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What to do with the Kids on Moving Day

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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)

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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 to take a look at the highs, lows and the somewhere in between. Enjoy!

Let’s start with the high:


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.


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.


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


$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, 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.


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


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.


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


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?


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.


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.


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

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.

Does Ninja Movers Use Biofuels?

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Like many companies in the Bay Area, and many companies throughout the world, Ninja Movers is concerned about the environment and it shows in many of our policies and procedures. We recycle. We use renewable and often reusable materials. We don’t leave our trucks running (a common practice), even on short stops. However, there is one action that we have chosen not to take and that is to convert our trucks to biodiesel.

The decision takes many of our customers by surprise. Biofuels are being sold as a greener alternative to fossil fuel and while no one is arguing that fossil fuel is anything but horrible for the environment, the fact is that biofuels are not the answer.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the claims made by advocates of biofuels. The first is that saves on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions over fossil fuel. While it is true that biofuels have zero emissions while burned, the production of biodiesel can be especially dirty and if you take deforestation into account, the net impact to the environment is very high.

“Every ton of palm oil produced results in 33 tons of carbon dioxide emissions—10 times more than petroleum.[1] Tropical forests cleared for sugar cane ethanol emit 50 percent more greenhouse gasses than the production and use of the same amount of gasoline[2]Commenting on the global carbon balance, Doug Parr, chief UK scientist at Greenpeace states flatly, “If even five percent of biofuels are sourced from wiping out existing ancient forests, you’ve lost all your carbon gain.”

There are other environmental problems as well. Industrial agro-fuels require large applications of petroleum-based fertilizers, whose global use—now at 45 million tons/year—has more than doubled the biologically available nitrogen in the world, contributing heavily to the emission of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than CO². In the tropics—where most of the world’s agro-fuels will soon be grown—chemical fertilizer has 10-100 times the impact on global warming compared to temperate soil applications.[3] To produce a liter of ethanol takes three to five liters of irrigation water and produces up to 13 liters of waste water. It takes the energy equivalent of 113 liters of natural gas to treat this waste, increasing the likelihood that it will simply be released into the environment to pollute streams, rivers and groundwater[4] Intensive cultivation of fuel crops also leads to high rates of erosion, particularly in soy production—from 6.5 tons/hectare in the U.S. to up to 12 tons/hectare in Brazil and Argentina.”

Source: Centre for Research on Globalization

Even more significantly, biofuels are a major cause of hunger across the world. In the U.S., farmers who might otherwise grow strawberries and lettuce are growing corn or soybeans for biofuels. Throughout the world, it’s even worse. In countries where food is already scarce, crops grown for biofuels are competing for space with food crops and the biofuel crops are often winning – driving up the costs of food for people who are already paying between 50%-80% of their income on food. As food becomes more expensive, food aid decreases since countries budget aid based on monetary amounts rather than on number of people fed. The Centre for Research on Globalization estimates that by 2025, 1.2 billion people could be chronically hungry.

Many biofuel advocates are trumpeting the use of waste vegetable oil from fast food restaurants. On a very small basis, that’s a great solution, but it simply wouldn’t work on a large basis. In the U.S., we produce only about 300 million gallons of waste oil annually. We use about 220 billion gallons of gasoline for transportation every year. To put that in perspective, if we were to use every gallon of waste oil for transportation, we’d be able to fuel only about one of every 733 vehicles.

Ninja Movers is always on the lookout for the next great truly sustainable way to fuel our trucks. Maybe we’ll be the first moving company with solar panels or even tiny windmills on the top of our vehicles. In all seriousness, we are hoping for one Bay Area company to come to the rescue. A South San Francisco company called Solazyme is making advances in using algae as the next big boon in sustainable fuel production. But for now, we’re working on decreasing our carbon footprint in other places while we work toward solving hunger in our own area (more on that later).

How to Handle a Bad Move

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Everyone has heard about them. Hopefully, not everyone has experienced one, but the reality is – bad moves happen. They happen so often that there are even websites solely dedicated to the concept. Sadly, they also come with their own set of dissatisfied customers.

The truth about the moving industry is that it is largely unregulated. The few regulations that do exist are old – very old. For example, in many states, unless you buy additional coverage, the dollar value assigned to your possessions is by weight – and it’s very low. It’s typically anywhere from $.30 to $.60 per pound per article. In other words, if a light-weight, high-tech TV is broken, it’s actually worth less money than the big 90s behemoth TV that you haven’t gotten around to disposing of. The best way to handle a bad move is to avoid it altogether, but even the best moving companies screw up on occasion. The true test of the quality of a moving company is what happens when the screw up is brought to their attention. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to help bring the situation to a satisfactory resolution.

1. Make sure your move is insured – The truth about the moving industry is that it is largely unregulated. The few regulations that do exist are old – very old. For example, in most states, unless you buy additional coverage, the dollar value assigned to your possessions is by weight – and it’s very low. It’s typically anywhere from $.30 to $.60 per pound per article. In other words, your high-tech, super light-weight LED TV is actually worth less money than the big 90s behemoth TV that you haven’t gotten around to disposing of. Even then, a 100 pound TV would only be worth $60.00 – maximum.

Talk to your mover and your home owner’s insurance company about options.

2. Take pictures and catalog your expensive items along with any damages – If there are scratches on your furniture, take those pictures too. A moving company is far more likely to take you seriously if they know you’re not trying to screw them by blaming them for old damages.

