Sometimes I feel like people might think we talk the talk, but don't walk the walk when it comes to using some Web services. Believe me when I tell you we use this stuff every day, and over the last month, nothing has been more useful to me than Craigslist. Why? I was moving, and I did 95 percent of it using a single service to find movers, boxes, people to buy and take away old furniture, and most importantly--a place to live.
After having just finished, I know I could have done some things better, and I thought this would be a good chance provide a focused collection of tips and tricks for each stage of a move. Something useful for any would-be movers who have never used the Web to hunt for a new place, then get the job done by selling excess junk, and finding the right equipment to get from point A to point B. I've also nixed using just Craigslist, as a balanced attack using several best-of-breed Web services will save you time and money.
Finding a place
Mash Maker (review) from Intel is a very slick tool for parsing through Craigslist's myriad of listings and making the data accessible in ways that Craigslist does not provide for. There are a few "plug-ins" for Craiglist in the Mash Maker gallery. The most useful ones are the tables plus maps one that will let you see pricing, move in dates, and more in an easy to use chart that can be sorted. There's also a great one that will give you the price versus subregion that will tell you the average price of apartments based on each neighborhood you're looking at.
Another mash up that existed before Mash Maker, but that's still accessible without the installation of the plug-in is HousingMaps, which mashes up Google Maps with Craigslist housing listings. You're not going to find some of the most up-to-date listings from just an hour or so ago, or be able to search through them like you can on Craigslist, but using the filters it's simply a fantastic way to check out a bunch of places with less text and more topography.
If you're trying to buy a house, there are some even better services that bring a lot more depth to the table. Trulia and Zillow offer simple and deep services that give you a lot of information and put you in touch with real estate folks or homeowners without you even needing to leave your house.
Trulia has the most eye candy of the two, with a time line viewer called HindSight that will show you growth and other housing trends by geography. It's really only useful in a few cities, unlike Trulia's core service which will let you hunt for houses with a high level of ease. Fellow housing search tool Zillow is also great for potential homebuyers, and ties in things such as a mortgage finder and a great map tool that includes homes for sale, recently sold homes, and even places people are just thinking about selling and just waiting for the right offer to get out.
Continue reading to learn about research tools, finding movers, and what to do if you find yourself temporarily homeless...
Know before you go
Once you've found the place of your dreams it's time to scope it out. If you're looking to make sure you're not going to get stuck paying too much, check out Rentometer (review) which will analyze how much your rent is compared with others in your area. Better yet, check out Hotpads (review), which gives you a overlay controls for population density, the median age, and general income so you can avoid moving into a retirement neighborhood or the student overflow from a local college (unless you're seeking out either of those things).
Also worth doing is giving your neighbors a once over. Go on StreetAdvisor and Rotten Neighbor (review) to see if you're living next to some potentially volatile neighbors. Then go check out the registered sex offenders database.
If you were using Trulia, or Google Maps, hop on Street View and check out the outside of the place you're looking at as well as the surrounding area. There's a big chance your place isn't on there, which isn't a problem if you live in the same city and have checked the place out in person--but what if this is somewhere else? This would have been the perfect situation to use the now defunct GoSee4Me to hire someone else to take photos. Otherwise, hop on Facebook and see which one of your friends lives in that city and ask if they'll snap some shots for you.
To see how "walkable" the area is, give Walk Score (review) a whirl. Just plug in the address of the place you're looking at and it will give you a map of what's close based on grocery stores, eateries, coffee shops, schools and transportation. The one thing it doesn't take into account is how close you are to freeways and large elevations--which might hinder said walking. For that, use Google Earth's elevation feature to zoom into your neighborhood and check out the topography.
Speaking of Google Earth, try out the YouTube viewer (also in Google Maps) to see if there's been anything cool or outright insane going on in your area. If you see a lot of news reports about murders and drug use that have been geocoded to your block--you might want to steer clear. If you're moving to Oakland, there's also Oakland Crime Spotting, which was put together by the guys at Stamen Design. It's one of the more beautiful ways to see bad guys on a map.
Getting the job done
Craigslist is full of people who can schlep your stuff, but getting recommendations on which companies or folks are trustworthy and careful is even better if you care about your stuff. If your job has a "spam" list or newsgroup set up, ask around. Also, visit Yelp and check out reviews of local moving services. You'll find most are either terrible or fantastic, but it's a far better way to get a lay of the land.
Better yet, bribe your friends to help out with customized "I'm helping (your name) move" personalized T-shirts from CafePress or Zazzle that will let them get sweaty and not stink up their own clothes. For a laugh, wear them out so people know why you're stinking up whatever restaurant you're taking them to. You might even get better service and faster water refills from your server too.
U-Haul is for newbies (unless you have furniture). If you're just in need of a truck, check out Zipcar or if Northern California--CityCarShare.org that will let you rent one for about $5 an hour, depending on where you live. You can even set it all up without having to talk to a human. If you really want to keep it simple and rent through U-Haul, avoid its site like the plague and call in, as the site won't give you a specific pick-up time which can be crucial if you've got people coming to help you or time lines to keep.
If you're on a budget, also worth checking out is Craigslist's move/haul section under the services category. You'll find a slew of single day truck rentals from companies that rent out their trucks to people who are moving on the weekend for much lower costs than U-Haul and others.
The same thing goes for boxes. Don't shell out money for new boxes. Chances are someone who just moved it trying to ditch their own. Here's an advanced tip though: don't bother sitting by your computer hitting refresh to wait for the newest giveaways to show up. Instead, set up a work flow in Yahoo Pipes that will do it for you. I've created an example feed that does this here. To tweak it to match the Craigslist in your area, just do a search in free stuff for "Moving Boxes" and dump in the RSS feed in the top pipe, then hit save and refresh. Then subscribe to the feed you've created and keep an eye on your RSS reader to be apprised of the latest freebies.
To take it a step further, set up e-mail or SMS alerts when a new item is added using a service such as RSSFwd or Pingie. Just don't be surprised if the person who posted the ad is a little freaked out that you contacted them within a minute or two of it going live.
Ditching your old stuff
When moving there comes a time when you need to get rid of things. Besides Craigslist and eBay (which are great), we recommend Freecycle. Freecycle has more than 5 million users who are taking each others free stuff. If it's gadgets you're getting rid of, you might also be able to scrap together some cash with services such as BuyMyTronics. We wrote about this back in November, so go read about it there.
If you feel like keeping your stuff, but maybe making a little cash on the side, use a service such as Zilok (review) which lets you rent your stuff to other people. Be sure to set this up in advance though--it might take a while for someone to bite.
Oops, you're temporarily homeless. What to do:
So your new lease doesn't start for a week or two and you need a place to crash. Out of vacation hours and patience? There's hope for you yet. You can simply try Couchsurfing which is a network of people who let folks stay in their house while traveling. You'll never have to tell anyone about it, and it's certainly cheaper than staying at a hotel or imposing on your friends and family.
Before and after the move: make a list, check it wherever
Getting stuff from point A to point B takes a lot of physical work as much as it does mental. Save some brainpower by keeping a list of things you need to do before, and after the move including small or large items to need to buy. Your best bet for this is a to-do list application because little pieces of paper get lost.
We recommend Shifd (review), which works on your desktop as an Adobe Air application, or on your mobile phone while synchronizing them in both places. We like Shiftd the best because it mashes up maps into your notes, so if you're trying to chart out some places or things that need remembering you can view them on a map right away, which can be immensely helpful.
Hopefully this has given you the inside track on how to use Web 2.0 services to help make moving less of a pain, and more of a tactical and rewarding experience. If you've got tips of your own, leave them in the talkback.