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Get Prepared for Your First New Home or Apartment With These Tips

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Whether you’re leaving your parent’s house or moving out of your dorm room into your first apartment or home, you’re going to have a lot on your plate. 

Bills and utilities, rent, potential roommates and more are all things you’ll need to at least throw some thought into before making this jump. To help, we’ve compiled a list of some essential tasks that will make this transition a smoother one. For more moving tips, check out the best moving companies of 2024 and how to find the right rental truck size for your move

If you’re leaving your parent’s house or a college dorm, moving into your first apartment or home can be a major lesson in all the things you didn’t know you didn’t know. 

There’s so much more to moving than stuffing things into boxes and unpacking them at the new location, but this guide will help you get through it.

Record your new address

As soon as you sign the paperwork on your new place, be sure to record your new address somewhere. You’ll be living here, so try to memorize it as quickly as you can, and while you’re at it, update it in your phone’s settings so it’s easily accessible if you ever need it. You’ll be amazed at how often you’ll be repeating it over the next few weeks.

Switch on utilities

When signing your paperwork, get a move-in date. This should be the earliest day that you can move into your home. As soon as you know the day, get your utility turn-on dates scheduled since it can take companies days or weeks to schedule some services.

What you need

You’ll need to set up utilities in your new home, including:

  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Gas (If your home has a gas heater, water heater or oven)
  • Internet & TV
  • Garbage

Deposits

Many water, gas and electric companies will ask you for a deposit. This is often determined by your credit score and can end up being a couple hundred dollars or more. If you can’t afford a big deposit at the get-go, some companies will let you make your deposit in payments that are added to your first few bills. All you need to do is ask.

Some utility companies also offer special rates and programs for people at certain income levels, so it doesn’t hurt to ask if they offer something like this and to see if you qualify. 

Finding a utility company

Your water billing office can be found with a simple Google search of your town’s name and “water billing office.”

Electricity is a little trickier. In some states, there is one provider while other states have several. If there are several choices, you’ll need to do a price comparison. Click around their websites until you find the price in kilowatt-hours. Electric companies charge somewhere between 7 and 12 cents per kWh. The lower kWh you use, the better, but compare that rate to sign-up or annual fees, which can make a plan more expensive.

Keep an eye out for new customer incentives, whether they’re free nights and weekends, a free Nest thermostat or other perks. Just be sure to read the fine print. Some providers offer these perks for a limited time and then raise your bill. Typically, you’ll also need to sign a long-term contract of one to two years. If you’re planning on staying in one place for a while, a contract may not be a big deal when compared to the benefits of the perk.

electricity-plans electricity-plans

Here is a sampling of plans found on one electric provider’s website.

Alina Bradford/CNET

Scheduling

Many of these services can be set up through a chat service on their website. This is a lot faster than calling them and waiting on hold in most cases. Schedule the turn-on date for the same day as your move-in date so you’re not left without an essential utility the day you move into your new place. 

Some utilities, such as internet and gas, will require someone to be at your home when the service is turned on. If you can’t be there, have a relative or a trusted friend be there and let the company know the name of the person beforehand.

Plan your first move

As soon as you know your move-in date, you’ll need to plan how you’re going to get your stuff to your new home. There are two options.

If you’re cash-strapped, DIY

If your down payment on your home and utilities zapped your funds, then you may need to find a buddy to help get your stuff from point A to point B. Depending on how much stuff you have or how much time you have will determine how many people you’ll need to help accomplish the task. 

If none of your willing participants have access to a vehicle to move your stuff, you may need to look into renting one. 

Renting a moving vehicle

If you need to rent a vehicle to get your stuff to your new place, you have options. Your needs will also determine what type of vehicle you’ll want to consider.

Renting a pickup truck

If you have very tall or wide items that can’t be disassembled for your move, you may want to consider renting a pickup truck. The open bed in the back of the truck can accommodate very large items versus renting something like a rental van so you’ll need to make sure your items fit within its dimensions. With a pickup truck, you can stand tall items up and strap them down. 

Some home improvement stores, such as Home Depot, rent pickups. All you need is a valid driver’s license and be 21 or older. The cost is a relatively low daily fee. 

This is a better bet than trying to rent a pickup from a car rental service. Home improvement chains expect some wear and tear on their pickups, while rental services may charge you extra for even a little scratch.

Renting a moving truck or van

Another option would be getting a proper moving truck from a place like U-Haul, Penske, Budget or Enterprise. You have a ton of options to choose from and a quick Google search will yield an abundance of results local to your area. The price you pay will depend on the size of the truck and how long you need to use it.

If you have a lot of stuff, go ahead and rent a bigger truck so you won’t need to make as many trips. A word of caution, though: The bigger the truck, the harder it is to drive. If your driving skills are less than awesome, go with a smaller truck. What a smaller truck lacks in space will be made up in peace of mind while on the road. 

