In some ways, being a real estate agent is a huge responsibility; they’re seen as the gatekeepers to clients’ new and better lives. That means it’s important to cultivate trust and rapport right from the start. Often, new homeowners will rely upon their real estate agents to offer guidance and advice about the entire relocation process.
Naturally, one of the most important ways that real estate agents can help their clients is by guiding them toward a trustworthy moving company. In order to do this effectively, though, real estate agents must themselves be educated on some of the most common moving company scams, and how to verify that they’re working with a responsible company.
There are a few main ways that moving companies will attempt to scam clients: raising their prices once the job has been completed, causing damage during the move without proper insurance to cover it, or simply taking off with a person’s belongings. While these few concerns are the most common scams moving companies engage in, there are many different ways that red flags can be spotted.
If It Seems Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
There’s a general sense of suspicion among wise people about practically any situation that feels excessively fortunate. The truth is, businesses don’t run on the kindness of their own hearts, and there’s no such thing as a moving company that doesn’t require profit to stay afloat.
That said, a moving company should never offer a lowball estimate for their services without first seeing a person’s home and belongings. Though it’s possible to give a general estimate over the phone based on factors like the size of a person’s current home and the distance they’re moving, providing ironclad pricing that way simply isn’t possible, so if a moving company doesn’t provide the estimate with the caveat that it may be more should difficult instances arise, it’s not a good sign.
Real estate agents should do their best to steer clients away from movers that solely conduct their business over the phone and online, or that give estimates that fall significantly below the industry norm. It’s one thing to be priced competitively, it’s another thing entirely to be lying about prices. Transparency with pricing is key, so a company should be able to offer a breakdown of their estimate, too.
Unfortunately, many moving companies with extremely low estimates simply hike up the cost once the move has already been completed, citing extra fees that weren’t explicitly communicated in the beginning. This is a far worse scenario than simply planning to pay more from the start. Any moving company with a solid reputation will have built it upon accurate pricing and superior service; honesty is an integral part of that, so the estimates should feel fair from the very beginning.
It’s Important to Look for A Documented History of Success Each Spring and Summer when moving season rolls around, fly by night movers also appear as if out of thin air. People providing these services will generally show up in unmarked vehicles and look like a group of people off the street as opposed to a professional, uniformed moving service.
These sorts of “companies” are ones that will promise steeply discounted prices; the problem is, many of them aren’t companies at all. The best-case scenario when working with movers without any documented history of completing moves is that they’ll perform the job they were hired to do for the price they quoted—but this rarely happens.
Often, unlicensed movers are also uninsured, so if something happens to the items they’re transporting during the move, the cost of replacing them simply falls on the owner. Even worse, some of these movers are simply criminals who will drive away with a person’s belongings once they’re loaded into the vehicle.
Real estate agents should take the time to explain to clients that a reputable moving company will always have some sort of verification available; if they look like fakes, they probably are, and there’s nothing wrong with telling a moving company to leave if the situation doesn’t feel right.
The simple truth is that every moving company should have some markers of professionalism, like a website, a brick and mortar or location, or simply a logo. If these markers of established business are missing, it should raise alarm bells.
Always Get The Agreement in Writing
Some movers will try to convince homeowners that there’s no need to put their plan into a contract. They’ll want to rely upon a handshake agreement, but this sort of understanding certainly won’t hold up in court should the situation arise.
The problem is, when homeowners opt for an informal agreement like this, they leave themselves open to a host of potential risks. A moving company can claim they quoted a higher price from the beginning, refuse to pay for damages, or provide inferior service when the agreement isn’t spelled out and signed.
Realistically, putting an agreement in writing is a good idea for a reputable moving company as well as their clients, so there’s no legitimate reason that a mover would try to avoid it.
When their clients are in the process of choosing movers, real estate agents should explain the importance of getting a written agreement right from the start. If possible, even getting estimates in writing is smart, as this will ensure transparency throughout the entire process.
Unverified Companies Can Engage in Shady Practices
It can feel like a hassle to go through the process of verifying a moving company’s credentials, but a service whose reputation precedes them (in a bad way) won’t be hard to snuff out. Resources like the Better Business Bureau plainly spell out any past complaints against a business.
What’s more, if a mover claims to be licensed or endorsed by a certain agency, it won’t take much work to find out whether or not that’s true. Additionally, moving companies should be insured for damage that might occur to a person’s property during the relocation process; it’s a good idea to ask for the details of these insurance policies.
If a moving company isn’t properly vetted before they’re hired, there’s no telling what they might do when it comes time to complete the job. When a company doesn’t have a good reputation to lose, they’re not worried about performing satisfactorily or fairly. All real estate agents, but particularly those new to the industry, should take the time to familiarize themselves with the hallmarks of a scam moving company. It’s only a matter of time before a client asks an agent for moving company recommendations, so the agent should be prepared to offer reputable ones when that moment comes.
As with any other industry, the moving company sector is fraught with more than a few shady characters; knowing how to spot them will save real estate agents and their clients alike stress and headaches in the long run
Written and Published by: VanEd