The value-added info your clients need now (Hint: It's not the name of your favorite lender)
I recently moved about five and a half hours from the Orlando metro area to middle Georgia. While the full story of the move would take several blog posts (I'm renting to own through Divvy which is a whole series in itself) I was shocked at the most difficult and outrageously expensive part of the move — the moving process itself.
I am no neophyte when it comes to moving. After I got married I moved from my home in Georgia to Florida to Atlanta to another apartment in Atlanta to rural Georgia to Northern Virginia to another part of Northern Virginia to Maryland to Southern Virginia to Florida to another home in Florida and now back to Georgia. My ex-husband had wandering feet and was always sure that happiness was to be found in the next job, the next house, or the next town.
One of the things we always took seriously was that we couldn't afford to collect and store lots of things that we weren't using, so we've been good about shedding outgrown clothes (both ours and the kids'), books we no longer enjoyed, and furniture we were tired of. We regularly held yard sales and gave carloads of items to local charities.
After my divorce, I gave a lot of things to my ex-husband to furnish his new home, then fully furnished my older daughter's apartment when she moved out. With what was left, I narrowed down those items I no longer wanted and had them hauled away for disposal, paring down the things I'd bring to Georgia to the bare minimum — must-have furniture, kitchenware and dishes, artwork, crystal, and items of emotional significance.
The last time we moved households was about four or five years ago. We moved a large household full of furniture a 12 hour drive away with an overnight stay for the movers at a cost of around $3000. This time, moving half the distance with a fourth of the items, the first quote I got was $3000. The second? $6000. I quickly realized I would have to use a pod and a Uhaul.
I paid around $1700 all in for two pods, moving help to pack and unpack, and a small Uhaul to bring the essentials. I had to wait two weeks for my household items to arrive in the pods. One of the pods fell apart, scattering my boxes all over the Uhaul backlot. The experience was an unmitigated nightmare from start to finish with delays, incompetence, and endless frustration.
Looking back, I should have taken that first $3000 quote. I ended up spending the money I "saved" with a do-it-yourself move on a washer/dryer, since the movers couldn't figure out how to fit my existing washer/dryer into either pod. Managing the logistics was so frustrating that there was really no upside, but with a limited budget (due to paying to get into the house in the first place, buying a new refrigerator, and with the ongoing task of buying furniture, painting, and making other repairs and updates to the house) it felt like the only thing to do. Anyone who's been divorced while also putting a child through college out of state will understand the financial limits involved.
I don't say all of this to poor-mouth, but to tell you that your buyers and sellers, even if they have plenty of money and a big budget, are going to experience some sticker shock when it comes to their actual move. They may have saved up plenty for their down payment and closing costs, but they're going to be stretched thin already by rising interest rates and inflation. Now add in the wildly increased cost of moving and they may be struggling.
Whenever anyone talks about value-added real estate agent referrals, they always talk about lenders. Let me tell you, today's buyers are very well informed about mortgage rates and options. They study them and compare them. What they're not aware of? Just how expensive their move is going to be.
Here are some ways that you can get and stay informed and help your clients experience a more affordable and more streamlined move.
Talk to your clients who've moved within the last six months
Get on the horn and get in touch with your clients who've moved recently. I moved at the same time as my best friend and a former colleague, both of whom ended up having to use pods and do-it-yourself moves because of the cost of professional movers. In my neighborhood, there was a Uhaul truck parked in front of a house up the street for a week after their move as they slowly but surely unpacked themselves. Do-it-yourself moves are no longer a rarity.
Learn about the logistics of do-it-yourself moves. For example, the folks who packed my pods asked me where my locks were. I didn't know that I was supposed to provide my own locks to secure the pods. They ended up drilling screws into the pod doors to secure them, but I had to make peace with the fact that anyone with a screwdriver would have access to most of my earthly possessions.
For clients who used professional movers, find out what the process was like, get an idea of cost, and find out who was good and who wasn't. There are a lot of scammy movers out there. Find out who they are and help your next client steer clear.
Provide information and recommendations to your clients upfront
Start early talking about the moving process and cost with your clients so that they can start to prepare ahead of time. If you feel able to make some recommendations, either based on personal experience or the experiences of your past clients, go ahead and do so and make those introductions.
Talk to the owner or manager of the moving company you're recommending and see if they are open to negotiating a referral fee. If so, make sure that you have a signed referral agreement outlining the terms so that there is no question regarding the amount of the referral fee or the action and timeline that entitles you to it.
Consider ways to combine branding/marketing and moving help
Some real estate agents own branded trucks for do-it-yourself moves, allowing clients to reserve the truck for one day at no cost to facilitate their local move. Others have branded moving boxes that they provide to seller clients, allowing them to declutter and pre-pack before they list and helping them to save money on moving supplies.
You may even want to have branded packing tape or packing paper printed to keep your logo front and center during the moving process. The item or service you provide doesn't have to be pricey. It just has to remind them that you're there with them every step of the way, helping to facilitate the entire process of their move.
Consider incorporating some aspect of the move into your closing gift
Similarly, there are many things you can do to add value during the moving process, helping the client to save money and providing something that's much more valuable than a gift card to a local restaurant. These include:
Trash haulaway from their old address or haulaway of unpacked boxes from their new address (You'd be surprised how hard and expensive it is to dispose of moving boxes and packing materials.)
Move-out cleaning service at their old address or pre-move-in cleaning at their new address
First landscaping services at their new address (We had a heck of a time getting a lawn service engaged when we first moved.)
Three hours of handyman services at their new house for all of those little odds and ends that you don't know need fixing until you're actually living there
Three-day Uhaul truck rental
One month of storage
A packing kit with room labels (I swear by these), Sharpie markers, bubble wrap, and packing tape, all in a branded tote bag
If it's a local move, tell them that you're coming to their new home the morning after they move in with coffee and breakfast. That way they have one less thing to worry about when they wake up tired and disoriented with no idea where the coffeepot is.
Continue to follow up after the move
Once they've gotten into their new home, give them a call or stop by and get them to tell you about the experience. If it was terrible, they'll be glad to complain to someone. If it was great, get all the details so that you can share them with your other clients.
Don't think of your responsibility as ending at the closing table. Think of it as continuing throughout the moving process. You'll make yourself a true ally to your clients when you help to manage the pain points involved in the move and make it a little easier, a little more affordable, and a little more manageable. Trust me. I know from personal experience.