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How To Tip Movers (And Everyone Else)

in Uncategorized by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

It’s the end of a long day of moving. A tired crew leader hands you the final paperwork to sign and you are more than willing to pay for a job well done. The crew has worked unbelievably hard. They listened to everything you said and everything is now safely in its new place. So how do you reward the movers for a job very well done?

Most reputable movers have a strict policy against asking for tips. Tipping should be voluntary, but it is customary when your movers have done a good job for you. So, how much should you tip?

A good rule of thumb is to pay $5.00 per mover per hour. It’s the crew leader’s job to divide the tips and for most companies, if the crew leader doesn’t divide them equitably, it’s a firing offense.

If you are moving locally, you can tip at the end of the move. If you are moving long distance, you will probably have two separate crews. You should tip when the truck is loaded and again when it’s unloaded. If that amount takes you above your budget, that’s fine. Remember, tipping is voluntary and whatever you can afford will be appreciated. Even $20 per mover is acceptable. It’s also acceptable to order the crew a pizza or sandwiches during the move.

But what about other services? How much and when should you tip? EmilyPost.com has some great guidelines.

Most waitpeople make very little money (as low as $2.13 an hour). Generally, you should tip between 15-20% before tax. *Note for single people: One of the (many) things that attracted me to my husband is that he is a VERY generous tipper.

Home delivery people should be tipped between 10-15%.

Bartenders, about $1.00 – $2.00 per drink.

You can ignore the coffee shop tip jars, but if you go there often, feeding the jar might ensure some extra special treatment.

Valets should be tipped between $2.00 – $5.00.

Beauticians and estheticians should be tipped between 15-20%.

Anyone who carries your luggage (including skycaps, doorman, taxi drivers and bellhops) should be tipped $2.00 for the first bag and $1.00 for each additional.

Taxi drivers should be tipped between 15-20%.

It’s appropriate to tip anyone who goes above and beyond their normal job.

 

 

San Francisco on its Way to Being Most Expensive Real Estate in U.S.

in Uncategorized by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Throughout the country, the economy is improving, but it seems that in many ways, the Bay Area is leading the country. According to reports, the real estate values in the Bay Area will be seeing double digit spikes over the next year.

A recent forecast from real estate analytics firm Veros predicts that residential real estate prices in the San Francisco and East Baymetropolitan areas will spike an average of 12.7 percent by June 2014. The company attributes the projected increase to the region’s low unemployment rate and scant housing supply.

Veros also forecasts robust growth for the Los Angeles and San Jose metropolitan areas, which placed second and third on the list with expected price gains of 11.6 percent and 11.1 percent respectively. The news comes less than two weeks after the California Association of Realtors announced that home-price gains in the state reached highs not seen since 1980.

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According to reports, by this time next year, the Bay Area will have pretty much recovered from the real estate crash and may be on its way to property values above those at the peak of the bubble.

Part of the rise in housing prices might be due to an international influx. From 2005 – 2009, about 71,000 people moved to the Bay Area from other countries.

Some experts are concerned about the rapidly rising housing prices. The double digit rises in property value are reflective of the the early 2000s, before the crash. Credit requirements have tightened but mortgage derivatives (where mortgages are sold to investors in blocks) are still being sold with few or no regulations.

Still, it’s a great time to be a homeowner in the Bay Area. The job market is strong. We have one of the most highly educated population in the world and of course, the weather can’t be beat.

Moving Day Playlist

in Uncategorized by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

One of the toughest parts of moving day is getting motivated. One of the best ways to get motivated, no matter what your activity, is with music. At Ninja Movers, we’ve listed some of our favorite moving related songs (if you don’t get too literal). Like most moving days, some of the list is a bit sentimental and melancholy. Some of it is just meant to get you moving. Have fun!

