There's no doubt that moving house is about the most stressful experience you'll go through in your life. Live in the UAE and you'll go through this ordeal many more times than the average apartment or villa resident, especially with the drop in rental prices. From putting your most prized worldly possessions into the hands of strangers to leaving a place you called home and starting a new life in an unfamiliar environment, moving can strike fear into the bravest of us.
"Leaving all your possessions in someone else's hands can be frightening — we're talking about people's prized belongings, from family heirlooms to photo albums," said Sherif Shafie, founder and managing partner of the moving company Yalla Move. Tasks such as disconnecting and reconnecting utilities and appliances, dismantling furniture and curtains and acquiring supplies such as boxes, tape and bubble wrap are all stress-inducing.
"People don't like the disruption and the feeling of not being in control when the moving company arrives. The thought of having people packing your things at home and everything you own is what many find traumatic. We understand this and have built our business around making the moving process as easy and stress-free as possible," said Natalie Gillam, general manager, Easy Truck moving company.
Price for peace of mind
"You can never be too careful," Shafie said. "Just going for price over professionalism, trust and reliability may mean that the little extra you may save by dealing with a less-trusted company will be outweighed by the time wasted and stress of dealing with a crew that doesn't know what it is doing and what your needs are." Shafie said peace of mind was worth the extra cash. "Yalla Move keeps its customers updated throughout the move. There is one person who is in touch with them and just one number they can dial for immediate assistance."
If a client does not want to pay for the full service, Yalla Move provides moving kits containing tape, boxes and bubble wrap and helps move packed boxes and furniture.
Companies such as Executive Relocations specialise in international moves and provide a much more personalised service. "For example, clients moving away from the UAE don't have the luxury of being able to wait for security deposits to be returned. We follow up with utility companies to pay bills on the clients' behalf, retrieve all security deposits and forward them to the client wherever they are," said Tracey Burrows of Executive Relocations.
One step forward
For a family moving to the UAE, the company goes as far as to help them connect utilities, find schools and arrange driver's licences. Budget-friendly companies such as Easy Truck offer online calculators which can work out how much the move will cost before you contact them.
Unlike single people and small families, Angus Morrison and his wife, who have two teenage children, a baby on the way, a dog and several possessions, left it to the experts to move the sizeable contents of their villa. Speaking at his Lakes villa during the move recently, Morrison said he decided to move to a larger villa in Sports City near Arabian ranches because of the baby they are expecting.
"This would be our second move and we used a moving company the previous time. They gave me a quote for Dh4,800 and I used my vehicles to move the delicate stuff and clothes. But after having done about 20 loads on my own, I got the fee reduced to Dh2,800," he said.
Due to the extensive damage her possessions sustained during previous moves, Florence Pia G. Yu said she will never use an unqualified moving team again. "I've had chips and dents on my furniture, a broken mirror and a broken chair because the movers mishandled everything. They didn't even put a protective wrap on anything!"
The International City resident is moving to another apartment in the same area and will use an experienced moving company. "I heard from a friend that they will pack my stuff in plastic or boxes, or whatever is appropriate, dismantle and put together furniture and other fixtures. I've called a few companies and the cheapest rate was Dh500. Other offers range from Dh700 to Dh1,000."
Preeti Singh lives in a two-bedroom apartment with her husband and daughter in Al Qusais and has moved in Dubai and abroad both on her own and with the help of professional services.
"It's always a stressful period and we have to give away a lot of stuff during each move. I prefer doing it myself because I can organise everything the way I want it."
Singh said she has had fewer breakages when she packed her belongings herself and supervised the move. "When they are your things, you know how to handle them — a stranger would treat it as just another item."
There are plenty of horror stories about fly-by-night truck drivers who ruin people's belongings. But truck driver Naeem Malek said: "We charge much less than the moving companies and are more easily available. We will wrap furniture and make sure we are careful with belongings and items that are important to the customer. We arrive, load, deliver and unload for a smaller price."
And many people swear by the DIY method. "Having moved nine times in five years, I swear by the ‘Dubai Van Man', as I affectionately call them," said Louise Mills, who recently moved to Al Barsha with her husband. "They are reliable, great value and get the job done. My last trip meant starting at the Springs, where the majority of my furniture and belongings were, heading to the Lakes, then to the Greens and back to Al Barsha — all for Dh300. I gave them Dh400 because I felt guilty."
For the same service, Mills would have had to pay Dh3,500 with an internationally renowned company.
Grip on things
Packing her own things meant Mills was able to get rid of unwanted clothes, books, shoes and other things to donate to a charity. With only her personal belongings to consider, singleton Camila de Pierrefeu, 22, said the DIY experience was relatively stress-free. Moving into a fully furnished apartment in Tecom meant she didn't have to bother with large pieces of furniture and appliances.
