You may have heard or seen firsthand how fast home prices have risen. In January, home value appreciation was 9.1% higher than one year prior, the largest annual increase since 2006, according to new data from Zillow.
Perhaps less known is this: The cost of renting is affected, too. But unlike with home prices — rising across most of the country — rents are up in some cities and down in others.
Overall, the cost of renting was relatively stagnant in the United States last year, say Zillow economists. The company, a real estate website, tracks and analyzes home prices and rents. The typical rent this January, $1,721, was up just $9, or 0.5%, from January 2020.
But that flat line masks big changes.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and widespread changes to work-from-home policies have also pushed many to reconsider what they want and need in their living space, and where it should be,” says Zillow.
Many workers were freed to work from home and live virtually anywhere, at least while pandemic lockdowns lasted.
Rents in pricey, formerly desirable coastal meccas — especially New York City, Boston and the Silicon Valley centers of San Francisco and San Jose — saw the most dramatic drops in rents.
Below, listed by the change from January 2020 to January 2021, are the nine major metropolitan areas where rent costs are down, according to the Zillow Observed Rent Index. Even with reductions, rents in these metros remain steep:
San Francisco: $2,876 (down 9.2% from January 2020)
New York City: $2,465 (down 8.8%)
San Jose, California: $2,892 (down 7.2%)
Boston: $2,277 (down 6.3%)
Seattle: $1,866 (down 5.5%)
Washington, D.C.: $2,006 (down 3.4%)
Chicago: $1,614 (down 2.9%)
Austin, Texas: $1,511 (down 1.2%)
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California: $2,542 (down 0.8%)
In the rest of the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S., rent increased on Zillow’s index between January 2020 and January 2021. These increases were as small as 0.1% in Denver and as big as 10% in Memphis, Tennessee.
A recent analysis by MyMove, a website that helps people relocate, also found that many people who moved during the pandemic left crowded urban areas for (often nearby) smaller cities and suburbs.
MyMove analyzed U.S. Postal Service change-of-address requests filed from February through July 2020. It found that the number of requests for temporary moves — meaning requests from people who planned to live at the new address for less than six months — increased about 27% compared with the same period in 2019.
New York City (110,978 people moved), including its borough of Brooklyn (43,006), lost the most residents to moves, followed by Chicago (31,347), San Francisco (27,187) and Los Angeles (26,438).
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“Hoarders” host Matt Paxton may be best known for helping pack rats purge their possessions. But in his new show, “Legacy List with Matt Paxton,” he focuses on a far more common problem: What to do with all the stuff your parents and grandparents hang on to that might eventually end up with you.
“Legacy List with Matt Paxton,” which airs on PBS stations (check local listings for times/dates), follows Paxton and his team as they visit homeowners faced with downsizing attics and basements full of family belongings. Paxton helps his clients not only whittle this mountain down to a handful of valued mementos—aka their “legacy list”—he also helps them pinpoint surprising items worth thousands of dollars, from old baseball cards to antiques.
Yet Paxton is the first to admit that even he has struggled to unload family possessions. We at realtor.com® chatted with him to hear his best advice for handling the toughest clutter of all.
You had a lot of responsibility when it came to your own family estate. How was that experience?
I don’t remember a lot. I was 25, I was a kid. My dad, stepdad, and both my grandfathers all died within about two years, so I was just going through all these houses. And when you’re grieving, it’s not really the best time to go through it. If you’re moving and that’s why you’re decluttering, usually that’s positive, so you can make the decisions easier.
What advice do you have for people who are purging stuff from family members who’ve passed away?
I always say, “Focus on the things you absolutely know you don’t want.” That’s an easy way to get started.
You recently packed up and moved. Did you have to purge beforehand?
My three sons and I had been in a house for about 15 years. And it’s funny, I do this on TV, been doing it with both “Hoarders” and “Legacy List” and for 20 years privately as well, but until you do it yourself, you forget how hard it is. I’ve helped thousands of families, but when you go through boxes of your parents’ stuff and your loved ones’ stuff, that’s when it gets hard.