  1. “Rise To The Sun” by Alabama Shakes
  2. “Let’s Get It Started” by the Black Eyed Peas
  3. “Get The Party Started” by Pink
  4. “Another Town Another Train” by ABBA
  5. “Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen
  6. “Bound For Glory” by Tedeschi/Trucks Band
  7. “Break It Down Again” by Tears for Fears
  8. “Bust A Move” by Young MC
  9. “Calamity Song” by the Decemberists
  10. “California Dreaming” by the Mamas and the Papas
  11. “Come Fly With Me” by Frank Sinatra
  12. “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” Ke$ha
  13. “Don’t Go Back To Rockville” by R.E.M
  14. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds
  15. “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green
  16. “Going To California” by Led Zeppelin
  17. “Hit The Road Jack” by Ray Charles
  18. “Home” by Depeche Mode
  19. “I Feel The Earth Move” by Carol King
  20. “Into The Groove” by Madonna
  21. “Last Train To Clarksville” by the Monkees
  22. “Learn To Fly” by the Foo Fighters
  23. “Leaving On A Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul & Mary
  24. “Long And Winding Road” by the Beatles
  25. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem
  26. “Many Rivers To Cross” by UB40
  27. “Midnight Train To Georgia” by Gladys Knight and the Pips
  28. “Move” by Beyonce
  29. “Movin’ Out” by Billy Joel
  30. “Never Going Back Again” by Fleetwood Mac
  31. “No More Looking Back” by the Kinks
  32. “No Stopping Us” by Jason Mraz
  33. “Nobody Home” by Avril Levigne
  34. “On The Road Again” by Willie Nelson
  35. “One Headlight” by the Wallflowers
  36. “Refugee'” by Tom Petty
  37. “Something In The Way She Moves” by James Taylor
  38. “Strangers In The Night” by Frank Sinatra
  39. “Throw It Away” by Joe Jackson
  40. “Truckin” by the Grateful Dead
  41. “Trying To Pull Myself Away” by Glen Hansard
  42. “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” by Wham
  43. “We Got the Beat” by the Go-Gos
  44. “Welcome To The Jungle” by Guns and Roses
  45. “Where The Streets Have No Name” by U2
  46. “Wide Open Spaces” by Dixie Chicks
  47. “Your House” by Alanis Morissette
  48. “You’re Gonna Miss This” by Trace Adkins
  49. “Starts With Goodbye” by Carrie Underwood
  50. “Kiss And Say Goodbye” by Joan Osborne
  51. “Closing Time” by Semisonic

What to do if you’re Moving out of the Country?

in Uncategorized by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

As you might imagine, moving internationally is a bit more complex than moving within the U.S. Even if you speak the language, moving to a foreign country can present you with challenges you might not have expected. While you want to make moving company arrangements as soon as possible, it’s actually the last think you want to do. Before contacting a moving company:

1. Find out where you’ll be living – Yes, that sounds obvious, but remember that in most countries, homes run much smaller than in the U.S. Your new place might be furnished or it might have very little room for large American furniture. Closets are also much smaller. Between that and the change in climate, you might find that you don’t need to move much of your wardrobe.

2. Find out if you’ll need your car – It is possible to move your car overseas, but it could be costly. Many countries have excellent public transportation. For many, large cars can be very impractical.

3. Check the country’s immigration requirements. – Make sure that all visas and other paperwork are in order. If you have pets, find out what the country requires. Most countries have lifted their pet quarantine requirements, but they do have strict policies regarding immunizations and parasites. Many require that the vaccinations be administered months in advance. Many countries require that pets are micro-chipped. Children and even adults may have vaccination requirements as well. Many countries require proof that you have money in the bank.

4. Figure out what you are moving – If your move is permanent, you might consider selling or giving away some of your furniture. If it’s temporary, long-term storage might be a solution.

5. Find a moving company – Overseas moving takes a bit more skill than a local or even an interstate move. Every item must be inventoried and packed with precision. Because of terrorism, it’s illegal for customers to pack their own items. Then, typically in the moving company’s warehouse, the items will be placed inside what’s called a “lift van,” or waterproof container that is made of wood, metal or fiberglass. The moving company will not actually be transporting your goods overseas, but they will transport them to the port and then load the overseas container.