"I was living in Al Qusais — the area was not that great in terms of its proximity to the city centre but it was the reasonable rent that drew me to Tecom," she said. "What I did was ask my friends with cars to help out with the shifting. My clothes and a few small pieces of furniture all fit into their vehicles. And nothing broke!"
However, De Pierrefeu added that if she had more possessions, she would go with a reputed company. "I would definitely hire a company that would take care of my things ... unpacking and putting things in their place also took five days!" she said.
De Pierrefeu said she sourced boxes, bubble wrap, newspaper and other supplies from friends and supermarkets. "Even though the move was stressful, I will immediately move again if the rents came down some more — the benefits outweigh the stress."
Before the move
Write your to-do list
Make time to write down all the tasks you need to do. Tick them off as you go and add to the list as things arise. A well-prepared to-do list will ensure you are on top of everything on the day.
Clear out the closet
Moving house is the perfect time to get rid of all your clutter. Old toys, unused tools, old sporting equipment - everything needs to go. Give usable items to a charity or hold a garage sale.
Choose a professional moving company
Do your homework when shortlisting the moving company you wish to use. Check their website testimonials, research web forums and online reviews. Don't opt for price over professionalism, because the little extra you may save with a less-reputed company will be outweighed by the time wasted and the stress of dealing with a crew that doesn't know what it is doing.
Use priority packing
Remember that all your packed boxes don't need to be unpacked immediately. Mark the boxes according to priority. Mark [A] for essentials such as bathroom items or perishables, [B] for important items but not critical and [C] for things you won't need anytime soon. The more information you can write on the box, the better. Be sure to mark boxes as "fragile" or "this side up" where necessary. Also write the contents and the rooms they will go to. This way, the moving crew can deliver the boxes to the right rooms.
Get started early
Get a running start before the day you move. Movers can deliver boxes and packing material so you can get started and have everything ready for the moving company to pick up on the day. Start with priority items and work backwards. Take your time and carefully pack about five a day and before you know it, you will have 35 done and be ready to roll.
Arrange a babysitter
It's advisable to arrange a babysitter to look after children during the move or have them stay at a friend's place when the shifting takes place. Give yourself one less thing to worry about.
Set up a retreat
So you and your family can have a quiet place to relax when required during the move, set up one room away for all the activity as soon as possible. You'll be thankful for this retreat around afternoon tea time.
Ensure you inform the authorities (water, gas, electricity, cable, post) that you are relocating, so they can close or transfer your account. Also let family members and friends know your new address by e-mail or post.
Make sure you receive an accurate quote
Show the moving company everything you plan to move. The more thorough you are in detailing, the more accurate the estimate will be. This will also help rule out problems such as an extra trip and there not being enough space in the truck.
Clean out your stove and defrost your fridge a day before the move. Schedule disconnecting times for your utilities about a week before moving day.
When going DIY
In the UAE, a DIY move means you have to go to a truck stop, make a deal with the driver (and he arranges workers for a day to rent) and rent out a truck.
Here are a few points to consider:
Think twice before using an unqualified truck driver and workers if you have expensive items — it's not worth the stress. Though they may be careful, you have to accept things are more likely to get damaged this way.
Make sure you supervise the move at all times, as the workers can get a little heavy-handed with your belongings without a reminder.
Be aware that there may be communication difficulties due to language.
With a complex task such as moving house, you need to be clear.
Know that truck drivers are not necessarily skilled at moving and packing belongings. They don't update customers, ask for preferences, plan or deal with annoying security officers or guarantee an exact time when they will arrive.
Remember you have no written contract with the truck driver, so filing complaints or getting a refund or a discount is almost impossible. They do not carry inventory sheets and will not be liable for missing or damaged items.
Truck drivers do not have content insurance. Accidents happen and most established moving companies offer customers an option to insure against lost or damaged items.
During the move
Make the beds
Have your beds assembled the minute they are delivered. Then make the beds. You will be happy you did this early in the day so you have a freshly made bed to retire to after everything has been moved.
Keep some tools handy
If you are handy with tools, keep the toolkit ready for hanging pictures, setting up the entertainment system or hooking up the washing machine.
Items to remember include:
- Hammers, screwdrivers, nails and screws, Scotch tape, duct tape and tape measure.
- Extension cords and batteries.
- Cleaning materials, especially paper towels.
- Light bulbs and a small lamp, as the sun may have set by the time you finally move in.
- A copy of your lease and some kind of identification (say, a driver's licence). You may need this to prove you're the new tenant when moving in.
- Utility knife or box cutter to unpack boxes.
- Dishes, flatware and glasses.
- Pillows, bedding and towels.
- Medication and toiletries.
- Mobile phones and landlines.
- Important papers (bank statements, prescriptions, etc) or computer files.