty Company

A home warranty covers the repairs needed to individual appliances. It’s not as important to have a home warranty as it is to have homeowner’s insurance, but some sellers include it in the sale to sweeten the deal, and it can be nice to have to ease the stress of repair expenses in your new home.

The steps to finding the right home warranty plan are very similar to those for finding home insurance. You’ll want to get multiple quotes and check the reviews of different companies to find your best fit.

The questions to ask will be a little different though. A few good ones to consider are:

  • What specific appliances are covered? If you have a certain appliance that’s especially old that isn’t covered in the main plan, it may be worth asking if there’s a way to add it on.
  • What’s the typical deductible for service visits? You’ll have to pay something each time a contractor from the home warranty company comes out to make a repair, usually it’s somewhere in the range of $50 to $100.
  • How long do customers generally have to wait for repairs?
  • What are some reasons claims are denied?

Some homeowners will find it easier to call in an individual contractor for each repair rather than go through a home warranty company each time. If it’s not included in the sale, then consider if you’re likely to need it enough to justify the cost, and won’t mind dealing with the delays that sometimes come with home warranty repairs.    

Work Out Details With the Seller

As the day approaches, there are a few final answers and arrangements to work out with the seller:

  • Utilities – Ask when the seller is having the utilities turned off, so you know when to have them turned back on in time for your move. Think about electricity, gas, water/sewage, internet and cable.
  • Key handoff – Arrange when and how the key handoff will occur and what keys you’ll be receiving. If the home has a garage, also ask about the garage code and any openers they have.
  • Trash and recycling – What day is pickup? Do you need special bags or bins? Where should you put them for easy emptying?
  • Appliance manuals – Clarify where to find manuals for any appliances left behind, and whether any have relevant warranties that pass to the buyer.

This stuff can feel small when dealing with something as big as owning a new home, but you’ll be glad you remembered the little stuff once you move in.

3. Tips for Packing

Packing is one of the worst parts of moving, but you can make the process easier by following a few helpful tips.

Start By Downsizing

The longer you’ve been in your current home, the more likely it is that you’ve let items you don’t use pile up. The first step to packing is therefore to identify and get rid of everything you don’t want anymore.

Divide the items you plan to get rid of into three categories:

  • Sell
  • Donate
  • Toss

Get to work trying to sell the items in the first category as early as possible so they’re out of your way before the move. List them on ebay, Craigslist, and Nextdoor and be prepared to potentially accept less money than you’d hoped for a lot of them.

The items for donation you can either drop off at your favorite charity (there are Goodwill stores or donation dropoff bins), or schedule a pickup to save you an errand. Donation Town makes it easy to identify the nonprofits in your area that will do a free donation pickup.

The last category is simple enough: throw what’s left in the trash. It’s freeing!

Get the Right Supplies

The rest of your packing will be easier if you stock up on the right supplies in advance.

Items you should plan on getting include:

  • Plenty of boxes – head to the liquor store, ask around at work or on social media to get a bunch before resorting to buying. Uhaul stores often have piles of broken-down boxes for you to take for free (though you may have to tape them back together).
  • Storage bins – opt for transparent ones for items you want more readily identifiable when unpacking
  • Packing tape
  • Packing paper and bubble wrap
  • Sharpies – mark boxes to make unpacking easier
  • Trash bags – for trash or your belongings (if you’re careful, you can even wrap trash bags around clothes on hangers and then just hang them up in a new closet)

It’s better to get a little more of this stuff than you expect to need than to have to make extra trips later. Keep in mind, you can also use around-the-house items like socks and blankets for packing your breakable stuff, and filling your suitcases and baskets with items can help you save on boxes.

Get Organized

You’re going to be tired after your move, so have some foresight now to make unpacking easier. You’ll thank yourself later.

Set aside necessities

First, think about which items you use every day. Pack all the things you’ll need within a day of moving in the same box and make sure it’s well labeled and easily accessible. You’ll be glad the morning after the move that you made it easy to access your coffeemaker without having to open and dig through five boxes first. Do the same thing for anything you expect to need within your first week as well so it’s easier to prioritize your unpacking as you go.

