How to Move to a New City: A Checklist

by Kevin on December 20, 2010

As my wife and I have considered moving over the past several months it dawned on me how monumental the task of moving is. When you’re single and living with roommates moving is somewhat complicated and inconvenient. But as you get older, get married, buy a house, and acquire too much stuff… it becomes a huge task.

I came up with a long yet still incomplete list of tasks you need to do when you move. I figured I’m not the only one moving and it would make for a great discussion with everyone who reads No Debt Plan.

I broke the list up into five main categories:

  1. finding a new place to live
  2. packing
  3. physically moving your stuff
  4. a list of people and companies that need to know you’ve moved
  5. other

Again the list is incomplete so for you wise and more experienced folks please leave a comment below with what you think needs to be added to the list.

Let’s get started…

Finding a New Home, and Things to Consider

  • Use online tools to research the neighborhood and real estate values:
    • For homes: Trulia and the local multiple listing service (Google “city name” and MLS to find it)
    • For apartments: Yelp and ApartmentRatings for reviews
  • Remember you may have to put new utility deposits down with your new place. Budget accordingly.
  • Consider potential differences in utility costs (different electric/gas rates, larger or smaller home, etc.).
  • Consider school districts, commute length/time, and crime rates before settling down in a new area.
  • You’ll need to find a new:
    • vet
    • place of worship
    • mechanic
    • doctor
    • dentist
    • pharmacy
    • bank
    • hair salon
  • When looking at houses or apartments visit at various times over several days to judge traffic and noise.
  • When buying a home make sure your offer is contingent on a home inspection, getting things fixed that you want, changes to be made, etc.
  • When buying a home ask for the following reports:
    • inspection
    • pests
    • dry rot
    • radon
    • hazardous materials
    • landslides
    • flood plains
    • earthquake faults
    • crime statistics
    • mildew
    • lead paint
    • asbestos
    • whether the house was ever a drug house (this young coupleĀ bought a home that was a former meth lab and it was not a required disclosure)
  • When buying a home be willing to walk away. Do not fall in love with a home. Think of it as a business transaction.
  • Talk to neighbors or other tenants. Ask about traffic/car noise, noisy neighbors, dogs barking in the middle of the night, utility costs, traffic, the area of town, etc.
  • Consider bug bombing your new home before you move in. If you can have this done before all of your personal belongings are inside you’ll avoid getting the chemicals all over your stuff.
  • When buying a home remember to save up for closing costs on top of your down payment.
  • Come up with a target home/apartment size and cost, then stick to it. If you can’t afford more than $850 per month don’t fall in love with a place that will cost you $1,200 per month.
  • Talk to the Chamber of Commerce and other business entities to check on any new, planned, or potential commercial or industrial development that would kill your new home’s real estate value. You don’t want a factory going up in your backyard.
  • Similarly, check to see if there are any proposed government developments (high power electric line) that are about to run through your neighborhood.
  • Ask the home sellers (or their agent) about the quality and cost of upgrades. If the home has a new roof, but the invoice says it only cost $500 you know in advance you’re going to have problems. Use this as negotiating leverage.


  • Ask for boxes at liquor, office supply, grocery, and furniture stores.
  • Separately pack a full week’s worth of clothing and supplies for each family member. When you get to your new place you won’t be scrambling from box to box to find your underwear and toothpaste.
  • Photograph and document all of your belongings before you move in case you need to file an insurance claim with your movers. Even if you don’t use movers this is a good idea for home and rental insurance (see: 5 Steps to a Complete Home Inventory and Creating Your Home Inventory Documentation)
  • Consider shipping your books through the United States Postal Service’s Media Mail service. It will cost you some money, but you won’t have to haul the books yourself. If your movers are charging you based on weight this can save a lot of weight in the truck.
  • Use brown sticky paper to seal boxes. This paper works like tape except you can tear it with your hands.
  • Use white trash bags for clothes and towels. Use black trash bags for trash. This will help avoid confusion on what goes on the truck and what stays.
  • Consider buying a mirror box for large mirrors. Put an X in painter’s tape over all glass and mirrored items. If the glass breaks during moving it will stay in place due to the tape rather than shattering all over your other belongings.
  • Ask friends to help and thank them appropriately. It can be as simple as providing a couple of pizzas and some drinks, or something nicer like a gift card to their favorite store.

