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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)

 

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

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

ninja_truck1

Short hauls, or moves less than about 250 miles or within the same state from the origin, are, in the eyes of a moving company, sort of a strange breed. They are a hybrid between a long distance and a local move.

Unlike with a long distance move, a short haul is typically delivered in the same truck and by the same crew as when it was picked up. With long distance moves, you generally have to wait days or weeks for delivery (because shipments need to be consolidated) but with short hauls, delivery is typically made the next day.

However, unlike with a local move, short hauls are not charged by the hour. They are charged similarly to how long distance moves are charged – by a formula of weight and distance. If a moving company tries to charge you by the hour for a short haul, run as fast as you can. It’s one thing to run into a 30 minute traffic jam between San Jose and San Francisco. It’s quite another to run into a several hour traffic jam between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

You also want to avoid companies that charge by volume. There are too many variables in the way movers can pack a truck and frankly, there are too many ways to cheat a customer if they are paying by volume.

Since you are being charged based on the weight of your items, it’s imperative that you have a representative of the moving company come see everything that is being moved. Ask your moving estimator if he or she can give you a guaranteed or binding price.

If you do need storage between pick-up and delivery, most moving companies have that service available – at an extra charge. You will also have to pay for the time involved in unloading and reloading the truck, which is normally done fairly quickly.

 

 

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

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

See How Moving Costs Are Calculated – Part Three (International Moves)

 

 

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

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

970963_10152049856778065_1353210290_n-1In theory, no matter how far you move – whether it be across town or across country, the moving process doesn’t change. Your home is packed and then loaded onto a truck. The truck drives to your new home and then the items are unloaded into your new home. In reality, however, distance does make a difference.

A long distance move is generally defined as one that crosses state lines and is more than 200 miles away. From a moving company’s perspective, there are two main things that distinguish a local move from a long-distance move – the way the move is billed and the way it’s delivered.

A long-distance move starts very similarly to a local move. A crew of movers pulls up to your home. They might be driving a semi-truck, but more likely, they will be driving a smaller truck. As your items are prepared for the move, however, the process changes a bit.

With a local move, the truck is exclusively yours. You see the items being loaded and you see the items being unloaded. It’s very straightforward. With a long-distance move, unless you have a large home or if you pay a fee for an exclusive delivery, you will be sharing a truck with other customers. For that reason, it’s imperative that the movers take a thorough inventory when the truck is loaded and that they will check each item off the inventory when the truck is unloaded.

Obviously, it’s more time consuming to take an inventory, but that’s okay. Unlike with local moves, you are not paying for time. With long-distance moves, you are paying based on a formula that calculates pricing based on weight of your items, the distance they will travel and the amount of packing that needs to be done. There might be extra charges, like a bulky fee or a piano handling fee, but typically, weight, distance (with fuel) and packing are it. If either of your homes are not accessible by a semi-truck, you will be charged a shuttle fee.

Some moving companies will try to charge you for volume instead of weight. The best advice that can be given if you encounter one of these companies is to run and run fast. When you are being charged by weight, you are entitled to follow the truck to the weigh station and receive a copy of the weight ticket. When you are being charged by volume, you have no such assurances and you will be charged if the mover is inexperienced at efficiently loading the truck.

Avoid over the phone estimates with long-distance moves. There are far too many variables. It’s always best to get a not-to-exceed or binding price, so there are no surprises at the end.

Ask who will be delivering the move. Your goal is not to get the names of the actual people, but the name of the company. Many movers outsource their long-distance moves to other companies. In fact, even big-named van lines (e.g. United, Atlas, Allied, Bekins, etc) cooperate with local agents for long-distance moves. If you need a guaranteed pick-up day or if your home is not accessible for a 53′ semi-truck, you will be charged for a shuttle and your home will be packed and loaded by a local affiliate (or agent) of the van line. The van line will pick them up from the local agent. You’ll want to check the reputation of the local agent as well as the van line.

If you need a guaranteed delivery date or if your new home is not accessible for a semi-truck, you can expect a shuttle and possible storage fee on the delivery end as well.

