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When To Hire A Handyperson And When To Hire A Contractor

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When something breaks in your home, it’s easy to imagine dollar bills flying out the windows. Depending on what’s wrong, though, you might be able to save money by hiring a handyperson instead of a licensed contractor. Be careful, though, some jobs require licensed contractors. How do you know when to hire a handyperson and when to hire a contractor?

handyperson tool chest

Image CC 2.0, by Ryan Hyde, via Flickr

California has a law about it, actually. If the cost of your repair, including parts and labor, is over $500, you must hire a contractor. That’s the simple answer. The more complicated answer is that it depends on your repair.

Difference between handyperson and contractor

Contractors must pass rigorous exams and prove expertise in their field to earn a license. They are highly regulated, and must be bonded and insured. Anyone who owns tools can call themselves a handyperson. That’s not to say that there aren’t many, many skilled handypeople. If you check sites like your local NextDoor or Angie’s List, you’ll find plenty of referrals.

When you have a clogged drain, or if an electrical wire comes loose, by all means, hire a handyperson. If, though, your pipes explode, of if a wall collapses, call a contractor.

Handypeople are generally available with less notice. In some situations, you might hire a handyperson to prevent further damage before hiring a contractor to fix the problem. If you need to perform major work, a contractor will work with your city to get permits and to ensure everything is done up to code. All contractors should be insured, but before you hire one, verify it. While many handypeople warranty their work, in other words, they’ll come back if their fix doesn’t take, they don’t carry insurance. If they accidentally break a pipe or rip your drywall, it’s your responsibility to fix it.

Regardless of whether your job requires a handyperson or a contractor, do your due diligence. Get references and get at least three bids, if you can.

Image CC 2.0, by Ryan Hyde, via Flickr

Nearly Everyone Forgets To Change Locks When They Move — Here’s What You Need To Know

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You bought a new house, everything is packed, you’ve hired the movers, you’ve transferred utilities and arranged your children’s schools. There’s probably one thing you’ve forgotten, though, and it could save you from having your new home burglarized. It’s time to change locks.

Receiving the keys to your new home is an exciting time. The problem, though, is that while they might look shiny and new, they might be anything but. The odds are they are the same keys to the same locks that the old owner had, and you can’t know how many other people have received copies — the dog walker, the babysitter, their teenagers’ friends? No one is saying that none of those people are trustworthy, but why risk it? You, and whoever you choose, should be the only people who have access to your home.

You have many, many options when it comes time to change locks. Some are inexpensive, and others aren’t. In a nutshell, you can rekey your locks, which is inexpensive — probably somewhere around $200.

Replace the locks

You can also replace the locks, and these days, there are so many options available, you’ll have to ask yourself a few questions:

Are you technical, or do you prefer analog?

Do you like using keys, or would you prefer something more high-tech?

Do you sometimes give temporary access to non-family members?

If you prefer the good-old fashioned key locks, they are better and stronger than ever. Look for materials like stainless steel or zinc alloy. This Schlage lock is often considered the best.

If you’re tired of fumbling for keys, or if you have a lot of temporary visitors, there are many options. Modern locks use a number of technologies, including WiFi, Bluetooth, and Z-Wave, to let you unlock and lock your home without keys. Some offer cameras and some even offer security alarms.

You should still look for the same hard metal material, but some locks are more high-tech than others. If you want the ability to control access, opt for a system with an RFID chip reader. Similar to what you find in most hotels and motels, RFID readers scan a card or key fob. They don’t connect to your WiFi or Bluetooth, so they’re relatively hack-proof. You can disable and recode cards quite easily, so if a card is lost, you don’t have to worry about it. On the other hand, RFID readers don’t solve the problem of fumbling around in your purse. You’ll still have to pull out a card.

Another lower-tech option is a keypad lock. You simply enter your code to lock or unlock the door. This gives you the convenience of not having to fish through your pockets, and you can change the codes at will, or add temporary codes. Like most modern locks, though, they are battery powered and the batteries can die. Fortunately, you can still use a key.

Smart Locks

You can purchase any one of a number of “smart locks,” that may or may not be connected to other devices in your home. Bluetooth locks allow you to control your locks, within range of your home. WiFi locks allow you to control your locks from an app. A third technology, called Z-Wave, is a compromise. It uses less energy than WiFi and it has a longer range than Bluetooth. It enables you to control your thermostat and some other appliances as well, as long as you have a smart home device. Some locks use all three technologies. C-Net reviewed several smart locks.

