Posted by & filed under Moving Estimates.

If you watch the move, you’d almost think moving is as risky as jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. It’s not. While it’s true that there are a lot of scam companies out there, most movers are legit. With just a little homework and by looking for a few clues, it’s easy to find a reliable moving company and to avoid getting scammed.

Screen movers before getting estimates

If you go online and search for movers, you’ll see enough options to make your head spin. You don’t want to call most of them. First off, click on their link. Are you immediately prompted to enter your personal information? Close that link. That will take you to a lead provider or to a broker. It will not take you directly to any moving company. While brokers and lead providers might be fine, they don’t all screen the companies to whom your information is being sent.

If clicking on the link takes you to an actual mover’s website, scroll to the bottom. They should list their licensing information. Enter their licensing information in the US Department of Transportation website. Ideally, you want a company that’s been in business at least five years.

So, their licensing checks out, that’s a good start. Now check out reviews through Yelp, Facebook and Google. Take a look at Angie’s List. Eye both five and one-star reviews with suspicion. Look at those reviewers previous reviews and read them. See how the mover responds to the one-star reviews.

Get estimates

You should always get approximately 3-4 estimates, preferably in-house (although a virtual tour should be fine) and preferably a “binding” or guaranteed estimate. Don’t be lured in by the lowest quote. Moving costs are relatively fixed. One company can’t get your goods across country for half the price of another. It would be impossible. The low-ball estimate is likely from a scammer and they’re the people you read about on the news.

Be realistic

A moving estimate is a two-way contract. A mover agrees to move a certain number of items of certain sizes, pack agreed upon items and to perform the move under agreed conditions, such as distance from the truck to the front door, stairs, etc. If those agreed conditions change, it will be reflected in the bill.

Move sensitive items yourself

We’re not talking about your 60 inch TV or that wall-sized masterpiece. Any reputable mover should be able to care for those. You do want, however, to move sensitive documents and valuable jewelry yourself. In fact, movers are not legally responsible for those items.

For more information, visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website.

Featured image via Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier/Flickr.

Posted by & filed under Getting Ready to Move, Home Buying, Home Improvement.

When you’re moving into a new home, it’s very tempting to pack all your belongings and move in right after you get the keys. Of course, there are times when you have to, but if you do have a week or two to prepare your new place for your furniture, it’s a very. good idea.

What you should try to do before you move in

1. Paint — While it’s certainly possible to paint your walls while you’re living in your home, it’s a lot easier to paint an empty room. You won’t have to move or cover furniture and you’ll find that the job will go a lot faster.

2. Clean — If you’re lucky, you’re moving into a spotless home, but not everyone is so lucky. If the previous owner is still living in the home, you’d be amazed at the dirt that can accumulate between the time it goes off the market and the time you close on the home. Take a day or two before moving in your possessions to make everything spick-and-span.

3. Clean the carpet — Stagers are miracle workers. A well-placed chair or rug can hide all kinds of carpet stains. If your new home’s carpet needs cleaning, do it before the furniture arrives, and preferably give it a day or two to dry.

4. Replace the flooring — If you want a whole new floor, before you move in is the time to do it. It’s impossible to lay a new floor in a furnished room. Sure, we’d be happy to move your furniture into temporary storage, but why, when you can store it for free at your old place. If you are laying hardwood flooring, allow a few extra days for the wood to acclimate to your home.

5. Renovations — Okay, that might be asking a lot, since renovations can take weeks or sometimes even months. However, if there’s any way you can avoid living in a home that’s being renovated, do it.

We know that it’s not always possible to delay moving in, but we can help. We can temporarily store you furniture while you prepare your new home. Yes, there will be a bit of an extra cost. In the long-run, though, you will find it very worth it.

Featured image via Wikimedia.

Posted by & filed under Long-Distance Moving, News.

One of the biggest selling points in modern real estate is called “walkability.” While cars are still an undeniable factor in American life, more an more people are moving places where they can avoid the expense and hassle of owning one. They want to live in a city that’s walkable, or at least bike-able.

Walkability is good for us. According to Walk Score:

Health: The average resident of a walkable neighborhood weighs 6-10 pounds less than someone who lives in a sprawling neighborhood.1
Cities with good public transit and access to amenities promote happiness.2

Environment: 82% of CO2 emissions are from burning fossil fuels.3 Your feet are zero-pollution transportation machines.

