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Use Halloween As An Opportunity To Get To Know Your Neighbors

in Your New Home by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

At Ninja Movers, we love Halloween, however, today’s Halloween isn’t much like when we were growing up. Trick-or-treating is less and less common and people know fewer of their neighbors. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Even if you live in a neighborhood where trick-or-treating is a rarity, you can still make your home festive enough that maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to dole those fun-sized Snickers out to someone else instead of to your own waistline. Here are a few things you can do:

Make your house inviting – Turn on the porch light and have some decorations – the more, the better. A few pumpkins and some dollar store decorations should be enough. If you are artistic, carve some great faces on the pumpkins. If you’re not, no one will complain if they’re plain.

Talk to the parents beforehand – Take this as an excuse to introduce yourself to the new neighbors. Let them know that your house will be open to trick-or-treaters, but don’t be too pushy. That will come off as creepy. Just tell them something like, “Obviously, I don’t know much about Halloween around here. Just in case, I bought a lot of candy. You and your kids are free to come by.”

Give the good stuff – You might have been that kid that liked candy corn and those weird peanut shaped candies (what were those things?) but most kids don’t. Most kids do like chocolate, though and spring for the name-brand stuff. No one wants chocolately coated generic candy. Don’t give out dental floss or even pennies. Homemade treats, while well intentioned, will likely end up in the trash. The best idea is to have an assortment of name-brand candy and let the kids choose for themselves.

Be wary of allergies – Most parents will inspect Halloween loot bags before letting their kids dive in, but it’s not unheard of for a kid to grab a piece or two while on the streets. The most common food allergy is to nuts. Offer some candy that doesn’t include common food allergens. Dark chocolates without nuts are often safe, but you should check the labels. If that’s a little too risky for you, offer some non-food items like stickers and fun pencils. Kids with food allergies might understand receiving raisins or dried cranberries instead of candy.

Have a party – A kid friendly Halloween party is a great way to get to know the neighbors. Set up a small haunted house. Serve some Halloween themed treats and you are set to be the most popular Halloween house on the block.

Eating From Paper Plates And Other Annoyances Of Moving

in Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

 

 

 

No matter what, moving will upend your life. Usually, it’s for the better, there are always inconveniences you won’t anticipate.

1. Eating on paper plates – In your eagerness to pack the most time-consuming things, your breakables, you pack away all your dishes.

2. Indigestion from too much takeout – You also packed your pots and pans.

3. On the other hand, trying to empty the fridge and pantry – if you aren’t tired of canned peaches now, you will be.

4. Gauging food consumption – Do you risk running to the store every day for a quart of milk or do you suck it up and buy a gallon, risking having leftovers on moving day?

5. That last load of laundry – Do you do a load on moving day or do you move dirty sheets and clothes?

6. What to wear – Planning your moving week wardrobe can be tricky, especially if you have to work. Otherwise, some jeans, sweats and some comfortable shirts should do it.

7. Entertainment – The books and games are packed. The TV is in its box and it probably is best to arrange the cable and internet hookup on days either before or after your moving day. Oh, well, music is better for packing anyway.

8. Firewood – Unless you have a lot, some things are best left with the new inhabitants.

9. All those magazines you’ve been collecting – Come on, it’s the 21st century. Scan the articles you want and recycle the paper, unless they are collector’s editions, and really, almost none of them really are.

10. Trash – Take it out or trust me, the movers will pack it. Remember, the old adage, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. It’s not a mover’s job to make a judgment call and yes, people do use trash cans as packing containers.

For most of these quandaries, there is no right or wrong answer. Of course, it’s less of a problem when the movers pack for you, but there will still be some loose ends. The best advice I can give is leave a few needed items out until moving day and hope that you can balance the rest.

10 Things You Might Not Think About Before Moving – But Should

in Local moving, Long-Distance moving, Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

It’s fairly easy to find advice on the obvious aspects of moving, like packing or hiring a mover, but there are several things that most people don’t think about and they can make the difference between a predictable and even pleasant move and a moving disaster. If you follow these few tips, your move might not be perfect, but you could be saved a lot of headaches.

1. Talk to your cities – You should contact both your current city and the city where you are moving. You should also speak to your management company or landlord if you rent and your homeowner’s association if applicable. Many cities and neighborhoods have ordinances regarding where moving trucks can park and what hours they are allowed. Some require permits. Be as specific as possible and exaggerate the time needed – it’s always better safe than sorry.

