Need to move out during lockdown? How to relocate safely

Myelle Lansat


Myelle Lansat

Myelle Lansat

News Editor

Myelle Lansat is a news editor at Policygenius, where she writes the Easy Money newsletter and covers insurance and personal finance. Previously, she was a personal finance writer at CNBC and Acorns, and a reporter for Business Insider.

Published April 23, 2020 | 4 min read

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Moving homes is stressful under normal circumstances, between packing, cleaning and constant foot traffic. A pandemic only makes it more difficult. But many people don’t have a choice.

Real estate is considered an essential industry in some areas and agents have taken the homebuying process online. But before you start calling local moving companies to see if they’re open, ask yourself if this move can be delayed. If you rent, you may want to check with your landlord to see if you can extend your lease until it is safe to go outside again.

Moves are still happening, said Nadia Bartolucci, a real estate agent with Douglass Elliman in New York City. She’s recently closed deals where her clients had no choice but to move. She said people who need to move during this time are families expecting newborns, homeowners who previously agreed on a closing date at this time or those relocating for work.

“There are people still moving — and those people were going to do it anyway,” she said. “We’re seeing a few things happen as a result: Aggressive negotiations on leases coming in, others asking for a month extension because they’re not comfortable moving due to shelter in place and some co-op residents asking new movers to wait for when things look like they’re on the upswing.”

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If your move can’t be delayed, taking the right precautions beforehand can lower your stress levels while keeping your environment clean. Here’s how to properly protect yourself (and others) while moving in a pandemic.

Prep before the move

“Movers are taking precautions, and our guidance to consumers is to also take precautions for the health safety of their families,” said Rachel Peretz, director of marketing & business development at the American Moving & Storage Association, an industry group.

Preparing to move is a big task — pandemic or not. It’s important for movers to see what they’re working with and what items need special attention, usually conducted through in-person inspections. To adapt, most moving companies are offering virtual and digital estimates using video conferencing apps, said Rachel Stults, deputy editor of

It’s good practice to wipe down your belongings before packing them for movers, but you may want to take extra measures to ensure your items arrive clean in your new home. Stults said to wipe everything down with disinfecting products and purchasing fresh boxes and tape.

“Now’s not the time to go next door to look for recycled boxes. Splurge and get new boxes. The virus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours, so disinfect everything again when it comes out,” she said.

Even if you think you cleaned everything, you still have movers coming in. You may want to purchase extra cleaning supplies, masks and gloves for them, said Stults. You’ll also want to hire a cleaning service for the home you’re moving into to ensure that your new space is equally clean, added Peretz.

Ask your movers the right questions

Before giving multiple movers access to your home, you’ll want to know they’re taking as much precaution as you are, said Stults.

“First things first, call your mover and ask them what policies they have during this time,” she said.

Ask yourself what’s important for you to know, like if the moving truck, blankets and boxes are wiped down beforehand, suggested Stults. How are they ensuring their movers are healthy? For example, are they taking their temperature the day of the move?

It’s also important to ask about their cancellation policy.

“Most moving companies these days don't have a fee for rescheduling but you don't want to wake up on moving day, feel sick and let your company know you can't do it and be hit with a fee,” said Stults.

Here's our guide to moving insurance

Take extra precautions

Moving day can be chaotic with so many people going in and out of your home, so you’re going to want to take further precautions. You may need to limit the number of movers and residents in your space at a time to mind the 6-feet distancing rule, said Peretz.

Make it a point that anyone in your space (including you) wears a mask and gloves. You may also want to reserve an elevator in your building if you have one, and any street parking spots, she added.

If you have items that you planned to donate before the COVID-19 outbreak hit, you still can, she added. If your local donation centers are closed, she recommends asking your movers if they know any places that will accept donations through other vendors.

“It may not be the same where you can run boxes to Goodwill, but there are other ways to lighten your moving load,” she said. Just be sure your donations are as clean as your other items.

“Make sure that things within your control are additionally clean,” said Peretz.

If you must move, make some room in your budget to tip your movers a little extra because they’re working hard to protect you and your belongings, said Stults.

Image: Peathegee-Inc (Getty)