Although moving house is expensive and many people are strapped for cash at the moment, property guru Phil Spencer insists it should still be an option for those who fancy it – as long as they budget carefully, of course.
Spencer, who co-presents the long-running Channel 4 property show Location, Location, Location with Kirstie Allsopp, says: “An awful lot of people have successfully moved over the last couple of years, and many people are still interested in moving this year.
“Budgeting has never been more relevant because of inflation and rising costs. People need to tread carefully – moving is always expensive, always complicated, and people have got to go about it ever-more cautiously.
“The economic environment is challenging, but life goes on – life events happen, and that tends to be when people move home. It’s not all about what’s happening in the economy – life events play into it and influence decisions to move.”
So, if you do make the brave decision to move in the current financial climate, what are Spencer’s expert tips to help it go as smoothly as possible, and keep costs low?
“My number one tip would be preparation and proper planning, whether you’re moving between rented houses or between ones you’ve sold and bought,” he advises.
1. Never lose sight of your budget
“Do your sums carefully, budget carefully, and really think about the choices you’re making and what it’s going to cost,” advises Spencer. “People are spending thousands moving, aside from the stamp duty, solicitors or any of that. You have to be very money-conscious, particularly in the current environment, and if you can set a budget and stick to it, so much the better.”
2. Make a checklist as early as possible
Spencer suggests writing a checklist of everything you need to do before and during the move as early as possible – preferably as soon as you’ve decided to move, and he warns movers not to forget to include small tasks, like getting someone to look after the dog, as they often go a long way to helping things run smoothly.
“You’ve just got to walk yourself through each step of the process, and that’s not always easy to do, because moving home isn’t something many of us do frequently, so we never become hugely experienced at it,” he says.
“But there’s a lot to think about – preparing your house for sale, and making it look as good as possible, choosing the agent, setting the price, handling the viewers, the negotiations. When it comes to the actual move, you’ve got to notify all your suppliers, redirect your mail, tell your bank and insurance providers, read your meters, make sure the keys are in the right place…
“You might also have to do some repairs to the new property – have you budgeted for all that? The list is endless.”
3. Declutter well in advance
If you’ve lived in a house for years, you’ll have years of clutter you don’t use, and certainly don’t need to pack up and take to your new home. Spencer says movers should declutter well before they move, getting rid of any unwanted items at least a month before, so you’re not wasting time packing unnecessary items on moving day.
4. Don’t forget connection costs
Many movers don’t budget for connection fees and utility services, and Spencer says: “People often forget about the cost of connection services, like for wifi and broadband. We’re all so used to having it, but it isn’t everywhere and you may well have to pay to get it. You’ll probably need it as soon as you move in, so make sure it’s sorted in advance.”
5. Think about what you’ll need help with
Although keeping costs down is crucial for most people, it’s also important to balance saving money with keeping your moving stress levels down, by recruiting help with some of the more time-consuming or daunting moving tasks.
Spencer says you might decide you can do your own packing, for example, but you’ll need a tech expert to help set up the wifi at your new home, or perhaps a professional cleaner to get your old property spick and span after you leave.
“In my book, it’s worth spending a reasonable amount of money on removal services,” he says, “as when it goes wrong, it goes really wrong. And even when you’re doing it yourself, it’s extremely hard packing and unpacking and shifting all the boxes, unless you’ve got a lot of help.
“I’m looking to buy a shed at the moment, and I won’t be the one putting it together. How many hours have I spent building bunk beds? You forget how you took them apart, you lose a couple of bits, but a tradesperson could come along and do it really easily – it’s needed.
“Time is money – people value their time going to work, so value your time at home too. But it’s also about skills – do you have what it takes to put something together after you move, or would it make you happier to outsource that and get it done, while you concentrate on something you do enjoy? When you’re moving home, your to-do list gets a million times longer, and anything that helps you make smart decisions and budget safely has got to be super-worthwhile.”
6. Box clever
All too often movers forget to budget for supplies like boxes and tape (and don’t forget tea for the removal people). “I’m not surprised people don’t budget for things like boxes and tape,” says Spencer. “It’s not an inconsequential cost if you’ve got to buy 50 boxes.”
While you’ll often see people who are moving house asking for boxes on social media, Spencer says storage and removal firms sell them. You may also be able to get some from supermarkets. He says it’s useful to order packing boxes in a range of different sizes, and don’t forget to buy packing tape and bubble wrap.
Once you’ve got your boxes, Spencer suggests movers start packing in the least-used rooms, and label each box to make sure you can easily see which room they belong in at the new property.
Further tips include taking photos of the inside of boxes to find things more quickly, leaving clothes on hangers to save time, protecting lids on liquid containers to avoid spillage in transit, and keeping daily essentials – like phone chargers and toothbrushes – at the top of boxes for easy access later.
7. Location, Location, Location (of the meters)
Spencer recommends movers ask the estate agent or landlord where the main stopcock is in the new house, plus the location of the gas and electricity meters to take readings. And he also suggests it’s a good idea to change the locks at your new property so you can be sure you’re the only ones who have keys.
8. Get someone to look after children and pets
If you’ve got young children and/or pets, it may be worth getting friends or family to look after them on moving day, suggests Spencer. “Children and pets don’t make particularly good moving day company, so if they can be farmed out on the day, that may ease tensions – you’ll have enough to think about without toddlers running off with things, or dogs escaping,” he says. “If you have to pay for them to be looked after on the day, it could be another cost people just don’t think of.”