Finances: Cars are the second largest household expense in the U.S.4 One point of Walk Score is worth up to $3,000 of value for your property.5 Read the research report.

Communities: Studies show that for every 10 minutes a person spends in a daily car commute, time spent in community activities falls by 10%.6

The nation is beginning to take notice. Cities across the country are sprouting “planned communities,” complete with walking trails, bike trails, grocery stores, gyms, coffee houses and just about anything people need — all within easy walking distance.

Still, most Americans don’t live in planned communities. Most live in the suburbs or in older neighborhoods that were built before “walkability” was a word. City dwellers, though, have known walkability for as long as there have been city dwellers. Here is a list of the 10 most walkable cities in the United States.

If you are looking for a place to move where you can ditch your car, try one of these:

1. New York City

It’s not surprising that the Big Apple, long known for its underground subway system and its bus system, tops the list of walkable cities. In New York, a car is a liability. Parking can cost north of $50 a night and even if you can find street parking, you have to move your car every other day or you get a hefty ticket.

2. San Francisco

The City by the Bay is the number two most walkable city. The entire Bay Area is linked by several bus and train systems, making it possible, if not always cheap and easy, to go pretty much anywhere.

3. Las Vegas

Las Vegas is bustling, but it’s a small city. Most businesses are located within a few blocks of each other, and even if you wan to leave the Strip or Downtown, there is a bus system.

4. Honolulu

Who wants to leave the beach when you’re in paradise? Even if you do, Honolulu has a great bus system.

5. Washington, D.C.

Hobnob with some of the most powerful people in the world on the D.C. Metro subway system or on the bus. Okay, the most powerful people are likely in cars, but having a car in our nation’s capital can be very expensive.

6. Boston

When the weather allows, Boston is one of the most walkable cities in the nation, with most of the major attractions being within foot distance. If the weather does take a turn for the worst, Boston has a subway system, an excellent bus system and water taxis.

7. Portland

Portland, Oregon has the double advantages of being small and being extra walk/bike friendly. The city has long been at the cutting edge of alternative energy and in alternative modes of transportation. There is an extensive bike share system as well as a light rail, streetcars and busses.

8. Chicago

The nation’s third largest city is also one of the most walkable. Even during inclement weather, its train and bus system can take you almost anywhere within the city and to many places in the Chicagoland metro area.

9. Philadelphia

Philadelphia is one of our oldest cities and one of our most walkable.

Philadelphia ranks just after Boston (No.4 and No.3, respectively) in America Walks’ walkability ratings and is similar in its wealth of historic attractions, parks and squares. There are 67 National Historic Landmarks within the City of Brotherly Love’s confines; look for the Walk!Philadelphia signs to help you navigate. Spring and fall are the most glorious times to stroll, but the climate is relatively mild year-round, although below-freezing temperatures do occur in winter.

Philadelphia’s transit authority, SEPTA, runs buses, subways, trolleys and trains, so if you want to explore outside the Center City district, you have an efficient range of options. The Philadelphia Zoo, America’s oldest, is located in Fairmount Park, and is an easy walk from a SEPTA bus stop, for example.

10. Minneapolis

Minneapolis is certainly not one of our warmest cities in the winter, but its skyway system link over 69 blocks, complete with condo and aparemtne buildings and a wide array of shopping and entertainment. Minneapolis also has an excellent public transportation system.

Featured image via Kristoffer Trolle/Flickr.

Posted by & filed under Real Estate.

There’s no shortage of online and in-person advice when it comes to learning to sell your home fast. Most boil down to decluttering, staging your home, finding a good real estate agent and work on the looks and maintenance of your home. The most important tip of all, though, is often an afterthought in these lists and it shouldn’t be.

How often have you browsed through real estate listing sites like Realtor.com and noticed that some homes stand out more than others, and not for the right reasons. In the days of smart phones, everyone is a photographer, but most cell phone photography doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to marketing your home.

What is the number one tip to sell your home fast?

Perspective buyers aren’t getting their first impressions from your agent or your listing price. They are looking at pictures. Do your pictures look crisp and well-lit or are they dark and blurry? Do they show clutter or a neatly staged home?

