Miriam Keri's Blog
You hear about this magic "cost-of-living index" number, but where does it come from and how can you use it to improve your real estate experience? The cost of living index is a numerical measurement of the relative cost to live in a specific geographic region. There are a lot of economic formulas out there, but it basically adds up and compares the cost of goods and services that are part of ordinary living expenses. These include clothing, utilities, health care, transportation, groceries, restaurants, building materials and more. The index is relative and not an exact measurement, so you always want to compare with the actual cost of living you're familiar with to get an idea of the comparative costs where you want to move.
What’s the Math?
To begin, researchers collect a representative sample of goods and services and then compare prices. To determine what goods and services to include in the formula, they use a "typical family budget." When comparing the cost of living, remember that your budget may not be "typical." While they may sound similar, the cost of living index and the consumer price index aren't the same thing.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics sets the consumer price index—and the US government uses it to measure inflation in day-to-day-purchases, changes in interest rates and taxes. To make the CPI and Cost of living index more easily relatable, the CPI now measures housing costs using "owners' equivalent rent" instead of mortgage payments which allows them to remove the investment part of homeownership from the cost of living index and make it more equivalent for renters and owners.
Different companies use different market values and various products and services to make their calculations. One example, the Council for Economic Research, actually divides goods and services into six different categories, then chooses 60 items to represent the whole, gets the prices all at once and uses that to compare costs between locations.
Other sources take a variety of goods and service cost comparisons and combine them for a broader cost comparison between locations.
The US Department of State provides links to a lot of this information along with some great tools like the "Cost of Living and Salary Comparison Wizard." It combines information on goods, services, real estate, and average salaries to create a short 3-step process: enter your current base salary, the nearest metropolitan area to where you live and work, and the most adjacent metro area to where you want to move. The wizard will spit out not only cost of living comparisons, but what you can or should expect your salary difference to be, and whether that salary will actually be workable in the new area.
How do I Use it?
For example, if you have an annual salary of $50,000 in Dallas, Texas and you move to San Diego, California in a similar position, you can expect a 5.8% salary increase, which brings you to about $53,000. That $3,000 seems like a lot, but now you must look at the cost of living difference between the two areas. According to all these calculators, the average cost of living increase between Dallas and San Diego is roughly 36%. That calculates out to $15,000 less in disposable income. So now you can compare, do you really HAVE $15,000 you can give up in order to move to San Diego? If not, it might just be time to start looking elsewhere or trying to find a San Diego job with a salary of at least $68,000 to maintain the same lifestyle.
What If I Have no Choice?
Sometimes you don't have a choice about moving. Maybe you're being transferred by your company, or you need to be near a school, university or family. If you are stuck moving anyway, use the cost-of-living numbers to help you plan for your new budget and negotiate for a better salary.
Your real estate professional is familiar with the cost of living index for the area, and they will be able to help you find the right place for your budget.
Your first week in your new home is an exciting time. It’s also a very busy one. There is just so much to do to get everything in order and settled in! Some things are more important to get done this first week than others. On the other hand, there are tasks you’ll be glad you completed your first week instead of putting them off.
Here’s your guide to your first week in your new home.
Start by opening new accounts for all of your utilities as soon as possible. These are the non-negotiables you simply can’t live without. These utilities include things like:
Internet, phone and cable/satellite
You’ll want to rekey all of the locks of your new home. You never know who has a key to the current locks. While you are having the locks rekeyed be sure to have extras made as well. Give backups to friends and family that you trust and consider getting a safe box for a spare key should you lock yourself out.
Plan to deep clean before you begin unpacking and settling in. Wipe down walls, mop floors, dust every cranny and hire a carpet cleaner. If you plan on repainting do it while the rooms are still (mostly) empty. You will only have to move furniture once and it will be easier to clean up afterward.
Refer to your inspector report for maintenance tasks. Plan them out by making necessary arrangements. Hire professionals, schedule out weekend projects and purchase necessary supplies. If this is your first house you’ll want to purchase equipment to take care of your new yard. Especially items like a lawnmower, hose and gardening tools.
Change your address on important accounts such as bank accounts, credit cards, health insurance, memberships, subscriptions and workplace benefits. Hopefully, you’ve already put in your change of address with the post office. However, this is only for a few months which is why it’s important to make these changes now.
Locate all of your shut off valves in case of emergency. Know where the main shut off valves are as well as the minor ones. Familiarize yourself with your circuit breaker and make sure that it is appropriately labeled. Now is a great time to come up with an emergency plan and course of action for your family in case anything should happen.
The first week in a new home can feel very hectic. There is just so much to do in such a small amount of time! However, there are always tasks that need to take priority. Use this guide for your first week in your new home to get everything in order with the least amount of friction during the process.
When it’s time to buy a new home, you’ll hear a lot about the importance of location. How can you choose a place? Whether you’re moving around the corner or across the country, there are a few essential things that you should know in order to select the best place for you to live. Read on for some questions that you should ask yourself when trying to find a good fit for a location to live.
What Should Be Close?
There’s more to a home than what schools are nearby or how close you are to work. While these things are essential, you’ll need to understand more about our lifestyle to find an excellent location. You’ll have to look at your life and your family’s life on a day-to-day and weekly basis. What types of activities do you enjoy? How close do you want to be to a grocery store, a gym, or a shopping center? How close do you want to live to the city? The mountains? The beach? Does your family enjoy outdoor recreation like hiking or walking through the park? Making sure that the things that are important to you and your family are accessible will be a big part of choosing a location to move.
