Archive for September, 2009

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WSJ’s ‘Hot Cities for Youth’ Misses One Key Element: Risk

downtownportland

Isn’t youth all about taking risks?

Not if you’re the Wall Street Journal.

It recently consulted a group of demographic and relocation experts and compiled its list of magnet cities for youth, and most of the obvious candidates are there: New York, Washington, D.C., Austin and the rainy redoubts of Seattle and Portland.

‘Post-Recession Boomtowns,’ is how the Journal described them.

But it had a glaring oversight: ‘stretch’ cities. Most of the list are the obvious and safe, with large populations and solid economies.

That probably helped exclude a lot of cities that might have qualified, like, for example, ANY city in the South, and just a couple in the Southwest.

The article notes that Naples, Florida had been listed as a popular relocation destination for youth earlier this decade, but that its pummeling in the economic crisis helped keep it off the list.

Same probably goes for any city in Florida, as well as most large cities in California.

However, isn’t the very pummeling of a city a reason for youths in particular to take a look, particularly as a ‘post-recession boomtown’? The Journal’s list seems to focus on cities that are doing well now, not that might do well in the future.

For example, Portland probably wouldn’t have made this list a decade ago — it was dirty, gritty and didn’t offer much economic opportunity.

But you might say that very reason it’s on the list now is that it attracted youth. That youth helped revitalize the downtown and made it a much more inviting place to live. Inevitably, that helped attracted businesses that wanted to tap into what’s now an enviable lifestyle for people of all ages.

So when you’re looking to move, also take a look at the cities that are in the dumps. You’ll find cheaper housing and a cheaper overall standard of living, and perhaps less competition for entry level jobs as your peers flock to the more popular cities.

And if you’re intent on being an entrepreneur, you’ll probably find local government that would love to give you some financial assistance.

Make your decision for moving based not entirely on how things look now, but how they might look in the future.

Here’s the top 10 (er, 11 – there were some ties that apparently couldn’t be decided by a coin flip).

1. Washington, D.C.: Thank God for the stimulus — what happens when that ends?

1. Seattle (tie): I hear it rains there.

3. New York City: Financial industry not as hard-hit as expected, but let’s wait to see what greater government regulation (or more accurately, enforcement) does to it.

4. Portland, Ore.: See Seattle

5. Austin, Texas: I imagine even Austin is getting tired of making everyone’s top 10 list (including our own Best Places for a Fresh Start).

6. San Jose, Calif.

7. Denver: If you can’t work, you can at least ski (if you can afford to ski).

8. Raleigh-Durham, N.C.: Another fave on the top cities lists.

9: Dallas: Buoyed by oil, it will continue to do well.

10: Chicago: You don’t see this on many lists, and I don’t know why — great econ and Olympics tie should help.

10: Boston: Also not a city you see much on these lists.

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Moving Costs — Easy Ways to Cut ‘Em

Hiring moving companies isn’t easy — or cheap. However, it’s generally easier than moving it all yourself, so if you’re hiring movers, here are some ways to save.

Pack It Yourself: A moving company’s packing services performed by the mover are often as expensive as the transportation cost itself. Even if you are having your goods packed by the mover, there are some ways of saving money. Items that are nonbreakable such as linens and bedding can be packed easily without the risk of damage — maybe pack these, and have the movers handle the breakables, it’s a good way to save money.  This is called a partial pack of your goods.

Seasonal Considerations: You will save money if you can be flexible on your move time. Avoid June, July, and August – those are the most expensive months to move because of greater demand for full-service long distance moving companies. Year-round, try to play your move during the middle of the month — costs are higher at the beginning and the end of the month because of the large number of apartment leases that have month-end dates. If you have some wiggle room with your move-in times, that can also save you money because the moving company may be able to combine shipments; however, ask yourself how long you can go without your stuff.

