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San Jose Named Most Unaffordable City; What That Actually Means

in Bay Area Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

It might surprise you somewhat, or it might not, that the most unaffordable city in the United States is right in our backyard, literally. The most unaffordable city is San Jose.

So what does your money buy you in San Jose?

Well, let’s start with the least expensive single family home. The good news is that there are some homes that are listed for sale at less than $500,000. That, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll sell for under half a mil, but it’s a starting point.

The least expensive single family home is listed at just $349,000. It has four bedrooms and two baths and is described as a “contractor’s special,” which means it needs a lot of work.

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For something a bit more move in ready, there’s this four bedroom, one bath, which is listed at just $459,999.

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This one bedroom, one bath condo is listed at just under $300,000. It’s small, but a bargain at today’s prices.

The most expensive single family home is a modern, light-filled six bedroom, 10 bath property on what is described as one of the Bay Area’s most prestigious streets. According to Realtor.com:

Located on one of the most prestigious streets in the Bay Area, Dry Creek Estate is simply a work of Modern Art. The to be built new construction will stand in at 6 Beds, 10 Baths, 6,600+ SQFT, and fit for modern royalty. The gracious floor plan includes 2 Masters on the 3300+ SQFT 1st Floor & 2 Masters on the 3300+ SQFT 2nd Floor. 6,000+ SQFT underground garage is an automobile aficionado treasure chest. The sun soaked 3,000+ SQFT Rooftop Deck features a Hot Tub & Views. The bells & whistles continues to impress including a Lap Pool, Wine Cellar, Rec Room, Pro Gym, Home Theater, Chefs Kitchen, & so much more. The Glass Elevator takes you from your Ferrari to your Roof Deck. Its the Hollywood Hills in Silicon Valley. Architect Maurice Camargo expands dreams & expectations into breathtaking spaces. This 21st Century luxury marvel is a visionary masterpiece designed for the modern Silicon Valley homeowner.

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While the media likes to portray the Bay Area, and now specifically San Jose as out of reach for most Americans, there are still some bargains to be found — if you’re willing to do some work.

Featured image via David Sawyer/Flickr.

When NOT To Move With A Moving Company – Even When You May Want To

in Advice, Local moving, Posts by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

It might sound weird to talk about not moving with a moving company — on a moving company’s blog — but for some people, moving with a moving company may not be the best choice.

When not to hire a moving company.

For the vast majority of people, hiring a moving company saves time, money (your time is worth money) and backs, but for a handful of people, moving yourself is the answer.

If you’re young and your best piece of furniture is an IKEA hand-me-down (not that there’s anything wrong with IKEA), it may not be worth paying professionals to move it.

If you just have a few boxes to ship, don’t hire a mover. Ship them through the Post Office, especially if those boxes contain books. The books may take a few weeks to arrive, but since many movers charge by weight for long-distance moves, you will save a lot of money if you have a lot of books. If there are books you need right away, take them with you.

If you have a single piece of furniture or two, call movers, but know that with most, it will not be cost effective. Some may have a few cubic feet of space that needs to be filled, and coincidentally, may be going to your area. They might be able to make you a good deal, but for most, it would be cost prohibitive to move just a couple of pieces of furniture, unless, of course, they are valuable and need special protection. If so, by all means, call a mover.

If you are clearing a home from a hoarder, don’t call a moving company until the home is cleared. Movers must have a safe place to work and when movers are contracted to pack, they pack everything they see. Sure, you could pay movers to help sort, but there are companies that specialize in hoarding situations. Any moving company would be happy to help once everything is at least somewhat organized.

Why Does It Take So Long For You To Deliver My Goods To Another State?

in Long-Distance moving, Moving Costs by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Perhaps the biggest complaint movers get (other than about dishonest scam artists ripping people off) is that it can take weeks and sometimes more than a month for goods to be delivered across country.

It makes sense. You could drive across country in a matter of days. Moving trucks aren’t exploring the sights. They aren’t stopping at cool restaurants and they don’t have time to admire the world’s largest ball of yarn.

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So why does it take so long for your goods to be delivered? Well, it’s a bit complicated.

I’m sure you’ve driven behind a semi-truck on the highway, only to be frustrated at having to go so slow. While most can go a lot faster (and many do), it’s unsafe and driving too fast can cause rollovers and worse. Isn’t it better that your furniture arrive safely than not at all?

