Your Move, Their Headache
White Glove Service for Your Move
By JULIE SATOW JULY 11, 2014
New York City is always shifting, as new people arrive with suitcases stuffed with hope and ambition, replacing others who have packed up and moved on.
It’s now a distant memory, but the transience of our city was once a collective experience. For some 300 years, on every May 1, practically all city dwellers would chuck their belongings onto pushcarts and horse-drawn carriages and haul them to a new home.
But when housing shortages gripped the city in the 1940s and rent control as we know it was implemented, Moving Day — a Colonial holdover grounded in the English celebration of May Day — faded into oblivion. And while we no longer move en masse, the majority of New Yorkers continue to rent, and move, frequently.
As many of us know, the experience is rarely enjoyable. There is the physical exertion of packing and unpacking; the disappointment of finding broken dinner china or cracked piano legs, and that feeling of dismay when you survey your worldly goods reduced to a truck full of cardboard boxes. It would certainly be a relief to simply walk out of your old house and have it replicated, down to the order of your spice rack, somewhere new. And it turns out that for those who are willing to pay, Walt Disney was right after all: Dreams do come true.
In recent years, a number of companies have cropped up that promise to ease the hardships of moving, for a price. Don’t like the screeching sound of packing tape as it is forcefully unfurled from its roll? FlatRate Elite, the luxury division of FlatRate Moving, offers a “low-noise” version for up to $150 additional per move. Hate to call the cable and gas companies to inform them of a new address? The company offers a liaison that will do it for you for just $500 a day.
Would you rather just decamp entirely, swapping the sweltering city for frozen margaritas on the beach? NouvelleView will act as your proxy, for $180 an hour, managing everything from taking an inventory of your home, to creating a budget and interviewing moving companies.
“We oversee every aspect, from the initial strategic plan to seeing that every box is unpacked,” said Pamela Muller, a principal and an owner of NouvelleView, which charges $6,000 to $9,000 for an average-size job; its most lucrative client rang up $25,000 worth of services.
To Stephanie T. Foster, an experienced mover, and a fixture on the society circuit as a trustee of the Asia Society and a managing director of the Metropolitan Opera, NouvelleView is “a godsend.” As with many of us, her moves have often been “hideous experiences,” she said. “Haven’t you heard the phrase ‘death, taxes and moving?’ “
Mrs. Foster, who worked for nearly two decades on Wall Street, began using NouvelleView in 2009, shortly after marrying the financier John Foster. The couple were relocating to a new apartment together and undertaking the complicated process of combining their furniture.
“My husband had the ideal bachelor set up,” Mrs. Foster said. “He collected Ming dynasty furniture, so in his dining room he had a wooden
throne,” for which he had built a special platform and even installed lighting. “I told him, ‘Darling, if you can sit on the chair comfortably then it can come with us, otherwise it has to be put in storage.’ “ The chair, which dated to the 17th century, failed to pass the comfort test and was soon placed, along with other pieces from his collection, in special temperature-controlled storage.
NouvelleView, which doesn’t actually move anything but rather just coordinates the move, also itemized and cataloged all the Fosters’ belongings, providing the couple with a digital record. “It is extremely helpful, not like having boxes in a dark basement that are stuffed with 50 dining room dishes and a lamp shade,” Mrs. Foster said. “This is a complete inventory, so you know exactly what you have, and if you move to a new home, you can say to yourself, ‘Ah, I could use that piece here, it would fit perfectly.’ ”
Most of NouvelleView’s clientele hire a traditional moving company to handle the bulk of the items, and then specialty movers to pack up the fine art and collectibles. Ms. Muller says she is now working with a client who is moving out of a six-bedroom home and paying $40,000 for the regular movers, $42,000 to the fine arts movers and then the additional NouvelleView fee.
Fine arts movers are notoriously costly. “I always say to clients that we are the most expensive in the business,” said Michael Jaque, a director at the shipping company Gander & White. For residential moves, the company’s prices range from $15,000 up to $100,000. “Most clients think that packing and moving can be done in one day,” he said, “but the reality is that even with a small two-bedroom, the minimum is usually 5 to 10 days.”
For those who want extra care taken with their property but don’t have the stomach to shell out $100,000, FlatRate Elite uses an à la carte menu: Clients can buy services like a carpenter to build custom crates, with prices starting at $120 apiece, or a car service to drive them to their new home for a minimum of $200. The company also takes photos of bookshelves and kitchen cabinets, so that when it unpacks customers’ things at the new home, it can put them back in the same exact order it found them.
“It isn’t like someone who loads up a truck with delicate oil paintings and then lets it sit there moldering away,” said Sara Cassis, who hired the company several times. Frequent movers, Mrs. Cassis, who is a partner in a women’s clothing line, and her husband, John, a health care venture capitalist, are using FlatRate Elite for an upcoming move to a three-bedroom apartment near the United Nations, from their current home on Central Park South.
Cassio Alves, of San Francisco, an estate manager for a celebrity author whom he declined to name, also uses FlatRate Elite for his employer’s moves. “I deal with a lot of art handlers, but they have a very specific expertise,” he said. “When I do a move, I move art pieces and antique furniture to dresses and underwear, and I need someone that can handle all of that.” Mr. Alves paid $6,500 to $9,250 when moving two- and three-bedroom apartments for his employer.
It is little surprise that high-end moving companies and other ancillary services are growing in lock step with the city’s increasing stock of luxury condominiums. But while some may point to the trend as yet another sign of a frothy, overheated market, there is a practical side.
Next time your lease runs out and you face a dreaded move, perk up. For just a few thousand dollars more, you can hire someone else to do all the heavy lifting and then some.
A version of this article appears in print on July 13, 2014, on page RE1 of the New York edition with the headline: Your Move, Their Headache.
© 2016 The New York Times Company