New Digs(part 3) How to pick a Mover

The Better Business Bureau said it received 8,486 complaints about movers in North America last year. Common complaints included final prices greater than original estimates, damaged or lost goods and, in the worst scenarios, movers who held belongings hostage until customers paid thousands of dollars.  But consumers can avoid the same fate by following some simple guidelines for finding a mover. moversWhat to look for when researching potential movers: For interstate moves, make sure the mover is licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (you can double-check a mover’s license at www.protectyourmove.gov). You can also search for interstate movers and complaints about them here. For moves within states, check for similar resources in your state.unloading-truck-released-MeatheadMovers In addition, regardless of the type of move, check to make sure the company has at least a satisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau. According to the American Moving and Storage Association, the trade association for moving and storage companies, interstate movers must be rated at least satisfactory to display the association’s ProMover logo and be considered “a quality, professional” mover.

Get a written estimate from several movers: According to guidelines recently released from the Better Business Bureau and American Moving and Storage Association, “no legitimate mover will offer to give a firm estimate online or over the phone.” Instead, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s guidelines for “choosing a reputable mover,” the estimate should be based on actually looking at your belongings. examples-of-estimate-letterIn addition, remember that the lowest estimate you receive may be an unrealistically low offer just to rope you in and you’ll end up having to pay more in the end, warned the Better Business Bureau and American Moving and Storage Association. Also, keep in mind that movers are required by law to deliver your goods for no more than 10 percent above a “nonbinding estimate” of what your mover believes the cost will be.

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Watch for other red flags: Other signs of a rogue mover to watch out for, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, include the requirement of a cash or a large deposit before the move; a rental truck arrives on moving day; the mover’s telephone line isn’t answered with the company’s name; the mover claims all goods are covered by its insurance and the company’s Web site has no local address nor information about licensing and insurance.

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In addition, for an interstate move, movers are required by law to give you a copy of a booklet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” as you are planning the move (a book you should read before an interstate move to familiarize yourself with your rights).

 

What guidelines did we miss?

Share what you learned from your experiences with rogue movers in the comments below.

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New Digs (part 2)

Last time we talked about apartment hunting, now we’re ready to get organized, declutter and pack it up!

Here are some great tips for an organized move, especially on what you can do well in advance of actually moving.

  1. Create a box or basket of moving supplies. You want one place to hold packing tape, scissors, your labeling pen, etc. You also want an organizational system for all the pins, pens, screws and batteries you’ll come across. (Make sure to separate the working batteries from the dead.) I like to use little jewelry boxes and small plastic containers to hold these items.  After each box is sealed and labeled, the packing tape and Sharpie are immediately returned to this basket.

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  1. Tackle the garage (or wherever your junk space is). Our storage closet is tiny and packed. It’s the electronics graveyard; the “I don’t know where to put this” place; the “I’ll get to it later” storage.  We started by pulling out those “I’ll fix it later” big items and giving them away on Craigslist. We got rid of everything from a broken TV to wood scraps from broken down chairs. When it comes to the CL free section: If you post it, they will come. Next, we filled boxes for two different charity curbside pick-ups.  Then, we found a bunch of small items to sell on Craigslist. From there, we started packing and cleared a ton of space to store packed boxes from the house.
  1. Evaluate your outdoor items. Picture the items in your new backyard or patio and let go of anything you won’t need, won’t work in the new space, or isn’t worth the work to move.  Our current house has an uncovered patio and a huge and mostly unshaded backyard. Our new house has a nice covered patio, two SMUD shade trees, and is significantly smaller. We immediately posted our pergola for sale, and later our 10 ft outdoor shade umbrella. We sold all our plastic patio furniture and the giant trampoline. We netted about $300 from it all.
  1. Go through closets, cupboards, and drawers. Try on clothes you haven’t worn in a while. Try out all those random pens you find. Test batteries. If you see an item you haven’t used in awhile, imagine packing it up, carrying the box in the move, and then unpacking it. If it doesn’t seem worth the hassle, it’s not.  It’s embarrassing how much I found stuffed in the bottom of our china cabinet that we didn’t need. I also had many “Oh THAT’S where THAT was!” moments. In the bathroom, I found expired OTC medications and beauty products I’ll never use. In the past, these were the things that got packed in a rush with no time to evaluate usefulness. In my dresser, I found T-shirts I’ll never wear again, and in the closet, neckties my husband has literally never worn and would never wear.

