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How Can Movers Help Me With An Estate?

in Advice by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
Featured image courtesy of Ken Mayer at Flickr

Featured image courtesy of Ken Mayer at Flickr

If you’ve ever been put in the position as executor of an estate, you know that it can be a lot of work, even if the deceased made arrangements beforehand. Organizing an estate is emotional and a lot of time consuming hard work, but you can make even a disorganized estate go more smoothly if you follow some basic guidelines.

1. Find all paperwork – if the deceased was organized, paperwork will either be in files at home, in bank safety deposit boxes, at an attorney’s office or at an accountant’s office. If the deceased wasn’t so organized, you might have to sort through all belongings to find relevant paperwork.

2. Contact an attorney – in the best of circumstances, the deceased will already have an attorney. If not, find a local probate attorney. He or she will advise you on the best ways to proceed.

3. Work with the funeral home and arrange to receive death certificates. Once you do receive them, notify all creditors, banks, the Social Security administration, pension offices, Medicare, insurance companies, drivers license bureau, etc. of the death.

4. Sort through belongings – if a will doesn’t specify that belongings to go a specific person, any valuables should be sold as part of the estate and divided between heirs. Donate the rest to charity and use it as a tax deduction for the estate.

5. Store belongings – if the estate needs to go into probate (the attorney will tell you) it may take a while before you are able to disperse the belongings. If the home needs to be sold, it’s a good idea to get a storage unit.

6. Open a bank account – you’ll need it to pay the estate’s debts. You can also pay day to day expenses out of the bank account without having to wait for the estate to come out of probate.

7. Pay debts and taxes – a CPA can be your best friend in this case.

A good moving company can come in very handy when dealing with an estate. They can help you pack, organize, store and move the belongings, even if they have to go to several different states.

If you are planning your estate, you can prearrange with your favorite moving company to help once the time comes. Payment can generally be made through the estate’s bank account, but check with your attorney.

 

 

 

What Is Gentrification And What Does It Mean For You?

in Bay Area Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Depending on your lot in life, gentrification is either great or it’s full of potential upheaval. To some, gentrification means betterment of a neighborhood. To others it means displacement. Regardless, there’s a whole lot of gentrification going on in the Bay Area and it’s reflected in housing prices.

If you are one of the folks who have owned your home for a while and your neighborhood is in the process of gentrification, you might be happy about it, that is, unless you like your neighbors and the feel of the neighborhood.

You may or may not like the trendier shopping and restaurants. You may like the fact that properties around you have a fresher, newer, more expensive look, but you probably will like the fact that your property values are going up.

If you are renting, look for increased rent and even eviction. Your landlord may want you out so he or she can make the changes necessary to bring in the big bucks. A gentrified neighborhood can raise rents as much as 40 percent. This San Francisco tenant saw her rent go up a whopping 400 percent.

If you are looking for a place to live, are there advantages beyond better shopping and restaurants? Is the crime rate lower? Studies have been done and the results are conflicting. Higher income people generally have more political clout and the ability to demand more police patrols but they also have more things worth stealing and the residents themselves may be less vigilant. A gentrified neighborhood may appear safe but it’s no guarantee against crime.

Gentrification is particularly hard on poor people and minorities, who find themselves having to move to the far reaches of the Bay Area or even outside the Bay Area to find affordable housing.

Chinese investors have long been blamed for much of the increasing property values in the Bay Area, but it might not be quite that simple. Foreign investors are creating construction related jobs in the pre-gentrified areas, but once properties are built, the people who worked on them will likely be out a home. San Francisco is trying to address the problems through solutions like affordable housing and loan programs, but we still have to wait and see.

What To Pack To Tide You Over Till The Movers Arrive

in Long-Distance moving, Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

One of the most difficult parts of moving cross country is coordinating the timing. Unless you have a large home, it’s likely that your goods will share space with other shipments.

Don’t worry; movers take thorough inventories both loading and unloading, so things don’t get mixed up. What that does mean, though, is that because the moving truck has to make numerous stops and because semi trucks go slower than cars anyway, there will likely be a lag time between when you arrive at your new home and when the movers do. Yes, that will be an inconvenience, but one that will soon be forgotten and if you do it right, you can create some memories.

