Moving season is upon us. According to the American Moving and Storage Association, half of all household moves take place between May and Labor Day. Overall, some 43 million Americans move every year.
Planning a move can be time-consuming and nerve-wracking, but two things can help make the process go more smoothly: educating yourself through research and working with a real estate representative you trust.
"In the last year, there has been an explosion of free real estate information on the Internet," says Michael Yang, general manager of Yahoo! Real Estate. "More than ever before, potential buyers are better educated by access to home-price estimates, comparable home sales, and satellite pictures of houses on the market and their neighborhoods. And the information is available without paying a penny."
Online research can help you determine price ranges for a particular neighborhood, view homes' proximity to local businesses, and get estimates and historical sales data for individual properties.
Yang points out that one of the most popular features on his company's site is "Schools Search."
"Living near a good school is crucial for parents and anyone planning to start a family. But it's also a good investment factor for any home buyer, as houses in good school districts tend to sell faster and at higher prices than homes in other areas."
Once you're feeling smarter about your target neighborhood and price range, it's time to team up with a real estate rep. If you're well-established in the area, ask friends and family for a recommendation.
If you're moving into a new area, consider turning to the Internet for help. There are sites out there that allow you to interview agents anonymously by e-mail before choosing the one that best fits your needs. You can compare the agents' experience and sales commissions, as well as their proposals on how they would work with you.
Once you have found and closed on your new home, it also helps to look for ways to save money on moving. Shop around for the best deal on movers, either online or in the phone book. Once you have a few candidates in mind, ask to speak to references.
When it comes to your precious belongings, a few extra steps never hurt. For those who prefer packing themselves, one tip is to find previously used boxes from grocery or wine shops. This is not only a cost-effective means of packing; it's also eco-friendly.
Consider it keeping both your banking-account balance and the world a bit "greener."
This column was prepared in cooperation with ARA Content.