Whether it’s just up the street, across state lines, or into your dream home, moving is a stressful experience, and—unless you’re upgrading to the latest tiny home model—no one can do it alone. Rather than calling up your buddy with a truck and a weakness for free pizza, many homeowners and apartment dwellers alike opt for professional help with their move.

Hiring a professional moving company will make moving easier, period. That said, there are several time- and headache-saving ways the thoughtful customer can help to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible for everyone involved.

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To this end, we spoke with Susan Goltra of Randall Moving & Storage, a premium moving service and seven-year Best Pick operating in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. Susan’s official title is General Manager, though that alone doesn’t do her role at the company justice: “I’m the dispatcher, maid, bookkeeper, you name it,” Susan said lightheartedly.

Although it certainly keeps her busy, Susan’s love for the job is tireless—and personal. Her career at Randall Moving & Storage began in 1984, when she married Randall “Randy” Smith, who founded the company five years previous.

When asking Susan about her professional moving advice, she elaborated on the following three points:

  1. What customers can expect come moving day
  2. How they can contribute to a successful, stress-free move
  3. What customer courtesy looks like from an insider perspective

Big or small, near or far, if you’re preparing for a move, read on for need-to-know moving tips and advice from an expert in the industry.

Moving Questions and Answers

homeowner packing a moving box

Q: What general advice would you give customers moving from a single-family home to a single-family home?

A: Make sure that you are very well packed. If it goes into a box, it should be in a box. There’s nothing worse than getting to a house and seeing all kinds of loose items lying about, because packing those up takes extra time. You can save a lot of money by getting yourself packed, or mostly packed, prior to the move. And always, always make sure you remove the clothes from dresser drawers, as leaving them in only makes a heavy, hard-to-move piece of furniture harder.

Q: Is there ever a case when customers should leave the packing to the professionals?

A: If you have nice, fine crystal or other pieces of art, you should let the professionals do it, because we can’t insure it unless we pack it. Unless, of course, there’s gross negligence on our part—if the movers were tossing the boxes around, for example. Then, regardless of whether they packed it or not, the moving company would be responsible for damage.

Q: I imagine moving to or from a high-rise condo or apartment building can be tricky. Do you have any advice for those circumstances?

A: First and foremost, make sure that the movers know where to park before they arrive. Call the building’s management office well in advance to let them know when you’ll be moving. They usually have a clearly designated area for movers to park, and they can give you other important information.

Q: What other important information, for example?

A: They can tell you whether you need to get a permit, or if the building needs an insurance certificate from the mover. Make sure that that’s all handled ahead of time, because that can delay a move. And remember that if there’s a long walk from your apartment to the elevator and then to the loading dock, it’s going to add time to the move.

professional movers carrying sofa down set of stairs

Q: What else should customers let their movers know beforehand?

A: We conduct a pre-move survey with our customers to learn as much as we can about the circumstances of the move. You want to make things easier for the movers, not harder, so be as specific as possible about distance and whether they’ll need to climb stairs.

The other day, my guys went on a move for a one-bedroom apartment. When they arrived, there were 33 steps for them to climb, and that added extra time. I only put two guys on the move, but had I known about the stairs, I would have sent three. They did it happily, but it would have been nice to have had a third man.

Q: What should customers know about interstate moving?

A: There isn’t much of a difference aside from time and distance, but customers should know that movers cannot take flammables or opened bottles of liquid, like household cleaners, on an interstate move. Those items should be packed in the customer’s car or tossed out or used ahead of time.

Q: Say the move takes place on a hot, summer day. What kind of refreshments should the courteous customer provide?

A: On hot days, our guys will generally bring ice and lots of water and Gatorade along with them. If the customers have water and other non-carbonated drinks for the guys, that’s always welcomed. Sodas are not good. These guys can end up cramping when they sweat constantly and don’t replace the fluids.

Q: So, by extension, the beer-and-pizza tradition is also inadvisable.

A: Our movers are often offered a beer at the end of the move, but they—or any reputable mover—will never accept one, since they have to drive back to the warehouse or the next location afterward.

And if a customer wants to offer something to eat, that’s always welcomed, but not necessary. If so, pizza is not a good thing to provide. Our guys have had thousands of pizzas over the course of their moving careers. They want protein, sandwiches, or a big bowl of watermelon or pineapple.

Q: Is there anything else a customer should provide or communicate to the crew?

A: Yes—let them know where there’s a source of water, in case they run out, and where there’s a restroom they can use.

child sitting inside a moving box

Q: What precautions should customers with pets or children take before the move?

A: It’s probably best to arrange for your dogs to be out of the house on moving day. If that isn’t possible, secure them in an area where they can’t escape and won’t be let out accidentally.

I’ll go on to say that children love the movers. They’re going to follow them around all day long, unless you provide some other activity to occupy them. So get them a new game or some art supplies, whatever the case may be, but try to keep them busy so the movers can do their job.

Q: What would you tell a customer about tipping their movers?

A: Movers should never expect a tip. They should do their job without that in the back of their mind; they should be thinking about doing a good job.

As for the customer, tip what you feel comfortable with. And if you don’t have the money, that’s okay. You just paid a lot of money to move, and the guys understand that. But, at the same time, it makes them feel really good when they’re tipped. Moving is backbreaking work, and they do it day in and day out. You tip the pizza man, why not your mover?

Q: And how much do you tip movers? Is there a general rule, say ten percent of the total cost?

A: It’s not predetermined like it is at a restaurant. It’s whatever you feel you can do. And if you do choose to tip, hand it directly to each crew member instead of giving a lump sum to the foreman—it’s more personal that way.

Hiring a Moving Company

As with any home service company, finding a mover you can trust can be difficult, especially if you haven’t previously used a professional moving service.

Susan has advice for the hiring process, as well: “Check out your local movers’ online reputations, and interview two or three,” she said. “Smaller moves can be estimated over the phone, but if you have a large move, have each one come and estimate on-site before you decide.”

At EBSCO Research, our in-house team collects thousands of local customer reviews every year to ensure we only recommend top-quality service providers. To qualify as a Best Pick, a company must receive an average “A” rating from your neighbors and carry all state-required licenses and insurance.

And we never accept reference lists or use third-party research, so you can feel confident that a Best Pick moving company, like Randall Moving & Storage, will handle your possessions with care, skill, and professionalism.