What you should pack will obviously depend on the amount of room you have in your car. If you are flying, you’ll obviously pack even less. If you are staying in a hotel room (generally recommended), you won’t need as many items as you would if you stay in your new home. Here are some packing ideas. Be sure to customize them to your situation.

1. Clothing – This one is obvious. Unless you have access to laundry, add a few days worth of clothing to the mover’s time estimate. It may not be the mover’s fault, but things do happen that delay shipments.

2. Toiletries – Again, this is obvious. If you are short on space, you can purchase soap, shampoo, toothpaste, sunscreen, etc. at your destination. I recommend bringing at least daytime makeup, however and a moisturizer. If you are moving to a dryer climate, bring lotion and lip balm.

3. Toys – There’s nothing worse than bored kids. Family games are a great way to pass the time, as is family reading time. Find the library in your new town. You probably won’t have a TV, but you will likely have smartphones and tablets, if the kids have them, are highly recommended. As far as actual toys, allow your kids their very favorite (if it’s small enough) but more than that can be too much.

4. Electronics – Smaller is better. Bring whatever you need for work and phones and tablets.

5. Pets – Bring your animals’ bowls and a couple of small toys for them. Don’t forget their leashes and collars. It’s also a good idea to travel with their veterinary records. I recommend crates for each of your pets along with their favorite beds.

6. Jewelry – Take all valuable jewelry with you, without exception.

7. Paperwork – Ditto on irreplaceable or difficult to replace paperwork. Bring everyone’s medical records, birth certificates, passports, car titles, etc.

8. Cleaning supplies – I don’t recommend moving your cleaning supplies unless you have a lot of room. They are generally too easy to replace. If you are staying in your new house, however, you might want to bring a vacuum.

9. Folding lawn furniture and inflatable beds – Again, for if you are staying in your new house.

10. Sleeping bags.

If you fear running out of room, the post office can be a great way to get some things to you faster.

 

 

How To Save Money When Moving Because Of Separation

in Advice, Moving Costs by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

family-law-329569_640Whether you’re separating from a spouse or from a roommate, you probably see costs adding up. Bills are suddenly doubling while the income isn’t. While Ninja Movers can’t really help with most of that, there are ways to help control the cost of the move, even if there is more than one.

It’s possible that if you are moving in the same general direction, your two moves could be treated as one. It takes a special sort of organization, but it could save on time.

If you are consolidating the moves, it’s critical that you are very well organized before hand. Label absolutely everything and color code it. Put colored sticky notes on furniture and mark boxes with matching colored labels or markers. It’s also a very good idea to inventory everything.

Instruct the movers that you will have two separate deliveries. They don’t need to have anymore information than that. Be assured, they don’t need the details of a messy divorce. While the movers can find which possessions need to be loaded first (the last and furthest stop), it will save you money to bring everything that will be unloaded last to the front. When they are done loading those items, they will load the items that will be unloaded first.

It’s best to arrange that one person pay the bill or that it be cut in half. The movers will not be able to itemize how much each move costs, although, and this is a big exception, if an estimator sees the move beforehand, he can give you a cost for each individual move. If you haven’t had an in-person estimate and if you feel that you aren’t in an amicable enough a situation to split the bill in half (or whatever prearranged split you discuss), it’s probably best to do two separate moves.

You also want to have separate moves if you are moving in different directions or if one person is moving out of state and the other is staying. Out of state moves are billed by weight while local moves are billed by the hour.

Tips to make your Move Easier

in Uncategorized by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

You have finally decided to move to a new place. There is something about the change of environment that nothing else can quite compare to. It can be an exciting time for your whole family, or it can be a real nightmare – depending on how you organize and how you feel about it. With the large number of activities involved, it is easy to get lost in the chaos of organizational tasks and stress from the moving.

It is very important to keep a cool head and plan ahead the process to go smooth. Here are few tips on what to consider in a removals operation.

Digital Image by Sean LockeDigital Planet Designwww.digitalplanetdesign.com

–        Give yourself enough time – whether you are doing the removal yourself, with friends or professional house movers, it is important to give yourself enough time to plan, prepare and execute the move to guarantee stress-free experience and avoid any potential problems.

