How do we swap houses with our landlord as smoothly as possible?
July 1, 2010 5:24 AM   Subscribe

We have two months to plan a house switch. My housemates and I currently live in a fairly nice three bedroom, two and a half bath row house. Our landlord and his family live in a much nicer four bedroom, three and a half bath row house about half a mile away. At our landlord’s request, we are switching houses around September 1.* We want to make this transition as painless as possible, how can we do that?

Some questions/things to consider:

1. We are definitely going to hire movers. Should we see if we can get two moving trucks and movers from the same company in order to allow better coordination?

2. We need to thoroughly clean our place. We will probably hire someone to come in and do this. Is it possible to do a deep cleaning before we move our stuff out? If not, how do we deal with cleaning when we won’t have much (if any) time between when we move out and the landlord moves in?

3. We have a dining room that we barely use, and there isn’t much in it. Would it be reasonable for us to suggest that they could move some things here ahead of time, and perhaps we could do the same? They have a much more complicated setup so I’m sure they’d like to be able to move some boxes ahead of time, but I’m not sure they’d be able to let us do the same.

4. What is the best way to try to arrange to meet potential housemates to fill the fourth bedroom when we aren’t living there yet? Should we ask our landlord what he would prefer (ie, would he and his family be able to go out to the zoo or something for a few hours one day while we have interviews and show the house, or would he prefer that we find someone we like and then set up a specific time for them to look)?

5. Our landlord wants us to sign a one-year lease. We’re completely fine with this, but might even prefer a 16-month lease because moving in September is harder than moving over the last week of December/first week of January. Is there a tactful way to request a slightly longer lease?

Any other tips or tricks or anything related to making this situation as easy as possible would be greatly appreciated.

We're in DC, if you have recommendations for movers or a cleaning service.

*Our landlord has a child with disabilities and needs to adjust his budget to afford some in-home help. Though we’d prefer not to move, he’s completely within his rights and is even giving us extra notice (we’re on a month-to-month lease). He suggested switching houses to minimize hassle for everyone involved, and he’s giving us a great deal.
posted by SugarAndSass to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
I'm not sure there's an issue here. You're moving from one place to another. The fact that the people in your destination are moving to your current location doesn't seem to me to make any difference, when it comes right down to it.

If you want to make logistical suggestions to make this easier for the move, hey, go nuts. All they can say is no. They may have ideas of their own. There is no single right way to do this, and any solution you come up with, as long as it's in communication with your landlord, should be fine.

In short: don't talk to us, talk to your landlord.
posted by valkyryn at 5:45 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: valkyryn, I understand your point, and we definitely plan to talk to the landlord. I was just hoping to get some feedback from people who have some more experience with this sort of thing, since I've always had overlap time when I've moved, and pretty much only moved room-to-room. I don't want to be bugging our landlord all of the time because he is very busy with his other job and his family, so I'm trying to figure out the best way to approach these questions.
posted by SugarAndSass at 6:04 AM on July 1, 2010

1. Yes, great idea.

2. Ask the cleaners. Ask the landlord.

3. Yes.

4. Ask the landlord.

5. Just ask. The worst he can say is "no." He'll probably like the stability.
posted by The Michael The at 6:05 AM on July 1, 2010

If you contract with a moving company, they will bring the equipment needed to do the job (I recently moved a whole school (12 classrooms, offices, materials, furniture, etc), they showed up with three trucks and 15 guys, they were done in 12 hours).

Don't be afraid to ask for a longer lease, it's a question he can say yes or no too.

And, the movers should be paid by the landlord, he's requesting you move. That is standard practice.
posted by HuronBob at 6:11 AM on July 1, 2010

posted by HuronBob at 6:12 AM on July 1, 2010

Regarding 2&3:
In some sense one of your biggest problems is that the houses are so close together - there will be almost no time that both houses are empty, therefore almost no time to clean up. If the landlord isn't interested in having a room to swap stuff through, then you can use your extra room as a holding bay while you do the deep cleaning. i.e. clean the dining room like crazy, stack all the stuff from bedroom1 in one corner bedroom2 in the other corner, and clean the bedrooms like crazy. Continue the shuffle-and-clean. It's a pain in the neck. Also doesn't work well with hiring cleaners, who won't want to shuffle your stuff around.
On the other hand, you can tidy/pack as much as possible, hire cleaners. They'll get everything they can reach, but not the dust under and behind furniture, the crumbs in the cabinets, etc. Then on moving day, go through each room behind the movers - they tend to work one room at a time (per pair of guys) - so you can vacuum the floors/baseboards/closets/nooks as soon as it's empty.