Because stuff is memories—we keep it because they’re memories of people we care about. It’s not really the financial value; it’s the emotional value.
Did you find any surprising items during your move?
I did find a stick in a box that said “fragile” in my handwriting, so clearly I packed it. I don’t know what it was for. I don’t know why I saved it. But it obviously meant a lot to me at the time. Sometimes, if you don’t write down the stories, you don’t know why they meant so much to you. So, that I actually just threw away.
What tips do you have for people who want to get their home organized during the pandemic?
Try to do it now. Give yourself a box a week. You don’t have to do it all in one sitting. Bring one box down and do it while you’re watching TV. But give it the time that it deserves. If you try to cram it in a long weekend, you can’t get it done.
Many people have family heirlooms in their home that they don’t want, but feel guilty throwing out. What advice do you have for these people?
This is the hard part, when it matters emotionally to you but not enough to keep it. That’s when I tell people to call your family members and tell them about the item. If they don’t want it, it’s OK to donate, even if it’s something from someone you love.
I compare it to leftover pasta. You could say, “Do you want the pasta for dinner? Because if not, I’m throwing it away tomorrow.” Like, you don’t want it. Why are you pushing it on somebody else?
I really love those Facebook Buy Nothing groups. That’s a great way to empty your house quickly, and it doesn’t cost you anything. You know that those items will go to somebody in your community who can use them.
A lot of times people start going through boxes because it’s time for a parent or grandparent to move into a retirement home. What advice do you have for them?
Start small. I can’t ask my grandmother to work for 10 hours straight. Work for two hours every other Saturday. If I learned one thing from being on “Hoarders,” the worst way to clean out a house is five days straight, 10 hours a day. We do it that way on TV, and it’s the worst way we could possibly do it, but it’s the only way to knock out a job that big. At home, pace yourself.
I really challenge everybody that if you think you’re going to move in the next 10 years, now’s the time to start doing it. Give it an hour or two a week.
Your philosophy is to focus on keeping just five legacy list family mementos. Why five?
You have to have a limit. If you have more than five, it becomes 10, and then it becomes 30, and then you’re on “Hoarders.” It’s kind of like ice cream. If you eat it every night, it’s not really a treat. It’s just something you eat every day. The whole point of a legacy list item is that it’s special.
Do you mind sharing something from your own legacy list?
I have one of my dad’s old rings that he gave to me the night he died. I have my mom’s piano. I have a piece of art from my dad. I have a letter from my 9-year-old son.
When you come down to it, there isn’t a whole lot of stuff you really need. I think the older you get, the less you really need.
You’ve also seen people throw out things that are actually really valuable. Why does this happen?
People don’t go through the boxes. They’re, like, “Oh, this is china, this isn’t worth anything.” Put 10 minutes of research into everything. Google the value.
Now, don’t keep it just because you think it’s worth something. But it wouldn’t hurt to check, especially with things like baseball cards, coins, and stamps. The collections we’re finding now are often our grandparents’ collections, and those things can be a hundred years old.
What makes something financially valuable is scarcity. Beanie Babies? Not valuable, because there’s millions of them.
But the things coming out of your grandparents’ house, they may actually be financially valuable, even if you don’t want them. A lot of the midcentury modern furniture coming out of the ’50s is extremely valuable. I found a Picasso this year on “Legacy List” sitting in an attic.
What other advice do you have for sifting through family heirlooms?
With pictures, wear cotton or rubber gloves. You can ruin pictures and documents by not wearing gloves.
What has been one of your favorite finds from ‘Legacy List’ so far?
In the pilot episode while going through a client’s home, I actually found one of my dad’s paintings. My dad was an artist. We were filming the pilot, and there it was and I started crying. That was insanely special to me.
Of course, I had to buy it at auction because it was owned by a client, so I was just hoping no one would outbid me. I actually have that in my office now.
How do you let go of the items yet hold on to the memories?
Marie Kondo will tell everybody “What sparks joy?” Well, that doesn’t work for clients on “Hoarding” because everything sparks joy for them.
