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How You Can (Almost) Have Fun On Moving Day – If You Can Afford It

in Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Who the heck has a fun moving day — well, you can.

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The first time you moved, you probably gathered a few friends, bought some beer and pizzas and loaded a pickup truck, or perhaps a rental truck, and hoped and prayed that everything ended up at your destination in one piece. Even if it didn’t, it wasn’t that big a deal.

Years or decades later, you’d be amazed at the number of people who still move like that, only now, muscles are tighter, backs are weaker, friends tend to be scarcer on moving day and you care a lot more about your belongings. Besides, isn’t it time you stopped busting your butt and had a *gasp* fun moving day?

For many, a sign of adulthood is hiring movers. Still, for most, watching their budget still limits what they can pay movers to do. While most of us are packing our boxes or cleaning our homes, we can’t help but fantasize about what rich people do when they move. Is it really so different?

The short answer to that question is yes, rich people do do it differently, but it doesn’t have to be all that different. Here are five things you can do to move like rich people and some of them might actually save you money.

1. Pay the movers to pack and unpack – Yes, this is a luxury, but not as much as you think. Packing and unpacking can about double the price of your move, but if you factor in the cost of your time, you might come out ahead, even if you aren’t rich.

2. Pay cleaning people – There is nothing more brutal than cleaning up years of dirt that’s been lodged behind your furniture, or the sudden realization that after a hard week’s work, you still have to spend hours cleaning. The solution is simple, though. Pay someone.

3. Go to a spa – This is the ultimate indulgence and will only work if you have someone you can trust at home supervising. Talk about a stress-free move.

4. Go on vacation – Yes, rich people do this. Who wants to live with upheaval if they don’t have to. Of course, you have to have a reliable person to supervise, which leads me to the last one…

5. Hire an independent moving consultant – This might be a little tougher. Most moving consultants work for moving companies, but to protect your interests, find an independent consultant who can look out for your needs. She can hire cleaners and painters and packers and even supervise the move. It will cost money to hire a specialist like this, but she could end up saving you money by using her expertise to hire only the most reputable movers.

You might not be rich, but really, if you spend a few bucks, all you will need to do come moving day is drive to your new home. Now, doesn’t that sound relaxing? Maybe you can even have a fun moving day.

Featured image via Obra Shalom Campo Grande/Flickr.

What’s With All The One Bathroom Houses In The Bay Area?

in Bay Area Real Estate, Decorating by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

While in the rest of the country, you might be able to buy a 3,000 square foot house for less than $500,000, here in the Bay Area, we’re lucky to get more than one bathroom in a 1,000 square foot house in am up and coming neighborhood. So, how does a family live in one of these one bathroom houses?

Bathroom_for_suite_-_Paris_Opera_Cadet_Hotel

It’s not impossible. With these tips, one bathroom can become manageable, although I’m not going to promise that two wouldn’t be better.

1. If it fits, add a second sink.

Many older homes (and let’s face it, most Bay Area homes are), have more counter space than sink space. If you have the room, add a second sink. The plumbing is already there, so it’s an easy fix for any plumber. It will, at the very least, enable one person to put on makeup and another to brush their teeth.

2. Build a wall around the toilet

Privacy on the toilet is often a priority among the closest of spouces, let alone entire families. A wall hiding the toilet can offer the privacy someone needs. If there’s room, consider a door along with a couple of walls. That would ensure total privacy and unless two people need to use the toilet at the same time, it solves all problems of privacy.

3. Think high

Most single bathrooms are small and lack storage space. Shelves can be a lifesaver. Build them high, which gives you the added bonus of fooling the eye to making the room seem more expansive.

4. Change your sink

Even if you don’t have room for a second sink, make the best of one by making sure it has storage. Pedestal sinks are a no-no when there is just one bathroom. The under sink storage is imperative. If you can’t afford a new sink, there are shelving units that are designed to o around pedestal sinks.

h2>5. Outsource

The only things that have to be done in the bathroom are, well, going to the bathroom and bathing. The rest can be done outside the bathroom if necessary. In a pinch, teeth can be brushed over the kitchen sink. Purchase bedroom vanities for putting on makeup and for drying and styling hair.

Believe it or not, large families in years past typically made do with one bathroom. Human needs haven’t changed, but the amount of stuff we have has. Minimize and be strategic. There will be challenges, but it can be done.