Drivers are restricted by the numbers of hours they can drive. It’s a confusing formula (drivers can drive 11 hours in a 14 hour period following 10 hours of being off duty), but let’s just say they are legally only allowed to drive about 11 hours a day.

Semi-trucks are more susceptible to weather. While most are equipped with chains in case of icy roads, under many circumstances, it’s simply dangerous for a semi-truck to be on the road. A large snowstorm could delay them by hours or days.

Road conditions and speed are just a tiny portion of it, though. The main reason your truck may take days or weeks is that your shipment will likely not be the only one on it. A semi-truck will hold the equivalent of about three two-bedroom homes. More if the homes are smaller and less if they are bigger. Let’s say you are moving to Florida. There might also be a shipment that’s being dropped off in Arizona and another in Texas. They might pick up a load or two in the Carolinas.

There is a way to ensure that your shipment will get there sooner, and it’s to pay more — often a lot more. Most movers will offer you the option of an exclusive shipment, but that means regardless of the size of your shipment, you will have to pay as if it takes up the entire truck.

Featured image via Wikimedia.

Are You Ready To Move Into A Tiny Home?

in Bay Area Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

If you spend any time watching home channels on TV, you probably think the tiny house movement is the rage. On one level, it makes a lot of sense. Tiny houses are cute as all get out and with the cost of housing in the Bay Area, going small could mean the difference between having a place to live and not.

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Ben Chun/Flickr” width=”960″ height=”643″ class=”size-large wp-image-10167″ /> Image via Ben Chun/Flickr

Tiny home owners typically go in with a budget ranging from $20,000 to $60,000, but for that, people don’t get much and they don’t get the land. According to Forbes, the average per square foot cost ranges from $200 to $400, which is a bargain when you consider that Bay Area home prices can go for upwards of $1,000 a square foot. The only problem is that the tiny houses rarely come with land.

Still, if you are looking to minimize your environmental footprint or if you want portability, a tiny home might be perfect for you — as long as you go into it with your eyes wide open.

There is no track record on tiny homes, so don’t look at a tiny home as an investment. The resale value might hold, but it might not.

Every tiny home buyer knows that they have to downsize to fit into a tiny home, but they may not know to what degree. For many tiny homes, there is no closet space for even dresses (they are often too long for the miniature closets). Big shoe collections have to go and while many who are drawn to tiny homes are outdoorsy, there’s very little room for skis, rock climbing equipment, surf boards and other outdoor gear. Storage units across the country are filled with not-quite-ready-to-be-thrown-away belongings of tiny house owners.

That’s not to say going tiny is a bad thing. If I were single, I would consider it. I love cozy surroundings and I love the idea of being able to afford a home that’s completely renovated and made to look exactly the way I want. With a husband, two dogs, a cat and a lifetime of belongings though, it would be a big mistake.

It’s Time To Move Out Of Your Apartment; How To Get Your Security Deposit Back

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

Whether you’ve lived in your apartment six months or six years, there’s sure to be some signs that yes, someone has lived there. Perhaps the carpet is a bit worn, perhaps there is a small stain on the hardwood floor or some holes in the wall. While a landlord legally needs to expect some wear and tear, it’s sometimes a struggle getting them to accept that fact. The best way to guarantee you’ll get your deposit back, other than abiding by the terms of the lease, is if you leave your apartment in the best condition possible — and that means cleaning.

The last thing you want to think about as you’re about to enter your next life adventure is cleaning the place you’re leaving behind, but for the cash, it’s definitely worth it. Fortunately, the American Apartment Owners Association has released a checklist for getting your apartment in shipshape. Frankly, it’s a helpful list for your spring cleaning as well.

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You can download the list for free here.

This isn’t the time to cut corners. One in four renters never get their security deposits back. Interestingly, it seems there is more pressure for women to keep a clean place than there is for men. While many lost their deposits for reasons like breaking the lease, many lost theirs for inexplicable reasons.

The biggest reason for landlords withholding security deposits was a tenant moving out early, according to the survey. Almost half — 44 percent — of renters ages 18 to 24 and 33 percent of men who responded to the survey cited breaking the lease agreement as the reason they didn’t get their security deposits back. Nine percent of women and 3 percent of men in the survey of 1,000 respondents said that they lost their security deposits because of pet damage.

But the most alarming statistic: 36 percent of respondents said that their landlords offered no explanation at all for why they were withholding security deposits.

