Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Savvy Senior: Tips for downsizing and relocating

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Dear Savvy Senior

Do you have any tips for seniors who want or need to downsize to a smaller home, but need help moving? The idea of packing and moving from my home of 45 years is overwhelming me. Any suggestions?

Stressed-out Sandy

Dear Sandy,

Any move is stressful, and moving from a long-time residence is even more so. The idea of sorting through decade’s worth of stuff can be terribly daunting. Today, a new kind of moving service that can make downsizing and relocating a lot easier is available. Here’s what you should know.

Hassle-free moving

A growing new industry called ‘‘senior move managers” specializes in assisting older adults and their families with the emotional, physical and organizational aspects of relocation. These professionals understand how difficult it can be to move from a long-time residence and can make the move easier and less stressful. Although services will vary, most senior move managers can help with some or all of the following:

*Setting up a timeline and comprehensive plan for the move.

*Locating and overseeing a mover.

*Drawing up a scale-model floor plan of the new residence.

*Creating scale-models of furniture to help plan space.

*Helping sort through possessions.

*Packing items to be moved.

*Arranging for the disposal of unwanted items (donations, estate sales, etc.)

*Unpacking and organize the new home.

*Helping prepare a home for sale.

Note: Costs vary depending on the services and size of the move, but you can expect to pay somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000, not including the cost of movers.

To locate a senior move manager visit the National Association of Senior Move Managers Web site, www.nasmm.com. But before hiring one, be sure you ask for references from previous clients and check them. Also find out how many moves they have managed, and get a written list of services and fees. Make sure they’re insured and bonded.

If you can’t find a senior move manager in your area, another option is hiring a certified professional organizer, many of whom offer moving⁄relocating services for seniors. To find one, check out the National Association of Professional Organizers, www.napo.net.

Hiring a mover

If you don’t have any luck locating a senior move or organizing professional, or don’t need this type of service, you’ll probably still need to hire a mover (see www.protectyourmove.gov). Before handing your money and hard-earned possessions over to just anyone, it’s smart to do a little research. Here are some tips to help you hire the right mover.

Start by getting recommendations for movers from family and friends. Real estate agents are also a good source. Look for companies that will offer estimates in person; these are the only ones that will give you a reliable figure.

Once you have a few options, conduct a background check starting with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org). Also see www.movingscam.com and www.movingsham.com, which provide blacklists of moving companies and a history of consumer complaints.

Next, get several in-home estimates, and ask for a written, binding estimate, which guarantees the total cost of the move based on the weight of the items to be moved, the distance to be moved, packing and other services. When an estimator comes to your home, be sure you show everything you want moved (closets, backyard, basement, attic) so there are no surprises. Also, find out what the mover’s responsibilities are for damages that may occur to your belongings and a list of references, and get the company’s USDOT and motor carrier license numbers.

If one company offers a much lower bid than the others, it’s smart to be skeptical. Once you choose a company, make sure it has the license and insurance it needs to move you legally. Visit www.safersys.org, and enter the company’s USDOT number. You also can call the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hotline, 888-368-7238, to check if there have been any complaints filed against a company.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of ‘‘The Savvy Senior” books.