If You Plan On Selling Your Home, Do It Now; Here’s Why

in Bay Area Real Estate, Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

If you own a home in the Bay Area, congratulations. You own property in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas of the country, but ironically, the cost of real estate now may be why the cost of your home could soon tumble.

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According to a poll by the Bay Area Council, millennials are becoming fed up with the high cost of living in the Bay Area. 40 percent of them want to leave. That’s up from 34 percent last year.

The desire to leave the Bay Area was tied to how much of a person’s income went towards housing costs. Among respondents spending 60 percent or more of their income on housing, more than half are planning an escape. Other factors identified by survey respondents as serious include traffic, poverty and income inequality.

One insight the survey revealed was a generational gap in residents looking to depart for cheaper destinations. According to the survey, 46 percent of millennials saying they are looking to leave, leading all age groups. To (Bay Area Council President, Jim) Wunderman, that data doesn’t bode well for future economic growth, especially with big-picture economic indicators like job growth slowing.

“In order to effect meaningful change, we have to signal to the people who live here as well as people who are looking to the region that we’re ready to take on the challenges of making the Bay Area a place that feels like the future.”

Source: San Francisco Business Journal

None of this is particularly surprising. San Francisco is the second most expensive city in the country, just after New York. With average housing prices at nearly $3,500, it’s easy to imagine how people would become frustrated and want to leave our beautiful area.

The good news is, if you have a home, especially a house, outside the city, you might be hit slightly less if millennials start the exodus. Millennials without families tend to live either in San Francisco or in Silicon Valley, and generally in apartments. Still, if you are thinking of selling, now might be the time to do it.

The Five Best Reasons To Have Movers Pack For You, And Two For Why They Shouldn’t

in Posts, Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Saying that moving isn’t fun is right up there with saying that ice cream is sweet and that the sky is blue. It’s obvious. Even the most organized moving customers toy with the idea of letting the movers do everything, including pack. There are a lot of good reasons for it and maybe two reasons you might decide against it.

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It saves a lot of time – In a working household, packing can take weeks or sometimes even months. Professional movers can generally knock the packing out in a day. Think about it, you only have to live with mountains of cardboard for a day instead of weeks.

It saves a lot of mess – See above about the cardboard boxes. You can even pay the movers to unpack and haul away all the packing material. Now, doesn’t that sound nice?

It gets done right – I’m not implying you aren’t a good packer, not at all, but professional movers do it for a living. The best moving companies only allow their most experienced people to do the packing and their most most experienced people to pack fragile items.

Everything is labeled in a way the movers can understand – You might ask why you should care what the movers do or don’t understand, but trust me, clear labeling helps the move go a lot faster. If the movers pack the boxes, they will label them in a way that tells them how to load the boxes on the truck and where to place them in the new home.

There’s no question of liability – This one is not as important as it sounds, but it is important. When movers pack and something gets broken, you know where to point the finger. While liability is very limited, as per federal and state law, you might have insurance that ensures only against mover damage.

While all of this sounds amazing, why wouldn’t you want to have the movers pack for you?

It costs money – While packing is surprisingly reasonable, one of the ways movers suggest to save money is to pack yourself. Of course, you want to weigh the packing rate against the value of your own time, but if you find that you can afford to spend the time, do it.

Movers pack everything – Wait, is this a problem? It depends. If you use moving as an excuse to clear out a lot of clutter, professional movers won’t do that. They don’t know what you do and don’t want to keep unless you tell them.

Of course, there’s a middle ground. Many customers hire movers for what’s called a partial pack. Let them pack your breakables and you can save time and money and sort through the things you no longer want.

What To Do When A Move Goes Very, Very Wrong

in Moving Costs by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Moving, even with the best most experienced mover, isn’t an exact science. Sometimes miscommunications happen and sometimes, accidents happen.

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Clearly, the best movers won’t have as many miscommunications and accidents as the *well* less respected movers, but the true test of a moving company is how they treat you after they collect your money, not before.

The beginning of the move should set up the entire experience. The crew leader should present you with some paperwork. Essentially, it’s a contract that allows them to move you. It might contain the estimate you’ve already received (always get an estimate beforehand, preferably in person, especially if you have a large home). It’s called an Order for Service.

If any of the movers are rude or disrespectful, call the company immediately. If the mover’s attitude doesn’t make a quick turnaround, ask that he be replaced. It’s possible that they might have to change that mover out with one on another job, so if it takes an hour or two, that’s okay. Just ask that that mover work outside instead of in front of you.