Overseas containers come in two sizes – 40′ and 20′. If your shipment doesn’t fill a container, you will still be charged for the entire container. You will also be charged for any costs incurred through customs, insurance and delivery in your new country. Companies who are experienced with international moves will be able to arrange for delivery in your new destination. Your moving company will also be able to arrange storage for the items you want to keep in the U.S.

The vast majority of international moves are transported via ship, which can take weeks and sometimes months. You can plan on additional time for your goods to clear customs. It’s a good idea for you to make temporary arrangements until you and your possessions can be reunited.

If you need more immediate delivery, it is possible to transport many items via air, but it is extremely expensive.

What to do with the Kids on Moving Day

in Uncategorized by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Moving is an emotional experience. Even when life’s changes are positive, it’s not uncommon to see adults let stress get the best of them or even break down in tears. One can only imagine how much more stressful it is for children – who have no choice in the fact that they are losing their rooms and even their friends.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to help ease the transition and even to make moving day fun for the kids – all while keeping them occupied while you direct the movers.

1. Put them in daycare – If your children are young, perhaps the best thing is to get them out of the way. Send them to a friend’s or family member’s house or put them in daycare.

2. Involve them – Ask the movers if the kids can take a quick tour of the truck (they probably won’t be able to ride in it for liability reasons). Give them a box or two and let them pack some of their non-breakables. Let them pack a suitcase with “necessities,” which might include favorite toys and stuffed animals, toothbrush and toothpaste, favorite books, and pajamas.

3. Have them decorate their new room – Hopefully, they’ve seen their new room, but if they haven’t, draw them a picture on architectural drafting paper. Even better, at many craft stores, you can buy magnetic room planners, complete with furniture-shaped magnets. Let them show you how they want to arrange their furniture.

4. Send them shopping – Give them a limited amount of money and instruct them (with a babysitter) to buy something for their new room.

5. Resurrect the lost art of letter writing – Most kids have never received a letter. Think about that for a moment. You can change that by giving your kids some stationery and a few forever stamps. Have them call or visit their friends and create an address book.

6. Journal – Buy your kids a journal and let them write about their feelings and experiences.

7. Scrapbook or create a photo album – Let your kids create a visual journal of both their old homes and their new.

8. Send them to hang out with their friends – If they are old enough, give them enough money to treat their best friend to a movie or a trip to a favorite food place.

9. Send them on a photo expedition – Give them a camera (and adult supervision, if necessary) and have them take pictures of all their favorite places and people. If they are too young, let them take pictures of the house and of the move as it progresses (make sure they stay out of the movers’ way). Visual memories of your children’s old home will help them describe it to their new friends and they will cherish the pictures for a lifetime.

10. Send them on a scavenger hunt – This will take a little planning on your part. Hide trinkets with clues at various locations throughout the yard and neighborhood. Have the hunt send them to friends’ houses so they can say proper goodbyes.

How to Move Heavy Furniture Without Killing Your Back (VIDEO)

in Uncategorized by Wendy Gittleson 1 Comment

The movers are gone. After looking around your new home – where everything is placed exactly as you had directed – you decide that it’s just not right. Absent those highly capable men (and women) you just sent on your way, how do you move heavy furniture?

I am barely 5’2″ and I have moved many pieces of furniture all by myself. My first piece of advice is to prepare yourself before the need arises. Shell out a few extra dollars on move day and buy a couple of the blankets that are are used to wrap your furniture. They will probably cost you between $15 and $25 each and they are well worth the investment.

If you don’t have any moving blankets, old sheets or blankets will work. In many cases, a few small pieces of a cardboard box is all you need.

The first thing you should do is measure. There’s no point moving a heavy piece of furniture to a place where it simply won’t fit.Then you should empty shelves and drawers, to make the item as light as possible.

