9 unexpected costs of moving to a new home

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When you buy a home, you’ll have a host of new costs to think about, including a mortgage, homeowners insurance, property taxes, maintenance and repairs. However, it’s the less-obvious costs of moving that tend to take new homeowners by surprise once they relocate. Before you start unrolling the packing tape, here are several costs of moving to consider, along with estimates on what you can expect to spend on each task.

1. Moving supplies

One of the most basic moving costs is moving supplies: boxes, packing tape, packing peanuts, moving blankets and packing paper. You’ll need these items to safely transport your belongings and furniture to your new home. To save money, tap your network of friends and family members to see if they have supplies from a recent move they’re willing to share. You also can check social media websites such as Facebook community groups or Nextdoor to see if anyone is giving away these items or selling them cheap.

Costs: New moving boxes from U-Haul range in price from $0.99 for a small box to $13.95 for a wardrobe box for hanging clothes. Moving.com offers a free online calculator to determine how many boxes you need based on the number of rooms in your current home and number of residents.

2. Building fees

If you’re moving into a condo or apartment building, there may be fees associated with the move. “Many buildings charge a fee for the services they provide,” says Nancy Zafrani, general manager of Oz Moving & Storage, with locations in New York, New Jersey and California. “(This can cover services like) supervising the move or setting up the service elevators when their tenants move in or out. Make sure this fee is accounted for in your moving budget if your building requires it.” These move-in fees shouldn’t be confused with homeowners or condo association fees, which are separate.

Costs: According to industry experts, an apartment move-in fee can range from $300 to $500, depending on the building and location. Fees can rise with the number of stories in a building.

3. Professional house cleaning

Whether you’re moving in or out, a deep clean is a must. Either way, you might want to hire a professional to save time and make sure the job is done right. Typically, cleaning companies charge by the hour or based on the amount of square footage.“Tenants want to leave their apartment squeaky clean to ensure they keep their security deposit and don’t run into any trouble with the people moving in,” Zafrani says. Getting your new house, townhouse, condominium or apartment thoroughly cleaned will help you settle in and take some stress off of your shoulders.

Costs: The average house cleaning service cost is $167, but homeowners report spending anywhere from $116 and $235, according to estimates from HomeAdvisor, a home service matching company. Pricing will vary based on location, size of your home and how many hours it might take to clean it.

4. Movers

Unless you have friends or family you can enlist, chances are you’ll need to hire some help for the move. Before you hire a moving company, though, it’s important to thoroughly vet their reputation and get references. You also need to understand how much movers cost and how they structure their estimates. “Movers can cost way more than contracted. This extra charge can pop up because too few movers are moving your stuff, or too many surcharges are levied on the stuff that is moved,” explains Susan Bozinovic, a Realtor with Century 21 Town and Country in Troy, Michigan, and a Certified Relocation Specialist. To know exactly what to expect, you might want to confirm a fixed bid, rather than an hourly rate for the whole job.

Another important thing to factor into the costs of moving is a tip for the movers. “These service workers are commonly tipped so they are disappointed if they do not receive any,” Zafrani says.

Costs: Hiring professional movers can cost, on average, between $562 and $1,554, with an average rate of $25 to $50 per hour, according to HomeAdvisor. A local move of a four-bedroom house can range from $800 to $2,000. An out-of-state or cross-country move averages about $1,000 per room, with an average cost of 50 cents per pound of packed material, HomeAdvisor estimates.

5. Painting

Painting before you move into a new place is typically easier because there’s no furniture or decor to move. Ideally, your new place will have been painted before it went on the market but that’s not always the case. Plus, you may want to add a splash of color to neutral or outdated walls to make your new abode feel more like home. You can cut costs by doing the work yourself and paying just for the paint and materials, but it might take you longer to complete if you’re juggling moving tasks, too.

Costs: Paintzen, a painting contractor company, charges about $550 to paint a standard bedroom, which includes the cost of the paint and two coats on four walls, says Meghan Stewart, senior director of residential sales with Paintzen. She notes that adding elements like baseboards, ceilings and trim will increase the price.

6. Groceries

You may be thinking, “I’d have to eat anyway, so why is this listed as one of the costs of moving?” However, a new move can make your typical grocery bill spike temporarily. “Who feels like cooking when you are packing, unpacking and living out of boxes? People typically see their food expenses go way up in their first week after moving, since their kitchenware may still be packed in boxes or because they are busy transitioning to their new home,” Zafrani says.

Costs: This will vary, but you might want to add an extra $100 to $200 in your food budget for the first month in your new home.

7. Lawn care

If you’re moving into a single-family home or a townhouse where there’s a yard to take care of, make sure to factor in lawn care into your moving budget. “The cost of lawn care is often underestimated. Homeowners may presume that the cost is a one-time fee (to purchase) the lawnmower. Wrong,” says Bozinovic. In fact, you might need to spray your new law for weeds and fungus, as well as apply fertilizer or grub applications, she adds. If you live in a colder climate, plan for additional equipment like a snowblower to keep your home accessible during snowstorms.

Costs: According to HomeAdvisor, homeowners spend an average of roughly $133 on lawn services, but that can vary depending on the types of treatments a lawn needs.

8. Utilities

No one wants to be without modern conveniences like running water, gas and electricity. You’ll need to factor in the costs of having those services hooked up well before move-in day so you’re not left in a lurch, especially if the previous tenants or homeowners disconnected utilities or didn’t pay the latest bill to keep them running to overlap with your move.

Costs: Some utility companies may charge a service fee to reconnect water, gas or electricity that was shut off by a previous owner, but this can vary. Check with your local utility providers to get estimated start-up costs, as well as estimates for monthly service.

9. Internet and cable

Having access to internet and cable might be necessities, especially if you work from home full-time. You’ll want to contact those providers before move-in day to schedule service connection and installation (if the home isn’t properly equipped).

Costs: For internet, the average starting price is about $35, but most Americans pay an average of $60 per month for broadband, according to a report from Allconnect.com, a Bankrate sister site owned by Red Ventures. Keep in mind that if you need to wall-mount a TV, that’ll cost extra, too. BestBuy, one of the nation’s largest electronics retailers, charges about $130 to mount a TV to a wall, plus connect your cable/satellite box and video devices.

Bottom line

When you move to a new place, you’ll inevitably encounter new expenses. Leave some wiggle room in your budget to help offset some of the unexpected costs of moving as well as those you can anticipate well in advance. You can save money by putting in some sweat equity and tackling some items on your own. However, be realistic about how much you can take on — and what’s better left to the pros — to ensure a smooth and seamless move.

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Written by
Jennifer Bradley Franklin
Contributing writer
Jennifer Bradley Franklin is a multi-platform journalist and author, often covering finance, real estate and more.