–        Get good quality packing supplies – and enough of them too! You will want the movers to bring everything of your old house and into the new one in one piece. For this reason it is important to do a proper research on how to pack your belongings properly as well as what packing materials to use for the job. Boxes are a must, as they will be used generally for a large number of objects, but you will also need some specialized containers – for glassware and other kitchen equipment for example. Ensure that the packing supplies are properly stacked, to avoid damage to your items inside. It is a good idea to let the movers load, if you don’t have the experience for it.

–        Label your boxes – as you pack your stuff, you will find the number of boxes increasing and you might be overwhelmed easily, if you don’t label them. Use a marker and label on few sides of each box to assure that once you move, you will be ready to unload your belongings and you will navigate through the boxes with ease.

–        Separate your valuables – money in cash, important documents and jewelry are three things you should keep with you during the move. This is to ensure they don’t get lost among all the other stuff and that will be floating around. You’d want to keep your eye on them during the move to ensure their safe relocation.

–        Pack few boxes with essentials – keep those with you as well. Those are things that you will need as soon as you arrive in your new home or during the move. For example, these items could be baby equipment and food you will carry, especially if the move is a long one.

Each of the aforementioned tips will work towards making your move a smooth and pleasant experience, rather than a commotion. Ensure that you implement these suggestions before the moving van arrives and you will avoid any problems. For more ideas: Man with a van Ilford.

Introducing Your Cat And Dog To Your New Home

in Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Moving with pets can be especially difficult because they have no idea what’s going on. While you and even your children might see opportunity in a new home, pets only see insecurity. Reassurance is the most important part of moving with a pet.

Cats and dogs require some of the same care when moving but dogs are much more easily adaptable. Conventional wisdom says that cats are attached to their surroundings while dogs are attached to their people. There’s a lot of truth to that, but it’s also overly simplistic. Dogs do get upset when being uprooted from their surroundings and cats do get attached to their people, although perhaps not as obviously. Here are some tips for moving each:

If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat or an outdoor cat, allow more time for the transition process. Begin several weeks before the move by feeding and entertaining the cat inside the home as much as possible. The ASPCA has some great tips for moving an outdoor cat indoors.

If your cat is an indoor cat, the transition will be similar to that of a dog. First, get your pet used to a crate. Dogs are naturally drawn to cozy crates, so if you have a younger dog, that should be no problem.

Check your new home for any escape routes. Check for holes in the fence or areas where a dog can dig his way out. Make sure all the doors latch. Keep doggie doors closed for a while until the dog is used to his new home. Close windows or secure all screens.

Cat and puppy proof your home. Even dogs who you think have outgrown bad behavior might revert to some old habits. Hide electrical cords and window cover pulls.

During the move, confine the animals to crates or to a single room. Provide lots of comfortable bedding, a blanket that smells like you and some familiar toys. Provide a litter box for the cat. Familiarity is key.

Once you are moved in, dogs will be somewhat comforted by the smell of your belongings, but it’s a good idea to avoid leaving the animals alone for a couple of days. Acquaint them slowly. Play games by putting treats in various areas of the home.

Keep the routine. Even if you are in the middle of the move, feed your animals at their normal feeding time and if you have dogs, take about 20 minutes to walk them. If you can spend more time, better. A tired animal is far more likely to adapt well.

If your pet is having trouble adjusting or it is very nervous or skittish, your vet might be able to help with some anti-anxiety medication to help get through the move.

How To Create Boundaries When Moving In With A Roommate

in Your New Home by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Roommates used to be like keg stands and all-nighters; we left them behind at college or shortly after. However, rising real estate prices, people staying single longer and an aging population looking for ways to stay social and active are causing a resurgence of roommates – of all ages.

Moving in with anyone can be stressful, but when the relationship is strictly platonic, things can even get more complicated. How do you divide the groceries or do you? What about visitors?

In the past, I’ve had several roommates and not a single one of them was a friend going in. A few of them are still friends. When you move in with a roommate, the odds are stacked against you. It might work out for the duration of the lease. In rare circumstances, you’ll find roommate magic. My personal philosophy is that friendships are too precious to risk in such close quarters, but if you do decide to move in with a friend, there are ways to make things easier.

Ask if they are morning or night people. Neither makes someone a bad person, but opposite sleeping schedules can make for an awkward roommate situation.

Ask about food and smoking. You don’t have to eat together, but a vegetarian might hate the smell of meat cooking. A non-smoker probably will hate the smell of cigarettes.

