Many buyers and sellers who struck deals at the start of the prime spring home-buying season are now ready to move. The two-thirds of those who have pets have special concerns.
Q. A long time ago, you wrote a column about how to make the transition from one house to another easier on pets. We wish that we had kept that story, because now we are getting ready to move to another home with our three cats and two poodles. Can you repeat that advice?
A. I'll be happy to do so, because two-thirds of all homeowners have at least one cat or dog, and many of those pet lovers who sold their house at the start of the peak spring home-buying season are now closing their deal and getting ready to relocate. This month we also celebrate the American Veterinary Medical Association's National Pet Week.
Before you move, make sure your pet has a sturdy collar and, if needed, a strong leash. A new tag should be attached to the collar that includes your name, new address, phone number and an emergency number of a friend or relative to be contacted if the pet somehow gets away during the moving process.
Resist the temptation to throw out Fido or Fluffy's old toys, feed and water bowls as you pack for the relocation. Children often feel better if they get a few new toys when they move into a new home, but animals are creatures of habit who like the "same old stuff."
Contact your current veterinarian to get copies of a pet's vaccinations and other medical records if the move will require you to find a different vet, because the new doctor probably will want to review the pet's medical history on the initial visit. Don't forget to pack lots of pet food and bottled water for the trip if it's going to be a long one, and keep any medication your pet needs in a handy location.
Whether you're moving just across town or to the other side of the country, experts say dogs are best moved in a secure and airy crate if you're driving to your new home, or at least in a restraining harness that can be purchased at most pet-supply stores. Cats, rabbits and the like should always be crated, because they can't be effectively harnessed.
If you're flying rather than driving, call the airline several weeks before the move to find out about its pet-transportation requirements.
Your pet or pets might be confused or frightened on the day you arrive at your new home. Help ease the anxiety by quickly putting out those old toys and bowls as you begin to carry in your furniture and other personal possessions. Keep doors and windows closed if a pet is unsupervised.
If you have a cat, make sure the kitty box is quickly filled with litter. If you have a dog, put a leash on it and go for a long walk so he or she can familiarize with the new neighborhood and perhaps even find a favorite new tree or fire hydrant.
Q. Is it true that I could improve my credit score by paying my monthly mortgage payment in cash, rather than by check?
A. No, it's not true. I don't know where that rumor got started, but I have received a half-dozen queries similar to yours in the past few weeks.
Making your monthly payments promptly each month will slowly increase your credit score, but paying in cash rather than by check or an automatic deduction from a separate savings account won't speed up the process.
Q. Our daughter is buying her first home, and we have agreed to give her $6,000 for part of her down payment. Her loan was approved two weeks ago, but now the bank has asked us to sign a "gift letter" stating that the money is truly a gift rather than a personal loan that must be repaid. If we sign the gift letter, will we be required to make her monthly payments if she defaults?
A. If the $6,000 that you are providing to your daughter is truly a gift rather than a loan that she will have to pay back, you can sign the letter and have nothing to worry about. Only if you also cosigned her mortgage application could the bank insist that you start making the payments yourself if she no longer can.
Real estate trivia: "Bella" was the most popular name homeowners chose for newborn cats and dogs alike last year, according to Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. The company said it's because a character with the same name is the centerpiece of the hit "Twilight" series of films.
• For the booklet "Straight Talk About Living Trusts," send $4 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to David Myers, P.O. Box 4405, Culver City, CA 90231-4405.
© 2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.