2. Talk to your neighbors – Many vigilant neighbors are on-guard for things like moving trucks. They are common tools of burglars. Neighbors can be very helpful during a move, even if it involves small things like them allowing the truck to block a part or all of their driveway. You also want to make sure that the street in front of your home is as clear as possible. That might require asking your neighbors to move their cars.

3. Try to schedule your move outside of rush hour – Most movers charge a flat fee getting to your move and returning from your move (unless you are moving out of your metro area), but you will be charged for the time traveling between homes.

4. Prepare your electronics – Always back up your computers. If you are packing your own electronics, remove CDs and DVDs. They are best packed in their original boxes with the original packing material, but you should always make sure they are packed securely and that nothing can move.

5. Prepare your appliances – If you have gas appliances, they should be disconnected by a professional. Most moving companies can recommend a profession to service your appliances. All appliances should be emptied and cleaned. Remove shelves and drawers from your refrigerator.

6. Make sure your appliances are compatible with your new home – Not all homes have gas lines for dryers or for ranges. If not, you might have to either install a gas line or purchase new appliances.

7. Don’t pack items that can’t be moved – The general rule of thumb is that if it’s flammable, corrosive or explosive, a moving company can’t move it. You can move non-corrosive cleaning fluids, but even those are prone to leak. They are best either left behind or transported in your own vehicle in a plastic container. Return your propane tank to the store. Some stores will be able to issue a certificate for an exchange in your new city.

8. Don’t pack small valuables – You should move all valuable jewelry, money and papers yourself. Valuable art and antiques can be handled by a reputable mover.

9. Measure the rooms and doorways in your new home – Often, people move their home full of furniture only to find that their oversized sofa or refrigerator simply doesn’t fit – either in the room or even through the door. If you have concerns as to whether your furniture will fit through the doors, contact your moving consultant. It could require a visit to your new home or at least a few measurements.

10. If possible, get rid of the children and the pets for the day – If you can have your children and your pets stay with family members or friends for a few hours, you might save yourself and the movers a lot of headaches. If you don’t have friends and family that can help, you can always contact child care and pet day care facilities. If that is out of the question, keep them out of the way as much as possible.

 

Government Shutdown Could Delay Your Move Indefinitely

in Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

 

If you aren’t employed by the government and you have no plans on visiting national parks, it’s easy to think the government shutdown won’t affect you, but if you are trying to move into a new home, it might. Because the IRS is one of the agencies affected by the shutdown, your mortgage company might not be able to approve your loan.

The government shutdown could derail Cristina Bravo Olmo and Brett McBee-Wise from buying their dream house, a 99-year-old Craftsman in Rockridge. Before the sale can close, Bravo Olmo must finalize the sale of her one-bedroom condo in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley to a buyer who offered a bit more than the $699,000 asking price.

“We went through all sorts of inspections for the place and finally got over that hurdle,” Bravo Olmo said. “We thought the stressful part was behind us.”

But then came the shutdown.

“That put the brakes on,” she said. “The buyer cannot get her loan processed because her lender requested IRS documents and there is no one there to provide them.”

Source: SFGate

The holdup was because of a single document from the IRS – the 4506-T tax verification receipt to verify the buyers’ tax returns. The IRS is also used to verify Social Security numbers.

First-time home buyers will also be affected. The Federal Housing Administration is operating at a skeleton staff. Some lenders are authorized to issue FHA loans without the agency, though.

Even more potentially wide-spread for Bay Area buyers, though, is the fact that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is closed. For those looking to buy a home in a flood-prone area, FEMA’s closure could prevent buyers from getting flood insurance, which may be required to close the loan.

Rural home buyers will also be affected. The Department of Agriculture, who provides loans for rural properties, is also shut down.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are running as usual, but with a bit of a risk. If, after the government is open, they find out that the borrowers’ documents don’t match IRS records, they might have to repurchase the loans.

The longer the government is shutdown, the longer it will take to deal with the impending backlog of requests – potentially delaying closings by days, weeks or even months.

Some sellers are delaying putting their homes on the market until the government is back up and running, since the pool of potential buyers is dwindling to those who have cash in hand.

 

What Is A Moving Consultant?

in Moving Costs by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

For some people, moving is more time consuming than it’s worth, even if they hire a mover to do virtually everything. However, when you need to move, you need to move. If you are short on time, perhaps you should consider hiring a professional moving consultant.

Preparing for a move is time-consuming. You have to hire the mover, which should mean that you are making the time to research, make phone calls and invite the three finalists to your home to give you a written estimate before eventually hiring one.

For the super-busy, all of that can be narrowed down to one phone call if you hire a moving consultant.