Odds are, you won’t find damages or misplaced items before a mover leaves your home. When you do find them, document them. Before turning to Yelp and other review sites, call the company. Most movers want their customers to be happy. While the odds are you don’t have full replacement value insurance through the mover (this is available through private companies and it’s highly recommended — discuss it with your consultant), good movers will try to help in any way they can. As when talking to anyone, though, remaining calm will typically get you the furthest.

If you feel you were overcharged, contact the operations manager. He or she will be able to go through each and every charge. You should have an exact start and finish time on local moves. On long distance moves, you should have a copy of the weight or the cubic footage of your shipment. Typically, extra charges come from unexpected packing. Compare the amount of packing that the movers did to the amount of packing they were contracted to do. Did you pack everything, including pictures on the walls, lamps and electronics? Your moving consultant should have spoken to you about each of those items, but the bottom line is, if an item isn’t furniture (and in rare cases if it is), it needs to be in a box to ensure that it’s well protected. Even your mattresses and box springs will need to be protected during a move. If you did all of that, then by all means, find out where the discrepancies are.

If your goods are delivered late, it’s usually due to circumstances not under the movers’ control. Usually. Ask for an explanation, and again, remain calm. Movers make money by freeing up their truck space as quickly as possible, so there’s no reason for a decent mover to keep your goods longer than they absolutely need to, unless…

If you’ve done all of this and discussed any problems with the company, all to no avail, it may be time to file a complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission, or the Federal Department of Transportation.

Featured image via Pixabay.

Moving From A Big Home To A Small Home – How To Make It Work

in Storage, Your New Home by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

There are a lot of stereotypes about the Bay Area, some of them true, some of them not, but there is one truth: it’s expensive to live here and you don’t get a lot of house for your money. So, how can a person (or family) adapt to a small home without losing their minds? Here are a few tips:

Store stuff

— If your move into a smaller space is temporary, then by all means, store your extra furniture and things.

Sell stuff

— Sites like Nextdoor.com, Facebook and Craigslist are great ways to get some cash for your extra goods. You can also host a yard sale or sell to a consignment shop.

Look up

— You might feel horizontally challenged, but when it comes to small homes, the sky, er, ceiling is the limit. Hang pots from the ceiling above your stove. Build lots and lots of shelves.

Image via Amy Guth/Flickr.

Image via Amy Guth/Flickr.

Decorate in neutrals

— Neutrals with pops of colors tend to make a small space seem bigger.

Image via Modern Miami Furniture/Flickr.

Featured image via Modern Miami Furniture/Flickr.

Buy convertible furniture

— Sturdy ottomans can double as seats and many have storage. Sofa beds offer additional sleeping space without having to have an extra bedroom. Folding tables and chairs can be a lifesaver. A murphy bed allows you to hid the bed altogether.

Stop buying music and books

— No, I’m not suggesting that you stop indulging your music and reading habits. I’m all for those, just stop buying the physical versions. For books, use the library or download on a tablet. For music, downloads are just as convenient and take up no space.

Buy smaller furniture

— While a full-sized sofa might seem adult, how often do more than two people actually sit on it? Buy a love seat instead and you might be able to fit a chair that people might actually use. Buy a table for two or four with a leaf and folding chairs for extra guests. Buy a queen sized bed instead of a king. Think smaller and narrower when buying sofa tables, coffee tables and end tables, if you need all of those at all.

Move outside

— If you are in a house instead of an apartment, or if you have a deck, think of it as living space. Invest in outdoor furniture and you might be able to do all your entertaining outdoors.

Going small can be a challenge, but it can be a fun one. Just let your imagination lead the way. If you have any creative ways to make smaller living better, leave them in the comments.

Featured image via Wikimedia.

Why Would I Store My Stuff With A Moving Company Instead Of A Storage Facility?

in Storage by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

As the price of real estate rises, especially in the Bay Area, people often find themselves with more stuff than they have room. Sure, purging is great, but do you really want to get rid of that dresser your grandfather finished for you or the 12 boxes of toys your children have grown out of but you know will want in the future?

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Of course, I’m oversimplifying the uses for storage. Sometimes people need temporary storage while they’re waiting for a home to be built or remodeled or they have had a flood or just a visiting relative and no where for them to sleep. Regardless of why you need storage, deciding what kind of storage can be another story.

The most obvious choices are typically the ones you are exposed to the most. Most of us can pinpoint a self storage facility (the type with lockers) within a few miles of our homes, and they are perfectly reasonable storage solutions — for certain people.