There’s more red tape involved with renting a rental truck. You can’t let a friend drive at the last minute; if they get into a wreck with the truck, you could end up in legal trouble. If you do decide to let a friend drive, make sure they’re included in the contract. 

Your car insurance may not cover your driving a rental truck or van, so contact your auto insurance company before renting to see what coverage you have.

With either rental option, you will need a valid driver’s license and your new address. Using a debit or credit card instead of cash can help you avoid a deposit with some companies. Typically, the rental company can provide you with insurance while you use their truck if you don’t have car insurance of your own.

Consider hiring professional movers

Professional movers are the best way to get your stuff to your new home if you have a lot of stuff, very few people to help, and the money to spend. Some companies also offer packing services for an extra fee, so you wouldn’t even need to do that. Don’t just jump on the first company that turns up on Google. 

Research your moving company options

Do your research to find the best moving company you can comfortably afford. They’ll be handling all of your stuff, after all. The best way to find a good moving company is to ask others. You’ll likely feel much more comfortable going with an option someone you know has used and had good things to say. If you don’t know anyone who’s used a moving company, head over to Facebook and ask some local groups. You can also try sites such as Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, movingscam.com and Angi (formerly Angie’s List) to find the best movers in town — or at least to weed out the scammers and plate breakers.

Get an estimate

Once you’ve got the list of moving companies narrowed down to a couple that seem trustworthy, get an estimate from each. Don’t let them ballpark what they’ll charge you. Have them do a walk-through to see all the stuff you need moving, or send them photos. Have them give you a written binding estimate or an estimate that the price won’t exceed a certain amount. This way you won’t be shocked at the bill later on.

The total cost of your move can vary, depending on how heavy your stuff is, how far it needs to be moved, how long it will take to move, or a combination of those factors. Another thing to consider is whether you’ll want moving insurance. You’ll want to research the benefits and whether you want to shell out the cash if something bad happens to your stuff while in the movers’ hands. 

Document the condition of your stuff before the move

Before any moving happens, grab your phone and video or photograph all your stuff. This will document the condition they were in before the move. This will come in handy if anything breaks during the move. 

When the movers load your stuff up, you should get a packet of documents. One of them should be an inventory list of all the things that the movers loaded up. Another should be labeled written binding estimate. Make sure it is signed and dated. You’ll need this in case the mover tries to overcharge you later.

Re-examine your stuff after the move

Once the movers unload your items, check everything for damage before you sign anything the movers hand you. 

If you find damage, document it using the camera on your phone. Your moving insurance will come in handy here. If you need to go to small claims court over the company’s negligence, photos will help you tell your side of the story. 

change-address-form change-address-form

Part of the USPS’ change of address form.

Alina Bradford/CNET

Change your address

Finally, make sure all of the important people know your new address. No, I’m not talking about friends and family. Here’s who to contact.

The post office

Time to make things mail-official. First, you need to get all of your mail forwarded to your new address. This can be done at your local post office or by filling out the official change of address form online. USPS lays it out pretty well in its mail forwarding guide. It helps to schedule this in advance of your move so you don’t get mail delivered to your old address after you’ve left.

Bank and credit cards

Changing the address for your bank account and credit cards is just as easy. Simply go to their site and change your address through your online account. The option may also be available to you in the respective app on your phone. 

You may think this is unnecessary, but trust me. If the banks don’t have your new location on file, things can go awry. You won’t be able to get new checks without your new address, for one, and when your card expires your new one will be sent to your old address. It’s best to change it while you’re changing your addresses everywhere else.

Periodicals

Still rocking a print magazine or newspaper subscription? How retro. It’s time to change your address for those now, too. Even if you change your address with the post office, there’s no guarantee that your subscriptions will be forwarded over, so connect with customer service to change your address for every periodical you currently have.

Driver’s license and vehicle registration

Did you know that in some states it’s against the law not to change the address on your driver’s license and vehicle registration? If you get stopped by the police, an old license can cost you a ticket. 

You can change your address and get a new license at your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website. There are a lot of scam sites out there, so don’t trust a web search. You can head over to this USA.gov webpage and select your state to be brought to the respective DMV website and go from there. If you live outside of the US, call your local department and ask them what its website is to avoid lookalikes. Depending on the state in which you live, you may have a grace period within which you can update your driver’s license and vehicle registration. 

Getting your own place to call home is no small task. Moving there can be just as challenging, but if you’ve managed to accomplish most of the above tasks, you should be feeling good about yourself. 

For more moving tips, check out 7 tips to make your move more eco-friendly and 7 must-try moving apps you should know about.

Watch this: Make your move easier with tech





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