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  1. Examine your kitchen items. Match lids to containers. Look in the very back of cupboards to find those items you’re probably never going to use again. I parted with random bowls and cups. I discovered our orphan lid situation was worse than I first thought. TOSS!
  1. Pack the items you won’t need until you’re in your new house.  Books, my china set, vases, board games, extra linens, photo albums and decorative items were first on my list. I like to use supermarket fruit boxes for books. They hold a fair amount without becoming too heavy. Many have handles, too.
  1. Take down anything you’ve put on the walls, and take down the shelves from emptied bookcases.  I have my own light-switch covers, so I swapped those back with the standard ones. We took down the shelves we’ve put up, the outdoor hanging candle holders, etc. Again, for me, these were the things that would normally get left for last.  I packed the small media shelves into a sturdy box with the bag of the shelf screws so everything is in one place and easy to transport.
  1. Create a furniture inventory. List and measure every piece of furniture so as soon as you can get into your new home, you can plot where everything will go. This also ensures you’re not moving anything that won’t fit.
  1. Pack your priority items — fresh linens, bathroom and kitchen essentials — in easily recognizable containers. These are the things you unpack first, so you don’t want them lost in a stack of boxes.  I’m using my luggage set to hold a fresh set of bedding, clean towels and the bathroom items I’ll need right away. I’ve put aside one bathroom bag to pack the day of, so I will know exactly where my medication, toothbrush, and favorite body wash are.

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  1. Label everything immediately. List the designated room, the contents and the priority of the box.  I have boxes I want taken to their designated room immediately, and boxes that can sit in the garage until I have time to unpack. For example, dishes are a top priority, whereas my box of cookbooks and cookie cutters is labeled “non-essential,” because they can sit in my garage for a month, and I’ll live.
  1. Take notes. Alphabetizing makes me happy, but I knew that as I packed up my CDs, that ABC-order I so love would get a little mixed up in the boxes. To solve this problem, I used paper placeholders to mark the beginnings and ends of shelves within the box. If I opened a random box, all I had to do was look at the first placeholder to tell me where to shelve that stack of CDs. “Shelf 4 begins with Jet,” for example.
  1. Take pictures. Books are one thing I don’t alphabetize. I arrange books by genre and, of course, group books by the same author. Having a picture of my bookshelf before I packed up my books made all the difference. All I had to do was pull it up on the computer and I could glance it at it from time to time to ensure each book went into its designated place.
  1. Clean bedding, curtains, rugs, etc. Immediately before the move is the perfect time to steam, shampoo or launder those items that might otherwise arrive at your new house less than pristine. Everything we took down went immediately into the wash. That meant as soon as curtains came off the rods, into the machine they went. While the bed was stripped off all bedding, we went to work vacuuming and steaming it.  Don’t forget small appliances and knick-knacks. While I am obsessive-compulsive about organization, I am far laxer when it comes to cleanliness. This means little things like the spice rack, the paper towel holder and the utensil holder don’t get cleaned nearly as much as they should. I wanted everything like-new again for the new house, so I spent some serious scrub-time to shine everything up.
  1. Keep handy a portable file tote with any papers you may need in the next month. My move happened to coincide with a whole bureaucratic mess to deal with, so that file tote was my life-saver. It’s also a good way to keep coupons in one safe place. I have a large four-drawer file cabinet, but making the file tote my go-to spot for papers just simplified things.7d9f396bee54cf2b8124d13ec3bbe106
  1. Stock up on household essentials and grocery shop for far more food than you think you need — preferably a variety of easy-to-prepare items. At the end of a long day of moving, running to the store for pack of paper towels or a gallon of milk is the last thing you want to worry about. And easy-to-prepare doesn’t have to be frozen. Think fixings for sandwiches, cheese, rice and dry beans for burritos, and fruit and granola bars for quick snacks.