Physically Moving to a New Home

  • Make sure you can move it all in one trip to save on gas and rental (or moving company) charges. Slim down your belongings through donations, garage sales, and eBay if you don’t think it will fit.
  • Before you pack everything up ask your insurance company if your belongings will be covered in event of an accident. If not, acquire coverage through the rental agency or elsewhere.
  • Put your daily living essentials such as kitchen utensils and toiletries on the truck last. You don’t want to be climbing over all your furniture to get to the toilet paper.
  • Prioritize boxes with labels. For example your high priority kitchen items (such as a pot and a couple of bowls to have soup) would be labeled “K1” and your more obscure items (such as your power fruit juicer) would be labeled “K2”, “K3”, etc.
  • Remember that moving expenses are tax deductible. Keep track of all of your expenses — moving truck or company, gas for the truck, boxes if you buy them, mileage if you make multiple trips to find a new home, etc. Keep good records.
  • Get a binding quote from a moving company should you choose to use one. Non-binding quotes is where the moving company can take advantage of you because the cost isn’t locked in.
  • Look for a moving company that sends an estimator to your home. A general quote for a three bedroom, two bathroom home won’t be nearly as accurate as someone actually walking through your home to look at all of your belongings. An estimator will be able to give you a much more accurate (and binding) quote for the physical items in your home.
  • Tip movers and provide lunch and cold drinks. It’s a small step, but helps ensure they’ll care for your family heirlooms a little more.
  • Cover furniture with cloth or plastic and tape it down to prevent damage inside the truck.
  • If you are using a rental truck call multiple times in advance to verify the reservation. I would call a minimum of three times the week of your move. (We’ve had multiple problems with our truck not being at the right location even with doing this! Annoying!)
  • If you decide to use a moving company you must let them move and unpack everything. If they break something they are liable. If you help and something is broken you have no recourse because you were involved. You’ve paid the premium. Just sit back, relax, and point to the rooms that each box goes to.
  • Consider moving on a weekday when government and utility offices are open. You need to change your mailing address and have the utilities put into your name quickly.

These People and Companies Need to Know You’ve Moved

Here’s a list of people and places that need notification of your move. This is also a handy list of new services to identify in your new city.

  • present and future post offices
  • professional associations
  • banks
  • catalog companies
  • church
  • credit card companies
  • dentist
  • doctor
  • electric and gas utilities
  • employer
  • federal, state, and local government benefit programs
  • communications providers (cell phones and home internet)
  • insurance companies (car, life, disability, homeowners, renters)
  • library
  • magazines
  • newsletters
  • newspapers
  • schools
  • stock broker/investment firms
  • unions if you’re a member
  • voter registration jurisdictions
  • water and sewer company

Do everything you can to kill junk mail going to your old address. You don’t want “pre-approved” credit card applications landing in your old mailbox. Mail forwarding is a good step, but you might also consider opting out of junk mail all together.