Moving consultants come in a few varieties. The most common work for a single mover. There is an optional federal certification process for moving consultants through the American Moving and Storage Association, but very few are independent. The certification does ensure some credibility and very few fly-by-night companies bother.

The second type of moving consultant works with several moving companies and they are paid a commission by the moving companies. Certification is not a legal requirement, and it is better to choose someone who has the certification than someone who doesn’t. Despite the fact that they are paid by movers, reputable moving consultants will only work with reputable movers. Despite the fact that moving consultants are paid a commission on your move, they can save you money. More on that in a bit.

The third type of moving consultant is paid directly by the customer – you. This type of consultant might cost you a bit more, but their only loyalty will be to you. Besides, a good moving consultant will save you money.

The fourth type of moving consultant works for a corporation who relocates employees.

Moving consultants should be expert at mover speak. They know what hidden charges to look for and they know where prices can be cut. They also know that certain situations allow room for negotiation, such as flexibility on pickup or delivery dates.

A moving consultant can organize the packing and in some situations, even the unpacking. Movers should have enough trust in a moving consultant’s expertise that the consultant can relay the details of your move to the mover – saving the hassle of multiple movers visiting your home.

Finding a moving consultant isn’t always easy. The down economy has forced most to go to work for individual moving companies. On the other hand, the down economy and lack of industry regulation has created a cottage industry of people with no experience thinking they can make a living as a moving consultant.

You can find a certified moving consultant through the American Moving and Storage Association, but most will work for moving companies and while that certification does look good on a moving company’s resume, most experienced moving estimators know as much or more than certified consultants (I speak from experience – I used to be certified). But, certification is an excellent place to start when looking for a consultant who is not tied to a moving company.

You can also check with your real estate agent or with Yelp or Angie’s List.

The best relocation consultants come from either the moving industry or they have been corporate relocation consultants. Demand a relocation consultant’s resume and check it out.

 

How To Decorate On The Cheap (VIDEO)

in Decorating by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

It’s funny how moving your old stuff in a new home can make your new place feel like home, but it can also make it feel a little empty.

If time and patience are more prevalent than money, you might be surprised at the beautiful results you can find at thrift stores and dollar stores.

What Is A Moving Broker And Should You Use One?

in Moving Costs by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

In 1980, the moving industry was deregulated. Before that, there were a handful of household names that dominated the moving industry. After deregulation, consumers had a lot more choices, but they also faced a lot of fly-by-night companies with no federal oversight.

Soon after deregulation came another specialty – moving brokers. While, in theory, moving brokers can be a way to separate the wheat from the chaff  – the good guys from the scammers, the reality is that many, if not most brokers have made it more difficult for customers to find good moving companies.

If you go online and fill out a form that offers three moving quotes, you are contacting a broker. They might tell you that they have pre-screened each moving company that they work with, and they might have, but the amount of screening can vary tremendously. Some might check for valid licensing. Very few go beyond that.

Most brokers work with hundreds of smaller moving companies across the country. They collect customer “leads” and distribute them to around three or so of their customers. The moving companies pay them for this service. You will then be contacted from the three moving companies and there is where you’ll be able to differentiate between good brokers and bad.

With a good broker, you’ll always know the names of the moving companies they are sending you. Even if you are moving out of state, your mover should be local and you should ask them if they are performing the move. Many times, a broker will send you a local mover to do an estimate, but send you an out of state company to perform the move.

Hiring a broker doesn’t eliminate the burden of doing your homework. You want to thoroughly research each and every moving company. Far too often, fly-by-night companies get all their business through brokers. Brokers are typically not responsible for anything that happens during or after the move. Check the mover’s licensing yourself. Check their reputation on Yelp and check with the Better Business Bureau. Ask each mover if they will be handling or at least taking responsibility for the move and get that in a written contract. Many legitimate movers subcontract some services, but they always take full responsibility. Here are more tips on choosing a mover.

In general, going through a moving broker is a risky approach. Most do not provide onsite estimates. Most give just general information to each moving company and the companies bid based on very limited data. For example, they might only know that you have two bedrooms and two baths, but they don’t know that you have stairs leading to your home or that you have a lot of belongings.

A binding or guaranteed price is very rare through a broker and even if they do provide it, there are so many caveats that it will almost always be broken. The ONLY way to get a truly guaranteed price with a mover is to have the mover do a complete, onsite inventory.

In the end, a moving broker might seem like a convenient way to choose a mover, but it really doesn’t save you any work. It’s just as easy to log on to Yelp.com and pick highly rated movers and do your homework from there.

 

 

New California Program For First Time Home Buyers

in Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

If you are looking to buy a home, but are finding the down payment requirements a little daunting, there may be some assistance available to you through a new program in California.

