Recently we wrote about startup Moveline, which helps New York City homeowners make the moving process more efficient. Today NYC-based Unpakt is launching a similar platform aimed at simplifying moves in New York City, which allows people to plan and book their move. Launched by the team behind FlateRate Moving, Unpakt lets homeowners create an online inventory of their household, and compare pricing from moving companies, which have all been screened and approved by the team.
Founder Sharone Ben-Harosh previously founded NYC moving company FlatRate Moving 21 years ago, and has long offered a fixed rate moving cost (meaning no additional charges after the fact based on actual time taken, unforeseen challenges, etc.) to customers based on the shipping industry’s standard of translating volume and conditions into a formulated price. Ben-Harosh said he wanted to apply the same idea of a set price upfront based on a variety of a customer’s move details to an online startup. “We want to give a great online experience, a transparent experience, and the ability to compare prices and to actually control your move,” he said in an interview.
Every moving company featured on Unpakt has been pre-screened, and their licenses, insurance and customer reviews are available online for customers to see. Each company operates on the same upfront pricing model, which is determined by a number of factors including inventory list, services required and moving date. Movers enter all the specifics of their pricing into a form, and then create sample jobs to compare their in-house pricing system with Unpakt’s pricing to make sure they’re charging the right amount. They can then compare their pricing to other movers in Unpakt based on that sample job, and they can adjust it based on comparative rates.
To get a quote customers specify where they’re moving from, where they’re moving to, the size of their space, and the date of the move. Then they outline the main items they’re moving (couches, etc.), how many boxes they expect to pack, and they can select specialty services like professional packing and unpacking, renting boxes, custom wooden crates, etc. As customers set their preferences the price updates dynamically based on their requirements and added services. Once all the details have been entered, customers can see the quotes available for that move, contact movers with any questions, and book online. “We developed that kind of formula over 20 years of actually doing it,” Ben-Harosh said about the flat rate. “We moved hundreds of thousands of people with the formula that calculated exact prices.”
The company currently has six moving companies on board for its testing period in NYC, including Ben-Harosh’s FlatRate Moving. While the service is only available for moves within New York City right now, movers will begin accepting city-to-city moves in the near future, and they will be quickly scaling up the number of U.S. and international moving companies on the platform so they can handle moves anywhere in the world. They hope to have 5,000 movers in 125 U.S. cities and 750 to 1,000 international markets in the next year and a half. Unpakt charges a 13 percent transaction fee to movers who book a job through the site.
In terms of competitors, Ben-Harosh said that there are several lead generation sites for the moving industry which allow customers to input their details and get calls with quotes from local companies. But he said that’s often more of a hassle, since they don’t walk away with a price, and have to chat with several companies to compare prices and services. “You have hundreds of sites that promise you can compare prices and book online, but when you put in your email, you don’t get a price, and someone is going to call you,” he said. “It’s more work than just doing it yourself.”
Direct competitor Moveline lets customers work with their team to take inventory of their belongings over FaceTime, and then provides quotes based on that inventory. It’s arguably a better system, since it ensures for moving companies that they won’t run into any unpleasant surprises with customers grossly underestimating their own moving needs and home inventory. Unpakt’s prices are based on the exact number of boxes and items homeowners need to move, which could change between the time they book the move and the time movers arrive – moving companies might not be so comfortable with Unpakt’s model if this happens consistently. Moveline also offers quote pricing guarantees, so that when you receive a quote online that’ll match what you pay on moving day.
With startups like Moveline and international relocation resource MOVE Guides gaining steam, it appears that the moving industry is experiencing a tech startup makeover. The challenge for all of these companies will be ensuring that the movers they connect customers with deliver great service, because like most other service-based industries, moving will still rely on word-of-mouth reviews to get repeat customers.