How Walkable Is The Neighborhood?
If your kids will be walking t school, or you enjoy daily strolls with the family dog, the walkability of a neighborhood is important. Many places allow you to walk everywhere right out your front door to the grocery store or the hair salon without ever setting foot in a car. You may even want to be able to walk to a bus or subway in order to get to work each day. Walkability is an important aspect to consider when looking at home locations.
Who Lives Nearby?
You may want to consider who lives nearby when looking at different neighborhoods to move. If you wish to live near family or know some good friends who live close, this could be a good starting point for finding the right location to live. It’s always easier to make the transition to a new area when you know a few people.
How Quiet Is Too Quiet?
Some people love peace and quiet. Other people need a lively environment that allows them to access the hustle and bustle any time they choose. Knowing your want for peace is a big lifestyle choice and a large part of selecting a location to live in. The closer you move to a big city, the easier your access to the more exciting side of life will be. The further away you live from the city, the more likely you are to have more quiet.
Finding the ideal moving company to help you transport your belongings from Point A to Point B should be simple. However, no two moving companies are identical. And if you select an inferior moving company, you may encounter many problems when moving day arrives.
Lucky for you, we're here to help you take the guesswork out of finding the perfect moving company.
Now, let's take a look at three red flags to consider when you evaluate moving companies.
1. Lack of Experience
Search for moving companies that boast many years of experience – you'll be happy you did.
Moving companies that possess comprehensive industry experience understand the ins and outs of moving day and may be better equipped than rivals to deliver the best results.
Typically, a moving company that has extensive industry experience will employ friendly, knowledgeable professionals. This business also will provide fair prices and personalized support, ensuring you can get the assistance you need to seamlessly and effortlessly get your personal belongings to your new address.
2. No Licensure or Insurance
Regardless of whether you're moving within the same state or out of state, it is paramount to employ a licensed, insured moving company. By doing so, you can minimize risk of damage or destruction of your personal belongings.
Remember, a moving company will be responsible for transporting your appliances, electronics, furniture and other items to a new location. And if you fail to employ a licensed, insured moving company, you might struggle to protect your belongings in the event of an accident during transport.
Ask moving companies for verification of licensure and insurance. This will enable you to work with a moving company that will do everything possible to safeguard your belongings on moving day.
3. Poor Customer Reviews
What are past customers saying about a moving company? Take a look at customer reviews, and you can gain a better understanding of what it's like to work with a moving company.
In many instances, an online search of a moving company will allow you to learn how this business stacks up against the competition. Or, a moving company may even provide customer reviews on its website.
Of course, don't hesitate to reach out to a moving company to ask for client referrals, either. This will enable you to obtain first-hand insights from previous customers so you can select a moving company that will meet or surpass your expectations.
For recent homebuyers or home sellers, your real estate agent may be able to help you identify moving company red flags as well.
A real estate agent understands the challenges associated with moving day. As such, he or she may be able to help you find a top-notch moving company and ensure you are fully prepared for your upcoming move.
When it comes to finding a moving company, there is no need to worry. Consider the aforementioned warning signs, and you should have no trouble choosing a first-rate moving company to help you out on moving day.
For those who want to simplify the homebuying process, crafting a budget is ideal. Because if you tailor your house search to your finances, you can eliminate the risk of spending beyond your means to acquire your dream residence.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you budget for the homebuying journey.
1. Analyze Your Financial Situation
Request a copy of your credit report – you'll be glad you did. You are eligible to receive a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Once you have your credit report, you can assess your credit score and take steps to improve it as needed.
Getting your credit report can help you identify outstanding debt and other financial issues that may make it tough to acquire a house. If you can correct these issues today, you can eliminate the risk that they could impact your ability to buy your dream residence in the near future.
2. Consider Your Homebuying Expenses
The price of a home is one of many financial considerations that a buyer will need to evaluate during the property buying journey. Fortunately, if you map out your homebuying expenses, you can ensure that you'll have the finances available to cover these costs as you pursue your dream home.
For example, a property inspection may be used to assess a house's condition before you finalize a home purchase. This inspection will require you to hire a professional home inspector, so you will need to make sure you have the money available to cover the cost of this homebuying expense.
You should consider home closing costs as well. And if you start saving for home closing fees and other homebuying expenses, you won't have to worry about scrambling to get the money to cover these costs as you navigate the property buying journey.
3. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
Pre-approval for a mortgage is a must, regardless of your homebuying goals. If you meet with a variety of banks and credit unions, you can analyze your home financing options and select a mortgage that suits you perfectly.
Banks and credit unions are happy to teach you about different types of mortgages and how each type of mortgage works. Plus, if you have any mortgage questions, banks and credit unions are ready to respond to your queries right away.
As you prepare to pursue your dream house, you also may want to hire a real estate agent. In addition to helping you streamline your search for your ideal residence, a real estate agent can put you in touch with the top mortgage professionals in your area, help you plan ahead for various homebuying expenses and much more.
If you want to conduct a successful home search, it may be a good idea to prepare a homebuying budget. Thanks to the aforementioned tips, you can craft a homebuying budget so you can accelerate the process of acquiring your dream house.