Whatever you choose when you change locks, Consumer Reports says that the biggest risk to your lock good old fashioned technology, drills and feet. Poor quality locks are easily drilled or even kicked in. They found only one that will protect your home, the Medeco Maxum. Please note that we have not tried the lock ourselves.

Featured image CC0 Creative Commons, by SyedWasiqShah, via Pixabay

How To Make A Summer Move Without Overheating

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Summer is by far the busiest time in the moving industry. Children are out of school, for many, work is a bit slower, and you don’t have to worry about Mother Nature snowing on your moving parade.

Featured image: Public Domain, via Wikimedia

If your home, like many in California, doesn’t have air conditioning, moving day can be especially hot. First, there’s the fact that you’re expending a lot of energy. That’s sweat-worthy even in the dead of winter. Then, there’s the in and out. That’s when things can really get animal style (in that human beings quickly start smelling like livestock). The open doors let in all the heat you’re desperately trying to keep out.

Fortunately, there are strategies you can take to help keep the heat out and to keep you and your movers from overheating.

Dress appropriately

Most moving companies provide uniforms, which usually consist of heavy, often black, pants, and a t-shirt. Some moving companies allow shorts, but for safety reasons, many do not. Your movers will look hot and sweaty after a few hours. It’s part of the job. You, though, have a bit more flexibility. Wear loose, light-colored clothing in breathable fabrics. Remember that your house will be in a upheaval, so if you have a tendency to bump into things, long pants are advised.

Stay hydrated

Most movers bring a drink or two with them, but working in hot weather needs more than a couple of drinks. Provide lots of water or Gatorade, and don’t berate your mover for taking hydration breaks. Imagine how much slower the move will go if they start dehydrating.

Keep packers inside during your summer move

Most moving crews have designated packers. If you are the designated packer, you should try to stay inside as well. This helps keep you from (pardon the image) sweating all over your clean clothes and linens.

Keep the utilities on in both places

Even if you don’t have air conditioning, use fans. You’ll also be very happy to have a refrigerator and freezer. Stock both refrigerators with refreshing summer beverages and fruits.

Keep your children and pets cool

If you can, send your children and pets to stay with a friend or in daycare. Not only will this keep them cool, it will keep them out of the way and it will help keep them happy during the stressful move.

Schedule your summer move to beat the heat

Have the movers come as early as possible. If you want the movers to pack for you, ask if they can pack the day before so the heavy lifting can be done in the morning, when it’s cooler.

All The Best Ways To Deal With A Nightmare Of A Neighbor

in Advice, Your New Home by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

Don’t Let a Bad Neighbor Ruin Your Life

If you live in a city or in a suburb, the last thing you want to worry about is a bad neighbor. Your house may be beautiful. Maybe you got it for a bargain, by Bay Area standards, but a single nightmare of a neighbor can ruin it all.

Be Proactive

Do Your Homework

If there’s a dispute over land use or a fence, document everything and check with the city about laws and property boundaries.

Discuss the Problems

If a situation begins to build, address it head on. Talk about any impending problems with your neighbor before they turn into a major incident. Listen and don’t take things personally. If your neighbor believes your son vandalized his home, and you know he didn’t, assure your neighbor that you will talk to your son and make sure it doesn’t happen again. If that doesn’t solve the problem, offer to help your neighbor figure out who did it.

Talk to Your Other Neighbors

Your other neighbors could be allies, especially if they have had run-ins with the neighbor before, but don’t make the mistake of badmouthing your neighbor. Approach the situation by saying something like, “our neighbors, the Smiths, feel that our dogs are too loud. Do you feel that way as well?” If the other neighbors agree, it’s time to bring your dogs inside or hire them a walker. If they don’t, perhaps they’ll offer some advice on dealing with the other neighbor.

Involve the Law

If your neighbor is a true nightmare, and they are breaking laws, call the cops. If, though, it’s a civil issue, consult a lawyer or a mediator. Use this as a last result because there’s no going back after involving the law.

If your complaint is below $7,500 in California, you can take your neighbor to small claims court.