Put small squares of cardboard underneath each leg of your furniture. You’ll find that even the heaviest piece of furniture should slide with ease. Squat a little and use the power of your legs. Your back will thank you for it. If you can get a good grip, pull rather than push. The power of physics will back you up. If the grip is awkward, pushing will be easier.

Better yet, put that moving blanket or sheet under the furniture and simply pull.

If it’s still too heavy, put broom handles under two sides of the furniture for makeshift rollers.

If you need to maneuver some stairs, lay your furniture down on a moving blanket or sheet. Make sure there is some extra blanket and pull or push – depending on whether you’re going up or down the stairs. You’ll want two people for this one to hold the piece stable on the downside of the stairs.

If you have tools like hand trucks, dollies and straps, then by all means, use them. Here’s a short video giving you some tips.

Of course, it’s one thing to move a piece of heavy furniture across the room. It’s an entirely other thing to move an entire household. There’s a reason that most movers are young and fit. Even with tools, it can be back breaking work.

Bay Area Real Estate – What Will Your Money Buy?

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The country might not have fully recovered from the Great Recession, but housing prices are almost back to their pre-recession levels. According to the San Jose Mercury News:

With Bay Area home prices at levels not seen in nearly five years, the communities hit hardest by the housing crash are starting to boom again.

From Oakley and Antioch to East Oakland, East Palo Alto and East San Jose, all-cash offers and free rent for a month for sellers are sweetening bids as a swarm of move-in buyers and investors compete for a relatively small number of homes for sale.

On average, home values have increased by more than 20% over the last five years.20130522_081220_ssjm0523lowend90_500

Which leads those of us who are real estate curios to wonder exactly what our money will buy. I took a Bay Area tour through Realtor.com to take a look at the highs, lows and the somewhere in between. Enjoy!

Let’s start with the high:

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At $38,500,000, this six bedroom 12 bath English estate inspired home in Burlingame might seem extravagant to some, but at with more than six acres of land and almost 40,000 square feet, it’s a dream for those who like to entertain.

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For those who are a bit more budget-conscious, there’s this home in Pittsburg. At just $65,000, one would imagine that a buyer should come armed with a hammer, nails and some fix up money.

While most homes in the Bay Area are valued at well over $200,000, lower priced homes can be found in Oakland, Richmond, Vallejo and some of the outer areas.

To find the approximate median price, I took the unscientific method of going to the halfway point in the 67 pages of listings. Several homes were listed at $729,000, and they were scattered from San Francisco to Walnut Creek to Novato.

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$729,900 in Novato – four bedrooms, four baths and about 3,000 square feet.

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$729,000 in San Francisco will buy you a modest two bedrooms, one bath and 1,200 square feet.

The median income in the Bay Area is under $50,000 per year. According to Zillow.com, that income would qualify someone for a home valued at around $200,000.  I decided to top out my search at $220,000. My 67 pages of listings quickly dwindled to just four. Again, most listings were in Richmond, Oakland and Vallejo. This three bedroom, one bath in Hayward listed at $220,000.

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For a bit more space, this 1,800 square foot home in Vallejo is listed at $215,000.

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Most Bay Area home buyers probably have incomes. That puts the average home buyer at being able to afford about $400,000 (which would have a mortgage of around $2,600 per month). In that range, selection might be limited, but properties are available from Novato to San Francisco and back to the East Bay.

If you crave the city vibe and you don’t need a lot of space, this two bedroom two bath in Southeast San Francisco might be your dream home at a San Francisco bargain of $400,000.

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For something more family friendly, this Concord four bedroom two bath could suit you at $400,000.

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What are the Best Storage Options for your Extra Stuff?

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toomuchstuffHave you ever bought something, took it out of its meticulously packed box and failed to get it back in? Sometimes moving can feel a bit like that. In your old home, for the most part, there was a place for everything and everything had its place.

Your new home might even be bigger, but for some reason, you feel like you are putting square pegs in round holes. You just can’t get all your things to look – well – at home in your new home. You really don’t want to get rid of the table that your Grandfather refinished or the very first piece of furniture you bought together as a couple, but they just don’t work.

