I just moved out of my studio in San Francisco into a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment that I’m sharing with a friend.
While I’m saving on rent and have way more space, this occasion is momentous for another reason: It’s the first time I’ve moved within the same city in 3 years. That means there were no corporate movers to help me with the process—I had to do everything on my own.
And I’m pretty happy with how things turned out. Nothing broke on my move to the new place (including my back and soul), and I got 100% of my security deposit back from my old landlord.
Here are some tips I put into practice to make the whole process go smoothly.
1. Hire Movers If You Can
While I moved small objects and boxes on my own, I hired professional movers to take care of moving most of my heavy objects. Important emphasis on the word “professional” here.
A lot of companies bill themselves as “professional” movers, but they might not actually have experience handling objects delicately or with the proper care. While Yelp and other review sites can quickly uncover some horror stories, I tend to view price as the best indicator of somebody’s experience.
If the hourly cost of movers seems too good to be true, it probably is. People charge based on their experience and offerings. Experienced people also know their worth. I learned this lesson the hard way back when I hired cheap furniture assemblers to build some new pieces I ordered. They managed to butcher almost every single item. I had to hire another company to fix their mistakes!
I was determined to find quality people this time, regardless of their price. While I paid more than I probably could have, they did the job flawlessly. If movers are out of your price range, the old standby of bribing strong friends with beer and food is your best bet. Hey, if they break something, at least you know where they live!
2. Document Everything
Hopefully, when you moved into an apartment, you took pictures of everything and took note of any damage present. While this is helpful for getting your landlord to immediately fix things that are off, it’s also important for when you move out. You don’t want to get blamed for causing damage that was already present when you moved in!
In addition to pictures, I also recommend handling all move-in and move-out communications with your landlord via email. Having a paper trail is important. For example, in California, you have to give a landlord 30 days’ official notice of your intent to vacate their apartment. Rather than call or even text my landlord like I normally would, I wrote him an email about it.
If for some reason he tried to say I didn’t give him official notice in the proper timeframe, I could reference the date stamp on this email.
3. Clean Up Your Old Place
Any damage you’ve caused to an apartment will come out of your security deposit. From a landlord’s perspective, this is a safety measure for them. They want to make sure their asset (the property) is well maintained, and in the event it isn’t, that there’s an avenue they can pursue to get it back up to quality.
Determined to get my full security back, I dedicated the day after my move-out to tidying my old place. I cleaned everything you could imagine: floors, counters, and all the nooks and crannies my furniture had previously covered up. I had also mounted a TV on the wall, which left quite a few large holes when I removed it. I spent some time on YouTube learning how to patch walls, bought a primer kit on Amazon, and took care of the damage myself.
My efforts were well rewarded. My landlord loved that I cared about maintaining his place, and he gave me my full security back!