Like with local moving, all items that aren’t furniture should be packed. Make other plans for plants. Movers will typically not take plants across state lines and even if they do, it’s unlikely they will make the trip alive.

It’s not uncommon for long-distance customers to need storage while they find a home in their new location. Most movers are able to offer this service. Some will give you 30 days of free storage, some will not. Make sure you are very clear on storage pricing since it can add up quickly.

Whether you want your delivery as soon as possible or you want some storage in between, your household goods will most likely go through some extra steps. They will be unloaded into the mover’s warehouse and then they will be loaded onto the semi-truck that will take them for the long-haul. To protect your goods, the movers will check the inventory list each step of the way.

Because of these extra steps, it’s always a good idea to purchase extra insurance. Federal law only covers your items for $.60 per pound per article. In other words, if a 20 pound LED TV breaks, you will only be covered for $12.00. Movers should offer insurance if your homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover the move or allow you to purchase a rider for the move.

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

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

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

 

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

in Local moving, Moving Costs by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

You’ve done your due diligence. You’ve gotten three estimates for your move, but why do they look so different?

The reality is, they shouldn’t look so different. All reputable moving companies will follow the exact same formula for estimating your move and the exact same formula for your final charges.

There are four types of moves – local, short hauls, interstate and international. Each of the four types of moves have different formulas in the way they are charged. But, despite that, calculating the cost of a move is not all that complicated.

Over the next four weeks, we will analyze types of moves and the types of estimates you will receive. 

If you are moving locally, your move will be charged by the hour. Of course, your mover might choose to cap or guarantee the price, but ultimately, that cap or guarantee will be based on the number of hours the move will take. You will also be charged for packing.

It’s recommended that if your home has more than three rooms, you should have a mover come inventory your home.

If you are looking at three estimates that all list a different number of hours, don’t fall into the trap of choosing the estimate that lists the fewest hours. Sure, some people might physically move faster than others, but at the end of the day, no matter who does the move, it will take approximately the same amount of time.

You will be charged based on the number of movers and the number of trucks. Fewer movers will not mean a cheaper move. As a matter of fact, unless there are so many movers that they are tripping over each other, shorting a move on movers typically ends up adding to the cost of the move, simply because efficiency goes down. On average, it requires approximately three to four man hours for every room in a home, without packing. If there are two movers, it will take about one to two man hours per room. If there are three, about one.

Obviously, these numbers are only averages. If your home is relatively empty, it will take less time and if you have a lot of items, it will take longer.

You might find more variables with packing, but they should be fairly easy to navigate if you keep these few facts in mind:

All items that aren’t furniture should be packed. You can pack them yourself or you can pay the mover to do that. You will be charged for material and the time involved in packing will be charged by the hour.

Of course you know that all clothing, linens, decorative items, dishes and cooking utensils need to be boxed but when I say that all items that aren’t furniture should be packed, I am referring to all electronics (including TVs), mattresses, lamps, framed pictures and mirrors. These boxes can be purchased through your mover (who generally delivers for free) or through box supply stores.

The more packing is required, the more the move will cost, but professional packers will pack much faster than most homeowners. Most full packs and moves will be completed within one to two days – as opposed to weeks of packing for most homeowners. Professional packers also do a much better job of packing than most people, helping to ensure the safety of all breakables and ensure that everything is well-organized.

Still, packing choices are a matter of priority. If budget is more of a concern than time, the first piece of advice most moving consultants will give is to pack for your own move.

If nothing else, many, if not the majority of customers, have the movers pack difficult to pack items.

If you are finding huge discrepancies between estimates, break them down based on what you now know and question companies. Are they willing to guarantee (or “bind”) their too-good-to-be true estimates and even if they are, ask yourself if you are willing to risk having movers who are rushed and possibly even sloppy and grumpy, because they know that they won’t be getting paid what the move is worth. If the difference is between an hour or two (on larger moves), that’s probably not worrisome, but it’s always a good idea to get a guarantee on even the most realistic estimates.

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

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

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

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