I just say, “Hey, tell those stories,” and document it. Either put it on camera, video, or audio. Somehow get those stories recorded and start sharing with your family. You spend 30, 40 years creating these memories, you’ve got to share the stories. Just get started an hour a week, and create your legacy list to share with your family. I think you’ll be amazed. You’ll hear the reaction of your family members; they’ll love the stories. And when you start to share those stories, you start to realize it’s not the items—it’s the people. You’ll find you’re able to let go of more items that way.
We need positivity right now in the world. This is a great way to just be happy.
So much can go wrong during a move. Add a coronavirus pandemic, and a lot more can go off the rails, and the consequences can extend far beyond a broken lampshade. They can affect your health.
Nonetheless, according to a survey conducted in late March by apartment listing site RENTCafe.com, 60% of renters planned to go ahead with their move, while just 9% are putting it off until the crisis is over.
“Not everyone gets the choice of when to move,” says Mike Glanz, founder of HireAHelper, an online moving services marketplace. “Predetermined corporate relocations and moves due to evictions or escrow closings are forcing some people to keep their move dates in place.”
Plus, transportation has been designated an essential service by the federal government, and that includes moving companies, according to the American Moving & Storage Association. Yet Glanz urges anyone planning to move soon to check with their state or city government to make sure no limitations or regulations exist preventing movers from operating.
And the truth is that moving can be done relatively safely right now, if you take some precautions. To help point you to the pitfalls, here are some common coronavirus-related moving mistakes to avoid.
1. Assuming a DIY move is safer than hiring help
Hiring movers can be pricey, costing between $600 and $1,700 for a move less than 100 miles away, according to HomeAdvisor. Add the possibility that movers might be sick, and it might seem safer and smarter to go the DIY route.
True, renting a truck and rounding up a few friends or family to help you move may be cheaper—but it won’t necessarily be safer. For one, your friends and family might just likely be as sick as the movers. And odds are, professional movers should have the training and equipment (including gloves and face masks) to move things as safely as possible.
If you’re determined to move your possessions yourself, make sure to take all the same precautions. If you rent a moving truck, you’ll have to spend time cleaning it. Ask local truck rental offices about their process for sanitizing vehicles between customers, Glanz says.
Bring your own sanitation supplies to clean and wipe down the steering wheel, door handles, and any other high-touch areas. Use gloves when driving the truck and while opening and closing the back door and loading ramp.
And since the novel coronavirus can survive on surfaces, “I would recommend disinfecting the walls and floors of the truck before loading your items,” adds Justin Carpenter, owner of Modern Maids, a housecleaning service in Dallas and Austin, TX, specializing in move-in and move-out cleaning.
2. Not vetting your movers
If you do hire movers, you should vet them thoroughly. Glanz suggests checking to make sure a company is licensed and insured, for starters, and also checking for wording on companies’ websites about their commitment to sanitation and safety.
“That tells you they are taking their responsibility to everybody’s safety seriously,” Glanz says. “If a moving company has a history of positive, active interaction with customers, they’ll shine even brighter under tough circumstances.”
Make sure the moving company you use is taking extra steps to ensure safety during the coronavirus outbreak, including providing virtual rather than in-home estimates and no-contact options, according to AMSA.
3. Using recycled boxes and packing supplies
The novel coronavirus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on plastic and steel for up to 72 hours, according to recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Using boxes and plastic bins that you already have on hand should be fine. But, if you need extra moving supplies, AMSA recommends purchasing new moving boxes and packing tape, and avoiding picking up free, recycled boxes from supermarkets and liquor stores.
Moving companies may also let you rent plastic bins, so be sure to wipe them down, inside and out, with disinfectant before packing your things.
4. Not prepping for your movers
Make sure you do what you can to pack and prep your boxes so they’re ready to go once the movers arrive. The reason: The less time spent moving your items means lower exposure risks.
“The faster a move can get done, the better and safer it is,” says Lior Rachmany, founder of Dumbo Moving and Storage in New York City.
This is also a decent argument to not DIY your move.
“The movers will do one straight transaction from point A to point B in less time than it takes the average person to do a DIY move,” Rachmany adds.
