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13 Moving Day Horror Stories You’d NEVER Want to Happen to You

Moving to a new house may be exciting but the actual packing and moving is something most of us dread. Usually it's an inconvenience, but sometimes, the experience is downright frightening.

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Moving Day Horror Stories—and How to Make Sure They Don't Happen to You

Welcome to the hoarder house

“When I was five months pregnant we moved from a small condo to a new house a few miles away. Thanks to the cleaning folks we hired to clean our new house, we discovered the previous owners had not yet finished moving out! The husband was a hoarder and the attic was still filled with truck loads of junk as was the adjacent shed,” says Aileen R. Katcher of Nashville. Katcher confronted them and told them they had to remove all their stuff by the next day or she would take legal action. Unfortunately, they didn’t comply. “We ended up rounding up as many friends as we could find that had the flexibility to help us on a weekday, contacted a trash pick up service, and filled the dumpster truck full.” Although they weren’t obligated, Katcher’s realtor and the seller’s realtor reimbursed them for the cost of the trash removal. Veronica Sniscak, realtor and partner at Bob Lucido Team of Keller Williams in Maryland, says it’s essential to have a final walk-through of the property before closing day to make sure the house is in the condition as when the purchase was agreed upon. “If it isn’t, you have far more leverage before you sign the documents,” says Sniscak. “Once you sign on the house—good, bad, or otherwise, it is now your responsibility. If the items were identified prior to closing, the buyer’s agent could have had the sellers pay to remove the items.” Here are 12 more surprising costs every first-time home owner needs to know.

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Moving Day Horror Stories—and How to Make Sure They Don't Happen to You
Tanasan Sungkaew/Shutterstock

Ransom notice

Long before Ali Wenzke founded The Art of Happy Moving, she endured a few moving day horrors of her own. “When my husband and I moved from California to Illinois, we shipped our car across the country. The company touted its tracking system, which as it turns out, was none other than the truck driver’s cell phone,” says Wenzke. Unfortunately, the driver wasn’t very responsive in answering their phone calls, especially when the car was long overdue for its original arrival date. “To make matters worse, the company told us at the last minute that they couldn’t bring our car into Chicago because the truck was too big. Instead, the company left our Honda Passport in an undisclosed location.” The shipping company wouldn’t disclose the car’s location until Wenzke wired money to them. Luckily, a kind co-worker helped her navigate the streets of Chicago and the car was found. As a moving pro, Wenzke strongly suggests to research car shipping companies thoroughly. “Get at least three estimates, check references, and cover specific questions in writing. Confirm in writing that the company will ship the car directly to your final destination without any additional charges,” says Wenzke.

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Moving Day Horror Stories—and How to Make Sure They Don't Happen to You
Supannee Hickman/Shutterstock

Towing on the wild side

“The first time my husband, Dan, and I made a cross-country move, we thought we knew what we were doing. We rented a U-Haul truck and decided to tow our car behind us on a trailer. It seemed like a great idea to cover our car. We could protect it from debris as we made the move from Ohio to California,” says Wenzke. Towing the car was just fine, until they got on the highway. The rental truck began to swerve. “I looked in the side mirror and there was our Honda Passport at an angle perpendicular to our truck. It took a second to figure out something was terribly wrong,” says Wenzke. The car whipped to the other side of the truck because the car cover acted like a huge parachute. “Fortunately, we started our move early in the morning, so there was no one else on the road. We pulled over, took off our car cover and learned a valuable lesson. Don’t use a car cover when you’re towing a car behind you when you move.”

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How do we get in?

“Relocating over 200 miles is an experience I will never forget,”says Natasha M. Campbell of Orlando. The Campbell’s had just closed on their new home and drove back to pack up their old home. “Even with extensive planning there were a few pitfalls in the process, from unexpected fuel cost, body exhaustion, failing to label boxes, and forgetting the keys to our brand new home!” After arriving at the new home, they realized they didn’t have the keys to get in. “Luckily, my in-laws would be traveling in a few hours and meet us there to access the home.” To avoid this from happening to you, keep a running checklist as something comes to mind. Since you always have keys on your person, it may slip your mind. Think about everything you’ll need when you arrive. “Pack essential items before moving day, so you don’t forget them in the moving chaos,” suggests Wenzke. “And use a free moving checklist to remind you of each critical step.”