Save on Packing Luggage and duffel bags are perfect for packing sheets, towels and clothing. Also, the bottoms of wardrobe boxes are great for bulky, lightweight items. Use that space. Be wary of packing tips that might save you money but won’t protect your stuff – for example, using wadded up newsprint instead of bubble wrap. You might save a few dollars, but in the end, is busting something worth it?

Stock Up Make sure you have plenty of boxes and materials so you don’t have to keep making trips to buy more. If you’re buying from moving companies, you might be able to return the boxes you don’t use. Most everyone underestimates how much they’ll need; don’t make this mistake, be sure to get enough.

Storage Notes: If you have stuff at a storage unit or at another location, move those items to your home to avoid extra pick-up charges. Most items that need to be disassembled can be done so by the moving company. However, other items such as exercise equipment, outdoor gym and play sets require extra labor, and will cost you more. Whenever possible, disassemble and reassemble these yourself.

Time is Money Color-code the boxes according to the room they belong in so they all end up in the same place, saving time for both you and your mover.

Taxing Times Your moving costs could be tax-deductible. Keep all receipts for the taxman.

Are You Insured? Moving insurance is cheap and usually worth the cost — the basic protection you get from the moving company is exactly that, basic.

Do You Really Need That? Most long-distance moving is based on the weight of your shipment, so do you really need to move those heavy items? Check areas of your home for items that have not been used for a long time and simply dump them – if you don’t use them, why pay for them to be moved to new place where you won’t use them all over again? Sell it on eBay, sell it at a garage sale, or donate it to charity and take a tax write-off.

Know What You Own: Decide what items you want to ship and what will simply be thrown away. And keep in mind that if you change the number of items you move, the total cost of your move will change. Inform the mover of any changes — effective communication is a key factor for a successful move.

Ask — Politely: If you want to save money, chat with your moving company when you get moving quotes. With the economy, many moving companies are pretty desperate for your business, and will suggest ways to cut your move costs. But don’t go crazy — scam moving companies will cut your costs to zero if it means they can get your job and scam you. Make sure the cost savings make sense.

Related Stories:

5 Easy Ways to Save Over $1,000 on Your Move

Relocation.com Videos on Packing

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Politician to Small Business Owner: Get a Lobbyist

At least you can’t call this politician a liar.

When a group of movers complained to local politicians at an Oregon town hall meeting about a recently passed law, they got a rough lesson in politics.

The movers were objecting to Senate Bill 2817, which forbids moving companies from using rental trucks to haul household goods.

Intended to crack down on rogue moving companies that don’t have their own trucks, it also penalizes movers who might use rented or leased trucks to meet demand during peak seasons or don’t keep any fleet at all — it’s expensive to keep a fleet of trucks year-round, particularly for the small moving companies that were complaining at the town hall.

Aside from the fairness of the law, the whole episode offers a mirror into how government sometimes works — and why people feel so alienated from it.

According to a report from Southern Oregon Mail Tribune, when the smaller movers asked how they could fight the bill, State Rep. Dennis Richardson was candid:

They probably can’t, because the law has already been passed.

But he did offer some tough-love hindsight.

“You needed a lobbyist,” Richardson said. “You needed someone who was specifically looking out for you.”

Politicians everywhere lament about the plight of small-business owners.

But so often, that voice often goes unheard — because it’s never sought out unless you have the resources to pay someone to be your voice. Which is exactly what small-business people (not to mention much of the general public) often lack the resources to do.

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Slick Move Guide – A Review

Slick Move GuideIt’s my experience that people who are moving come in three distinct varieties:

1. ‘We don’t need no stinkin’ plans’: These folks just kinda wish their move happens but put off planning til the day before moving day. It never ends well.

2. ‘Please don’t scam me’: These folks are mostly concerned about finding a good moving company, but they don’t put much effort into the rest of their move. They don’t get scammed, but they don’t enjoy an efficient move.

3. ‘The Planners’: They plan every aspect of their move to the finest detail. These meticulous folks might be annoying to the less organized among us, but they get the job done.