You may even want to pack a suitcase as though you’re going on a long weekend just to make sure you consider all the clothing, toiletries, chargers, and other things you might forget.

Label everything

Organize your boxes by room, so you can places everything generally where it needs to be during the move itself. Then label the boxes both with the room it’s intended for, and with the main items inside. Even devoting a box to the items you’ll need right away, you’ll inevitably find yourself looking for some specific item soon after your move. Good labeling will make your search easier.

…OR, let someone do it all for you.

We do live in the age of the sharing economy after all! So why not check out some services in which people do the packing for you. Here are a few with many national locations:

moving manual

4. The Move Itself

On the big day itself, expect to need help. You have two main options.

Should you hire a moving company?  

Generally, this means a moving company. But as we’ve just discussed, there are more options than ever for getting you help moving yourself and all your isht from point A to point B.

Traditional moving company

A moving company can make your life easier by taking care of the big stuff – especially if you’re moving far. They can also take the million back-and-forth trips and do the heavy lifting so you don’t over-exert yourself.

Not all moving companies are totally reputable, so be careful making your choice. Read reviews of a few different companies in town and check how long they’ve been in business (the BBB listing can help with that).

Get multiple quotes from companies so you can compare costs, and ask about ways to get discounts. If you can be flexible on which day to move, the prices will often be lower on days fewer people are moving, like weekdays or in the middle of the month.  

Also ask about any rules or extra expenses to expect in advance, and make sure they offer insurance for items that break or are lost in the move.

Hire labor and use your own car

If you want to consider alternatives to a full-on moving company, consider having folks help you pack (as mentioned above), carry items in and out of your car, or unpack items at your new place. (We find that TaskRabbits do a wide variety of, well, tasks, so whatever you need most, it’s worth checking!)

Hire labor and rent a truck

Or, consider renting a truck to drive yourself, and then having helpers pack, carry items in and out of the truck, and unpack. The only difference is you’re driving the truck yourself, but if you’re okay with that, you can save big money.

Ask friends

Okay, be careful with this one – note that we said “ask” and not “enlist” friends to help you. Trust us, anyone who has ever owned a pickup truck has been asked by friends to help move. In fact, many people just assume truck owners would loooove to spend all their Saturdays helping their friends move. Note the sarcasm here, and don’t be that clueless friend.

If you do have friends willing to lend a hand, be courteous and appreciative:

  • Do your packing first, so they only need to help with the move itself.
  • Make sure to supply snacks and water for during the move, and dinner and drinks as a thank you to show your appreciation afterward.
  • Also consider actually paying them or providing a more valuable gift. A few slices of pizza in exchange for 4 or 5 hours of physical labor is not the most even trade.
  • Finally, when you’re called on to help them out next time, you’ll hope for the same.

Plus: Long-distance moves

For long distance moves, figure out what items you can ship in advance. You’ll be glad to have less to deal with on the day of. Greyhound shipping is an affordable option (although your boxes may get a little beat up). If you use USPS, be sure to use the Media Mail option for books and movies to get a better price.

For what’s left, determine if you have enough stuff to rent a U-Haul, or if your own car will do (the latter is a more likely option in same-city moves, since you can make multiple trips if needed).

If you’re bringing your car to your new destination, check out these tips for getting it there in one piece.

Moving is stressful, but the first evening that you get to settle in with a cool beverage and enjoy your new home will make all the stress worth it. (Just remember to label the box with the glasses in it, so that drink will be within reach).

  • Heather Masem

    These are all great tips. Start planning as early as possible, if you know you’ll be moving or your lease is up at a certain date, get the ball rolling in the months before. It will save a ton of stress and headache! Look for deals an try to move in the ‘off season’ to save money. For renters this is critical too! You don’t want to get caught in an expensive cycle of moving in peak months like June or July..