Perhaps you’re doing some renovations and you need to clear space. Maybe it’s time to convert the kid’s room to a home gym. Whatever the reason, having extra stuff is an American phenomenon – so much so that the acquisition of extra stuff and the storing of it has prompted a handful of reality TV programs.

As Americans’ need for storage has grown, so have their options for storing. While in the past you might have rented a nearby locker, adorned it with a padlock and called it a day, today, you can store your items in a warehouse or even in a portable container. Each of the individual storage options has their advantages, so how do you choose which one is right for you?

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1. Self Storage – Self storage, also known as “mini storage” is what most people think of when they think of storage. Essentially, with self storage, you are renting a room. You are responsible for moving your goods into storage, although you can use a mover. Some have garage-like doors and some have more conventional doors. Like when you are renting an apartment, the landlord is responsible for the general maintenance but is not responsible for your belongings. While most have some sort of security, it is up to you to provide a secure lock. Blankets and other types of furniture protection might or might not be offered by the storage facility, and if they do it will be at an extra cost. If anything is damaged while in storage, that’s also your responsibility. It is up to you to insure your items, although the storage facility might offer you insurance – at an additional cost. You pay based on the size of the room, no matter how much you have stored in the room. You will have access to your items anytime the facility is open.

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2. Warehouse Storage – Warehouse storage is not as well known as self storage, but for many, it’s a convenient option. Warehouse storage is typically run by moving companies. The moving company will move your things into storage and they will move them out. Everything will be professionally packed and will remain in that condition until you are ready to have them delivered. Every item is inventoried both before going into storage and after being delivered. Your items might be stored on shelves or in wooden crates. Since your items never leave the mover’s possession, they have more liability, although it is limited. In California, the liability is only $.60 per pound (that’s right – no matter how valuable an item, you are paid per pound). I’d advise that you still check into additional insurance. You are only charged for how much space you are actually using, so it can be less expensive than self storage. Access is typically given on appointment only and don’t expect to root around in your stuff. The warehouse employees will have to pull them out for you.

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3. Containerized Storage – A relative newcomer to the storage industry is containerized storage. In the last decade, it’s grown tremendously in popularity and for good reason. It offers flexibility that neither warehouse or self-storage can. Containers are brought to your home. You generally have three days to fill them. You can hire movers to fill them, if you wish. You have the option of keeping the container in your driveway indefinitely and for an additional cost, if your neighborhood allows. After the container is loaded, the storage company takes it to their warehouse or parking lot to be stored. You will need to purchase insurance for your items. Like with self storage, you are charged for the full size of the container, no matter how much space you are using. Access policies will vary from company to company.

How to Stage a Home to Sell

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Image from Redfin.comImage from Redfin.com

Your home is everything. It’s where you raise your children. It’s where you breathe after a long, hard day. It holds your memories. Unfortunately, if you are trying to sell your home, those very memories might be holding you back.

There is a reason show homes are beautifully furnished but impersonal. When buyers view homes, they want to imagine their own families in the home. In order to sell your home, you, as a seller, should let your home foster their imagination.

The process of making your home more salable through decor is called “staging.” Until fairly recently, staging was a relatively unknown profession. The job of a stager is to make your home sell much faster than if you were to try to sell it unstaged. The Real Estate Staging Association claims that an average time on market can be reduced from nine months to just two with proper staging. If your home is sitting empty, cutting the time on market can save you far more than what a stager will cost. However, if you are living in your home while you are waiting for the right offer, there are steps that you can take to make your home more sale-ready.

1. Arrange storage – Unless you have a new home for your a-bit-too-personal items to land, you will want to put them in storage. I recommend that you consider this to be part of the moving process. Most movers have storage and if it’s stored in their care, they take at least some responsibility for it. It is still recommended that you have additional insurance, but a mover will inventory all items both coming and going, so there is no question about what you might have in storage. If you rent a storage locker, there’s a good chance that the room will be too big or too small. You will never run that risk if you let a mover store your items for you.

