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    Moving Tips and Real Estate Updates

    Secrets to a Successful Move

    by Diane Benson Harrington

    Planning to move this summer? You’re not alone — summer is the busiest time of year for professional movers, according to the American Moving and Storage Association. It’s an arduous process, but these tips will make your transition much smoother.

    If you’re planning to use a moving company, call now. As busy as they are, they usually need plenty of notice — often at least six weeks or much more if you’re moving a long distance.

    Be sure to build in some overlap between the closing/possession date of your new home and the last day of the lease on your rental (or closing date of your current home). Moving always takes much longer than you think. If you want to make any changes to your new home — for instance, paint some walls, put in new carpeting or refinish wood floors — plan enough time to do it BEFORE you move in so your furniture and belongings are not in the way.

    Pare down your belongings. There’s no sense moving things you don’t need or want. Look through your house for rarely used items. Discard anything that’s beyond repair, have a yard sale to get rid of the rest, and plan to load unsold merchandise into your car right away so you can take it to the charity of your choice.

    Make notes about your new house — room measurements, door measurements, location of electric/cable/phone outlets — so you can determine exactly where your belongings will go. Measure appliances to make sure they fit the space available. When I moved from Florida to Colorado, I measured my refrigerator’s width but not its depth. I hadn’t taken my new kitchen’s floor plan into consideration, and my fridge stuck out so far that I couldn’t open the dishwasher. I’ve also had friends who bought wonderful overstuffed furniture, only to find they couldn’t get it through the doorways of their new house.

    If the previous homeowners are taking their curtains and blinds, you’ll want to measure windows in places you want privacy immediately (like bedrooms and bathrooms) and buy curtains or blinds before you arrive.

    Start arranging now for phone and utility hookups. Phone companies, especially, now need a few days (or even a week or more) to get you connected. Arrange now for the type of internet connection you want (if it’s DSL or broadband rather than dial-up), and order extra phone jacks or cable outlets if you need them. Fill out a change of address form with the Post Office. If you have automatic debits on your bank account, alert your creditors if you’re changing banks.

    You can buy boxes and packing material from a moving company or other sources, but that can be expensive. Instead, ask grocery stores, electronics stores, and office supply stores for their discarded boxes. They are usually large enough, sturdy enough — and free. Invest in a tape gun, and start saving up newspapers (ask your friends for theirs, too) so you’ll have plenty of packing material if you don’t want to buy bubble wrap.

    Whether you use a mover or pack yourself, consider using a product like Pack-N-Label’s moving kit. Your Realtor may already have these kits available for you, or you can purchase them yourself for about $37. Dozens of preprinted labels for every room of the house provide an instant checklist of items; no more writing each item on the side of the box yourself. Labels are color-coded by room so your movers will instantly know where to take each box. The comprehensive kit also includes the IRS form for moving expenses, preprinted lists for taking a household inventory, as well as a sheet of moving and packing tips.

    Be sure to pack a box of essentials — a telephone, a couple of changes of clothes, a few pots/pans/dishes/utensils, toiletries, medications — to get you through the first few days. Also, if your mover is late and there are items you couldn’t live without for a few days (like a computer, if you work from your home), consider taking that in your own car.

    If using a mover, be sure to pack any small, nonbreakable, valuable items (such as jewelry) separately so you can take it with you in your own car. Large valuable items, such as artwork or electronics, should be clearly noted on the mover’s inventory form in case of damage during transit. Do buy insurance to cover any damage that may occur. (Note: movers generally will not insure anything that you pack yourself unless the box itself is missing.)

    Take the time to record the makes, models and serial numbers of your electronics and other items in a notebook or on a sheet of paper. Put this information, along with owners’ manuals, extra keys, birth certificates, car titles, wills, insurance information, and other vital documents, in a special folder that you’ll keep with you. In your new home, find a place for this folder (or put it in a safety deposit box), so you’ll always know where these important papers are (and can easily grab it in case of a fire).

    Clean as you pack. Unpacking is hard enough work without the added effort.

    If you’re renting right now, be sure to clean your apartment or rental house so you don’t risk losing your security deposit.

    Before you unpack, get a clean start by wiping out drawers and cupboards, sweeping out closets and solid-surface floors and vacuuming the carpets. Next, make up the beds and put towels in the bathrooms. Then you can take your time with the rest of the unpacking.

    Enjoy your new home!

