So you’re moving house in west London?
Kiwi Movers are based in Wandsworth Common, in West London. But like any removal company, our work takes us all over capital and beyond. We’ve moved people to a new house a few streets away and we’ve relocated people to other countries. But If our experience has taught us anything, it’s that no job is the same.
One of the biggest influencers on how simple or tricky a house move is going to be is location. The origin and destination of the move have a bearing on everything. So, given that we know the west London area so well, we’ve compiled a local guide. We’ll be distilling our collective experience and throwing in a little history to boot.
West London vs East London – in a nutshell
London is traditionally split north to south with the River Thames as the border. But the cultural distinction between east and west is equally, if not more relevant and interesting.
Compare Hackney and Leytonstone with Clapham and Wandsworth and the differences are immediately obvious. From the architecture to the local economies. And it’s all based on the way the wind blows.
Historically, the western half of London has been considered more affluent and desirable.
Because when London was experiencing rapid population growth, people who could afford it wanted to live downwind of the heavy industry. Ironically, the same industry that made them rich enough to choose.
The prevailing wind across London blows west to east, so people believed the air was cleaner the further east you went.
This meant that factories were concentrated in the east and large homes were located in the west.
The geography of the River Thames also played a part.
If you look at a map of the Thames, you’ll notice the meanders are more pronounced in the east. The meanders provided the required shelter from the elements to establish docks. Once the docks were established, it made sense for heavy industry to be located in and around that area.
Over the generations, this meant that the west became established as a place to live. Large townhouses and villas characterised the area. The east was a place of work, with factories, docks and shipping.
Nowadays, this means that west London is associated with large, beautiful houses and impressive green spaces like Wandsworth Common (just over the road from Kiwi Movers HQ) and Clapham Common. East London is associated with warehouse conversions, cool coffee shops, the tech industry and indie retailers.
Why is it trickier to move house in West London than East London?
Because the west was built for living in, you’d be forgiven for assuming it’d be easier to move in and out of it than the east. But gentrification has changed that. While the west had lots of grand houses in the Queen Anne and Regency style, the bulk of those have been converted into apartments.
Meanwhile, the warehouses of the east have been converted into living spaces, with comparatively generous proportions (especially when it comes to access, stairs and doorways). Now, if you try moving a sofa out of a top floor Regency style apartment you’ll find a lot more difficult than moving it into that trendy east London warehouse.
West London is also tricker for another reason. Traffic is worse. In fact, the most congested road in the UK is the Rosehill roundabout section of the A127. It accounts for 138.6 hours of delays – per person, per year, according to a study by Inrix.
So you’ve got a combination of knuckle-crushingly narrow stairwells, squeezed into beautiful but hard-to-negotiate Regency and Queen Anne houses, combined with busy roads, the proximity to Heathrow Airport and the 48,000 students attending the University of West London (formerly Thames Valley University) and you can see why moving house in London is a specialist skill.
West London removal firms – how to pick the right one
Choosing a removals company isn’t as easy going to Google and picking the one that comes top. The right choice for you might be different for someone else, so to help you cut through the confusion, here’s an eight-step guide to finding the right company.
Naturally, you’ll want to get as good a deal as possible, but cheapest may not always be best. Consider that some firms will employ more people to do your move, which means it’ll get done quicker (and more safely), but it will obviously cost a little more.
It’s also worth remembering that professional removals, with modern, high quality equipment and good training, will charge more. But they’re also less likely to have accidents, damage your stuff or turn up late.
Hiring a budget man and van service isn’t necessarily a bad choice, but if you’ve got lots of valuables to shift, you should ensure the people managing that process are well-trained professionals.
Once you’re happy with the price quoted, you should double-check the billing structure. Some firms will quote you a complete price for the entire move, others will charge by the hour give you an estimate based on a pre-move survey.
There’s no right or wrong way to bill, but transparency in the removals industry is key. If you’re quoted by the hour, you must ask the firm to give you an indication of how many hours they expect the job to take. A removals firm that can’t do this, or refuses, should be avoided.
Kiwi Movers, for example, charge by the hour and also by the day, depending on the size of your move. This means that you never pay for any service you don’t get. It also means that we’re motivated to work efficiently – and if we finish earlier than anticipated, your move can actually work out cheaper.
We always conduct a pre-move survey to identify any potential issues that could slow us down, so our quotes are pretty accurate and if we do anticipate the job taking longer than quoted, we’ll let you know as soon as we can.
Check out this guide to understanding removals quotes for a deeper understanding.
Level of service
Will the price you pay include packing and unpacking? Does the company you’ve selected have modern equipment to get your belongings safely to your new home? A removals job is much more than simply transporting goods from A to B. What happens if the doors in your new home are too narrow to get your sofa through? Do you trust this company to be able to safely remove a door frame and refit it as new?
