Is $12k normal to pay movers to pack your house?
May 3, 2021 2:30 PM   Subscribe

I am moving for a new job. My employer is paying for the moving truck, but not packing. I have been packing myself but I'm coming down to the wire. I called a local packing/moving service and the price made my eyes jump out of my head like Bugs Bunny. Is that normal? Details inside

I have packed most of the house myself. I felt I could use professional help when it came to a handful of items:

Framed Pictures/Art (About 30-40)
Glass lamps
1 Flatscreen TV

Then, since I am running out of time, I asked them to pack:

My kitchen (plates, coffee makers, mixers, bowls, pans, etc)
My study (About 300-ish books plus some photo albums)
My kid's room which just has a few boxes of toys in it.
My CD Collection (about 1k CDs)

Compared to all I've packed, I thought this was a pretty small ask. So imagine my surprise when I got the estimate and it was for a bit over $12,000!

Is it really that much to have movers pack a portion of your house? Is this a normal amount?
posted by arniec to Home & Garden (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That seems high to me, but I'm guessing it's the art that's really pushing up the price. It will require special handling and packaging. (Although...I'm having trouble picturing the rooms being quite as barren as you're suggesting. It's necessary to be realistic about what's actually in the room.) At any rate, no harm in getting a competitor's quote.
posted by praemunire at 2:34 PM on May 3 [3 favorites]

No. That's insane by a factor of 20.
posted by Dashy at 2:36 PM on May 3 [18 favorites]

That seems very high for just packing. Are you sure the quote was for packing alone or for packing & moving? We did full-service packing & moving of a pretty overstuffed condo about 5 years ago halfway across the country and it was about 10K for the whole thing.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 2:37 PM on May 3 [5 favorites]

That’s crazy. Get onto Taskrabbit and find someone to pay by the hour for this.
posted by SLC Mom at 2:38 PM on May 3 [4 favorites]

The things you are asking are pretty delicate. Artwork, TV, potentially the CD collection, are high-value/easily broken, and I suspect their price reflects that. Also depends how far you are moving.

FWIW, when I moved ~1000 miles about 3 years ago, I got several quotes, which all came in around 10k for full service (they pack + move) vs 2k for the truck + furniture disassembly/reassembly. I ended up going with one of the self-pack options, and rented a painters' van to transport my more delicate stuff like my one nice painting, TV, things with sentimental value. I could definitely see that 10k going to 12k or even 15k if I had more nice stuff.
posted by basalganglia at 2:40 PM on May 3 [2 favorites]

That seems far too high—I would expect your packing job to be at the high end, but in the neighborhood of $1200 rather than $12k.
posted by epj at 2:42 PM on May 3 [2 favorites]

The last two times I had estimates done for a pack+move, the estimates ranged dramatically. $2000-$4000 difference. Definitely get a second estimate. FWIW, I paid $6000 to pack and move a sparsely furnished 3 bedroom house (including a piano and 1 piece of art) 500km 2 years ago (in Ontario).
posted by frau_grubach at 2:43 PM on May 3

That does seem very high, but the art could be driving it up, and also when you say "down to the wire" how much of a rush job are we talking about here? Is it like "I need you to come tomorrow?" or even "I need you to come this weekend?"

Also are they going to be providing packing materials (i.e. crates) for the TV and art?

Definitely worth getting another quote though.
posted by mskyle at 2:45 PM on May 3 [3 favorites]

I moved a two bedroom apartment across country from between two of the most expensive cities in the country. The total mover's fee was $6000. Of that, $1000 was the packing fee.

So yes, that seems (very) high, and you should get more quotes.

But! I can easily imagine packing being a loss leader that movers make cheap because it reduces the chance of insurance claims rather than it makes them money. If they're not on the hook for claims they're probably less motivated to do the work. And packing only some of your stuff rather than all of it is probably kind of a hassle. And I assume movers are extremely busy and are raising rates right now as people come out of lockdown in the US. Maybe these are covid rates. It really may not be a great use of their time for anything less than $12,000 if they can do higher paying jobs.
posted by caek at 2:51 PM on May 3 [2 favorites]

I agree it seems high and wonder if perhaps the issue is COVID/labor related? I imagine for some locations this past year was a bad time for moving companies causing them to layoff workers, and perhaps now there is more demand than supply. Can't hurt to call around, last time I moved there was quite a range in quotes.
posted by coffeecat at 2:51 PM on May 3 [1 favorite]

Did they come and do a walk-through? How short notice is it? I agree that the price seems high but if they are just guessing that could be why their guestimate is overly generous.
posted by nathaole at 3:04 PM on May 3

Response by poster: They came and did a walkthrough. And other than the kitchen I never said “this whole room”. I specified what items in what rooms. We hand counted pictures. I told him big things to ignore. Nothing really seemed out of the ordinary where custom boxes would be needed. One item was very big and he started to talk how expensive that one thing was and I said skip it.