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Fortunately for renters, California laws are pretty much on their side, with some exceptions, and cleaning is one of them.

In California, there are only four reasons why a landlord may withhold a security deposit: to cover unpaid rent, to clean the rental when a tenant moves out, to repair damages caused by the renter, or to replace furnishings (only if the lease agreement explicitly states that this is allowable).

With our exorbitant rents, it’s definitely worth it to spend a few additional hours, even if you have to hire someone, so you get back what’s rightfully yours.

Featured image via Pixnio.

Where To Find Free (Or Almost Free) Boxes

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

If it’s been a while since you’ve moved, you might have forgotten to factor in one major cost, the boxes that protect and organize everything you own.

Now, if the movers are packing for you, the cost of the boxes will automatically be calculated into the estimate, as long as you’ve chosen a reputable company. If you are packing for yourself, though, the movers may or may not mention packing materials (which include paper, tape and markers) but you have choices:

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Where can I get free or inexpensive boxes?

1. Buy them from the movers – This is definitely the easiest way, but it may not be the cheapest. Advantage, the movers will deliver them to you for free, and yes, they take up a lot of room in a car.

2. Ask the movers if they have any used packing material – Used boxes can be risky. They often come damaged, but generally, the used boxes you get from moving companies will only be sold (or sometimes given) to you if they are in good condition. Still, with any used boxes, check for damage, including water damage, tears and cleanliness.

3. Check sites like Craigslist or Nextdoor – They usually have free boxes, but again, be careful of the condition.

4. Home Improvement Stores – Home improvement stores like Home Depot have a lot of packing supplies and at reasonable prices.

Whatever you do, do not get used boxes from the grocery store. Even if you can find some that have lids (most don’t these days), they are likely damaged and have been at least damp if not downright wet.

As for the quantity of packing materials you need, your mover will be happy to help you, but Moving.com has a handy calculator that is a great place to start. Who knows? If you ask your mover, they might also be able to get you a great deal.

Featured image via Nicolas Huk/Getty Images.

Get To Know Your Neighbors In A Place Where No One Knows Their Neighbors

in Your New Home by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Technology is amazing. Social media enables us to make friends across the world. Texting enables us to send people a quick “thinking of you” or get up to date without sacrificing too much time. Smartphones give you constant access to your emails. What may be lost in all of this, though, is face to face communication, and especially communication with your neighbors.

About 1/3 of Americans have never met their neighbors. This has gone up from about 20 percent during the 1970s. While for many, especially for those who are introverted, or perhaps just busy, that doesn’t sound like a bad deal. You could, however, be missing out. While your neighbors may or may not be friends, there are a lot of advantages to at least getting acquainted.

As different as you might be, you and your neighbors have one very important thing in common. Obviously, you both live in the same neighborhood. While apps and social media sites like Nextdoor are great places to exchange information, for things that are specific to your block or to your front yard, there’s nothing like personal interaction.

Since it’s no longer expected to meet your new neighbors, finding an opening might seem a bit less organic, but really, all it takes is a smile and a wave. When I moved into my home, I knocked on the doors on either side and across the street. Since then, I’ve become on a first name basis with two other homes. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but if my house incurs a break-in or if one of my dogs gets out, I know I can enlist my neighbors for information, if not for help.

It does sound a little old fashioned, but some homemade food goes a long way. Of course, there are many dietary restrictions these days, so when in doubt, a basket of fruit can win over even the most reclusive neighbors (or at least it can help).

Inviting them over for dinner, a barbecue or coffee is a great ice breaker, or perhaps you can ask for restaurant suggestions and take them out for a meal.

Children, of course, are natural conversation starters. Ask about local parks and activities, and maybe what to beware of. If your children are close in age, introduce them. Let them take it from there, though.

Even if your neighbors don’t end up being close friends, you might end up having someone who can keep a spare key for you or help out in a pinch. At the very least, they’ll be someone who will return your mail that’s accidentally delivered to them.

Featured image via Pexels.

The Three Weird Things You Probably Don’t Think You Need To Pack In Boxes

in Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

It’s moving day. You take one last glance around your home before the movers arrive, just to make sure that you haven’t forgotten to pack anything. All you see is a sea of cardboard and your furniture. You’re good, you think. There are three things, though, if you are like many moving customers, that you have likely forgotten to pack, and even if you did remember them, how exactly do you pack them?

No, you don't need to pack your cat.  Image via Douglas O'Brien/Getty Images.

