Americans are on the move again.
Thanks to the slowly brightening employment picture, along with the uptick in the housing market, more and more people are packing up and relocating. And the pace is likely to pick up this summer, the peak season for moving, according to industry professionals.
It's a far cry from just a few years ago.
"Two years ago, it seemed like everything was falling off the face of the Earth," said Randy Shacka, president of Two Men and a Truck, a franchise moving company. But monthly payroll growth averaging 208,000 is turning that around—and spurring job-related moves.
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Even though overall moving activity is still below where it was in 2009-10, the number of people moving for a new job or transfer is on the rise. Moves for those reasons totaled 3.5 million in 2011-12, up from 2.8 million the prior year and the highest since 2006-07, according to Census Bureau data. And the number of people moving because they had lost a job or were looking for work declined.
The recovering housing market is also giving people the flexibility to move by making it easier for people to sell their homes. The National Association of Realtors' chief economist says that with relatively few houses on the market, double-digit gains in housing prices are possible in 2013. And that, in turn, is spurring construction—making moving easier.
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"In the single family construction market, they're out there building those houses for a reason. They think people are going to buy them and move into them," said John Bisney, a spokesman for the American Moving and Storage Association.
If you are planning to join the thundering herds of relocating Americans, you can take a variety of steps to make the process less painful.
•Reserve your spot: Movers are likely to more booked up this summer than they have been lately, and you will have a better shot at hiring the mover of your choice if you plan ahead. "Typically the busiest time to move is in the summer, on weekends, and at the end of the month. If you're looking to do that, reach out as soon as you can," said Shacka.
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•Hire carefully: Not all moving companies are created equal. Ask friends and colleagues for recommendations, and check with the Better Business Bureau and the American Moving and Storage Association to make sure there are no complaints against a company you are considering.
•Beware of scams: If a quote sounds too good to be true … you know the rest. "If you get two or three estimates and one seems abnormally different than the rest, I'd be very leery of that," Shacka said. "The moving industry does have some black eyes from folks who tend to lowball estimates." Also keep an eye out for how the quote is framed. Are you being charged by the hour? By the piece? And if it's the latter, do you really know how many pieces of furniture you have? I think not.
•Keep the kids happy: "Don't get rid of your children's favorite things before the move—even if it makes it easier," Shacka said. "Kids sometimes have a hard time dealing with the change of the move itself." And unhappy kids make for unhappier parents.
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Moving is never fun. But think it through, and you can make it considerably less painful.
— By CNBC's Kelley Holland