Image: CC0 Creative Commons, by mohamed_hassan/2956, via Pixabay

Five Surprising Things That Might Be Driving The Cost Of Your Homeowner’s Insurance Through The Roof

in Your New Home by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

When most people purchase a home, they consider the cost of the home, the interest and even the tax rate. Most, though, simply think of homeowner’s insurance as an additional bit of red tape — as a necessary nuisance. You may not know, though, that some strange things may be affecting your insurance rate.

homeowners insurance

Image: CC0 Creative Commons, by christels, via Pixabay

Your Dog

Your dog is part of your family. How in the world could a family member affect your insurance rate? If you have a dog that’s considered “high-risk,” such as a Pit Bull or a German Shepherd, you may pay more for homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Shop around. Not all insurance companies penalize, and some may cover you if you agree to training classes. Others might have you sing a waiver that says you aren’t covered in case of dog bites. Since no dog is 100% predictable, lacking dog bite coverage can be frightening.

homeowner's insurance

Image: CC0 Creative Commons, by apriltan18, via Pixabay

Marital Status

Wait, what? Yes, it’s true. Insurance companies can discriminate against unmarried people. It turns out that married people file fewer claims and they’re generally considered more mature.

Image: Creative Commons 3 – CC BY-SA 3.0, Attribution: Alpha Stock Images –, by Nick Youngson –, via Creative Commons Images

Your Credit Score

California is one of only three states where it’s illegal for insurance companies to penalize people with bad credit. The assumption is that people who don’t pay their bills on time are more likely to file a claim. Their scoring system is a bit different from major lenders and credit card companies, but it’s similar. Insurance companies look at how you pay your bills more than how much you owe.

Image: CC by 2.0 Creative Commons, by Logan Ingalls, via Flickr

A Home Based Business

If you run a business out of your home, you may need to take out additional insurance. That’s not to say that a Mommy blogger with a computer isn’t covered, but if you have more than $5,000 in goods or equipment at home, you can double that coverage for about $20 a year. That also includes liability insurance, should you be sued.

Image: Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported, by Tim1965, via Wikimedia

Your Proximity to a Fire Station

While it might be an annoyance to hear the blaring sirens, living near a fire station could save you money on your homeowner’s insurance. On the flip side, living far from a fire station could cost you.

How To Make Your Move Less Stressful — For Real

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One of the most overused cliches in the moving industry is that moving is stressful. Duh.

Let me tell you about my last move. I chose not to let the movers pack because I needed to do some serious organizing and purging. I was lucky that I had the option of working from home, but that only meant that on top of my long work hours, I had to prepare for the move.

During the three weeks leading up to the move, we still had not closed on our house and things were not looking particularly good. The house was bank-owned. The bank received higher offers than the one that they accepted from us, so they tried everything to get out of the deal. Still, if the move were to happen, I had to go on as scheduled.

Fortunately after several anxiety attacks, our broker worked his magic and we closed on the house, a week late.

None of that begins to address the physical toll the move took on me. My back and knees compelled me to stay in bed, but I couldn’t. Instead, I packed. I lifted heavy objects. I bent over far too often. It didn’t have to be that way.

Don’t be like me. The best way to manage the stress of your move is to prepare months in advance, not weeks. Pick a daily or weekly closet or dresser, and donate everything you don’t wear or use.

Hire an Organizer

If you can afford it, hire people to help you out. A professional organizer will cost between $30 and $80 an hour. That might sound like a lot of money, but they can help you save on the move and they can help free you up to do your real job.

Let the Movers do it

Full service movers are exactly that. They won’t help you organize, but they will pack anything you want them to pack. They can even unpack for you. Again, you will pay for the service, but they will knock it out in a day or two. That’s a lot better than you can do on your own.

Hire Cleaners

For me, the most stressful part of the move was the aftermath. While I had hundreds of unpacked boxes in my new home, my old home still needed a lot of attention. Here I thought I was done with that place. I recruited a couple of friends and we banged it out within a day. Still, next time, I will hire someone to make the house spick and span for the new residents.

Five Ways To Save Some Serious Money On Your Move

in Local moving, Long-Distance moving, Moving Costs, Uncategorized by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

Moving is expensive. We know this and the last thing we want to do is send you into debt for your move. That’s really not a good way to get repeat business. So, here are some tips that are guaranteed to save money.

1. Save Money by Packing Everything

Packing everything in your home can save you as much as 25 percent on the cost of your move. Talk to your moving estimator about packing materials and ask for tips. They can show you how to pack fragile items. Keep in mind that if it’s not furniture, it needs to be in a box. You need to pack pictures (or move them yourself), electronics and lamps.

2. Save Money by Cleaning

Movers don’t care if there’s a little dust, but you want to be sure that there is plenty of space to move, especially near the doors. Clear all debris and empty the trash, or the movers might move it.

3. Save Money by Labeling Everything

If you are doing your own packing, odds are, the movers won’t label your boxes. One of the best ways to keep things moving smoothly is to very clearly label each item with by room. Color coordination is even better. You can even map out your new home to show the movers where all the furniture goes.