So why it’s so much I have no idea!
posted by arniec at 3:08 PM on May 3

Can they send you an itemized version of the estimate/quote? That might help explain it.
posted by amtho at 3:11 PM on May 3 [2 favorites]

that is ALOT of CDs and art and books. I assume your kitchen is fully stocked with alot of small appliances and gear and maybe multiple sets of china and glassware and that stuff takes the longest, not the furniture, double for art that needs special packing. $12K seems high unless its rush but did they give you an hourly estimate? that sounds like 100 hours of labor at all-included rates where I live (packing material included). 100 hours sounds too high to get that all done but I would expect it should easily run into the mid thousands for a multi person crew. are they charging you extra to insure valuables like art?

also piecemeal packing where they don't do an entire room is harder to do efficiently. they will probably have to waste time staging around all the half finished stuff they shouldn't touch and stopping to check what to pack from the list all the time and it stops them from getting into the groove that lets them move faster than you could do it yourself. that might be baked into your high quote, but even then it sounds like too much, but I would not be at all surprised by $6-8K. I had two people pack 75% of my 700 sq ft apt on my last move and it still took them most of a day and cost about $1K.
posted by slow graffiti at 3:18 PM on May 3 [1 favorite]

That can't be correct. Even if it took 2 people 2 days and they charged you labor of $100/hr per person, that's around an extra $9,000 which no amount of insurance explains. Materials because it does sound like a lot of stuff, add in $1,000.

Though I am kind of boggled at how many boxes 1,000 CDs will take. An itemized list of the estimate would be helpful.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:34 PM on May 3 [2 favorites]

They should be giving you an itemized estimate that includes # of boxes, labor per hour and cost of packing supplies.
posted by amycup at 3:41 PM on May 3

I have to disagree that 1000 CDs is a lot. It's only about 1080 * 1000 and easily to quickly fit into secure boxes. Likewise 300 books must be at the low end and I've moved similar amounts dozens and dozens of times.

There is no way this is close to 100 person-hours of work. Perhaps $1200 is too low but its definitely closer to that than $12000.
posted by turkeyphant at 4:12 PM on May 3 [2 favorites]

one of the things that might also be driving the price up is due to the pandemic, there are A LOT of people moving right now, so they may be taking an incredible amount of advantage of that.

12K is nuts, though. definitely get a couple more estimates.
posted by koroshiya at 4:29 PM on May 3

I have a relatively large house with expensive artwork, computers, musical instruments, furniture, etc. Every time I have moved, I've had both packing and unpacking services. And I have never had a packing quote anywhere near that high. In fact usually I think it's kind of absurdly cheap in the context of the overall cost of the move, and therefore a no brainer. $12k is not a no brainer.
posted by primethyme at 4:38 PM on May 3

You may just be getting an "f- you" price because they have enough business and your job seems like a hassle / is far from their office / whatever. Get more quotes. Ask on NextDoor, etc. I've been told that I should be getting itemized quotes from service businesses, and that has happened exactly once with a higher-end operation, don't get too hung up on that.

Also, kitchens are absolutely full of shit. Fragile shit. Oddly-shaped shit. Packing my small kitchen was about half the total time of packing a two bedroom apartment.
posted by momus_window at 4:41 PM on May 3 [10 favorites]

Seconding that it sounds like a "we don't need your business" quote - they might not want to deal with the hassle of the job and are pricing it accordingly.

$12k is more in line with what I'd expect for a full-service long-distance move all-in: truck, packing, materials, etc. For what you're describing I'd expect more like $1k - 2k max. Definitely get more quotes.
posted by photo guy at 5:06 PM on May 3 [5 favorites]

They maybe think you are wealthy and don't care about cost?? But yeah- $12K for this is outrageous.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:06 PM on May 3

That is less than a day's work for two experienced packers. The art, lamps and TV are the only delicate items that might require special boxes. The books, CD's, toys and kitchen items just go in standard boxes with standard packing paper. There is no way this should cost more than $2,000, including boxes and packing paper. $12,000 is outrageous. Hire somebody else.

