After searching for two and half years, Tanuja Rasaputra and her husband, Harisankar, finally moved with their two college-age kids from a two-bedroom apartment in Forest Hills, Queens, to a spacious house in Smithtown last month.
They settled on a fixer-upper after what Tanuja says was a "very hectic and bad experience," seeing their $45,000 over-asking offers outbid, which dashed their hopes of finding a move-in ready home. All the contractors they interviewed to work on the house were backed up.
But that wasn’t the only stressful part of the process. When it came to hiring movers, it was the same story: The couple — Tanuja, 47, is an accountant, and Harisankar, 53, is a freelance graphic designer — shopped around for a company that could move them on the date they needed, but no one was available. Luckily, a friend came to the rescue, connecting them to a moving company that would do the job, and at a $500 discount off the $1,800 quotes they had gotten elsewhere.
"It happened only because of our friends, otherwise it’d very much be backed up," Tanuja Rasaputra says.
Long wait times
Last year saw a spike in people moving. According to the Pew Research Center, roughly one in five Americans moved or knew someone who moved in 2020 due to COVID-19, moving out of college dorms, communities they perceived as unsafe or housing they could no longer afford.
Even as all these moves are taking place, often the companies needed to help — those related to home maintenance, repair and moving — have long wait times.
The Rasaputras’ experience is playing out all over Long Island as the real estate boom has made not only buying a new home very competitive but finding movers to complete the job difficult as well.
"We’re so busy with new moves and moves that were supposed to happen last year that got delayed" due to the pandemic, says Christine Petersen, head of global relocation, referrals and corporate alliances at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, who works in Cold Spring Harbor handling people’s work relocations. "There’s a staff shortage across the country that has caused something I’ve never seen before," she says. Jobs are spread out longer and companies are "taking their few teams and spreading them thin."
Petersen experienced this herself when her move-in date was set back after work on both the home she was selling in Huntington and the one she bought in Lloyd Harbor couldn't be done in time.
Her move had to be split into two days because the moving company was so busy and understaffed that it couldn’t get it done in one day.
Of course, not everyone is having the same difficulty when it comes to finding movers. When Nancy Levinson, a representative for an activewear company, moved last month from Great Neck to Holbrook with her 9-year-old son, she hired a moving company her father had recently used, Leavy Brothers Moving and Storage, which gave her the senior discount they gave her dad, $190 an hour.
"The owner came to my home to give me the estimate, while others asked me to describe what I need and then said, 'Here's the estimate,' " she says.
Her stress, she says, came from packing up all her belongings within a 48-hour period, and she's still waiting for a buyer for her Great Neck one-bedroom co-op.
Bobby Falvo, 64, owner of Hauppauge-based Long Island Moving and Storage, says he has never seen it this busy. "It is very hard getting labor," he says. He normally runs eight trucks for same-day moving in the metropolitan area and another three trucks for longer moves.
Steve Bogdanos, owner of New Hyde Park-based All The Right Moves, says he’s on track to have his busiest year after being in the industry 30 years. "Beside it being busier than normal, it’s a been a lot more difficult on the employment side," he says.
The pandemic has made him shift from in-person walk-throughs to using FaceTime to see how large a house is and how many items it contains. "You want to be as with-the-times as much as possible" says Bogdanos, 48. "We’ve done a lot of digital paperwork." While that cuts down on time, he says the lack of staff and high demand mean customers should try to book at least two months in advance.
June Williams, an owner of Small Moves Long Island, based in Coram, which specializes in apartment moves and downsizing, says she has seen an increase in what is called a "double move" — moving home A into storage and then moving those contents from storage into home B at a later date.
The cost of moving
Falvo has increased his rates slightly recently, charging $170 per hour for a truck and a two-person crew; a three-person crew is $195 per hour and a four-person crew is $230 per hour.
Nationally, on average, companies charge between $25 and $50 an hour per mover.
Bogdanos also increased his rates, going from charging $207 per hour for one truck and four movers before the pandemic, to $214 per hour, and he is planning to go up another $6 or $7 per hour.
Summers are always busiest for moves, but business isn’t showing any sign of slowing, Bogdanos says. He has jobs booked into October. "The past couple of years, I’ve worked limited time on the trucks, but now I personally have had to work on the trucks every day," he says.
Williams says her company tries to accommodate people’s changing moving dates, knowing that closing dates often shift. Like everyone else, she has hiked her rates a little bit, now charging between $100 and $125 per hour for a two-person crew.
For the busiest summer months, she has been booking three to four weeks ahead, whereas in the past it was two to three weeks, Williams says.
In what he calls a "haywire year," Falvo has this advice for those booking a move: "No matter what your buyer or seller says to you about closing, always ask for at least a three-day wiggle room for moving."
The national average cost of moving the contents of a three-bedroom home locally is $1,170 for four movers and 7,400 pounds, according to personal finance review website CreditDonkey.com.
An approximate 1,220-mile move for a two- to three-bedroom home costs an average of $5,630.
For a full-service move that includes packing and unpacking, based on a two-bedroom home, plan to pay $4,000 for a 100-mile move, $4,800 for a 500-mile move, and $5,600 for a 1,000-mile move.
All these costs can go up depending on the weight and distance of the move.
Tips on moving
Get quotes from several moving companies.
Book a mover a few months in advance.
Communicate with your mover about your circumstances so they can accommodate you.
Be flexible with moving dates in case your closing date changes or the movers aren’t available.
Ask your buyer/seller for choices in closing and vacating dates.
Get rid of clutter and pack your things yourself instead of paying the moving company to pack for you.
Summer months are busiest, so if possible, move in a different season.
— Rachel O'Brien