How to meet a roommate – While I don’t recommend moving in with friends, you can ask friends. You want to have something in common with your roommates and friends of friends might indicate that you enjoy the same music and some of the same activities. Craigslist or other online sites are risky, but with credit checks and references, you should be okay.

Lease – I recommend that only one name go on the lease, just in case things don’t work out, but the landlord might require that both names go on. I also recommend that only one name go on utilities.

Deposit – The lease holder should treat the roommate as a tenant. Require a deposit and run a credit check and get at least two references. This is much easier if the potential roommate is a stranger. You’d be surprised at what you don’t know about your friends.

Ground rules – Once you’ve found that roommate, it’s time to set up some ground rules.

  • This sounds an awful lot like living with the parents, but it’s a good idea to designate a quiet time during the week, especially if one person is a light sleeper. It’s not too much to ask that headphones go on at 11:00.
  • Figure out how to divide the food, or not. I have found it easiest for each person to buy their own food, especially if the roommates aren’t on the exact schedule. It is a good idea to share condiments, spices and cleaning supplies. Note, though, cooking together is a great opportunity for bonding.
  • Cleaning is a biggie. Do whatever you want with your bedroom (close the door) but keep the common areas clean. It’s a great idea to start a chore chart. Wash your dishes after using them. Take out the trash when full, not when overfull. Vacuum, dust, clean the bathroom, mirrors and floors at least once a week. If you can afford it, hiring a weekly cleaning service has probably saved more roommate situations than anything else.
  • If one or both of you have pets, discuss pet care. It is the pet owner’s responsibility to walk and feed the pet, not the roommates, but it’s nice to have a roommate who’s willing to pitch in. I once had a roommate who didn’t even offer to walk my dog after I had surgery. That was a sign of a short-lived situation.

 

 

 

So You’re Thinking Of Renting Through Airbnb?

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

Depending on who you talk to, Airbnb is either the greatest thing since there was no room at the inn or it’s a way to help destroy the Bay Area’s already tight rental market.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

In case you aren’t familiar with Airbnb, it’s sort of like an eBay for short-term rentals, only without the bidding. Homeowners, or in many cases leaseholders, rent out either a room or the entire place for a nightly, weekly or monthly rate – presumably while they’re on jaunts of their own.

Since it’s relatively new to the market, there have been few regulations. Many landlords prohibit subletting and I assume that some leases are specifically mentioning that that applies to short-term rentals as well. But in cities like San Francisco, where the housing market is very tight for people who live here long-term, until recently, people have been hoarding properties and renting them out at higher short-term rates, rather than settle for lease prices.

In October of last year, San Francisco passed some regulations for the short-term rental market, including setting a maximum of 90 days a year for any given property and paying hotel taxes. Here is more information on the law.

If you still want to try it out, Airbnb might be a great way to help pay for your own vacation or a way to help finance your own living space without the commitment of a roommate.

Like eBay, Airbnb offers star ratings for both renters rentals. The more quality reviews, the better. That can be a bit of a sticky wicket at times. Even while you are on vacation, being disruptive or making too much noise can result in bad reviews. If you plan on really partying, you might want to stick with a hotel. Unfortunately, complaints can also ring up bad reviews, so if you clog the toilet while renting, it’s a good idea to fix it yourself.

On the other side, most is pretty obvious. Keep your place immaculate. Invest in coordinating linens. Paint the walls. Make sure everything works perfectly. Your goal in the beginning is to rack up good reviews, which might mean cutting your price and adding extra touches like gift cards to local restaurants, a box of chocolates or a bottle of California wine.

Give your guests a binder full of restaurant menus, public transportation information, local sights and activities. You also want to list any peculiarities your home may have, such as a door that needs to be lifted before opening.

Neighbors may not like the idea of strangers staying next door. You can do one of two things; you can either pretend they’re your friends or you can talk to your neighbors, telling them that you only rent to top-rated renters. I recommend the second.

While location is everything, there are many renters who want the San Francisco experience without paying San Francisco prices. If you are on the BART line or within easy commuting distance to the city, you can still generate good prices. Wine country is another huge draw, as is Silicon Valley, especially for business travelers.

There are no guarantees, though. I just plugged in my address and the monthly net was less than we pay every month. Regardless, check them out. It could be worth it for you.

