Things to consider when looking for your next apartment

Most people look mostly at the big picture when searching for an apartment, especially first-time renters. Things like cost, safe surroundings, accessibility to transportation, and getting the best for that amount of money, are the highest up on the priority list. However, there are little things that mean a whole lot more than we’d imagine, which reveal their importance only when we notice we lack them.

1.   Storage space

People have more stuff than they think they do, me and you included. If you don’t believe me, check your closets or count your boxes next time you move. You will be surprised. Otherwise think a bit about this not-so-very-new anymore business with self-storage spaces, it has a valid reason behind it that makes it successful. More storage space is critical when searching for an apartment.

2.   Washer & Dryer

Think this is a luxury, when in fact, it is a necessity. Not to mention comfortable to do laundry whenever and without the grossing feeling that you’re washing your clothes where many other have, without really knowing how clean the laundromat is. Or that you spend a certain amount of money every time and the units don’t always work the first time.

 

3.   Less carpet

Carpet is very difficult to live with, especially if you have a dog, or allergies, or both. Furthermore, at the end of your lease you might discover that the people you hired to clean the carpet didn’t rise to the expectations of the landlord and you’ll be charged again for the job. Not really worth it.

4.   Outdoor space

A porch, a balcony, a terrace, a garden – anything out in the open is fantastic. A place to grow some plants, taste a relaxing tea, read a good book, enjoy the sun in the comfort of your own home.

5.   Hosting events

It’s all fun and games now to go out and socialize, but at some point you start appreciating more small personal gatherings. If, due to the size and shape of the living room, your apartment lacks the ability to host events like Thanksgiving or cocktail evenings, you will start feeling jealous of your friends’ space and will even feel the need to move into a new space that has this amenity.

6.   Receiving packages

If you’re into online shopping and live in an apartment that doesn’t have a doorman, you know what I mean. It’s much more complicated to receive packages from other than the United States Post Office and it has nothing to do with the other mailing services but with the fact that you’re not always there to pick them up.

7.   Renter’s insurance

This goes for any apartment you lease, be it the first, the second, or your last (because you’re hopefully moving into the ownership status). Renter’s insurance is the key to a peaceful life when living in a rental, protecting your belongings from different perils and your visitors from suing you in case of injury on your perimeter. Worth every cent.

Lease is up – should I stay or should I go?

When your apartment lease is almost up, you might find yourself not knowing what to do: renew for another glorious twelve months or explore other options. In some cases it is easy – the place is exactly what you want and you’ll sign the renewal without any doubt; in other cases it is also easy as the place is so far from what you wish to call home that you’ll count the days until your move-out date. And then are those cases when you’re just not sure about what to do: your current place is decent, but you don’t love it. How do you organize your thoughts?

I’ve always started with the thing closest to me: the building itself and the location. Answer honestly why you don’t like your current place – is it a bit too small, or a third-floor walk-up? Does it lack the in-unit washer and dryer you so much desire, or the workout facility?

With apartment vacancy rates decreasing, finding that ONE apartment is becoming more and more challenging. If you are willing to pay more, your options multiply; if not… you might have to continue living without these amenities. However, if your problems are with an untrustworthy landlord or with neighbors who party three times a week, moving is the only solution that can solve them.

When vacancy rates are dropping, availability is scarce. In other words, it might not be very easy to find a suitable replacement; the great apartments are taken quickly. On the other hand, when vacancy is high and there are new places for you to choose from, moving and upgrading sounds like the thing to do.

Compare your lease amount with what’s available on the market. You will either find that you’re getting a deal on your modest one-bedroom or that you can save money by moving to a comparable place further down the street.

Analyze the roommate-situation. Do you have them? Do you like them? Would you rather live alone? