Get ready to save on bills this summer

Polar vortexes, snow-ins and mittens are finally behind us and we’re all itching for our summer shorts and grills.  With fabulous vacations, weekend football tournaments and updated summer wardrobes on the horizon, here si ways you can save money for the most unforgettable summer ever.

  1. Don’t forget about insulation. We know how much energy improper insulation can waste. But just because it’s summer and your heating bills aren’t stacking up, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to keep an eye out for energy wastes. With the truly melting temperatures some parts of the country get in the summer months, make sure all your windows and doors close properly. Any nooks and cracks that allow heat to creep into your apartment are only making your AC work in overdrive and cost quickly rise.
  2.  If you’re apartment gets plenty of sunshine (we’re all jealous, by the way), consider getting some black-out shades. They’re an easy and inexpensive way to save a lot on electricity, especially if you’re gone most of the day. Pull them in areas that get morning and midday sun and turn your AC down for some unexpectedly simple savings on your electrical bill.
  3. While we all agree that air-conditioning is basically the best thing since sliced bread, as the old adage goes, too much of a good thing can hurt. This is especially true for over-exposure to air conditioning, which can cause everything from mild headaches to allergies and sinus complications that require surgery –yikes! Only run you AC, when it’s truly necessary. If the temperatures aren’t quite wilting, skip the AC altogether or just turn on a fan in the room you’re in. If possible, skip the AC and fans during the night and throw your windows open for the night air to cool you r apartment down.
  4.  Ignore your dryer, as its one of the most power-hungry appliances in your house. Opt for air drying on your patio, balcony or even on fold-down rack in a corner of your living room. Not only does it save big bucks on your bills, but air-drying doesn’t damage your clothes at all, unlike a dryer.  As an added bonus air drying gives your clothes a freshness unmatched by any fabric softener.
  5. You know all those advantages of air-drying clothing? The same applies to you hair. In the hot summer months even the longest hair takes very little time to dry on its own, so skip that hair dryer for healthier locks and lower bills.
  6. Let’s not forget about the biggest money-saver of them all – renters insurance. While it adds some extra costs, which clock in at a meager 50 cents per day, renters insurance can save your bank account in the long term. With thunder storms, high winds, and vacation break-ins, Resident Shield has your back, giving you full replacement value for your personal property and that of your neighbors.

Memorial Day Safety

With Memorial Day fast approaching, you are likely scrambling to make sure that your home is ready for guests and festivities. The guest list is complete and the pantry is stocked but there is still one thing to keep in mind before you’re ready to party: safety.

Kids at the swimming pool

Creating a safe environment for your party will simply make your party better! Fewer worries means that you can relax and enjoy time with friends and family. Below is an easy to follow checklist of a few common safety concerns:

  • Grilling is a popular Memorial Day pastime. While getting the coals going may seem like your biggest challenge, there are a few other things to keep in mind. Avoid placing grills on inflammable surfaces. Even decks, particularly those that are painted or varnished, can pose a fire hazard when sparks and embers escape. At least one person should monitor the grill at all times and dispose of used coals properly.
  • When the sun sets, families often head out to local fairgrounds for fireworks. If you’ll continue the party at home, check local fire ordinances before using flares, sparklers, or fireworks. When conditions are dry, even the smallest spark can lead to danger.
  • To prepare your food safely, avoid cross-contamination. Use a separate cutting board for raw meats, fruits and vegetables especially if the fruits and vegetables will not be cooked.
  • Also be mindful of food allergies. Use a separate cutting board, utensils, and cookware when preparing items for those who suffer from severe allergic reactions.
  • Many kids love splashing and swimming in the water during Memorial Day celebrations. Unsupervised play is the leading cause of water-related injuries and fatalities amongst children. Ensure that there is at least one adult chaperone with children at all times and, at best, that a life guard is present.

Enjoy a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.

The essential moving checklist

Isn’t moving the worst? While you’re moving for a new job opportunity, school, because you need a change in landscape, or simply switching to a newer, more upscale apartment community, moving will still take up a huge chunk of your time and raise your stress levels.  We’ve put together an essential moving check-list to make things as hassle-free as possible.

 

Two months ahead:

-          Research moving companies and cross reference them with the Better Business Bureau. Reach out to at least three different companies to get a moving quote. If possible have them do an onsite assessment.

-          Check out your rights and responsibilities during a move at https://www.protectyourmove.gov/

-          Start researching doctors, lawyers, banks, schools.

-          Compile a comprehensive list of all the business and services you need to contact with your new address.

Six weeks ahead:

-          Start the packing process by sorting through your belongings. Put aside any items you might be able to sell or donate. You can also get a jump start on packing, by boxing up out-of season clothing, and items and gadget that are seldom used.

-          If you have children, start working with their current and future schools to transfer records. Transfer medical and veterinarian records.

Five weeks ahead

-          Eliminate bulk shopping and significantly cut down on groceries. Use up all foodstuffs in your pantry.

-          Buy moving supplies such as boxes and tapes and come up with a clear labeling system (numeral, color coded, by room, etc.)

-          Set the exact moving date and arrange for personal time off from work

One month ahead

-          Fill out your official change of address form with U.S. Post Office

-          Reach out to all businesses and service providers to change addresses. This includes health insurance, car insurance, lawyers, magazine subscriptions, library, gym, voting address etc.

-          Make the necessary changes to your renters insurance policy.

-          Notify utilities of your move both at your current address as well as your future home. This can include: telephone, cell phone, electric, internet, gas, water, trash collection.

-          Set up a room by a room packing and stick to it

Three weeks ahead

-          Make thorough inventory of high-ticket items. Arrange for special transportation for valuables such jewelry, personal documents, art

-          Make photographic or video inventory of the state of your belongings, noting any imperfections

Two weeks ahead

-          If you’re moving large appliances, clean, empty and prep them

-          Fill any prescription you might need

-          Confirm the moving date and hour with your moving company. Confirm parking and take out any special permits you might need.

-          Arrange for a neighbor to pick up and forward any mail that may arrive at your old address

-          Stop grocery shopping and use up all foodstuff in the home

One week ahead

-          Print two copies of your bill of lading

-          Have all family members pack a suitcase containing at least two weeks’ worth of clothing and toiletries and finish packing up all other items

-          Empty and defrost fridge at least 24 hours prior to moving

-          Dispose of all perishables, flammables and any items you won’t be moving.

-          Hire a cleaning company to get your new home into a shape by the time you arrive and one to clean out your old home after you’ve left

-          Go through every room and closet before leaving, to make sure nothing stays behind

When is the best time of year to rent an apartment?

A tough question, no? Well, there are plenty of factors to be taken into consideration, yet there are some general rules that help you determine what “best” is in your case.

Flexibility – this is the first thing to determine, how flexible are you to pick a time of the year to move? If time is not on your side, you should be asking yourself another question.

Assuming you have time to do things at your own pace, the next thing you should be asking yourself is what is your secondary goal: saving as much money as possible, o having as many options as possible to choose from.

 

Money Matters

The highest turnover in rental units manifests during the months of May through September, inclusively. This occurs due to the fact that this is the time when young people start or graduate college, younger children are on summer break, thus enabling parents to move more freely, and the weather is much more accommodating to moving an entire household from one place to another.

Deal or no deal

The best deal for rental apartments are offered starting October through April. If you are looking for a deal on your future home, winter is generally the best period of the year to find a new place to live. Apartment turnover rates are much lower this time of the year; even though there are fewer options to choose from, the property managers are more inclined to cut you a deal to fill their vacancies.

Furthermore, to get a better deal on an apartment, besides searching during the off-season, you can look in the markets that have greater supply than demand, and in those neighborhoods with new apartment construction.

Five reasons why renters insurance is recommended

Renters insurance is on the short list of insurances that are not a waste of money – and should be on your list of things to buy if you are living in a rented home.

Financial experts say that the low cost of renters insurance (premiums are typically based on the content valuation of your apartment), coupled with the typical benefits it provides should you need to submit a claim on your policy, make it a no brainer decision.

red umbrella showing renters insurance

Here are the top ten reasons why renters insurance is recommended for anyone who rents their home.

  1. It covers disasters. Like catastrophic medical insurance, it pays to have coverage for the day something completely unexpected happens. If your roof caves in tomorrow, exposing the entire contents of your apartment to a rainstorm, and your landlord doesn’t cover the damages, renters insurance will pick up the pieces, replacing your things.
  2. It covers crime. The activities of nefarious folks are impossible to predict and you never know when you might be the victim of a property crime at your apartment. No matter how well you lock your doors and windows, home burglaries have become more prevalent due to a more challenging economy. Prevent yourself, just in case.
  3. You don’t pay for anything you don’t already own. Because renters insurance is calculated based on the valuation of your personal possessions, you won’t feel like you are getting ripped off. Your premium is based on the contents of your home.
  4. Your possessions will often be covered by renters insurance if they are stolen or damaged while away from your home. When my boyfriend’s bike was stolen while he was inside the supermarket, renters insurance replaced it. When his cell phone was rendered unusable by the powers of an airport security scanning machine, it was also replaced.
  5. It’s not that expensive. Even if you have many nice things, renters insurance will typically cost you less than $30 a month. That’s a nice restaurant lunch, a bag of groceries, or half your monthly cell phone bill – a small price to pay for personal protection of the things you care about.

Eco-friendly pet solutions for your place

As an environmentally conscious individual you do all you can to reduce your carbon footprint: you installed energy saving light bulbs in your apartment, you’ve installed switch extension cords to get rid of pesky vampire charges and have switched to biodegradable cleaning products. But there’s one area you might have overlooked: your pet. Yes, even Fido can have a carbon foot (or is it paw?) print, which adds to yours. Here are six tips to help you and your pet live a greener lifestyle:

  • Buy in pet food in bulk to cut down on packaging. Go the extra mile and choose brands that use sustainably sourced, recycled and biodegradable packaging. If possible, listen to the ASPCA’s advice, and buy plant-based kitty litter, like wood shavings or wheat.
  • Choose toys made from natural materials or at least recycled plastics. This way you protect your furry friend from harmful chemicals and avoid increasing demand for virgin plastics. Locally or regionally manufactured items also use less fuel and support the local economy,
  • If you’re even in the least bit crafty, consider making pet toys yourself. Cut up old t-shirts and braid them for a homemade rag toy for Roscoe. Turn your lightly worn feather earrings into a stylish new toy for Captain Meowington.
  • You can also make clothes for your pets without being a master seamstress or a crochet guru. A doggie vest can be made by cutting a sleeve from an old sweater and slicing two armholes at the right height.
  • You can turn a thrifted drawer, half of an old suitcase or an old TV cabinet into a pet bed, by stuffing it with some revamped old pillows. Another great way too literally green your pet’s house is to install a green roof. A few centimeters of soil on the roof and some moss is the easiest option, but you can get creative with some succulents, or go all out and plant some lovely flowers atop. Just make sure beforehand that the plants aren’t harmful to pets.

Janice Lind via Pinterest

  • Take care of your pets’ smelly messes with reusable cloths. If this proves too much of a challenge, go for biodegradable bags or reuse plastic bags that find their way into your home when grocery shopping. Also, don’t forget to use non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaners in the wake of pet accidents. You can find most of these in your apartment – vinegar, for example, is an excellent solution against bad smells. You can even make your own natural flea repellant at home, with just half a cup of chopped rosemary boiled in four cups of water. After it cooled, strain it and spritz some from a spray bottle to keep your fluffy friends itch-free without worrying about harsh chemicals.

To enjoy all moments care-free with your now eco-friendly pets, consider getting Pet Damage Coverage , which offers you $500 in liability coverage in the event of pet damage to the apartment.

What to look for in a new rental apartment

Renting a new apartment can be a real challenge. Even when you think you’ve found the one, a home packed with hot amenities and with lots of space, located in the part of town that best suits your needs, you might be taken by surprise – and not the pleasant kind. Many apartment renters move in only to discover that “vintage” actually means wobbly locks, leaky faucets, and ceiling stains (or worse). And then there’s not much you can do after you sign the lease.

A smart move would be to perform a thorough inspection of the rental unit before deciding to move in, to make sure you know exactly what you’re paying for, especially since you could be talking some significant bucks when you rent. Increased demand for multi-family housing has pushed rental prices up, with an estimated rent growth of 4.5% in 2015, according to data from Pierce-Eislen. The average effective rent hit $1,478 in 2014 for the Lifestyle segment and $1,016 for the Renters by Necessity segment. Either way, whether you’re a renter-by-choice or a transitional renter, the investment is not negligible, so make sure you get the best bang for your buck.

8 Things to Add To Your First Apartment Inspection Checklist

When you visit a new apartment community, don’t settle for the model unit. Make sure the landlord shows you the actual unit that you’re going to get and pay attention to details such as:

1. Look for signs of air leakage

Inspect windows, doors, ceiling and walls for cracks, holes or any other signs of air leakage. Air infiltration can account for up to 30% or more of your home’s heating and cooling costs, according to the Home Energy Solutions of the Triad institute, and may be the cause of other problems such as dust, noise and entry of pollutants, insects and rodents. Bad windows, for example, leak heat in winter and let in heat during the summer months, which translates into higher utility bills. Ideally, your new rental will feature triple-glazed, low-E windows, but if that’s not the case, you really just want to make sure they are in working order, sealed, and not more than 10 years old.

2. Detect and prevent mold

Look for signs of leaking water or water damage in the walls, check pipes and fittings, and make sure you look under sinks, dishwashers, or anywhere there’s a water supply or drain. Apart from being an obvious aesthetic nuisance, the presence of excessive moisture indoors facilitates the appearance of mold which can be a real threat to your family’s health.

3. Make sure all home appliances are functional

Check all kitchen and bathroom fixtures (AC, gas, electricity, fridge, showers, smoke detectors, etc.) to make sure they’re completely operational. Also, flush toilets and check for hot water. As trivial as it may seem, there is nothing worse than turning on the water tap for the first time in your brand new rental home and being caught off-guard by barely-dripping brown water while the toilet floods.

4. Identify electrical outlets

Make sure there are enough electrical outlets to support all your appliances and electrical equipment (including bathroom outlets for your hair-care appliances).

5. Beware of unwanted visitors

Explicitly look for signs of rodents, vermin, or insects. Apartment units that are not well maintained tend to draw unexpected guests.

6. Visually check the heating system

Pay extra care to the water heater and furnace and make sure they are free of rust. If their surfaces are chipped or you see debris nearby, these might be signs of leaks – and these leaks could possibly indicate carbon monoxide problems.

7. Is your new home safe from hazardous materials?

Asbestos and other hazardous substances may be present in homes – particularly older structures, built in the 1980s or before – and can cause serious health problems if inhaled. You can check yourself periodically for tears, abrasions, and water damage and take action if the need arises. But the wise thing to do is have your new rental house inspected by a professional hygiene firm and make sure you’re not at risk before moving in.  For detailed info on toxic chemicals and how to spot any signs of their presence go to epa.gov.

8. Get peace of mind with renters insurance

Get renters insurance! Seriously! It costs as little as 43 cents/day but protects you against personal property loss in case of a wide array of mishaps including fire, smoke, theft, windstorm, and lightning. It usually covers all your personal belongings such as furniture, clothing, electronic equipment, jewelry – even your bike and flat screen TV.

Additionally, you might want to take pictures of the rental apartment or house the day you move in and keep them as proof, just in case. You can include that day’s newspaper in the photo as well to verify the date of the picture.

What other problems have you encountered when checking out rental units? Have you dodged any bullets before moving in?

Amalia Otet is an online content developer and creative writer for RENTCafé, an apartment search website that allows renters to look for thousands of listings across the country.

Be a successful renter (not just a renter)

We live in the era when mortgage payments are replaced by rent checks. Millennials don’t seem to buy into the trend of buying a house. The Census Bureau recently reported that homeownership of Americans ages 25 to 34 has declined nearly 8 percent since 2006. Even though, at a first sight, this victory of renting over owning an apartment seems to be related to money and the recovering economy, there might be other reasons behind the trend.

  • Multitude of Amenities

The new apartment communities offer free amenities that would be costly for homeowners. Think of the gyms and movie screening rooms, of the concierge service and electric car charging ports, of the all-areas cell phone reception (including the underground garage) – a necessity to Millennials who don’t rely as much on landlines anymore.

  • A deeper Sense of Community

Millennials are drawn to the community and shared spaces in apartment buildings. With limited budgets in urban areas and in places where studio apartments can be smaller than 400 square feet, the young renters enjoy common kitchens and coffee bars, the libraries and recreation rooms.

  • Flexibility

A single-family home is a path to putting an end to noisy neighbors on the other side of the wall or ceiling; renting enables the possibility to leave behind troublesome places.

  • Less Debt

Probably the most obvious reason millennials choose renting over owning is the crippling debt many are burdened with in their early 20s. According to the Institute for College Access & Success, 7 in 10 college students who graduated in 2013 have student loan debt. The average amount is a staggering $29,400, and this is just the average, many others graduate even deeper in the hole. Furthermore, the amount of student loan debt has increased an average of 6 percent per year since 2008, and by the look of the figures, there isn’t a sign of the trend stopping anytime soon.

Renting is a difficult dance, but once you know the steps, the movement feels much fluent. Here are the fundamental steps, you can improvise around them:

  • Read the Lease

Read carefully because skimming through the contract won’t be enough. The form may appear to be standard, but you never know what has been added or removed unless you read every word. Do not assume the meaning of unclear terminology; get clarification before you give your signature. If you feel that there are things that should be included, but aren’t, don’t be scared and ask for it to be added. Think about the headaches you can avoid later by investing a bit more time now.

  • Take Photos

Usually the renter gives you a tour of the property and most of the renters are satisfied with that. Be smart and besides noting anything amiss on your lease, take dated photos. This is a smart move not only for the moving day, but for later in the lease as well: maintenance problem – photos, infestation – photos, etc. A visual note of your time in the rented apartment is more than a memory, is a proof.

  • Write it down

Besides the lease you might have to deal with other people than your landlord. If you have an agreement with a roommate or a sublease tenant write it down and have it dated and signed by both parties.

  • Personalize the Space – with Permission

Don’t get stuck thinking that a rental is temporary; you live there, so express your design vision. Waiting for that mythical day when you can really decorate will only kill the joy out of your present day. Time spent personalizing any home is not time wasted because it will make you happier every day.

  • Don’t Hold on, Move on

Remember the greatest advantage of renting: flexibility. Moving is not the most exciting adventure, but neither is living in a rental that’s not the right one for you. Whatever reason you have that’s making you want to leave, leave, move on.

  • Renter’s Insurance

As homeowner, you’d pay religiously your home insurance because you know the much needed benefits it brings with it. The renter status doesn’t mean that you have to live in fear that your belongings could be destroyed or that you might be held liable for mishaps taking place on your perimeter (people getting injured or Fido not being friendly); of course, this means that the renter status is not absolved from insurance, the good part is that renter’s insurance is far from being expensive. Take a look at Resident Shield’s offer, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Spring allergies – if you can’t treat them, cheat them

Soon the cold weather will be just a memory; soon the trees will start blooming and we’ll smile again looking at all the rainbow-like colors of spring flowers. Unfortunately, others will smile less. With the blooming of the trees will make its way into the atmosphere the pollen and a big part of the population will begin their annual ritual of sniffling, sneezing, and itching.