How To Get The Most Possible Money When Selling Your House

in Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Depending on when you bought your home, there’s a very good chance that you have quite a bit of equity right now. Still, there’s probably a lot you can do to increase the selling value of your home and a lot of them are pretty simple.

1. Clean up the outside – Try to look at your house as if you have never seen it before. If that’s tough for you, ask a friend or coworker to give you an objective opinion. Curb appeal is the first thing new buyers see and you’d be surprised at the number of potential buyers that let that be the last impression.

Do you need to paint or do you need new siding? Even if the siding is in good shape, make sure it’s a neutral color. Personally, I love purple houses, but I’m in a small minority. the same holds true for other more creative shades.

Fill bare ground with ground cover or lawn. Add some shrubs and flowers to the front. Shutters and an accent door add a lot of personality, without being offensive, to the house.

2. Clean the inside – This takes work and will constantly need to be maintained while the house is being shown. Dust and vacuum every single day. Never, ever leave a dish in the sink. Make sure all the beds are made and that each has matching or coordinating bedding – in other words, no two different colors of pillow cases. Make sure the bathrooms have clean, preferably new, matching towels. Potpourri is always a nice touch, as are subtly scented candles. The old Realtor’s trick of baking cookies actually does help.

3. Renovate the bathroom – Bathroom renovations can be anything from brand new spa-like fixtures and tile to new light fixtures and faucets. Regardless of your budget, caulk and add new linens.

4. Renovate the kitchen – Yes, that’s expensive and might not be worth it. Ask your Realtor, but there are some things you can do without spending too much. Paint, scrub your appliances spotless, add a new backsplash. You can even paint your cabinets, which takes about a weekend or two. If you have the budget, knock down walls for an open look and build an island/breakfast bar. Replace your appliances with stainless steel.

5. Paint the inside – Again, use neutral colors.

6. Add an additional bathroom if you have room – Most Bay Area homes don’t have basements, but there are many homes with wasted space. If you can add a bathroom, it should add to the value of the home. Again, consult with your broker and perhaps a contractor to weigh the value.

7. Don’t define rooms for buyers – Some rooms are obvious. A kitchen is a kitchen. A bathroom is a bathroom, but your home office might be another’s playroom. Your TV room might be a home office. Put neutral furniture in those rooms, such as a sofa, chair and maybe a small desk that can double as a plant table.

8. Change light fixtures and buy new bulbs.

9. Add solar – In California, we have plenty of sun and solar rooftops can add thousands to your home’s resale value. It’s best if you go solar before selling your home, so you can benefit from the cost savings too.  A solar water heater is also a great investment.

10. Add hardwood – If you can afford new flooring, hardwood is the most popular option. There are several types of hardwood flooring and there are laminate floors that look like hardwood but aren’t. Gauge that based on your neighborhood. A high-end neighborhood will require high-end flooring. A starter neighborhood may be fine with laminates.

Four Moving Apps To Help Take The Stress Away

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

I’m not going to lie to you. Even when you hire a great moving company, moving is horrible. You go from settled to unsettled in the blink of an eye. Boxes become your life. The place and the people near your hold home become memory. Fortunately, technology hasn’t left you behind. There are several apps that can make things a lot easier.

1. Moving Planner (Andriod) and Moving Software Pro (iOS) – Both apps are made by Jinbl Software Labs and both have more than 210 household items and todo items. If you’re a snob for grammar, this might not be the app for you, but you can’t beat its practicality. If you absolutely don’t have time for a mover to visit your home prior to the move, this tool will help both you and the mover make an accurate estimate. Both are only $.99 and are fully refundable if you aren’t happy.

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2. Moving Day (iOS) – Moving Day goes even a step further and it’s free. It allows you to barcode scan and label every single box. You’ll know what goes where and what might be missing. If you see a damaged box, you’ll know what’s inside before opening it. If you’re as generally disorganized as me, this app will be a life saver.

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3. MoveMatch (Android) – MoveMatch is the perfect app for people who don’t have the time or energy to meet people. With MoveMatch, you can take a thorough, professional inventory of all your goods and send them to movers in your area. If your inventory matches, movers should be able to give you a guaranteed price. It also works for storage, commercial moves and for overseas moves.

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4. Gas Buddy (iOS and Android) – If you plan on driving your car or a moving van across country, don’t even think about not downloading Gas Buddy. It will tell you the cheapest gas stations on the road and it’s free.

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