    Feng Shui, the ancient art of preventing buyer remorse

    With a big influx of homebuyers from Asia in the last 12 years in the Vancouver and Lower Mainland area, homeowners have become familiar with the term Feng Shui – the ancient Chinese art of placement and design or Chinese geomancy. Feng Shui, (pronounced “fung soy”) which literally means wind and water, is the art of creating an environment of harmony and balance, both inside and out. It has been practiced for thousands of years in China and is widely practiced today by tough-minded property buyers in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. It is also rapidly gaining recognition in western culture as a tool for creating the ideal living and working environment.

    The Chinese often trace success or failure not so much to human actions but to the working of the mysterious force. Known as feng shui, these forces are believed to be responsible for determining health, prosperity and good fortune. In ancient times, emperors consulted feng shui masters before building huge public works or waging war.

    For all the mystery that surrounds it, feng shui evolved from the simple observation that people are affected for good or ill by surroundings: the layout and orientation of workplaces and homes. If your property is considered good feng shui, you will have a quick sale plus they will also give you a premium price for it. One homebuilder said, “If the buyers believe it, so do I.” In Vancouver a few years ago, a buyer brought a brand new high-end home without her husband seeing it. A few weeks after his wife moved into the house, the husband has seen the home for the first time with his feng shui master who said that the design of the home is bad feng shui for the family but the land is good feng shui. The two owners immediately decide to move out of their new home and have the builder demolish the house and build another new home for them!

    Before the homeowner can begin to apply feng shui principles to his or her interior environment, it is necessary to become familiar with the geomantic theory of the outside environment. Some of the basic rules:

    • a house facing south is good because in China, during the summer, the south wind is refreshing and therefore brings good energy. However strict adherence to the dictates of feng shui may not translate well from China or Hong Kong, said D. Yeo, a feng shui consultant, and teacher. In Hong Kong or Singapore, for example, feng shui dictates that homes should not face the west. This is a common-sense consideration there because the sun would make a west-facing home unbearably hot, but in Canada, this is not necessarily the case.
    • a house at the end of a cul-de-sac or blind alley is not well located geometrically because there is too much vibrant energy coming from the main road and hitting the building. If the front door faces the road, the situation is even worse. According to D. Yeo, a house at the end of the cul-de-sac look like a classical Chinese burial ground or also call an “armchair tomb.”
    • similarly, a house facing a T-junction or a Y-junction is badly affected by the vibrant energy. D. Yeo said that it is really common sense because in the olden days with a house at the end of the road, you might have an out of control horse crashing into your home. Today, a car or truck might lose its brakes and crash into your home as well as front lights shining into your home at night if your home is at the end of the road.
    • it is not good feng shui for the back and front doors to be directly aligned, It is because prosperity which flows in the front door, will continue through the house and out the back door if nothing blocks its path. Yeo recommends a screen or plant be placed in its path to block the flow.

    Some homeowners have recruited Feng Shui practitioners to assist them in creating a positive home environment. But one should be cautious and pay particular attention to the practitioner’s credentials before hiring. The resurgence of using Fen Shui has generated misconceptions and misuse. Some people claim to be experts after only a one-weekend workshop. Others claim to provide cures to “bad” Feng Shui by prescribing mirrors, crystals, chimes or stones. So, be discerning. Qualified practitioners use only the five basic elemental forces of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water to bring a place into an energetic balance. Two different masters can give different readings on the same house.

    Many builders across Canada are becoming aware of the importance of the belief to many potential buyers of Chinese origin and have found that buildings containing the number eight will sell faster, while units with the number four will be avoided at all costs. In the semantics of the English language, the number four sounded like the word “death” in Chinese and the word “eight” sound like “rich.”
    Scientific fact or superstition? A classical feng shui story says the Chinese buyer of a $1.6 million shopping mall called off the deal after a feng shui master advised that the building was too close to a burial ground to assure the client’s wealth and happiness. A few years later, the mall was worth close to a cool $7 million!

    Ask D. Yeo… on Feng Shui

    D. Yeo is a well-known consultant and teacher of feng shui in Singapore. Recently retired and living in Vancouver, he has agreed to uncover some of the mystery of feng shui and to address problems and provide solutions concerning your home.

    In feng shui, there are five elements that are related to our environment. They are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. They are the building blocks of everything physical on earth. The ability to balance the elements is one of the tools in feng shui.