Other Things to Consider When Moving

  • If you’re a homeowner and have paid homeowners association dues and county taxes try to get the balance of the months you won’t be living there paid back to you.
  • Similarly try to get a refund on your car tag registration costs. If you renew in January and move in March you’re giving up 9 months worth of car tax fees that you could potentially get back.
  • Downsize what you can before moving. The less you take with you the less you have to set up in a new residence.
  • Moving can be very hard on pets. Take special care and plan for their needs. Pack extra water, food, and toys. Give them special attention as you’re packing up your home and special attention as you’re unpacking in your new place.
  • Get your mail forwarded at your local post office. You can fill out a form online to expedite the process.
  • Prior to moving collect your friends’ and colleagues’ contact information. Send out a mass message with your new contact information.
  • If you or your spouse are leaving a job make sure to rollover your retirement accounts tied to that job. Plan well in advance and get all the forms you’ll need from human resources while you still live in the same city. It will be easier to deal with any hiccups while you still live there rather than hundreds of miles away.
  • Similarly if you are on one spouse’s insurance and they are leaving their job to move with you, you’ll need to get on your employer’s insurance as soon as possible. Most employers require written documentation from the previous employer/insurance verifying who was covered, what coverage was included, and the effective date of the loss of coverage. This will ensure you don’t go without health insurance — even a small gap can be devastating if something happens during that time.
  • Create a master checklist, preferably in chronological order, to assist in moving. Then just go down the list knocking off tasks one by one. You can use this post as a good starting point.
  • Have pet documents ready documenting their shots and vaccinations are up to date in case you are pulled over and asked for documentation.
  • Keep important documents such as your tax returns, marriage documents, health and home/renters insurance, etc.) with you at all times.
  • Meet your neighbors as soon as possible. Get your boxes inside, turn the rental truck in, and go walk in the neighborhood to start those new connections.
  • Don’t let your pets out of your new home without having them on a leash until they are familiar with the area. Even if your yard has a fence they could hop the fence and be at risk.
  • Consider what appliances you will take with you. Does your new home come with a new fridge, washer, and dryer? If so, what quality are those items?
  • Ask your waste management company what happens to your garbage container. Do you turn it back in or is it yours to take with you?
  • Cancel your previous home’s utilities. Get them out of your name.
  • If you are moving and leaving a vacant or rented house behind make sure to change your insurance accordingly. Vacant home insurance is different than homeowners insurance. Rental insurance (if you are renting your old home) is about $100 more expensive than homeowners insurance and the coverage is different. If you are renting a new place (rather than purchasing) get renters insurance to cover your personal belongings and verify the homeowner has insurance on the structure.

I know I’ve got to be missing some things here. So for those of you that have moved several times, leave a comment and help us all learn. Once we’ve got a comprehensive list I’ll dump everything into a handy Excel spreadsheet for everyone to use.


Budgeting in the Fun Stuff December 20, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Dang! I’m going to print this just so I have it for the future! I applaud the amount of time you put into this!!!

Kevin December 20, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Thank you! I’ll get everything into an Excel spreadsheet and share later…

Kate Rose October 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm

We will be moving in a month or so (we have the house), and sure could use that spreadsheet. Did you ever format the list in Excel?

Kevin October 6, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Unfortunately, no… sorry. You could print off the post and run with it as is. Sorry!

Chris @ December 21, 2010 at 9:00 am

Wow. Thanks. This is a very complete list. I’ll need to save this just in case I need it soon!

Golfing Girl December 21, 2010 at 11:52 am

Great list–we’ve been talking about moving to another city so I’ll be putting this aside for future reference. On our list was talking to colleagues in other potential cities to talk about what they like or don’t like and where they moved from to get a frame of reference for their opinions (always lived there versus moved from out of state).
Checking your last 6 months of bank statements and credit card statements is a good step because it will remind you of any automated bills you may forget to cancel (garbage, cable, etc.) since some are not monthly or are irregular.

John December 21, 2010 at 7:45 pm

The only thing under the “packing” is to LABEL EVERY BOX with the specific room it goes to…whose bedroom, which bathroom, family room, etc.

Great list!

Adam Kamerer December 26, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Kevin, this is a fantastic resource.

Diane May 18, 2011 at 10:08 pm

I’m saving this for future reference~ We’re planning to move in the next 2 years and I’ve been in the same house for 28 years! Lots of stuff to deal with… I’d love to see the spreadsheet!

Steve May 28, 2011 at 8:58 pm

I’d love that spreadsheet myself. I plan on moving this time next year.

Deke July 9, 2012 at 10:57 am

Here is a wonderful online resource for listing your posessions

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