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Should You Rent or Buy Your Next Home?

in Bay Area Real Estate by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

Image CC BY-SA 3.0, via Image Creator, by Nick Youngson – rent or buy

The Bay Area housing market is one of the most expensive in the nation, and if you are in the middle of looking for a place to live, one of the most frustrating. You have two choices: rent or buy. Either you can commit yourself to 30 years in a house that could lose value, and will certainly need maintenance, or you can rent and let your landlord build equity. Both options have their ups and downs, so is renting or owning right for you?

Are You Financially Prepared to Buy?

The first thing you want to ask yourself is whether you actually do have the option. Can you afford 20 percent downpayment in a market where houses can easily top $1 million? Another option is an FHA loan, where you only have to come up with 3.5 percent, but know that you’ll have to pay mortgage insurance, which adds between .5 percent to 1.75 percent to the cost of the loan.

Ironically, if your credit is iffy, you might have better luck buying than renting. An FHA loan requires a credit score of 580 and above. If you can shell out a 10 percent downpayment, you could qualify with a score that’s even lower.

Naturally, things aren’t as clear cut when you rent. In a competitive rental market, landlords can afford to be picky. You might qualify for a rental with a less than stellar credit score, or the landlord could rule you out based on just a few late payments. If you aren’t sure whether you’re financially prepared to buy, Trulia has a handy calculator.

Is it the Right Time to Buy?

Credit score and downpayment shouldn’t be the only factors in your decision. Real estate markets, like all markets, go in cycles. Over the last few years, real estate has boomed, but there’s a chance we could be in for a bust soon. If you’re planning on staying in the house for a while, and you’re job is secure, buying still might be worth it. Historically, real estate prices always recover, making it a good long-term investment. If, however, you plan on staying less than three years, you could take a big loss if the market goes south. Three years is about the amount of time it takes to begin building equity, at least in a stable real estate market.

Of course, there’s more to the decision about whether to rent or buy than financial. If you want your home to be yours; you want to paint and renovate at will, you should buy. If you value freedom over a solid home base, then rent.

Featured Image CC BY-SA 3.0, via Image Creator, by Nick Youngson, found on The Blue Diamond Gallery

Is This Even Legal? Three Strange Hacks That Might Help Pay for Your Move

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

When you put a down payment on a house, you get a house. If you put a deposit on an apartment, you get an apartment. When you pay for your move, well, we hate to admit it, but you’re not getting anything new. We transport your goods from one place to another, and you pay us for it. The truth is that hiring a moving company is an incredible savings over the alternative. Which is replacing everything you own. Still, a little help paying for the move would be nice.

Fortunately, there are some little-known hacks that might either help pay for your move, or pay for it in its entirety.

The IRS

The IRS can’t pay for your move altogether, but they might be able to help. If you are moving for a new job, and the new job is more than 50 miles further away from your new home than your old job was from your old home, the move might be tax deductible. Yes, that’s confusing. In other words, if you used to commute 10 miles to your old job, and you’d have to commute more than 60 miles to your new job, that would be a good reason to move. The IRS agrees, so they’ll help out.

You also have to work 39 weeks out of the first 12 month period in your new home. It can be more than one job. The good news is, you don’t have to wait till after the year.

A tax deduction is never 100%, but you can deduct the move, up to 30 days storage, even even moving expenses for your family. 

Student Loans

If you are moving for school or have recently graduated and you still have some student loan money to spend, you can spend it on your move. Granted, you’ll have to pay it back, but the theory is that you’ll be making a lot more money by that time. Still, if you are trying to avoid debt, this might not be your best alternative.

Your Employer

You’d be amazed at the number of people who forget to negotiate moving expenses into their new employment contract. For the employer, it’s a tax deduction. For you, another reason to work for that company. Not all employers will pay for your move. But some will even help with a downpayment on your new home or temporary housing expenses while you look.

 

How To Move Houseplants

in Uncategorized by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

Image CC0 Creative Commons, by Altinka_Bibliotechnaya, via Pixabay

Moving houseplants might seem like a fairly ordinary task, but they are actually some of the most problematic items you will encounter during your move. After you’ve spent so many years nurturing them, will you have to leave them behind?

The difficulty of houseplants is that they are alive and often unwieldy. Some states have regulations against many types of plants entering their borders. Most movers will not move plants long distances – and for good reason. The truck gets no fresh air, and even during moderate temperatures, the back of the truck can get very hot.

If you’ve ever driven into California, you were probably stopped at the border by agents looking for plants and even for fresh fruit. California, along with other states, heavily relies on its agricultural industry. Plants can come with a variety of pests and diseases. Even with the introduction of just one innocent looking houseplant, an epidemic can occur. If you are carrying plants, border agents will have to declare them pest free before you will be allowed to continue. You should check with the state you are moving to to find out what types of regulations they have and if you should arrange for an inspection in advance.

Despite the difficulty, there are ways to keep your houseplants alive during the move. If you are moving locally, many movers will allow the plants inside their truck, with the understanding that there is no temperature regulation. Some plants are hardy enough to withstand a couple of hours in hot or cold temperatures. Some are not. It’s best to research the individual plants before allowing them on a truck if it’s for more than a few minutes.

The number one recommendation is for the plants to be moved in the car, but it’s understandable, that most large, or even medium-sized plants will not fit in a family vehicle. Even if you can fit your plants in the car or if you are moving them in the moving truck, it’s advisable that you “buy” yourself a little insurance by taking cuttings of your favorite plants, which can be stored in plastic bags containing moist vermiculite, peat moss or perlite.