    For example, there is at least one fireplace in almost every home in Canada. Fireplace, gas or wood are a wonderful source of heat and light and are a powerful representation of the Fire element. As they are often large in size, they can be too fiery and can “burn” up the Chi (energy) in the area where they are located. To balance a fireplace, you can:

    Balance Fire by placing a symbol of Water near the fireplace like a bowl of water, a mirror, glass fireplace doors or crystal ornamentation.

    Place healthy plants or fresh flowers near the fireplace opening when not in use.

    Question: I noticed some buyers change their house numbers before they move in. What is the reason for this?

    Answer: Although numbers do not have anything to do with the basics of feng shui; some buyers, to harmonizing their surroundings with nature, are not taking chances with their new homes and one of the things they will change is the house number.

    In the Western hemisphere, 13 is considered to be unlucky, whereas the Chinese, on the other hand, considered 13 – of Buddhist religious significance and also the number of the lunar months in the year is regarded as being extremely fortunate.

    But certain numbers appear to be luckier when written in the Western-style. For example, the number 88 looks like the Chinese character for “double happiness,” a very good door number for a young married couple. Eight is also the number of immortals, the trigrams of the I Ching and the number of characters in a Chinese date of birth. To the Chinese that speak the Cantonese dialect, 8 sounds like “rich.” That’s why the wealthy in the Far East will pay millions just for the right to have the number 8 on their car license plates!

    The only number which is actually disliked is the number 4, which Chinese gamblers say brings bad luck. 4 also sounds like “death” in Cantonese.

    It may sound confusing, but to some homebuyers, it is serious business. They will walk away from a house if it is considered unlucky and they cannot change the number or they will pay a premium if it is a lucky number.

    Question: What are those small mirrors that I see on some houses by the front doors?


    Answer: The mirrors that you see are called “Pa Kua.” They are small and round and set in wood. The most simple pa kua has the eight trigrams drawn around the mirror. For many feng shui believers, they are an all-purpose remedy or often called the “aspirin” of feng shui.


    These mirrors are used to deflect malign forces or spirits such as bad luck or ill health. They are usually placed either inside or outside an office or house to block negative energy and improve the feng shui of the area.

    One of the most common places to hang a mirror is above the front door. A pa Kua can also be found on a wall on the outside of the house if it faces an unlucky feature outside, such as a sharp bend in a road.

    These mirrors are mostly used as a defensive solution to a vast range of feng shui ills. In police stations in the Far East, they are often hung to ward off corruption.

    Be careful if you are thinking of hanging one yourself. Aware of reflective powers, people get very upset when evils are deliberately sent their way. Mirror wars are the result and some have nearly ended up in court in Singapore!

    Want to save and pay off your mortgage faster? Go biweekly!

    A biweekly mortgage plan requires 26 payments each year (payments every two weeks). The effect of a biweekly mortgage arrangement is similar to making 13 – instead of 12 monthly payments. The advantage of the biweekly mortgage is paying the loan in 18 to 19 years instead of 25 years. The result is paying thousands of dollars less in interest.

    The same effect of an early mortgage payment can be achieved with the standard monthly mortgage by adding an amount each month. These added amounts directly reduce the balance of the loan.
    The advantage of the latter is the voluntary feature. This can be done when additional funds are available, eliminating the problem of default in case the bimonthly payment is not made.

    Do you have invisible lines on your property?

    If you are living on a major throughway like 41st Avenue, Marine Drive, Main Street, Victoria Street or Knight Street, do you know that both sides of these streets are marked with invisible building lines that are not registered on the title? These invisible lines amount to an additional setback that would be required in new development.

    The building lines were created as a way of preserving future options for road widening as part of the Bartholemew Plan and reinforced with bylaws between 1946 and 1956. Because building lines were established for the purpose of road widening, that aspect is possibly the most worrisome to property owners. Take a look at Knight Street and Boundary Road as an example of two streets where the City has acquired the land in the building line area of the affected properties. After taking a big piece of the front yard, the affected properties have very little front yard and the front of their homes are now closer to the street. Do you think the properties will not drop sharply with a smaller lot and a noisier home? Yes, the City will pay for the land they took from the property owners but the price they pay is a little above assessment value of the present market value. What about the future value of the properties affected? It is probably much less than the amount they are compensated for.

    The Vancouver Transportation Plan approved by Council in 1997, promised to ‘review building lines in the context of the Plan with a view to remove those that are unlikely to be needed and add others where priorities have developed.’ On June 1, 1999, Council approved a pilot project to review building lines on West 41st, West 49th and SW Marine Drive, all west of Granville.

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