Spring debuts with trees pollen, followed by grass pollen. The air outside becomes filled with tiny particles which, when enter the nose of someone who’s allergic, they send the immune system into overdrive. At that point the immune system releases antibodies (substances that normally detect and attack bacteria, viruses, and other illness-causing organisms) and they attack the allergens. This attack leads to the release of chemicals called histamines into the blood – the histamines are the reason for the runny nose, itchy eyes, and all the other unpleasant allergy symptoms.

Around 35 million Americans fall prey each year to seasonal allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever.

Unfortunately, once diagnosed with this health problem, you will find out that there is no magical cure for it and that you’ll be stuck with it for the rest of your life. However, there are a number of ways to fight these spring allergies, from medication to lifestyle habits.

  • An easy way to get through the season is to medicate well. You might be familiar with Allegra, Zyrtex, and Claratin. I, for one, start and end my day with Avamys nasal spray and, throughout the peak of the allergy seasons, combine it with antihistaminic pills. Talk to your doctor as different products work for different people; also, you can ask the pharmacist which related brands are also effective – perhaps you can save some money while getting relief.
  • Try to remain indoors when the pollen count is sky-high – pollen counts usually peak in the morning hours.
  • Try to keep your windows and doors closed whenever possible during the spring months to keep allergens out – perhaps invest in an air purifier.
  • Wipe off pets when they come indoors and don’t let them sleep in your bed as they can transfer pollen there.
  • Take a shower and wash your hair after you’ve been outside so you don’t bring the pollen inside with you.
  • Vacuum twice a week and wear a mask while doing so because this activity can kick up pollen, mold, and dust that were trapped into your carpet.

While you take care of your seasonal allergies, remember to also check your renter’s insurance contract. Prevention is always preferred over treatment, right?

The essential senior renter checklist

America’s apartment market is seeing an influx of senior renters, who are choosing to leave their oversized, suburban homes behind, in favor of amenity-rich apartment communities. But however active seniors are, there are key factors you need to consider when renting an apartment, especially if you choose a non-age restricted community.

 

  • With over 200,000 accidents registered every year, most of them involving senior citizens, bathrooms are decidedly the most dangerous part of every home. When taking your walk-through in a potential new apartment, thoroughly check over the bathroom. ADA-compliant showers are definitely a something to look for – having a shower seat or bench gives you more comfort and security and the lack of a threshold makes getting in and out significantly safer. Also check if showerheads or mobile, or if you can easily install one.
  •  If the unit (also) has a bathtub, measure if there’s enough space to make use of a transfer bench to safely get in and out of the bathtub.
  • If you’re looking at an apartment outside of a senior housing development, chances are your bathroom won’t have any grab bars. Ask if you can install one (without losing your deposit).
  • Check if floors are non-slip. This applies for the entire house, not just the bathroom. Kitchen floor tiles or a highly polished hardwood floors can be hazardous.
  • Other features to look out for in a kitchen are lever-handle faucets and drawer-style storage and drawer style appliances (such as dishwashers).
  • Hallways should be a minimum of 36 inches wide to be accessible. It’s also recommended that they are well-lit. Adequate lighting decreases the chance of accidents, especially during the night. Motion-controlled light switches are ideal.
  • Light switches should also be in the 44 to 48 inch height range to be easily accessible from a seated position.
  • An accessible apartment should have doors with a minimum clear width of 32 inches.
  • Try looking for an apartment on the first floor or look for an apartment community with elevators. In case you’re looking to rent a townhome, orient yourself towards a home with a first-floor bedroom for minimum mobility challenges.
  • Even if your community doesn’t require renter’s insurance, do get a policy. For as little as 50 cents a day you can insure all your possessions against theft, vandalism, fire, windstorms, accidental injuries of guests at your residence, even additional living expenses, should you be forced to temporarily move out of your home as a result of a covered loss.