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Moving Day Horror Stories—and How to Make Sure They Don't Happen to You
Mike Focus/Shutterstock

Watch your step

“My family and I were so excited to move into our very first home. It was a custom-built home just for us,” says Heather Jerome, of Auburndale, Florida. “We parked the truck in the driveway and began to unload everything into the large great room to distribute out to the appropriate rooms later.” Excitement grew as they worked away unloading and could finally see the end in sight. They still needed to unload the king-size mattress. “When my husband and I took our king-size mattress out of the truck, it was covering the ramp and I totally missed it. I tumbled off the back of the box truck and tried to catch myself as I landed on the driveway, stunned,” says Jerome. The new neighbors came to offer assistance as her husband was panicking. She told everyone she was fine and just needed to rest a bit. “Unfortunately, about three hours later, I had to admit defeat and went to the hospital. My arm was broken. Needless to say, I was pretty useless at unpacking for a few weeks and will never move myself again!” A few bumps and bruises are inevitable on moving day but taking some precautions can help prevent serious injuries. “Safety starts with being deliberate and recognizing when to take your time—or take a break,” says U-Haul moving expert Sperry Hutchinson. “If you’re intent on doing things yourself, consider the use of utility, furniture, and appliance dollies for corresponding items.” These are the 12 things that should never go on a moving truck.

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Moving Day Horror Stories—and How to Make Sure They Don't Happen to You
Andrew Balcombe/Shutterstock

Webs of visitors

Carole Asselin of Bereford, New Brunswick, was about to be a first-time renter. However, since she was a newbie in the renting world, she didn’t realize she needed to call ahead to have electricity connected. Asselin and her mother arrived at the apartment at night. They quickly unloaded the boxes and headed to a hotel to spend the night. “Upon our return in the morning, I was the first one to go in the apartment. What I found seemed to be from a horror movie: spiders! There were big spiders all around the apartment,” recalls Asselin. “We ended up borrowing a friend’s vacuum cleaner, plugged it in the hallway of the apartment block and sucked all those spiders. I was so scared that they would come out that I taped both ends of the vacuum cleaner with duct tape.” They spent another night at the hotel hoping to escape the creepy factor but Asselin had vivid nightmares of spiders all night.

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Moving Day Horror Stories—and How to Make Sure They Don't Happen to You

Into the darkness

“Many years ago, my family moved into a house in Connecticut with a steep, winding driveway. The movers had to load items from a large moving truck into a smaller one and shuttle it up the driveway. The garage led straight into the basement and the movers began unloading,” says Janel Patti, of North Brunswick, New Jersey. But when the Patti’s opened the basement door and flipped on the lights—no lights came on. “We quickly discovered that the previous homeowners had removed every light bulb in the house.” Buying new light bulbs came with its own issue. The moving trucks had to move so the family car could get out of the driveway to go to the store. Wenzke suggests packing a “need immediately” box filled with essentials like light bulbs, toilet paper, soap, a hand towel, disposable cups and plates, bedding, and flashlights. Place this box in the car or where it will be easily accessible to retrieve upon your arrival, so you’re never caught in the dark. Check out more packing tips to make your next move as stress-free as possible.

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Moving Day Horror Stories—and How to Make Sure They Don't Happen to You
Renny Photography/Shutterstock

There goes the neighborhood

When Emily Willingham, Ph.D. of Marin County, California moved into her neighborhood, her neighbors took notice. “We pulled down an entire utility pole with our moving truck during President Obama’s second inauguration so that all of the neighbors lost cable in the middle of it,” says Willingham. “Driving a moving truck takes a bit of adjustment,” says Hutchinson.”Be aware that moving trucks are longer, wider, heavier and much taller than the typical car or truck we drive on a daily basis.”