If you do choose to move your plants, it’s important to prepare them:

At least two weeks before the move

  • Repot the plants into plastic, non-breakable pots. It’s important that they live in the new pots in their old environment for at least a couple of weeks. Plants do not like too many changes at once. Your ceramic pots can be packed and moved, so you can repot them again when they are settled into your new home.
  • Prune any wayward growth.
  • Examine your plants for pests and treat if needed.

 

A couple of days before the move

  • Water your plants. Your plants should be moist on moving day but not wet.

 

On moving day

  • Pack your plants. Wrap the base in packing paper or in old linens and carefully place them inside a box. Make sure the plant is completely supported in the box. You can carefully put a second box, upside down, over the first box to completely enclose the plant. Be sure to punch some air holes and clearly mark the box.
  • Load the plants last and unload them first.

 

Once you are settled, don’t shock your houseplants. Unpack them slowly and carefully. Let them sit in the same place for a while to settle into their new environment.

 

How To Stay Cool, Even During A Move

in Preparing for a move by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

Summer is by far the most popular time to move. Home sales are booming, school is out, and the odds of it raining on your furniture are pretty slim, at least in California. Still, we aren’t immune to the weather. With temperatures nearing triple digits in parts of the Bay Area, trying to stay cool during a move can be that much more exhausting. You probably don’t have a choice, though. If you follow these steps, you can stay cool during a move, if not downright comfortable.

Keep the Power On

You might have to pay double utility bills for a few days, but keep the power on in both your old home and your new until you’re completely moved in. That way you can still use your air conditioner (more on that in a minute) and keep food and drinks cold in the refrigerator.

Stay Hydrated to Stay Cool

Yes, this is obvious, but aim for more than just eight cups of water a day. Keep sports drinks on hand for flavor and to replenish electrolytes.

Eat Light and Cool

Sandwiches and veggies are a good way to keep you going during a move, without filling you up too much. Popsicles are great during breaks, but they can mean sticky fingers.

Have Fans in Every Room to Stay Cool

Window fans are inexpensive and surprisingly effective. Place them in or near open windows for maximum efficiency.

Dress Light to Stay Cool

Wear light-colored clothing that is comfortable and breathes. White t-shirts and shorts are good moving attire, unless you are moving furniture. For safety reasons, most movers wear long pants.

Use Air Conditioning to Stay Cool — At Least Part of the Time

Talk to the movers. During packing times, close the doors and turn on the air conditioning. When they start loading furniture onto the truck, though, the door will need to stay open. Turn off the air conditioning and turn on a fan,

Let the Movers Do Everything

This is the easiest and most comfortable piece of advice, if you can afford it. Movers are used to moving in the heat. They know to stay hydrated and cool. You can sit back, enjoy some watermelon and a cool drink.

How To Live Your Life While Moving Without Going Insane

in Preparing for a move by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

If you’re one of the lucky souls who’s able to move while between jobs, when the kids are at summer camp, and are generally able to put life on hold, you are part of a very exclusive and fortunate club. While preparing for a move is a lot of work for everyone, this post of for the rest of us; this is for the people who have to work 8+ hours a day, and generally manage our lives, while preparing to move. Here’s how to do it:

Image Public Domain via Pixnio

Make a To-Do List

Preparing for a move is almost easy when you break it up into small, manageable pieces. Say you have 100 boxes to pack (not uncommon), if you pack five boxes per evening, you’ll be done within 20 days. Involve the spouse and the children, and it will be less. Pack books and knick-knacks first. It’s doubtful you’ll be needing them before the move. Pack off-season clothing next. Pack in-season clothing, the kitchen, and linens last. Here is an excellent moving timeline. We all know how satisfying it is to check items off your to-do list.

Purge

Preparing for a move is the time to clean out, to get rid of what you no longer need. Go through your closet and your drawers. If you haven’t worn something for two years, donate it. If you are waiting to fit into an outfit again, you can store it, or get rid of it. Don’t you want new clothes when you reach your goal? I would advise keeping one item to keep you motivated, though.

Plan Relaxation Time

Even you can’t be all work all the time. Plan some relaxation, whether that means a hike with the dog or a day at the spa. You’ll be even more energized to work afterwards.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

You might be Superwoman or Superman, but that’s on a normal day. Preparing for moving is not normal, at least not for most people. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Leave the kids with the in-laws. Hire a housekeeper. Do takeout or a meal delivery service. Take a day or two (or five) off from work. Or, hire a mover to do all the packing for you.

Make it Fun

No one says moving has to be all work. Crank up the music. Have a dance-off. Make it a competition; whoever can pack the most boxes, wins. Of course, always pick them up and do a quick shake to make sure everything is packed tightly.

What are the Best Storage Options for your Extra Stuff?

in Uncategorized by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

Image CC 2.0, by Unnar Ýmir Björnsson, via Flickr

Have 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?

spaces-self-storage-02-larg

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.

images-2

Warehouse Storage

Warehouse storage is not as well known as self storage, but for many, it’s a convenient option. Moving companies typically have warehouse storage. The moving company moves your things into storage and they move them out. Everything is 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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Container Storage

Containerized storage is a relative newcomer to the industry. 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 come to your home. You generally have three days to fill them. Some hire movers to fill them. 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. You should purchase insurance for your items, or check with your homeowner’s policy. 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.

When To Hire A Handyperson And When To Hire A Contractor

in Uncategorized by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

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

in Uncategorized by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

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 Tip Movers (And Everyone Else)

in Uncategorized by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

Image via Wikimedia

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 tip 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 tip movers $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 move locally, you can tip at the end of the move. If you move 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.

Tip home delivery people 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.

Tip valets between $2.00 – $5.00.

Tip beauticians and aestheticians 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.

 

 

How To Make A Summer Move Without Overheating

in Uncategorized by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

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.

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