2. Pare down – While your tastes in decorating might be eclectic (mine is), buyers want to see show home quality. If your furniture doesn’t match and if it’s not in perfect condition, move it to storage. Think about traffic flow. Get rid of anything you’ve ever stubbed your toe on. You want your home to have far more empty space than full space. It will make your home look bigger.

While your family pictures make your house your home, buyers want to envision their own families. Store all pictures except for art.

3. Rent furniture – If your furniture isn’t show home worthy, rent. There are several places where you can rent by the month for a fairly reasonable price. If you decide to hire a professional stager, most have furniture available.

4. Paint – Neutral but interesting paint colors will make your home look fresh and can help make sense of hodge podge furniture.

5. Buy stronger light bulbs – Lighting will help make your home seem brighter and more inviting.

6. Accessorize – You don’t have to be wealthy to have an exquisitely accessorized home. The human eye likes to see odd numbers – so arrange your accessories in threes or fives. While you don’t want them to match (in fact, they should vary by color and size), you do want them to have a common theme, which could be color or texture. Put the largest item in the back and the smallest in the front.

7. Invest in flowers – Scattered throughout the house, fresh and dried flower arrangements add interest and a little life.

8. Clean out your closets – the emptier the better.

9. Buy new hardware for your kitchen cabinets – You can buy new doors and drawer fronts relatively inexpensively.

10. Clean, clean and clean again – I won’t sugar coat it. Living in a for sale home isn’t fun. Beds have to be beautifully made each morning. Children’s and dog toys need to be out of view. Errant shoes are a no-no. Dishes must be washed and put away immediately after using. Cluttered kitchen or bathroom counters might be a way of life, but they will take away from buyer appeal. Vacuum carpets daily and make sure your hardwood floors shine. Scent is a big part of clean. Rather than obvious air fresheners, try potpourris and the old real estate trick – baking.

Home and Garden TV has some more detailed tips on staging your home.

Tips to Make Your New Home Yours

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You’ve moved into your new home. Every item is in its proper place, but still, everything looks out of place. Everything you own fit so well in your old home, but now? Everything looks okay, but it’s just not you. Your first instinct might be to start fresh – buy new furniture and accessories. If that’s in the budget, do it, but if you are simply looking to make your new environment seem like home, you can do it on the cheap.

1. Paint – Before a home is sold, most real estate agents and stagers recommend painting all walls in a neutral color. Neutrals are inoffensive to potential buyers but do you really feel that all those shades of white and light beige bring out your dynamic personality? Paints are being made better and better every day. The days of having to use a primer and two coats are gone. Some paints have primer built right in and some eliminate the need for a second coat altogether. Even tape is being made more user friendly. The great thing about color is that right now, anything goes. House Beautiful has some great tips on choosing color based on your personality. And if you like the idea of neutral, they even have some tips on choosing the right one.

2. Accessorize – Why buy a new sofa when a couple of throw pillows will change its look? Why buy a new bed when a beautiful fabric draped over the headboard will make it pop? Buy some flowering houseplants for extra color.

3. Landscape – Okay, landscaping can be an expensive and time consuming process, but there are many changes you can make on the cheap and on the quick. A few new flowering plants and a stone path might be all that’s needed to send a warm welcome to your new neighbors. Here are some tips to inexpensively turn your new yard into your yard.

4. Change the hardware – New kitchen and bath drawer pulls and cabinet nobs can make your rooms feel almost renovated.

5. Decorate your walls – Every piece of art doesn’t have to be an original and every original doesn’t have to be a Monet. Sometimes, it’s fun to make your own. Buzzfeed has some really great ideas for DIY.

Now that your new home looks like you, it’s time to really make it you. Warm your bathrobe in the dryer. Pour a glass of wine and take a long, hot bath. You’ll feel like you’re at home in no time.

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