Realty Bites

Your (backache-free) guide to moving into a walkup

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We often receive emails from readers asking for help in navigating their own real estate crises. In Realty Bites, we try to get them answers.


"I just signed the lease on an apartment, but it's a fifth-floor walkup. How should I handle the move?"


With a little extra planning, your move should be fairly painless (at least, as painless as a move can be). But you should be prepared to spend more money than you would if you were moving into a place with an elevator, or something on the ground floor. (Look on the bright side: You're likely saving money on your monthly nut by moving into a walk-up in the first place, as they tend to be cheaper.)

"The first thing I would recommend is to hire movers if you can," says Compass agent Vanessa Villanova.  "And if you can’t hire movers, hire your friends." If you opt for the latter approach, she recommends getting everything upstairs, relay-style, with one person on each landing of the stairwell, to keep any one person from getting too tired or strained. And be prepared to show your gratitude: "Fill your entire refrigerator with beer and refreshments and have the nearest pizza place on speed dial as a thank you," she tells us.

If you can swing the cost of movers, know that it'll cost you extra per floor, and budget accordingly. Prices (and pricing strategies) vary wildly between moving companies, so you'd do well to get things carefully figured out ahead of time, and find out if a company charges by the hour or by the amount of stuff, and if there's an option for a price guarantee so you don't get stuck with a bigger-than-expected bill at the end. (To have a price truly locked in, you may need to have a rep from the company come by your place ahead of time to see exactly how much you have that needs moving, says Ari Bornstein of FlatRate Moving.)

Exactly how much extra per floor varies by company as well as by the amount of boxes and furniture you're taking with you (and in some cases the weight). Dumbo Moving & Storage CEO Lior Rachmany says his company tends to charge between $20 and $30 extra per floor, depending on the size of the move. He also advises tipping above the standard 15 to 20 percent if possible, as "moving into a walkup takes a greater physical toll on the movers or whoever’s taking it up the stairs."

A few other logistical tips to keep in mind: Rachmany recommends spreading your stuff out among many smaller boxes (as opposed to just a few 50-pound behemoths some poor soul has to try to get up the stairs), and carefully measuring the corners and height of your larger pieces of furniture to make sure they fit through door frames, as well as the landings on your new stairwell. (Anyone who remembers the "PIVOT!" scene from Friends knows this particular lesson instinctively.) "The numbers need to be very specific and accurate," Villanova concurs.

"Customers should [also] be prepared to take legs off sofas, dining room tables, kitchen tables," says Rachmany. "If it’s going to be carried in a narrow hallway, it’s best to be carried disassembled." To that end, if one of your pieces is too large for the hallway, check with your moving company to see if they offer furniture disassembly services. (Some will throw in a certain amount gratis, others will charge extra.) If they don't, you can hire a service like Sofa Doctor or even someone from Task Rabbit to take your pieces apart, and after the move, put them back together.


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