Are you trying to coordinate with the other household, i.e. you both have to be out by 2pm exactly and can move in starting at 2pm exactly? Or are you just both hoping you'll get lucky about the schedules? Set a time if you can. Then you can split up your household, send one person with the movers as the truck pulls away, to supervise the arrival and unpacking (kill time by handing the movers sandwiches, which is necessary in any case, and an excellent distraction while you do a few minutes cleaning) and leave one person at the old place to clean like crazy until the new family's truck arrives.

good luck!
posted by aimedwander at 6:19 AM on July 1, 2010

On the other hand, be super super clear with the landlord. Is he cleaning his house before you move in? How is he handling it? Is there any chance you're going to get stuck scrambling to clean the old place in the 30 minutes it's empty, and then arrive to find out that you wish you'd been cleaning the new place?
posted by aimedwander at 6:21 AM on July 1, 2010

We’re completely fine with this, but might even prefer a 16-month lease because moving in September is harder than moving over the last week of December/first week of January.

Yes, you should ask. But remember, the flip side is true -- it's easier to rent a place out in September. A lot of landlords prefer that leases come due in the summer months b/c of that. But yes, it's definitely worth asking.
posted by inigo2 at 7:37 AM on July 1, 2010

A couple ideas to look into: a moving truck that can leave the, uh, truck container (I don't know what it's called -- rolloff isn't quite right) in place at the new residence. That way, your stuff is packed, you hold onto the goods in the truck for a couple days while you clean then when the new house is empty, you unload and they come back and pick up the container.

You could probably also do a PODS thing if your stuff will fit. Rent a pods at each location, either fill yours in front of your current house and then hire movers to move that stuff to the new locale when you're ready or hire movers to move your stuff into the Pod at the new spot. You unload it when you're ready.

I kind of think that you show your new potential roommate a few photos of the place and encourage a drive-by. I mean, really, it's more about the roommates than the place, don't you think? Get measurements of the room you'll rent, meet them at your current place and go that way. It's complicated enough without asking your landlord to be scarce. Otherwise, I'd just wait until I was in the new place.
posted by amanda at 7:42 AM on July 1, 2010

I've seen quite a few leases in DC that have an initial term of one year, and automatically go month-to-month after that, with the landlord reserving the right to raise the rent once a year up to a certain percentage. This kind of arrangement seems to work pretty well, because tenants can move when it best fits their schedules, and landlords don't unnecessarily kick out tenants who would have stayed but for the fear of being stuck in a lease mid-way through year two with no way out. Maybe something to consider, if the landlord is amenable.
posted by andrewpendleton at 7:57 AM on July 1, 2010

Seconding the PODS least for your family. You load (or have loaded) everything into one or possibly two PODS and when the landlord has vacated his current place, you have those delivered.

You can then spend a leisurely amount of time getting the new place ready and then move your stuff in. PODS are a premium price-point, there might be other similar type companies in your area that might be less expensive.

Good luck.
posted by bach at 11:33 AM on July 1, 2010

Find out your movers' hourly rate. It may be cheaper & easier on everyone if you just send the moving guys to lunch (or feed them yourselves) for an hour or two after the trucks are loaded, while you and/or the cleaning crews clean the two houses.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 1:29 PM on July 1, 2010

Seconding andrewpendleton...a lot of leases I've seen are one year, then month to month after that. My current place specifies that I can't move out in Dec, Jan or Feb due to how hard it is to find new tenants that time of year, so I think it's a good compromise.
posted by JannaK at 3:17 PM on July 1, 2010

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