The California Housing Finance Agency (CalFHA) is offering a new fixed-rate mortgage program with no-interest down payment loans for first-time home buyers. The best thing about the loan is that you don’t have to pay it back till you either sell your house, refinance it or pay it off.

The loan is capped off at 3.5 percent, which is the minimum down payment amount for an FHA loan. Further assistance might be available through the California Homebuyer’s Down Payment Assistance Program, which can provide up to an additional 3 percent of the home’s value.

Still, with median home values in the Bay Area capping half a million dollars, first time home buyers might not be left with a lot of options.

But that doesn’t mean you’ll be out in the cold. As median real estate prices in San Francisco have now risen above $1 million, city renters are fleeing across the Bay where prices might not be that much cheaper, but you get more space for your buck.

Christine Englund and Dean Charlton migrated from the city to the East Bay because she got a dream job in San Ramon.

“Our house in West Portal is in one of the foggiest neighborhoods in town; 2 miles up from the ocean, you’re totally socked in for the summer,” Englund said. “It’s a two-bedroom one-bathroom, with a little yard, just 1,500 square feet.”

Listed at $799,000, the house got 12 offers and sold in late May for $1.025 million. “We hit just the right time,” Englund said. “Interest rates were still a bit lower than now and inventory was so tight in San Francisco.”

Source: SFGate

You can get even more bang for your buck if you move to less family-friendly, but economical parts of Richmond or Oakland.

Shana Tovah Or Happy Rosh Hashanah From Ninja Movers And The Muppets

in Uncategorized by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

UnknownThe Jewish year 1 Tishrei 5773 begins this year at Sundown Wednesday, September 4th and ends on September 6th. Ninja Movers would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year, a Happy Rosh Hashanah and Shana Tovah. Enjoy this video from the Muppets.

How Moving Costs Are Calculated – Part Four (International Moves)

in Uncategorized by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

It doesn’t take me to tell you that moving overseas is a bit more complicated than moving down the street.

An overseas move typically requires months of planning, including paperwork, finding accommodations and even getting inoculations. No matter where you’re moving, getting through customs is rarely a hop skip and a jump and it can be even more complicated for your belongings. That’s why it’s important to choose a mover who is familiar with customs in each country. For example, Ninja Movers is particularly expert in moves to Israel. We know the country. We know the ports and we know the customs. We can even suggest neighborhoods in many cities and villages.

The first thing you should do before moving overseas is figure out what you really need. Remember than American houses tend to be much bigger than in other places throughout the world. Your 96 inch sofa might not fit in other homes.

Before deciding to leave most things behind, however, you might want to inquire about the cost of replacement. In many cases, appliances are much more expensive than they are in the U.S.

That being said, you want to stick with the necessities. If you are moving to a place that doesn’t have winter, leave the winter clothes behind. Don’t take unnecessary furniture or accessories that might end up being useless in your new home. Many people, if they are going to be overseas for a limited amount of time, choose to rent a furnished home. In which case, belongings can be stored by your moving company while you are overseas.

Once you’ve decided what you are taking to your new country, as usual, you should contact three moving companies for estimates. The upside to overseas moves is that pricing is very simple. Your goods will be shipped in either 20 foot or 40 foot containers. You will be charged for the size and number of containers you use. A 20 foot container will fit between a 1-2 bedroom apartment and a 40 foot container will fit a typical 2-3 bedroom house.

The cost for each container includes the cost of packing. That’s right. By law, the mover must inventory and pack everything.

Once the mover has packed and picked up all of your goods, they will take the truck to the port, where they will pack the container. Organizing overseas moves is typically delegated to the most experienced of moving crews since the packing and inventory must be meticulous.

The hardest part of an overseas move is the wait. Because your items are being moved by ship, it can take several days to cross the ocean. Then, it can take time getting through customs. An experienced mover will make sure that all paperwork is in order, but that doesn’t always mean that border agents will cooperate. There is usually no reason to worry, though. Even though border agents might take their time, they will release them. You are generally talking about weeks, not months.

Some, but not all moving companies work with local moving companies at your destination. Make sure you are very clear on how your goods will get to you at your new home. At Ninja Movers, we make all those arrangements, but not all moving companies do.

If you are in a big hurry for part or all of your shipment, air transportation can be arranged but it’s much more expensive.

See How Moving Costs Are Calculated – Part Three (Short Hauls) 

See How Moving Costs Are Calculated – Part Two (Long-Distance Moves)

See How Moving Costs Are Calculated – Part One (Local Moves)

 

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