I recently came across a book that would appeal to The Planners, as well as the ‘Please don’t scam me’ group (the non-planners will never be bothered with reading a book on relocation).

Jodi Velazquez’ book Slick Move Guide is a nice read because it doesn’t overwhelm you with tips and guidance, yet it gives you just enough information to help you succeed in every facet of your move.

Finding Movers: A comprehensive backgrounder on the moving industry, and how to go about finding moving companies you can trust. Her ’25 Questions for the Moving Companies’ is particularly good.

I doubt many people will actually ask all 25, but even if you ask a majority of them, you’ll know a great deal about the company and it will help you make an informed decision. I also think it serves as a good checklist to use after you a choose a moving company, to ensure you’re aware of all the particulars of your move.

Packing:  A lot of good tips, with ‘green-friendly’ advice specifically marked as such, with a ‘Things to Buy List’ that’s particularly thorough and helpful. There’s a wealth of information on how to pack a variety of different items.

There are also storage tips (which are useful because most moves involve storage), checklists to track your progress planning your move, a very helpful ’10 things to do before moving day,’ and a list of items to take care of at your new home.

What I like most about the book is that it includes real-life examples from the author’s move. That’s critical: it’s much easier to learn from someone else’s experience (both successes and failures), and in that, Velazquez’ book is a winner whether you’re moving, or know someone’s who’s moving.

Related Articles:

Our Readers’ Biggest Moving Challenge, and How They Tackled It

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Moving Data Suggest Weakening of Recession

amsa_logo_amp1Citing data that shows a slowing reduction in shipping volumes, the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA) says the moving industry might be flashing the same signals as other industries that the economy could be on the mend. 

“Although shipments overall remain significantly below historical levels, we saw much less of a reduction in shipment volumes in June, which in turn was less than the declines during the first five months of the year,” said Linda Bauer Darr, AMSA president and CEO. “In fact, shipments by our members for non-Defense Department moves for the federal government were actually up 14% from June 2008.”

A Relocation.com survey earlier this summer suggested an easing in recessionary pressures as well, with fewer people reporting the poor economy as a reason to move; rather, more people were moving to either a bigger/better home, or moving to a nice neighborhood.

The figures are from the summer issue of AMSA’s Industry Trends. The summer issue also says the drop in the average shipment weight since the industry’s peak year of 2006 has been greatest for individual household goods moves, and for non-defense federal government personnel (GSA) moves. 

However, AMSA notes that the weight decline in the GSA segment may be caused by “split moves” when one spouse does not immediately join the other in their new location, which could occur when they are unable to sell their house or find a new job due to the economy.         

Industry Trends, published quarterly, offers an overview of current trends and business activity within the sector, and offers data on shipment volume, both aggregate and regional; demand factors; timing; inbound/outbound data; and market-specific trends and outlooks.  Industry data is based on information submitted confidentially to AMSA by its member companies.  

Related Articles:

Homeowners’ Dilemma, Renters’ Delight

Where You Choose to Live Is Crucial to Your Financial Future

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Craigslist – Scourge of Legit Chicago Movers

Great article in the Chicago Tribune about legitimate Chicago moving companies getting the shaft from a flurry of unlicensed moving companies on Craigslist.

“We’d be doing a lot better if these guys weren’t skimming from us,”  Ron Montanez, director of operations for Aaron’s Reliable is quoted as saying in the article.

Unlicensed movers in Chicago enjoy the same advantages that unlicensed moving companies do nationwide: much lower operating costs because they don’t have insurance and don’t have the expenses of obtaining a license; fewer regulators enforcing existing laws; and shippers so enthralled with saving money that they’re willing to take their chances.

The situation is exasperated by a chilly economy, as more folks with a truck and a pair of arms get into the business.