5. Moving in without deep cleaning first (and hiring help here, too)
Similar to hiring movers, hiring a professional cleaning service can be a cost-effective time saver, letting you focus on the move. A one-time housecleaning before moving into a new home averages $125 to $300, according to HomeAdvisor. And at a time like this, that may be money well-spent.
“A professional cleaning service already has years of experience cleaning hard-to-reach places or forgotten surfaces,” Glanz points out. “That comes in twice as handy now that it’s more important than ever to keep every touchable area cleaned.”
Before hiring a cleaning service, check online reviews and ask lots of questions.
“We’ve been getting a lot of questions about the products we use to clean and if we are taking any extra precautions,” Carpenter says. “Ask the company for recent references that have been served since shelter-in-place directives started rolling out. Call those customers and ask if they’d hire the service again.”
If you’re cleaning the place yourself, make sure to use products that actively disinfect and include ingredients such as sodium hypochlorite, ethanol, pine oil, hydrogen peroxide, citric acid, and quaternary ammonium compounds. And, don’t forget high-touch areas like doorknobs, light switches, faucets, and cabinet pulls.
Broken plates and a mangled lampshade are fairly standard moving mishaps. But sometimes the truly crazy, surprising, or even embarrassing things happen when homeowners need to relocate. Even with the best intentions—and mountains of bubble wrap—people end up packing some strange and just plain off-putting things in an effort to get their possessions from point A to B.
Want proof? Enjoy the following moving tales so you’ll know what not to pack, lest you become a cautionary tale yourself.
1. Trash cans full of … trash
Larry Perlstein moved cross-country from Stamford, CT, to Los Gatos, CA, several years ago and appreciated the thoroughness of his packers. Everything was neatly wrapped and boxed and made it safely to the West Coast, he reports. But when he opened his wastebaskets, he realized they’d arrived full.
“The movers packed all the trash cans—with the garbage still in them,” he says.
Lesson learned: Empty your bins before the move, or your banana peels will join you on the journey.
2. A song that wouldn’t stop playing
Soon after Jenny Lilienthal and her family loaded their belongings in a 24-foot van and started driving it from Massachusetts to Florida, they heard a funny sound coming from the back of the truck.
“After we listened a bit, we realized it was our 3-year-old’s game, Gone Fishing, which was somehow triggered and playing music,” she explains.
Unpacking the truck to turn it off wasn’t an option. So, they spent the next three days listening to this jingle nonstop until it became forever drilled into their heads, like a moving theme song.
“It played cheerfully the whole way,” she adds. “And it nearly drove us nuts!”
3. Last week’s meal
Reba Haas, a real estate agent with Team Reba of Re/Max Metro Realty in Seattle, helped sell the home of a client who had hoarder tendencies.
“On moving day, the moving company told me that there were dirty dishes in the homeowner’s sink and she somehow convinced the movers to pack them up,” Haas explains.
Making matters even grosser, this was an international move—from the U.S. to Costa Rica.
“Nothing that might attract bugs or rodents can be moved,” notes Haas, who doesn’t know whether those dirty dishes made it through customs.
The movers admitted it was the most disgusting job they’d ever been a part of, but Haas insists they don’t know the half of it: “They have no idea what I went through for months just to get this client’s home ready to sell and pack!”
4. Stolen goods
It’s hard to leave certain things when you move, but some items must remain in place if they’re included in the purchase agreement. Haas, for one, recalls one seller who proceeded to make off with things that were supposed to stay.
“This seller stripped the house of its curtains, even though she’d earlier acknowledged that all window coverings were to stay,” Haas recalls. “She even dug up plants in the front yard and took them with her. She didn’t even bother to refill the holes with dirt!”
5. A dead person’s ashes
During one move, pro mover Yuval Beton and his team were prepped in detail about a client’s vase.
“We were told it was very important and that we were to take any precautions necessary to make sure it arrived safely,” he explains. With further probing, Beton discovered that the vase was actually an urn—and it contained the ashes of the client’s late husband.
“It was a nerve-wracking move,” he admits. Luckily, the urn was moved in one piece.