Did you know that 92 percent of homebuyers (according to realtor.org) use the Internet as part of their home search? That means that listing photos are a critical factor — it will determine the selling price of a home, how quickly it sells and whether it sells at all. I’d venture to say that the single most important factor in selling a home is good photography.

This isn’t only about homes ranging above $1 million; this applies to all homes priced at $200,000 or more. That’s right. Studies have found that good photography helps to sell a home faster and for more money. Keep in mind that with so much research performed online, a good photo can help to get a homebuyer through the door.

Source: Inman.com

If you want to have some fun, do a Google search for bad real estate photos. You’ll find photos of messy beds, kitchens overflowing with trash and even toilets that haven’t been flushed. It should be a no-brainer that you should make your home pristine before taking pictures. More commonly, though, is we see pictures that are too dark or they are overexposed. A professional photographer is an expert at light and at creating the first impression you need to sell your home.

There’s really no excuse. A professional real estate photographer only costs a few hundred bucks. In return, you could make thousands more on your sale and sell much more quickly.

Featured image via Chalon Handmade/Flickr.

Posted by & filed under Packing, Storage.

The move is done. The boxes are unpacked, sort of. You’ve even spent time decorating and finally, your new home looks like you. The only problem is that you can’t fit your car in the garage.

Now, some people might question why you even bothered to move the boxes you have stored in your garage. You don’t need that kind of negativity. Sure, it’s possible you’ve barely even peeked in those boxes in your entire adult life. It’s possible that every report card, drawing and diorama since kindergarten is in those boxes. It’s also possible that inside that cardboard are the charred remembrances of relationships past.

Regardless, your car needs a home and fortunately, there are several things you can do to give your wheels the shelter it deserves.

Get rid of stuff

Yes, I know, I just said you don’t need that kind of negativity, but I am morally obligated to at least mention it. Sure, it’s true that if you haven’t needed something for the last two years, you’ll probably never use them again. And while there’s a chance you’ll fit into your 90s mom jeans again, do you really want to wear them?

If purging was your goal, though, you probably would have done it before the move. There’s a reason you’re holding on to that stuff, and who are we to judge? Then again, mom jeans are back in style, so you might be able to get a couple of bucks.

Organize

There’s a possibility that you have reached a moving wall, which sounds nothing like it actually is. The process of packing, moving and then unpacking takes a lot of momentum. There’s a certain point, though, where many people hit a wall and it can take a long time to break through. Maybe you want to unpack those boxes, but you lack both the energy and the places to put things.

While it’s costly to literally make more room in your home, a little organization might free up enough space for you to empty those garage boxes.

Store it

Just a few years ago, there were only a handful of options for storage. Today, the options aren’t quite endless, but there is something so suit every need. You can store on your property with a storage shed or a mobile container sent by a storage company. If you choose the container option, the storage company can store it on their premises as well.

If you haven’t moved yet, or even if you have, your moving company will be happy to store your goods. The advantage to that is that nothing needs to leave its safe moving-ready packaging. The moving company will protect and care for your goods. The downside is that the moving company will have to have one of their employees access anything you might want.

The third option is what most people probably think of when they think of storage, and that’s self-storage. Most self-storage facilities are drive-up, where you enter a code into a keypad and drive through the gate to your storage unit. Some even have indoor storage, which is generally more secure, but also more expensive. Most of these storage facilities will pick up for free, as long as you stay for a certain number of months. After that, everything is on you. You are free to rummage through, take away or add at will, but you are responsible for any loss or breakage.

Having too much stuff is the American way of life. It’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but when your car suffers, it might be time to do something.

Posted by & filed under Getting Ready to Move, News.

Between hurricanes, floods and fires, it almost seems as if Mother Nature is on the warpath. Perhaps she is, or perhaps all of recent natural disasters are just a horrible coincidence. That’s not an argument for this blog to take up, but it is true that a lot of people have been asking themselves how to protect themselves and where they might move that is safe.