From the Tribune: “An out-of-work carpenter named Tom is one of them. He wouldn’t give his last name but said he started posting a few weeks ago after carpentry jobs dried up and he needed another source of income. He had what’s needed to be a mover: able body, pickup truck and Internet connection.”

The authorities are trying to keep up with what seems like a spate of unlicensed movers. They’ve ticketed 80 movers in the six-county Chicago area, which is up from 65 in all of 2008 and more than any year in recent history, according to the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Of course, going with an unlicensed mover brings up all sorts of issues, well catalogued by sites like movingscam.com.

However, I rarely hear about one of the biggest risks of all when you go with the unlicensed, uninsured fly-by-nighters: they don’t have Worker’s Comp. And if you’re moving to a new home, you might not have purchased homeowners insurance or renters insurance yet.

So if a mover hurts himself at your place, you could be on the hook for a huge legal bill.

Forget losing all your physical stuff.

That could drain every last penny you have.

Relocated Articles:

Video: Find Trustworthy Chicago Movers

How to Fight Your Fear of Moving: Get Prepared

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Questions to Ask When Renting a Home

Rental Housesweeks ago I wrote how people who can’t sell their home are starting to mull renting it instead.

If you’re one of those on the opposite side of the equation — you want to rent a home — here’s a quick list of things to look for in a rental home. Even though you’re just renting, you’re still investing in a community, and there are some important things to consider:

• The quality of the neighborhood and area schools as well as school bus routes, schedules and stops. If you have kids, find out if their school schedule fits your own.

• Check crimes rates in the area, as well as the sex offender registry.

• Is the new place convenient for your work, and does it have ready access to services and businesses that you frequent?

Here’s what to check on the house itself:

• Who’s responsible for general maintenance and utility bills, you or the landlord?

• Can you get the landlord easily if there is an emergency? Some homeowners who rent are doing so because they are moving out of state. Check to see if that’s the case.

• Do a background check on the homeowner just as they’d do one on you, say experts — you’ll never know what secrets may be in their financial closet. You don’t want the house to get foreclosed on, leaving you having to find a new place. Make sure whoever you’re renting from is current on their mortgage — and looks set to stay current.

• Check for environmental hazards like lead paint, asbestos and mold, particularly older homes. Don’t assume that the landlord has done those checks for you. And don’t assume any defects you see in the house will be fixed in the months ahead — make the fixes a condition of your signing the lease.

• Go over the lease carefully, particularly the section about breaking your lease. Also, be sure to check out renters insurance — your landlord’s insurance won’t cover you for most things.

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Last-Minute Move? Packing Tips for the Rushed Mover

This is a guest article from MovingDayBoxes.com

It’s crunch time, do or die: You have to move this weekend and you haven’t done anything. You need to start packing but you don’t know where to begin, and the whole thing seems completely overwhelming. Take a deep breath — we’ll show you how to pack like a pro.

Divide your clothes into four categories:

1.) Clothes you will use before you move

2.) Clothes you will definitely be wearing in the weeks after you move

3.) Clothes that are off season

4.) Clothes that you are ready to donate.

Pack up the donation clothes first — be aggressive here, when was the last time you wore that ugly olive sweater? Purging your closet of the things you don’t wear anymore will give you a feeling of progress and the positive momentum to keep moving forward.

Pack up the clothes that are off-season and the clothes you won’t be wearing in the next two weeks next. Leave the clothes you will be wearing in the next two weeks in the closet and pack those the day of the move.

Order some affordable moving supplies that can be delivered for free the next business day. On average, somebody who is moving spends two and half hours trying to locate moving boxes, comparing prices and picking up the boxes. Save yourself this step get the boxes delivered for free.

Pack dresses, suits, and pants that can’t be wrinkled in wardrobe boxes. This is important because if an important garment is thrown in a regular moving box, they can be so thoroughly wrinkled that they make become hard or impossible to un-wrinkle.