4. Save Money by Moving Some Things Yourself

Moving a box or 10 isn’t going to make a whole lot of difference on the bottom line, but if you can move loose items like pictures, lamps and electronics, you can save a good bit of change.

5. Save Money by Reserving a Parking Space

If parking is a challenge in your neighborhood, contact the city and ask about reserving space. Plan on a truck that’s about 26 foot in length. Most cities will charge you, but in the long-run, convenient parking will save you a lot of time on your move.

If you live in a condo or apartment building that has a loading dock, ask your building management about reserving time. Note that most moves start in the morning, so you should reserve your current home for the morning and your new address later in the day. Your moving estimator can give you a better estimate of time.

Featured image CC2.0 401(k) 2012 via Flickr

How To Keep Burglars Away From Your Empty House While You’re Trying To Sell

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Last year, headlines were all about the fact that a home that belonged to rapper 50 Cent was burglarized. Fortunately, Fiddy wasn’t home at the time. As a matter of fact, the 21 bedroom, 25 bath mansion was vacant because it was on the market. The burglars didn’t make it much past the front door because of security alarms.

Most of us, of course, don’t live on lavish estates. Fiddy wasn’t alone though. Most burglaries are crimes of opportunity. Vacant houses are about as close to risk free as it gets for burglars. While they won’t find fancy electronics, they are known to take appliances, staging furniture and even the copper pipes.

Robbing for sale homes is nothing new. Burglars have been targeting homes with For Sale signs for decades. Today, though, many savvy Realtors and home owners are leaving the tell-tale sign out and listing the homes virtually instead.

Unfortunately, that makes the home that much more difficult to sell and the bad guys have the internet too. In one case in Oregon, robbers found their targets on free real estate apps. The watched the houses day and night and then returned during the day as cleaning crews. They even fooled the neighbors, who were thankful people were taking care of the vacant property.

How to Secure a Vacant Home

Whether you are away for a short trip or are selling your home, the best way to prevent burglaries is to make your home look occupied. Put lights on a timer and turn the porch light (motion detector is best) and a visible inside light on at night. Stop all mail and newspaper deliveries.

Plant thorny bushes near the lower windows, so burglars don’t have a place to hide. Buy security film for the lower windows and install a heavy security door.

No one wants to pay for electricity or alarm systems for a house they don’t even live in, but a security system makes your home a much more difficult target. Some alarm companies have temporary solutions.

Keep your neighbors and the police in the loop. Let them know that the home will be empty and that if you are sending any contractors over, you will let them know.

While all of this might seem like you’re throwing good money after bad, there’s nothing that gives buyers second thoughts than a home that’s been burglarized.

Featured image via Pixabay

8 Things to Consider When Moving to A New City

in Advice, Articles, Long-Distance moving by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

You’ve got a new job, or maybe you are dating someone and your relationship has progressed to the next level and you find yourself moving to a new city. Your emotions are a mixed bag of nervousness, excitement, and apprehension, but you are ready to make the big move.

There are many things to consider when moving to a new city. We want you to be prepared and ready to take on this big change in your life and know all the possible costs so that you will find it a joyful experience and not one that you are dreading.

Job Selection

If you are moving to a new city for a significant other, this is something that may impact your decision. If your career requires that you teach people how to ski but where you plan to move stays warm throughout the year with no snow, you may have to re-evaluate your career path.
Before you take the big jump, check out some online job listings and see if any of them would be a good fit for you. You may also want to get a local phone number to remove any questions about where you live.

If you are already relocating for the sake of a job, be sure that you are making the correct move and that there is room for progression in your chosen career. Your significant other may want to stay back for a while until you have had a chance to get through the probationary period and your job is more secure and appears to be long-term.

The Cost of Living

The cost of living varies quite considerably from one city to another, let alone one state to another. Will you be paying double the rent? Will food or utility costs be increased? Or perhaps your rent will be significantly cheaper, but maybe your salary will reflect that, how will you handle making less money?

The way to be successful with this sort of change is to make sure that you budget your money well. Not just in relation to the money you will need once you get there, but also to cover moving costs, even possibly long-distance movers, sending over your belongings and having to do without until everything arrives (for example, no pots and pans means lots of take-out food.)

Do I Know Anyone?

You may or may not be moving with a companion, but even if you are, if they are the only other person you know, this will be a challenge. Leaving family and friends and then moving to a new city where you will have to make friends again takes time, and not everyone finds that easy to do.