If your employer is paying for the moving truck, you might try to hire the same movers for the packing. You might even ask your employer if they have a pre-existing deal with those movers. If so, you could ask the employer to contract for the packing with the same movers and you will reimburse the employer or pay the movers directly for the packing. You get a better packing job when the same company is packing and moving, in my experience.

Take your photo albums with you in your car if your photos are irreplaceable. Anything that you could not replace and would be very upset if you lost forever, take with you in your car. Maybe some of the art falls into this category?
posted by KayQuestions at 7:09 PM on May 3 [1 favorite]

Yeah I think this is a pandemic high-demand gouging price. I’ve been a professional mover and packer, albeit a long time ago. You describe a two person job that would take less than a day, depending a bit on how fancy you want to get with the artwork. The rest is bog standard basic stuff that would take a few hours. 1200 CDs is nothing. Three boxes. 300 books is maybe 15. Kitchens are complicated but I recently packed my mom’s house single handed (oh to be the kid with moving and packing experience!), she had lived there 20 years, and she is a serious cook. Kitchen all in took me two hours to fully and securely pack, by myself. Five more hours to move it all to storage with one helper and a 21 foot box truck. Two bedroom apartment. At least a thousand books. Two trips to storage 30 minutes away. I wasn’t trying to get it done especially fast. And I pack things right.

Assuming your 30 framed pictures take 20 minutes each, that’s still 4-5 hours of labor.

In all my experience packing hundreds of places it never ever took a team of two good packers more than a day to do a standard home or apartment. So unless labor in your area costs 500 bucks an hour (and packers are generally low paid workers) this estimate is bullshit, straight up. Or as someone said, it’s a fuck you price.

I’ve told this story on Mefi before but my greatest experience as a professional packer was the day I got hired to pack an entire apartment full of books for …. Eudora Welty! This was around 1984. She was *so* nice to us, made us lunch and tea and talked to us all through the job while making sure we packed her books right. She was ending a year long residential fellowship at a local university. Never ever forgot that experience, when I was 21 and dropped out of school.

On the other extreme were the forced move outs of hoarders and any divorce-related move-out where one partner was fighting the other about what they could take. Ugh that was awful.

posted by spitbull at 2:52 AM on May 4 [4 favorites]

300 books = around 5 banana boxes. One banana box will hold 60 - 70 books depending on the size of the books. Each box will weigh around 20 kilogrammes.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:45 AM on May 4

I’ll share a key bit of wisdom from my days on the job: more smaller boxes is always better than fewer heavier ones. Books go in book boxes, which hold 25-30 paperbacks and 10-20 hardcovers.

The reason is that movers work much faster and more efficiently with smaller boxes that can easily be lifted, stacked, and carried on dollies and hand trucks. Smaller boxes are easier to pack tightly in trucks and storage spaces. And movers do their best to avoid lifting and carrying individual heavy things.

The other advice I always give is: EVERYTHING that can be boxed, should be boxed. Loose items — which in my day (and in New England) movers called “chowder” derisively — slow everything down enormously. Although movers often smile when they see a house full of lamps and art items and weirdly shaped small appliances because we would be carrying lots of light trips over a much longer period of time than if that chowder was all boxed up, plus spending more time packing it safely on the truck. In other words, we’d make bank on a poorly packed home, often angering the client who had received a smaller estimate based on the assumption the home would be properly and fully packed when we arrived.

Anything that requires and individual hand carry is a major drain on efficiency.

Unless something is actually too big or ungainly for a box, or is designed to be packed and moved and stored as is without being damaged (or you don’t care if it is), BOX IT UP in the smallest boxes that will work.
posted by spitbull at 4:42 AM on May 4 [4 favorites]

Even if they're good packers, use the good painter's tape to tape any glass. I speak from experience. broken glass can wreck framed artwork.
posted by theora55 at 7:23 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]

I paid that amount for a Full House and it was Toronto to California. That included packing truck transport unpack — everything.
For a small move within the US no way.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:03 AM on May 4

That seems very high to me, I had a service come pack my house (all be it a small house) up and move it all to the other side of the world for about half that price. This feels like a it's a last minute small job they don't really want price or they have misunderstood completely what you want them to do.
posted by wwax at 10:03 AM on May 4

We hired movers for to fully pack a 3000-square-foot house that was fully furnished, and move everything 180 miles, and it was around 6k for everything. 12k seems really excessive.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 7:44 PM on May 4

Holy shit no we moved a STUFFED 4 bedroom house with an art/jewelry making studio and a small storage unit and it only cost around 5K - from MD to Northern Virginia.
posted by ersatzkat at 7:24 AM on May 5

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