First, let’s talk about the least safe states, and as you might imagine, California doesn’t fare well. It’s the second worst state for national disasters. Only Texas has more. We get floods, fires, land and mudslides, tsunamis and of course, earthquakes. Now, before reading too much into this, remember that they are counting number of events and we are the third largest state in land mass. Texas is second. In reverse order, the states with the most natural disasters are:

  1. Missouri
  2. Arkansas
  3. Kentucky
  4. Alabama
  5. Louisiana
  6. Florida
  7. New York
  8. Oklahoma
  9. California
  10. Texas

 

If we break it down even further, California, at least Southern California, doesn’t get any better. Southern California counties represent five of the top 15 most dangerous counties and there isn’t a single California county in the 15 safest.

  1. Ocean County, New Jersey
  2. Orange County, California
  3. Cape May County, New Jersey
  4. Monmouth County, New Jersey
  5. Los Angeles County, California
  6. Clinton County, New York
  7. Burlington County, New Jersey
  8. San Diego County, California
  9. Franklin County, New York
  10. Riverside County, California
  11. San Bernardino County, California
  12. Atlantic County, New Jersey
  13. Chittenden County, Vermont
  14. Grand Isle County, Vermont
  15. Camden County, New Jersey

For many of us in California, low risk means boring, and we know the risks. We live in California for its beauty, for its culture, for its never-ending activities, for the bustling business climate and for the people. If you’re tired of feeling on-edge, though, who can blame you? The good news is that you don’t have to travel far outside of California to escape most of the wrath of Mom Nature. All but one county is at least in the western half of the United States. Two are in our neighboring state of Oregon.

Time Magazine lists the safest counties as:

  1. Sweet Grass, Montana
  2. Washington County, Idaho
  3. Wheatland County, Montana
  4. Sherman County, Oregon
  5. Emporia City, Virginia
  6. Fergus County, Montana
  7. Luna County, New Mexico
  8. Liberty County, Montana
  9. Grant County, New Mexico
  10. Malheur County, Oregon
  11. Potter County, South Dakota
  12. Hill County, Montana
  13. Silver Bow County, Montana
  14. Canyon County, Idaho
  15. Golden Valley County, Montana

The other piece of good news is that even if you stay in California, the odds of dying, even in an earthquake, are very small. Your odds of being killed by lightening is actually higher.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Posted by & filed under Getting Ready to Move.

It’s cliche to say that moving is stressful, but it’s especially true when you move your pets, especially for cats and dogs. The minute packing begins, your pets almost instinctively know something is going on.

Of course you want to make your pets’ routine as normal as possible. Feed them at their usual schedules. Walk your dogs like usual, but as far as actually transporting pets, that’s not always easy.

Your pets would be happiest traveling with you, but if your car will be too full or if you’re traveling by airplane, that’s not always possible.

How do you move your pets?

If you are traveling by air, your pets can travel with you. If your pet is small enough, and can fit in a crate that fits in a seat, you can buy them a ticket. Otherwise, contact your airline for their pet transport options.

If you are moving by car, prepare them by feeding them very lightly. Make several stops for them to get a little exercise and to relieve themselves. Be sure to pack a lot of water. Make sure you give them air by either using the air conditioner or cracking windows, especially if you leave them in the car by themselves. Ask your vet for car sickness medication if necessary. Many hotels and motels allow pets, but you should check in advance and, if possible, make advanced reservations. Some charge a bit more for pets, but it’s worth it to not have to hide your pets.

If having your pets travel with you simply isn’t an option, there are companies that will transport them for you. The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association has lists of registered pet shippers. There are companies that can ship your pets either via air or ground transport.

Featured image via Katlene Niven/Flickr.

Posted by & filed under News, Real Estate.

Los Angeles, and in particular, the San Fernando Valley, is notorious for its traffic. Right now, an estimated 86 percent of San Fernando Valley commuters drive to work. Most spend more than half an hour on each end of the commute. Some good news is coming, though. The San Fernando Valley may be getting a new subway line.

The Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association sent a letter to the Metro.

…The group expresses overall support for Metro’s East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor, which will link the Van Nuys Orange Line station to the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink station—about 9 miles to the north. The project won’t reach Sherman Oaks, but the group argues that it will have a potentially large impact on the neighborhood.

The letter also urges Metro to consider putting the line underground, maintaining that this option would be “faster and less intrusive on autos, pedestrians, and bikes.”

Source: LA Curbed

According to the environmental impact report, Metro is also considering a light rail line, two rapid bus options and a tram. Most of those would be at street level, with the exception of 2.5 underground miles between Panorama City and Van Nuys.