Add in costs of traveling back and forth to see family and friends, and you may find this quite stressful. Try to build new connections quickly by going out for a drink with coworkers after work or by joining a group activity that will include meeting people with similar interests to yours.

If you are planning on making the big move by yourself, finding an apartment to rent that comes with a roommate may also be a great way to make some friends and meet some new people. This will also be a great way to save the cost of having to cover a place all by yourself.

How Will I Get Around?

Moving from a city that is known for its great public transit system to a new city where everyone drives may come as a surprise. It will also directly affect your commute to work as well as how you get around the city; you may not even currently own a car.

Taking a taxi everywhere or having to buy or even lease a car would be another added expense, plus, another change to the routine you have done for a long time. Do a test run to see if this is something you could handle on a daily basis and be sure to do your research before calling any committing to the move.

What Will I Take with Me?

You may already have a 12-piece dish set, two couches, and the comfiest bed in the whole world, but that doesn’t mean you will be able to take it all with you when you move to a new city. You will have to make some sacrifices and some tough decisions; a detailed list will help with this.

Think of this move like the beginning of a new relationship, when you first start dating someone you may leave a few of your favorite things over at their place; your move to a new city will be the same. Take the most important stuff, and if the move becomes more serious, that is more permanent, you can consider having someone send your comfy bed.

Selecting a Storage Unit

And while we are on the subject of leaving some personal possessions behind, you will need to set yourself up with a storage unit to hold onto the things that you cannot take just yet. Be realistic with the size, if you have a lot of large pieces of furniture you will need a larger unit, if however, it is mainly boxes of knickknacks and smaller items, a smaller unit will be in order. Your mover can help you decide what size storage unit you need and most can even store your items.

Learn About the City

Moving to a new city and not being prepared with what to expect is the fastest way to hate it the moment you get there. Do some research into the city and find out what it has to offer. If you really like museums, visit the city’s museums. If you love microbreweries see if there are any in the area and perhaps select your new apartment to be close to some popular ones.

By putting in the time to get to know a city before you make the big move you will find yourself feeling excited to experience all that it has to offer. And be sure to find a similar place to your current city that will make it feel more like home.

If, for example, you like to go for a walk in the woods, see if you can find a nearby park or wooded area in your new city to help ease the transition. Don’t be too quick to compare your old city with the new one either, learn to appreciate the differences.

Embrace Your Homesickness with Some Comfort from Home

Maybe there is a bakery just around the corner from your current home that always makes the most delicious scones or a café that makes the best coffee in all of the city. Get a friend or loved one to make a care package with the missed items and get them to send it to you.

Moving to a new city can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. By being prepared and therefore helping to eliminate any unexpected negative surprises, you will find that you will experience a smoother transition to your new place of residence.

If you have made the decision to move but haven’t found a place to rent yet, then be sure to check out some great listings here.

Author’s Bio

Danielle thrives on researching and writing on all aspects of life. Further to writing for Zumper blog and personal finance, she is an advocate of self-improvement and living a life that is both financially responsible and knowledgeable. When she is not on her computer, she can be found spending time with her husband and two sons.

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How To Recruit Friends To Help With Your Move Without Destroying Friendships

in Preparing for a move by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

When you think of asking friends to help you move, you probably think of college days, when all it took was a pickup truck, a few pizzas and a few cases of beers. Times have changed. Your furniture is now worth more money and your friends have bad backs and not much time on their hands.

recruit friends

If you’re over the age of 30, don’t ask your friends to help you load and unload trucks. That’s a good way to lose friends, but if you do play your cards right, they can help.

Ask for food

One of the last things you want to think about when you’re packing and moving is cooking. That’s where your friends could come in. If they offer help, ask them to cook a little extra for you and bring it over. In exchange, feed them with takeout one night.

Ask for help packing

Besides the fact that extra hands are always a big help, a neutral eye can help you cut down on your moving costs. A friend can help you purge by taking the emotions out of packing. Do you really want to pack those two sizes too small pants? A good friend might tell you that while you might one day fit into them again, they are long out of style.

Ask for help cleaning

This one might be a little tricky. No one (well, almost no one) likes to clean. Friends can be a good discerning eye, though. If you have lived with spots and stains for a while, you may have gone blind to them. Ask your friends to inspect your work. Odds are, they’ll pitch in, but even if they don’t, they’ll keep you company.

Regardless of what your friends do to help, thank them with a nice dinner (not just pizza) and perhaps some flowers. Be sure to reciprocate once it’s their turn to move.

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