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NEXT TIME: Now that we’re packed, let’s do the move!

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New Digs (part 1)

I have been told I have the mind of a #Gypsy, in that I like to travel and move around.  In my adult life, I have moved over 5o times and have enjoyed getting into a new place and space.  Par for the course, I am about to embark on yet another move and am inspired by this season’s hottest #trends when setting up my new digs. This will be a multi-part blog entry that follows my journey from finding the right place, packing, moving in and of course decorating the space.  I welcome your comments and suggestions on this journey!

What can I afford?

How much rent can I afford? is a common question when apartment hunting. Before you get all caught up on apartment decor and hosting potlucks, have you calculated how much you can afford to pay in rent? You don’t want to look at something, fall in love, only to realize it’s out of reach budget wise do you? I suggest using the formula below to calculate just how much your wallet can bring to the table.af5ea1482f7e7a6229738fd96742a14c

Make finding a place to live less of a nightmare with these #tips.

1. Use your friends and extended network. 

Tell your friends you’re looking! I found my super cheap, super cute, and super hug apartment through a coworker of a friend of a friend. Simple word of mouth can (at the very least) get you leads to places that would have gone off the market in seconds without a personal connection.

2. Check your cell phone reception in every room.

Walk through the entire place with your phone out. Nothing is worse than having to make every phone call outside (mostly because sometimes I don’t want to wear pants).

3. Test out the shower.

Nothing is more disappointing than signing a lease only to discover you’ll be washing  under a trickle for a year.

4. Move during the winter.

Lease an apartment in November, December, or January (when rent prices are lowest). If you have to move to a new city in the summer, sign a six month lease and start searching for deals in early October.

5. Figure out how much it will cost if you have a pet.

Check if pet fees are a flat rate or dependent on the number of pets. Some places have a non-refundable fee of a few hundred dollars plus a $100+ deposit *PLUS* monthly pet rent per pet—it adds up fast.

Also: find out whether the building bans specific breeds of dogs. Some complexes don’t allow Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Akitas, Chows, or German Shepherds (breeds that sometimes make it harder for the apartment community to get insurance)

6. Look inside all of the cupboards, closets, and cabinets.

Especially in the kitchen. This is often overlooked, but a quick check could save you tons of trouble. In two apartments I’ve found large holes in the walls right under the sink: unless you want to risk having a few rodents and insects as your new, non-contributing roommates, insist the landlord fix it prior to signing any lease

7. Ask if you can spend a night or two in a place you’re thinking about renting to give it a test drive.

A lot of landlords with smaller apartment complexes will let you.

8. Find out if your car insurance will go up if you move to a certain area.

Call your insurance company to get a quote about what your car insurance will be in the new area (it DOES change based on where you live) and factor that into your budget (best case: it goes down). And while you have them on the phone, GET TENANT INSURANCE: it is soooooooo worth it!

9. Make sure your furniture will fit.

Measure your big furniture (couches, beds, dressers, etc.) before you go hunting and then bring a tape measure with you to make sure your furniture will fit through the doors. That was a LIFE SAVER for us! anigif_enhanced-27536-1447440280-2nbc

One time we were hunting and we really liked the place, but the front door opened right to the kitchen counter: we started measuring and realized that our couch wouldn’t fit through—dealbreaker.

10. When it comes to the average electric or heating bill cost, don’t necessarily trust the landlord’s quote.

Ask other tenants what their bills average before signing any lease. It may turn out that a place you thought seemed cheap is really beyond your budget

11. Be realistic.

Set some realistic standards and stick with them. For example, don’t go look at a $5000 place with granite and stainless steel if you can only afford a small studio apartment that’s over 20 years old. You’re only setting yourself up for failure and disappointment if you don’t.

12. Actually. Read. The. Lease.

Don’t get trapped into something you’ll regret later!

13. Drop by the building on a rainy day.

Visiting during rainy weather will show you how the roof holds up, if the driveway floods, and if there are any leaks.