3. Stay calm – Under the best of circumstances, moving is very stressful. Add to that the horror stories many have heard (nightmare moves make much better dinner party conversations than good ones), it’s easy to see why a moving customer would get upset at the first sign of trouble.

The reality is, if you’ve done your homework, you probably have not chosen one of the nightmarish moving companies. You have probably chosen a company that is in it for the long-haul (no pun intended), not the quick buck. It is in their best interest to make you happy and they know it. If you contact them threatening to sue right off the bat, they might see you as a hopeless cause. However, if you call them asking for a resolution, they will most likely accommodate.

4. Know what you want and don’t be greedy – It’s not at all unreasonable for you to ask for damages to be fixes, monetary losses to be covered and maybe a bit extra. It probably is unreasonable for you to ask for a free move on top of all that. Keep in mind, that most movers don’t have to even cover your monetary losses, but many will out of good will.

5. Complain – Some customers see dealing with the moving company as hopeless. It’s not unusual for a company to see a negative Yelp review as the first sign a customer was dissatisfied. Of course, the first course of resolution should always be to contact the company, but when you have done that and no resolution has been found, there are channels.

Warning other Yelp or Angie’s List users is certainly one way to make your bad experience known, but neither of those sites have any authority. If you believe laws have been broken, you should contact your state Public Utilities Commission (California) or Department of Transportation. If you moved out of state, you can file a complaint with the feds.

How to Green Your Move in Seven Easy Steps

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Kermit the Frog famously complains that “it’s not easy being green,” which leads us to believe that he’s probably no stranger to moving.

Most people – even those who dedicate their lives living in an environmentally sustainable way – sort of give themselves a pass when it comes to moving. Who can blame them? When most people imagine their moving day, they see their home cluttered with cardboard boxes – most of which will never be used again. Fortunately, as “greening” has become a priority in the lives of many (especially in the Bay Area), there are several ways that you can green your own move.

1. Find a green place to live – Solar panels, insulated windows and renewable building materials all help make a home more desirable for green minded people, but greenness doesn’t have to stop with the construction. Find a neighborhood that is bike and pedestrian friendly. If possible, choose one close to work. Even more ideally, telecommute. Grow a garden or buy locally whenever possible. The Bay Area prides itself in sustainable living communities.

2. Either hire a professional mover or rent a big enough truck – One of the biggest mistakes people make when moving is renting a truck that is not big enough for their home. Part of the job of a professional mover is to determine the size of the truck needed to avoid unnecessary trips back and forth. For families, two trucks are often required, but that is still preferable to multiple wasted return trips.

3. Move as little as possibleEarlier, I advised that trying to get rid of things before your move can be a waste of time, and for most people it is. Eliminating what might fit into a box or three is typically not worth the time dedicated to sorting, however, if you are able to significantly downsize (and not have to replace everything in your new home) then do it.

4. Try not to buy new furniture – When you move to a new home, you want it to feel new. Your old furniture might not be the best fit. The temptation is to buy new. Avoid it if possible. If you must go furniture shopping, try antique and even junk stores. There are thousands of books and YouTube videos dedicated to helping make old pieces of furniture look new and interesting.

5. Get reusable moving boxes – Moving typically requires a lot of cardboard and much of it is used only once. That doesn’t have to be the case. You can purchase used moving boxes, but there are risks involved. Bed bugs can live in cardboard and they can be difficult to remove without toxic insecticides. Some movers are turning to a cleaner alternative – reusable plastic cartons. They are cleaned out after every move and can be used over and over again. Some are even made of recycled plastic. If you are moving yourself, check into renting reusable cartons.

6. Use the right packing materials – Use paper instead of bubble wrap (paper conforms better to oddly shaped items anyway). To save even more, you can use kitchen linens and even bedsheets as packing material.

7. Once in your new home, recycle.

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Moving

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There are few things that change a life more than moving. Most people embark on a moving journey more than once in their lives, but most give very little thought to the hows and whys of the moving industry. Here are 10 things you probably never knew:

1. When most people think of moving, they think of a truck, but did you know that the first moving van wasn’t even a van? It was a covered horse drawn carriage. Goods were transported across country on rail. As the combustable engine became more common during the turn of the 20th Century, moving companies used two-cylinder, two axle trucks with air cooled engines.

2. The storage industry is rumored to have started in England, when bankers stored items for their clients, but self-storage is an all-American idea – and fairly recent. It started in Texas in the mid-1960s. It spread quickly from there.

3. Americans are very mobile. Approximately 15% of the population (or 37 million people) moves in any given year.

4. Not surprisingly, young people (ages 18-29) are the most mobile.

5. About 2/3rds of people move within the same county. Of the 1/3 of people moving to different counties, about 40% move less than 50 miles.

6. 57% of Americans have not ventured to live outside their home state. 37% have never left their hometown.

7. The most common moves are:

  • New York to Florida: 59,288 people
  • California to Texas: 58,992
  • California to Arizona: 49,635
  • Florida to Georgia: 42,666
  • New Jersey to New York: 41,450
  • New York to New Jersey: 40,815
  • California to Nevada: 40,114
  • Georgia to Florida: 38,658
  • California to Washington: 38,421
  • Texas to California: 37,087

8. The most popular reason for moving is for a job.

9. A whopping 38% of people don’t call their current place of residence “home.”

10. People are leaving cities and moving to the suburbs. Between 2005 and 2010, urban areas lost 4.4 million people while suburban areas gained 8.8 million people.

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