There is another option for storage, though. It’s called warehousing storage and it’s usually offered by moving companies like Ninja Movers. There are advantages and disadvantages to warehousing and to self storage. Here they are:

Pickup and Delivery — Most self storage facilities don’t have movers. Most moving companies will do all the heavy lifting, but there is generally a charge, but you will be hiring professional movers and often at a discount. If self storage facilities have pickup and delivery services, they will also charge, but they will likely to be better described as delivery people rather than professional movers. Moving companies will protect your goods, as well and the protection will stay on while in storage.

Advantage: Moving company

Accountability — With self storage, you rent the room. The storage facility will generally offer cameras and security, but if something happens, it’s all on you. With warehousing, the movers will take inventory and tag each and every item. Your items may not be stored together, but the warehouse personnel will be able to locate every item within minutes. No sorting through your goods to find the thing that’s (always) at the very back. Also, there is limited liability from the mover and you can always purchase more insurance. Insurance companies often prefer that you store with movers because there is always a clear chain of custody.

Advantage: Moving company

Accessibility — Self storage facilities sometimes have 24 hour access and warehouses rarely do. Most warehouses will not allow you to rifle through your goods, but they will be happy to help you out — sometimes at a charge.

Advantage: Self storage

Security — As I mentioned, movers’ warehouses don’t just hold customers’ goods, they hold everything that keeps the movers in business. It’s to their benefit to have the best security possible, which usually includes cameras and guards. Most self-storage facilities also have cameras and guards, but a person who’s clever enough who has a code to get in the facility could enter your room without detection. It’s rare that it happens, but it does on occasion. More importantly, you don’t know what’s being stored next to you. All storage facilities have rules against dangerous substances or contraband, but since storage customers are mostly left alone, they are difficult to enforce. With moving company storage, your household goods would be stored next to other household goods. Period.

Slight Advantage: Warehousing

To be realistic, most storage companies offer excellent security. Whether to choose self storage or warehouse storage completely depends on your needs. If you need to access your goods on a regular basis, go with self storage. If you want out of sight and out of mind for at least a while, then choose warehouse storage.

Featured image self storage via Wikimedia | Featured image warehouse storage via Pixabay.

Is Solar Worth It For Your Home?

in Bay Area Real Estate, Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

You might now know it now, but California is one of the sunniest places the nation. The Bay Area is also home to some of the most advanced green energy companies in the world. There’s definitely a push to go solar, but is it worth it for you?

solar-power-862602_1280Last week, I wrote about ways to cut your energy costs, and I only briefly mentioned solar, because it’s not very cut and dried. If you are looking just to save money, solar may or may not be for you. If you are looking to save the environment, solar is a great option, especially in California.

The first thing you should do is find out if you’ll even save money. Google has a nifty tool where you just plug in your address and it estimates the savings, if there are savings. When I plugged in my address, it said I would be saving about $400 a year in electricity. It would be more if we added electric heat, hot water and air conditioning units. On average, if your electric bill is north of $100, solar may be the right choice for you.

Buying vs. Leasing Solar Panels

Installing solar panels can be costly. For my house, which is a split level, so it doesn’t have a lot of roof space, the estimated cost of solar panels would be a bit over $20,000 over a 20 year lease term, but if we were to purchase the solar system outright, it would cost about $15,000 less nearly $5,000 in current tax credits (so just about $11,000 out of pocket, which can be financed). If we purchased, it would pay for itself after about eight years. After 20 years, our savings will be about $17,000. Even if we finance, our monthly payments will likely be less than our electric bill would have been. If fact, PG&E could end up owing us money since they purchase any electricity we don’t use.

If you lease solar panels, you may not be able to take advantage of the tax credits and you may not get credit for any electricity you don’t use. So, why would anyone lease when they can buy? Because there’s no maintenance and you won’t pay for installation. Overall, though, your monthly payments will likely be at least a little lower if you buy instead of lease. Either will increase your home’s value, although the leased system would have to be transferred to the new owner.

Featured image via Pixabay.

Utility Bill Shock? Here’s How To Save Money

in Posts, Your New Home by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Over the last two (granted, colder than normal) months, our utility bills have nearly doubled and are significantly higher than this time last year. Why? What are we doing wrong?

There are many, many ways to save money on your utility bills and they range from quite inexpensive to quite expensive but worth it in the long run.

Featured image via Brendan Wood/Flickr

Featured image via Brendan Wood/Flickr

With our moderate temperatures, houses in California are notoriously unprepared for temperature extremes. Many homes have minimal insulation and some have none at all. Many homes are older and have wasteful windows, furnaces and other appliances.