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Moving Day Horror Stories—and How to Make Sure They Don't Happen to You
Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock

Stalled move

Willngham shares another moving day horror story. “Three movers showed up, decided that they needed another guy, stood around for four hours doing nothing, before finally disappearing!” The clock was ticking as the Willingham’s had only five hours left in the day to get out of their rental on time. Luckily, they were able to round up friends and family who were able to help get the goods out of the rental in time. “The best way to prevent a situation where an inexperienced company arrives unprepared for your move is to vet your movers before booking to ensure it is a reputable, longstanding, and well-reviewed company,” says Nimrod Sheinberg, vice president of sales, Oz Moving & Storage. “Be completely honest in explaining the size of your move to prevent miscommunications on moving day and prevent misunderstandings. Movers are legally allowed to deny service provided the ‘bill of lading’ is not signed,” notes Sheinberg.

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Moving Day Horror Stories—and How to Make Sure They Don't Happen to You

Missing table

When Alexis Dobbin’s, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, parents moved in with her, so did their three-story home, save for one precious family heirloom. After the movers completed unloading, Dobbin noticed the Queen Anne dining room table was missing. The chairs and even the table extensions were unloaded but the table was MIA. “We call the office, and they agreed that it was overlooked and they would have a crew bring it down. That was in March 2016,” says Dobbin’s. “After countless calls, and promises of investigations, they still have not admitted there was a table.” It may be a bit time-consuming, but creating an item list of all valuables will come in handy if items go missing. “If lists aren’t your thing, try taking photos of all the furniture to capture the item and quality,” suggests Ross Sapir, President of Roadway Moving. Research the moving company protection policies thoroughly, and find out what is covered when it comes to replacing or repairing damaged or lost goods. Don’t miss these 15 other ways moving companies try to scam you.

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A precarious move

Moving from the hectic city life of Philadelphia to the peaceful countryside of Connecticut was a dream come true for Julie Gurner, Psy. D, and her spouse of Washington, Connecticut. They purchased the home in late fall with winter looming around the corner. Actually, it arrived on their moving day. A few snowflakes didn’t discourage Gurner, until the flakes turned into a snow storm, blanketing the ground with three-feet of snow. “We could not change the dates. The trucks were rented and loaded, and we somehow made our way, precariously up the numerous hills— backsliding, almost careening into ditches, with many of our extended family in tow to help with the move,” says Gurner. “Finally we all breathed a sigh of relief after arriving at the destination safely. After hours of unloading in the freezing snow, barely unable to feel our hands and feet, the family gathered by the fire. It was certainly a move to remember.”

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Moving Day Horror Stories—and How to Make Sure They Don't Happen to You

Goodnight Murphy

Nikki Kempisty of Morgantown, Indiana, and her family recently had a professional moving truck and movers to pack up their Fairbanks, Alaska home. “I went to get pizza for the guys while my husband, Walter, stayed back to help the movers. He heard a big bang and went to see what happened,” says Kempisty. The movers broke the Kempsity’s expensive Murphy bed while attempting to detach it from the wall. “It made a huge hole in the freshly painted wall and the Murphy bed just collapsed. Wood pieces were everywhere.” A broken dish is a small casualty compared an expensive or treasured piece of furniture. “It is helpful to take a few moments before your move to assess your furniture situation and inform movers of your valuable possessions,” says Sapir.

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Moving Day Horror Stories—and How to Make Sure They Don't Happen to You
Andrey Popov/Shutterstock

Holding for ransom

“When we moved from a small townhouse to our home in Virginia, the movers refused to unload any of our furniture and held it hostage in their truck until we went to the ATM and paid them more than we had agreed to—in cash,” says Amanda Ponzar, of Alexandria, Virginia. She sat in her house, while the three men stood outside. Frightened and confused, she called 911. “The local police came and helped work out a compromise, but we still paid more than agreed upon and the movers damaged some of our furniture,” says Ponzar. Even though the movers were recommended by friends, Ponzar will never use a moving company again without a formal contract in writing. Ponzar is lucky the police were able to help, but it’s typically not something they can do. “The police cannot get a mover to release your items, only a judge can,” says Sheinberg. “Provide honest and accurate details about what the moving company will have to move in the quote to prevent any surprises on moving day.” Next, check out these 13 home improvement fails that will make you cringe.

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, Family Handyman and Taste of Home, among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center.