No, you don’t need to pack your cat.
Image via Douglas O’Brien/Flickr
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Here are the three things most people don’t even know they need to pack:

1. Lamps – Lamps are one of the most commonly forgotten items when it comes to preparing for moves. While some metal lamps might be tough enough to go unpacked, if a lamp can be dented or broken, you want to put it in a box. Even if your lamp is made from sturdy metal, you still want to remove the lightbulb and pack that. To pack a lamp, either ask your mover for help or use a dish pack or a specially designed lamp box. For standing lamps, tape two of the boxes together to make one tall box. Wrap the lamp very carefully in paper or in cloth (moving blankets are perfect). Stuff any extra space in the box with paper and pick up the box and lightly shake to make sure there is no movement inside. If not, you’re good to go. Just seal it up. If so, add more paper then seal the box.

2. Pictures and mirrors – Unless you are moving a picture that is virtually indestructible, every single picture or mirror in your home should be in a box. Smaller pictures can fit in dish packs or smaller boxes, as long as they are well wrapped. Bigger pictures, though, need their own boxes. You can buy picture/mirror boxes from your mover and they can fit up to two pictures. As with lamps, make sure they are very well wrapped and that the packed box has no room for movement.

3. Mattresses – For many, mattresses are among their most expensive pieces of furniture. Some movers require mattresses to be in bags (easiest) but some require boxes. It’s recommended that you let the movers take care of your mattress. If you find a mover that says a mattress doesn’t need to be packed, find another mover. That’s how mattresses become dirty and torn.

Before you panic, the good news is that all of these items can be taken care of for a relatively nominal fee from your mover.

The Healthiest Real Estate Markets Are Right In Our Backyard

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

While Bay Area real estate is still some of the most expensive in the country, the market has been slowing down somewhat. Still, some markets are healthier than others, and as it turns out, two of the healthiest real estate markets in California are right in our backyards.

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The healthiest market for home sales and for home values is Fremont. Fremont is even affordable, at least with Bay Area wages. The average Fremont homeowner spends only about 22.5% of their income on housing costs. That’s good news in a country where many spend upwards of half their income on housing. Still, the median home value in Fremont is pushing $1 million, which means incomes must be equally healthy.

The fourth healthiest market is San Jose, where people spend about 21 percent of their income on housing. Their homes are somewhat more affordable, but still out of reach for most Americans, at $862,800. So again, expect to need a good salary to not be house poor.

For both Fremont and San Jose, homes sell in fewer than 25 days on average, so expect bidding wars if you are buying or selling in those cities. In the 7th healthiest market, though, a home will spend even less time on the market. In Oakland, people spend just over a quarter of their income on housing with a median home value of almost $680,000.

While only three Bay Area cities made it into the study’s top 10, it’s fair to say that those three cities at least partially represent the market as a whole. The housing market here is still healthy, at least for a while.

How To Deal With Stressed Out Pets During The Move

in Posts, Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson 1 Comment

Moving is stressful on everyone, but far too often, our pets, while they are family, are afterthoughts when it comes to the move. Of course, you are busy planning the move and probably packing, but with just a little time and preperation, you can ease the transition and help alleviate stressed out pets.

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1.

Use a crate

If your pet will use a crate, the crate will be your best friend during the move. It’s comforting for pets, like their own little safe den. It also keeps them out of the way when the movers are doing their jobs — if you don’t have another place to take them.

2.

Make time every day

Pets are very intuitive. Even if you haven’t started packing, they tend to know something is up. Once the boxes come out, they start freaking out. Tired pets are less stressed pets, so take some time every day to exercise them. Yes, a dog walker can help, but your pet wants to spend time with you. Play games with your cat. Spend 30 minutes to play fetch with or walk your dog.

3.

Make alternate arrangements for moving dayArrange accommodations at your new home

If you are moving out of the area, it’s best to make arrangments in advance for pet care people. Companies like Rover.com can arrange for pre-screened people to take care of your furry loved ones, whether for just the moving in day or for help while you work.

5.

Plan carefully for the actual move

If you are moving within the area, transporting your pets is relatively easy. If you are moving out of state, it’s sometimes best to drive them, but that’s not always possible. Nearly everyone has heard of flying pets, but it’s become controversial, sometimes undeservedly so. Transporting your pet by air is generally quite safe, but there are companies that specialize in shipping pets. Here is some good information on flying pets.

Featured image via Flickr.

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