When I moved into my first apartment, it was in Westmount, Montreal. Not in the fancy part, but on the more grungy side on the notorious St. Catherine's Street. The stove was broken and I had cockroaches. The second flat I moved into was on Nun's Island.
Upon moving in, there were dirty boot prints from the moving company that had moved out the past tenant. I did not fare much better in Vancouver where it took almost four months for the landlord to fix a defective lamp in the bathroom.
Don't underestimate the handover cleaning in Switzerland...
My first Swiss apartment in Winterthur was located in an almost new building. Everything was flawless, the taps sparkled and all the appliances worked. Two years later, I left this dream flat for Zürich. Everyone told me that I needed to hire a professional cleaning company for the handover cleaning. Nonsense, I retorted.
I am orderly, and a meticulous cleaner. So I went to a hardware store, bought 400 francs worth of cleaning products and took a week and a half to clean: The bathroom (even removing the toilet seats and steam cleaning them), the shutters, the dishwasher, above the cabinets and behind the washer and dryer.
It was spotless - or so I thought.
At the handover, the new tenant pointed out a few things she was not happy with - some streaks on the windows and dust behind vent covers I did not know could be removed. I tried to do the touch up work but was told that professionals would have to do it, and for a good price.
This incident tied up my deposit for three months and ended up costing 600 francs. If I had just listened to my friends, I would have saved 40 hours of my life, had my deposit right away and had spared the embarrassment.
Why I did not hire someone to begin with? Because the prices seemed too high (1200 francs was the lowest I was quoted) and I thought I could do it by myself. Couple that with the fact that my movers were poorly coordinated and therefore charged me an extra couple hours.
I learned the hard way that moving in Switzerland is not fun. Or, if you try to do it on the cheap and on your own, it is much harder than you would expect.
Same story, different person.
My story is not original. In fact, Laurent Decrue, one of the founders of MOVU, had a similar experience. He tells the story of his family’s moving experience and the time they hired a "professional" moving firm. The estimates were based on detailed walkthroughs and the Decrues picked the company that seemed most competent – at the best price.
(Photograph copyright MOVU)
On moving day, the truck volume had been undercalculated and another truck had to be called in.
There were not enough movers, the whole process took until midnight (with the family’s help) and the cost was more than anticipated. Even when done right, the process of moving house seemed a hassle. Laurent imagined what it might be like for most people. – and came up with MOVU.
MOVU is the all-in-one Swiss moving broker.
The idea of MOVU quickly gained the attention of venture capitalist Stefan Schärer. With some seed funding, the start-up was on the way. The idea was to create a sort of Expedia for moving: A single web portal providing all the services required for moving, from movers to cleaners, discounts on new furniture, voice and internet services, rent deposit insurance and renters insurance.
On MOVU, all the services are centralized (no more Googling around!), and more importantly, vetted. The movers are all legitimately registered businesses with proper insurance for when they accidentally break that antique vase you inherited from you great-aunt Martha.
Tenants are given a single contact at MOVU and do not need to coordinate among multiple service providers. And best of all, there is a price guarantee. No extra costs after the cleaning or moving is done. (I wish these guys had been around five years ago!)
A start-up with value
Each year, some 400’000 households move in Switzerland. That is more than 30’000 a month, with peaks at the end of March and September. These periods were once official moving dates in Switzerland, though no one is legally bound to move on these dates.
It is standard to have a three month notification period for which the renter is obliged to pay the rent should no new renter is found. With this type of demand for moving related services, the business model of MOVU is clear: Reoccurring revenues and the possibility for expansion into other European markets.
The ratings demand ever better service quality for customers. With just a few dozen companies offering their services, MOVU continues to add new companies that offer yet more value while removing weaker ones. (It is a little like the UBER rating system gets rid of bad drivers.)
Getting up to five estimates is simple: Fill in a questionnaire or upload a video of your flat and wait for offers from movers and cleaners. No need to book time off work or miss social events to meet with them all individually. The web makes it possible.
As for my next move...
After meeting the team of some 22 employees here in Zürich, I know that I will be using MOVU when it comes to my next apartment move in Switzerland.
Another team of 10 in Serbia is plugging away at improving the offerings and web experience, so who knows what they will come up by the time I find that perfect 3.5 bedroom, 80 sq meter, newly renovated top floor apartment in Zürich Wipkingen for no more than 2200 francs per month...
(This article has been supported by MOVU)