A common novice mover mistake is to purchase many extra-large boxes. This is a mistake because as you fill an extra-large box they often become too heavy to carry. A good rule of thumb is to use as small a box as possible and use more of them. Small boxes also won’t obscure your vision as you are going down stairs or walkways.

Make sure to put your mattress in a heavy-duty mattress bag. Mattresses tend to get very dirty and grimy during a move. They are dragged from spot to spot because they are difficult to carry.

Lastly, enlist friends to help you. Perhaps somebody can watch your pets and/or kids the day of the move and Don’t forget to keep your cell phone charger handy often this gets packed into a box early on and when you need to talk with your mover they can’t reach you because your phone is out of batteries. Good luck!

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Homeowners’ Dilemma = Renter’s Delight

People mulling a relocation, whether it’s for a new job or to moving to a place with better job opportunities, face a dilemma — sell their home at a loss, or not move.

That’s bad. This nation needs for people to go to where they can find fruitful employment — that’s good on an individual level, and for the economy as a whole.

I’ve written about some signs that more people are willing to bite the bullet, sell their home and relocate for work.

And now there’s an indication of a willingness to take a different step to facilitate a relocation: The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about how more homeowners are willing to rent out their home. Even if the rent they’ll make is less than the mortgage, they hope that home prices will rebound enough in the longer term to offset those rental home costs.

Renting out a home is not an inexpensive affair.

If you’re using a property management firm to oversee the property, you’ll pay them a fee from 3% to 12%, and you’ll pay more to insure the place (about 25% higher than a homeowners policy). You’ll also still have the costs of upkeep, and the rental income can affect your tax situation.

However, more are willing to take on those expenses to get on with relocating their lives.

And it’s great for renters — they now have more options beyond just an apartment.

(Read more in Relocation.com’s rental home section.)

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The Key to Loading Your Own Rental Truck: Put Someone in Charge

Loading a rental truck often looks like a rugby scrum gone bad: all the helpers wildly throwing stuff in the truck, making the packing inefficient, and exposing your stuff to damages because of shifting in the truck while you’re moving.

Many people look to save a buck by eschewing moving companies, but it’s all for naught if your stuff is destroyed or you have to make two trips because of lousy loading.

There’s an easy fix: Have one person in charge.  It’s their job to direct where items go on the truck. They should stand in the back of the truck as helpers bring in items, and then decide where they go in the truck.

While you might mock this person for not having to do as much heavy lifting, they’ve actually got the  most important job of the bunch: their work will ensure that you get everything loaded in the truck, and that it all shows up at your new home in one piece.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you load the rental truck:

Your First Steps

To make everything more efficient, get everything you need to load your truck before you begin actually loading.

Make sure all the moving boxes you’re putting in the truck are fully packed — top to bottom and side to side. If there’s empty space, fill it with enough paper so they don’t get crushed if other items are stacked on them in the truck.

Stretch-wrap sofas to protect them from dirt, or punctures. Also do mattresses and other soft items, or buy boxes or mattress bags for them.

Have enough padded materials (moving blankets) on hand to wrap furniture for protection. Wrapping furniture makes it easier to load tightly in the truck without hurting it. Try to load stuff tightly to prevent items jostling against one another during the move.

Loading It

Start loading at the front of the truck or van and work your way toward the back.

Stack items from floor to ceiling, and try to fill every space needs to be filled so no items shift during transportation. Boxes should be used as filler for open spaces.

Put heavy items lower on the truck, with lighter items on top of those.

Pack each ‘row’ fully (floor to ceiling), before moving on to the next row.

You might need to disassemble some things to ensure safe transport, like removing legs from tables. Don’t get lazy on this point, you could cause some real damage.

Sofas and some other pieces may be placed on their ends to achieve a tightly loaded truck, but you will need to be sure to place the items next to items that will not cause damage. And if the fabric, they need to be wrapped.

If you don’t use the entire truck, secure the back of your shipment with loading straps to keep things from sliding backward. When you rent your truck, make sure these things are available.