14. Be morbid.

As Billy Crystal’s character suggested in When Harry Met Sally, look at the obituaries to see which apartments are recently vacated.

15. Be sure all the outlets function.

I went on walk-throughs with a little lamp that I plugged into every socket to make sure it worked.

16. If you have a good personality, USE IT.

I live in San Jose where finding housing can be very, very tough. I went to check out a place we found on Hotpads and there were over 10 other people there looking at the apartment. What made the difference was actually striking up a conversation with the woman showing it.

17. Scout out apartment buildings from your car.

Drive around the city you want to live in and see what apartment complex attracts your eye *THEN* go online and check the place out.  Just make sure that you know the estimated income rate of an area so you have an idea what the price of rent would be.

18. Be prepared.

Prepare for apartment hunt like you would for a job that you REALLY want to get. Have a packet ready to present that includes: proof of employment and recent pay stubs, references from past landlords (plus numbers to call), a short description of you and your hobbies, and a picture (which makes it easier for them to remember you).

19. Stay on the same page as your significant other (or roommate).

Whenever I look at places with my SO, I fill out my thoughts first, then ask him for his—without telling him what mine are (so we don’t bias each other). Doing this has saved us from picking a place that one of us was not happy with many times.o-APARTMENT-ROOMMATES-570

20. If you’re looking at apartment complexes, beware of bottom floor units.

Plumbing is often arranged vertically spanning multiple floors, so if an upstairs neighbor flushes a wad of paper towels, it can get backed up into YOUR apartment. This happens far more frequently than you would expect. Ask questions about how the plumbing is arranged or request an apartment on one of the higher floors

21. If you can move in right away, look for a vacant spot.

Vacant units are losing income, so you can typically get a better deal for occupying it ASAP

22. Enlist a friend to help you make good choices.

Always, always, ALWAYS take a friend you trust with you when you go to look at an apartment. Specifically: one who won’t allow you to make rash decisions

23. Google apartment complexes and read the reviews.

Pay attention to the negative ones, but use your judgement. If someone had one bad experience, they’re going to complain about anything and everything, so you need to look out for people with similar complaints: bugs, crime, etc.

24. Visit any place you’re thinking about renting at night.

Always come back and look at the place at night (when everyone is home)! That way you can get a feel for the other people in your complex, the parking situation, and how loud it actually is.

25. Don’t ignore the listings without photos.

Sometimes they’re just sitting there on Craigslist and Zillow because the home owner isn’t tech savvy. Request photos. Sometimes the results are better than you’d anticipate.

26. Or the newspaper classifieds.

These are usually the ones not posted online because they are usually owned by elderly people. I’ve always gotten a better deal and worked with even better people!

27. Avoid living above a restaurant.

Even if the restaurant is clean, they’ll produce a lot of food waste which will attract a lot of unwanted ~visitors~.norway-rat-in-kitchen-sink_1800x1350

28. Scope out your possible neighbor’s yards.

If people take care of their gardens, then they probably care about the street and it means your neighbors are less likely to be a pain. My dad told me that years ago and it’s never failed me.

29. Ask about the smoking policies or find out if you’ll be living above (or below) a smoker.

It didn’t even cross my mind to ask when I moved into a former apartment , but there was a tenant that lived two floors directly below me and when he smoked in his apartment it filtered up into mine (through the floorboard radiators and in through the window A/C units)

30. Go apartment hunting in the rain.

No one in their right mind is bouncing around town looking at apartment after apartment when the weather is bad, and landlords are eager to lease out on days with little foot traffic. My apartment’s rent was $150 lower a month just because I was the only interested person that came in on a dreary day in February!

31. 💰 💰 💰 💰 💰

Keep an eye on your credit score. Some will absolutely REFUSE to lease to anyone with a credit score of 500 or less. They also used the lowest credit score between roommates and the highest score between married couples.

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NEXT TIME:

Now that I’ve found the place, it’s time to start packing.   Learn how my many moves have proved valuable lessons in clever techniques and tricks for packing/moving.

Moving and packing