6 Tasks to Add to Your To-Do List Before Moving to a New State

Moving across state lines? Make sure you cross these items off your list to help your move go as smoothly as possible.

Two women carrying moving boxes into home
Photo: MoMo Productions / Getty Images

Moving is one of the most stressful parts of home buying, but moving from one state to another adds a whole new level of complexity to the experience.

“Moving is no easy feat, but preparation will make the process easier,” says Mary Beth Johnson of moving company Atlas Van Lines.

As you prepare to cross state lines, you can take action now (whether your move is months or mere hours away) to prepare for a less stressful transition. With the help of some moving pros, we’ll go over some basic moving advice as well as some more detailed tips for how to make the process go smoothly. 

Choose Your Mover Carefully

Your old home is sold and your new home is lined up. Now it’s time to make the journey with your belongings in tow. For many households, this means lining up a moving company to take care of the transportation of your possessions.  

“Because interstate moves require carrying belongings across state lines, [interstate movers] are regulated by the federal government and specifically monitored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA),” Johnson says. “When choosing a moving company, look for one that proudly adheres to FMCSA regulations and can help you navigate them efficiently. For example, many states have restrictions about the importation of plants from outside their borders, and a reputable moving company can help you determine which plant you are able to safely transport.”

If you’re struggling to vet the myriad providers in your area, ask for help. 

“Real estate agents often have recommendations for moving companies their clients have successfully used in the past, just as moving companies can help clients get to know new areas,” Johnson says. “A real estate agent can help you decide just what kind of service you need based on the distance of the move, whether you have kids or pets involved, and the quantity of household items you are shipping.”

Booking your move date and delivery date as far in advance as possible is crucial. 

Johnson says peak moving season is in the summer and early fall, so moving companies often have limited availability for late bookings during these seasons. Winter months are more flexible for this reason. It’s also easier to schedule a move for the middle of the month and on a weekday, she says. 

After scheduling your moving day, try to get a good estimate from your company on when your belongings will be delivered. If you have go without furniture in your new home for several weeks, you’ll want to know that well in advance so you can plan accordingly.

“Any company you work with should be able to give you a realistic timeline for delivery based on the estimated survey,” Johnson says. “We advise the customer to take the time to research the moving process and understand the specific details surrounding their personalized journey.”

Pack With Care

Professional movers offer a range of services, from simply loading and moving your belongings to packing up your home for you, even carefully wrapping each vase in bubble wrap. If you choose to pack your own items, you’ll want to do so in a way that makes unpacking easy and ensures nothing will break in transit, regardless of whether you’re hiring movers or moving yourself. If you’re crossing state lines for your move, you (and your belongings) likely have a long drive ahead of you: Make sure nothing will get broken by a little rattling or bumping.

Johnson suggests purging your belongings first, too.

“Sell or donate items you do not plan to move with ahead of packing to help packing feel less daunting,” she says. 

As you begin to pack, be sure to label each box so you or your movers can unload them into the right area when you arrive. It also helps to label boxes so you can remember where you stored things.

“Use smaller boxes for heavier items like books or cast-iron cookware, and larger boxes for lighter items like linens, clothing, or lamps,” Johnson says. 

In some cases, you’ll drive or fly to your new home and arrive hours, days, or sometimes even weeks before your possessions. With that in mind, you’ll want to pack a first night essentials kit, Johnson says. You’ll want to make sure you have a change of clothes and even bedding, whatever you need to make the first night in your new home or temporary quarters comfortable after a long day of moving.  

Consider Temporary Housing

Keep in mind that you don’t have to sell your home, pack your belongings, and move to your new state at the same time that you move into a new home. You can take a breather by looking for a rental to live in while you house-hunt and putting your belongings into storage. 

“Don’t hesitate to get furnished temporary housing for a few months if you are unfamiliar with the new area you are moving to,” says Barbara Zorn, a relocation specialist and real estate agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.

Doing so will allow you to get the lay of the land before you commit to buying a home in a particular area.

Become a Resident of Your New State

Unfortunately, unpacking is the easiest part of your move. The tedious part comes when you register to vote, get a new driver’s license, and take your pets to the vet. 

Keep in mind that your pet monkey or snake might not be welcome. 

“Not all states accept unusual pets,” says Jennifer Tripp, a Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate - Everything Real Estate. “Please check with your new state if you have an unusual pet.” 

Have questions about your pet? Johnson suggests visiting the United States Department of Agriculture’s website or the site for the State Veterinarian’s office in your destination state for details on how to coordinate the move for your pet. When it comes to cats and dogs, you’ll likely need to update their rabies certifications and records in the new state before getting a license in your new county.

It’s smart to change your license, car registration, and voter registration to your new address at the same time, and many states allow this. Be sure to contact your local DMV in advance of the move, Johnson says. Many states require that you change your license and registration within a certain number of days, and you won’t want to miss this deadline. 

Get to Know Your New Home

Once you’ve arrived in your new home, ask your real estate agent for help getting acquainted in the area. A relocation specialist will hook you up with local pilates instructors, soccer camps for kids, et cetera, says Zorn.

You can also learn more about your area by joining neighborhood Facebook groups or watch groups, such as Nextdoor.

Don’t Forget to Move Your Money

You’ve hired your movers, looked into rules about your pets, and even chosen your new gym in your new city, but Jessica Duncan, a Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate - Main Street Properties, says not to forget about your banking institution. 

“Check to see if your bank has locations in your new location before moving. If not, open up an account with an institution in your new area,” she says. “Some banks require an in-person request to wire funds for closing on your new home. You don’t want to have a delay in closing because you had to drive out of state to wire your funds for closing.”

While you’re at it, familiarize yourself with differing tax laws in your new state in order to understand the financial impact of your move. 

“Don’t assume real estate and homeowners’ insurance are the same in each state,” Duncan says. “Make sure you work with an experienced local Realtor in your new area to understand how things work in that state.”

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