A subway would be much more expensive.

Putting the project underground would increase the projected cost of the project far beyond the $2.7 billion price tag Metro has estimated for the mostly above-ground light rail. Metro spokesperson Kimberly Upton tells Curbed the cost of an entirely subterranean line would likely be between $7 billion and $8 billion.

The homeowner’s association doesn’t care. They want the subway. About half the is already covered through Measure M, which raised sales tax last November. The rest, they say, can be raised by public-private partnerships.

What is your opinion on mass transit in the San Fernando Valley, and throughout the rest of the Los Angeles area?

Featured image via Wikimedia.

Posted by & filed under Home Buying, News.

Despite a median Los Angeles home value of $632,000, a new generation of home buyers has entered the Los Angeles housing market. Millennials are taking their earning power and buying homes.

It’s been a struggle for many.

The rate of first-time home buyers is still historically low, but it’s picking up, finally.

Nationally, first-time home buyers purchased 35% of previously owned houses and condos sold in the 12 months that ended in June 2016 — the latest data available — up from a near-record low of 32% in the previous 12-month period.

Still, that rate is well below the historical average of 40% over the last several decades, reflecting continuing obstacles, such as heavy personal debt loads and high home prices, that are preventing more young people from buying homes.

Source: Los Angeles Times

California still hasn’t caught up to the rest of the country, though. In the last quarter, 31.7 percent of home sales were to first-time buyers, but that’s up almost 10 percent from just a year ago.

Higher coastal prices are forcing some to move inland, often with long commutes. The further people move from Los Angeles, the more affordable homes become. Builders are following the demand.

In San Bernardino and Riverside counties, builders pulled permits for 9,269 new homes, most of which were houses, in the first seven months of this year, up 58% from a year earlier, according to data from the Census Bureau.

In more expensive Los Angeles and Orange counties, permits were down a combined 4%, a drop that came entirely from multifamily construction, which is typically built in expensive urban areas and faces more pushback from existing residents.

For people in the coastal areas, you can probably expect even higher home prices as high-paid millennials and those with parental help enter the market, driving down inventory and driving up home values.

Featured image via Mark Moz/Flickr.

Posted by & filed under Long-Distance Moving, Moving Estimates.

While walking our dogs, a good friend mentioned that she had chosen a moving company for her retired father who lives in the Midwest. I asked about the company and after hearing about them, I told her to cancel the move, immediately.

They pulled a sneaky trick

It all seemed innocent enough. The company had the same name as one of the major van lines. For my friend, this was a good thing. For me, it was a giant red flag, but I didn’t stop there. I pulled out my phone and looked at the company’s website. There were no pictures of their namesake’s very recognizable trucks.

How I figured it out

The first thing I did was look at their Yelp reviews. They had a whopping four. Two were five stars and two were one. The two five star reviews just seemed suspicious, but I didn’t end the research there.

I scrolled to the bottom of the site, where they posted their licensing information. That was good, at least until I looked. The company had been in business for just a few months. That’s bad. In that time, they had racked up a number of complaints with the Department of Transportation. That’s very bad. Most reputable companies have only a couple of complaints in years, if not decades, of service.

I checked their Better Business Bureau listing. While I don’t place a lot of stock in the Better Business Bureau (members can get more leeway), all of this combined was all I needed to know.

Complaints ranged from overcharging to not showing up to holding goods hostage, waiting for more money.

It gets worse

The company my friend had chosen required a hefty down payment with a strict 72 hour cancellation policy. The move is two months away, but any cancellation will result in the loss of her deposit, unless it’s within the first 72 hours.

Fortunately, she called within those 72 hours and if she doesn’t see the refund on her credit card, she has recourse through her credit card.

The lesson here is be wary. Just because a company has a recognizable name, it doesn’t mean they have anything at all to do with that company. Yes, the major van lines (and sometimes respected local companies) they have stolen the name from have recourse, but the dishonest companies are rarely in business long enough for that to matter.

My friend was lucky, simply because I know a lot about the moving industry. Hundreds of people are scammed every day by dishonest moving companies and with tricks like stealing names of legitimate companies, customers are finding it more difficult to figure out who’s good and who’s bad.

Featured image via TheMuuj/Flickr.