Of course, you want the move to go quickly and not cost the earth. But the job needs to be done safely and carefully. Good training, planning and high quality equipment are essential for an efficient and safe move.
Good removals firms – and yes, we include ourselves in that category – will also offer related extra services such as packing, cleaning, storage and in our case, even a handyman service to help with small jobs like assembling furniture.
Most of the factors listed here things you should consider. But insurance, as far as we’re concerned, is a must. No removals firm wants to have an accident and trust us – no professional mover wants to damage someone’s property or drop a box – but accidents do happen, to the best of us.
If your removals firm doesn’t have adequate (or indeed, any) insurance, you and they are taking a massive risk. Insurance also covers loss as well as damage, for example if a removals van is targeted by thieves.
Always check to see if your removals firm of choice is properly covered.
Trade associations, accreditations and memberships
It’s easy to see a badge for a trade membership and assume that a removals firm is therefore high quality, accredited or in some way superior. But not all memberships are an assurance of quality.
If a removals firm advertises itself as a member of a trade association, always check this out. Nine times out of ten, it’ll be a legitimate membership with a recognised organisation. But you should run a mile from any company that advertises membership of a trade body or organisation that doesn’t appear to exist or otherwise looks suspicious.
Removals isn’t a regulated industry like banking or law, so there’s no legal requirement for any removals firm to be accredited or chartered. This means the trade bodies have less influence on the industry. It also means that removals companies have to seek out other options to build consumer confidence.
The Which? Trusted Trader scheme is one such method. Kiwi Movers are endorsed by the Which? Trusted Trader scheme, with a 5-star customer review rating (at time of writing in July 2017). This means that Which? Have independently verified our standards of delivery, working practices and customer service.
Online reviews are a great way to assess the reliability and integrity of a removal firm. Naturally, you’ll be keen to hire a firm with the highest possible rating, but a few words of guidance on assessing whether or not to use a removals firm based on their rating first:
Be realistic in your expectations, look for personal accounts of how a business operates and read a selection of reviews, rather than going off of just the score or the most recent review.
Companies with only 5 star reviews are rare, in any industry. If you see a company that has nothing but a handful of 5-star reviews, they’re either the best company on the planet with the most generous customers, or they’re blagging. Check out how many reviews a company has, as well as what their score is.
Similarly, don’t be put off from a removals firm by one bad review. Every business gets bad reviews, even The Ritz Hotel. A customer could have been having a bad day and was letting off steam after a stressful move, there could have been a simple misunderstanding about the invoice, or – sadly as is now quite common – the review could be malicious.
Moving house is a stressful experience so even when little things go wrong, it seems like the end of the world to the customer. The removals industry generally does a pretty good job of accommodating stressed out customers, but sometimes that stress spills over into the hard-to-control world of online reviews.
If you do decide to use reviews as a dealbreaker for a firm, be sure to read more than a couple, good and bad.
Local knowledge is very important. Every removal firm will have an area or two that they consider to be ‘their patch’ that they know really well. This isn’t a territorial thing, it’s just professional pride. And it’s a huge benefit to customers.
Understanding the local area, the property types, the one-way systems, traffic flow at certain times of day (for example when schools are finishing or in the case of Wimbledon or The University Boat Race, certain times of year) is key for any removal firm to do their job as efficiently as possible.
5 Top Tips for Moving House in West London
- Check your calendar. There’s always loads going on in and around the area, but some times of year are more hectic than others. Do yourself a favour and don’t move house while Wimbledon, the University Boat Race or the Chelsea Flower Show are happening. You should also check the fixture lists for QPR, Chelsea and England Rugby.
- Have a clear out. This is solid advice for any house move, but when you’ve got to contend with those infamous architectural quirks of west London properties, less is more. For things you don’t really want or need, find a local second hand furniture shop to take the stuff off your hands. For stuff you might want to keep but don’t want to move with, container storage is a smart move. Kiwi Movers have storage units in Chiswick, Richmond, Teddington, Kingston and Twickenham.
- Pack an overnight bag with essentials. When we hired a team of engineers to give us their advice on packing for a house move, one of the strongest recommendations made was to keep essential and irreplaceable items separate from the rest of your stuff. This means you can access it quickly when you need it, without having to rifle through all your carefully packed boxes. This bag may include medicine, passport, plasters, toiletries, and anything you think you’ll need in a hurry.
- Pack a ‘first-open box’. This will contain a kettle, teabags, coffee, UHT milk, biscuits, snacks, toilet roll and anything you’d make an emergency dash to the shops for if you’d run out.
- Be prepared for the unexpected. Your first night in a new home, even if it’s just a few streets away, will be exciting. But unexpected things – like lost keys, illness, plumbing issues – especially if your home has been vacant for an extended period of time – can happen. If you don’t know the area, it can be especially stressful trying to get things sorted.
To that end, here’s a list of extremely useful services in west London if you’ve just moved house.