Now, let’s start with the cheapest, and in many cases, free options.

1. Turn down the heat – Yes, it’s nice to have your home at a toasty 70 degrees all year around, but it can be expensive. A five degree difference can save you hundreds of dollars a year. Wear sweaters. In my house, it’s not uncommon to see me walking around in my bathrobe during the middle of the day. At night, turn your thermostat down to 55 or 60 degrees and pile on the covers.

2. Cover drafts – This isn’t the best looking alternative, but rolled up towels under the doors can make a big difference. You can cover those single-pane windows with plastic weather proofing to help the draft there. Covering your windows in plastic isn’t the most elegant solution, but it does make a difference on your comfort and utility bills.

3. Unplug – Even when off, many of your electronics continue to use electricity. Plug things that don’t need to constantly run (like your refrigerator) into power strips and when not in use, flip off that switch.

4. Get curtains or other insulated window coverings – Cover your windows in a more attractive, but somewhat more expensive way. Thermal curtains or other window treatments can save you hundreds a year.

5. Get Rugs – Wood and tile floors are cold and they have a tendency to cool the entire home. That’s why homes in hot climates often have tile floors. If you don’t want carpet, invest in some rugs. They will help preserve heat and they will keep your feet warmer.

6. Insulate – Here’s where things start go get expensive. Look to spend between $1.50 to $3.50 per square foot, so for a 2,000 square foot house, you could spend between $3,000 to $7,000 for insulation. Obviously, it won’t pay for itself during the first year but it will over time and it will help add to your resale value, as will these next two.

7. Get new windows – Your single-pane windows are a huge source of heat loss, and during the summer, heat coming into the house. On average, a good double-pane window will cost you about $500 – $1,000. For houses that have 20 or more windows, that can really add up, but it will save you a lot of money in the long run.

8. Get solar – This subject is a bit more complicated and can be expensive, but also a huge cost savings. Solar will be the subject of next week’s blog post.

9. Check with your utility company – Utility companies often offer rebates on energy efficient upgrades. Your first step is to invite them out to do an energy audit. They will tell you what’s eligible for a rebate and what’s not. They’ll also have some great tips.

Is The Moving Industry Really The Most Crooked In The Country?

in Articles by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

For the last couple of decades, the moving industry has suffered from a bad case of public relations blues, some of it earned, some of it not. Between horror stories shown on network TV, websites like Movingscam.com and this Newsweek article from last month, it’s no wonder truck rental companies are so popular. Is this reputation deserved, though? The facts say no.

Image via Wikimedia.

Image via Wikimedia.

The American Moving and Storage Association is the trade association for the moving industry, so yes, they are biased, but at the same time, it’s in their best interests to ensure that the companies represented by them are top notch. They responded to the blistering Newsweek article. Here’s some of the response:

“In response to the Dec. 9 article, “Why the Moving Industry Is Filled with Fraudsters and Scam Artists,” millions of Americans move every year and the vast majority of professional moves end with satisfied customers. While there are criminals in every industry, their actions should not be used to unfairly smear the nearly 200,000 Americans—ranging from small family-run businesses to national van lines—who work for the professional moving and storage industry.

This story bears no relation to the wildly inaccurate headline attached to it. Only a couple of victims and a couple of fraudsters or scam artists are referenced, with none of the moves taking place in the past four years. This is hardly evidence of an industry “filled with” this problem.

Let’s look at the facts. According to data from the National Consumer Complaint Database, there were 3,030 complaints nationwide about household goods moves in 2015, while there were 364 complaints about “hostage loads.” These are a tiny fraction of the 800,000 interstate moves estimated to occur annually by the U.S. Census.

This in no way disputes the fact that yes, there are scam moving companies and they make us all look bad, but most are unlicensed and most are companies that are only around for a year or two. It’s true, anyone can buy a truck and call themselves a mover, but real movers have to go through steps, like licensing, that helps ensure that they will obey the laws.

Of course, every moving company has unhappy customers. Trucks break down, delays happen, sometimes things get broken and occasionally, left on the truck, but most moving companies have honest intentions.

That being said, it’s always good to do your homework. Take a look at the sites above and make sure the companies you’re looking at are properly licensed and they have decent reputations. Yelp is also a big help. Protect yourself, but don’t feel that hiring movers is too risky. There are bad apples in every industry, but overall, the moving industry is pretty safe.

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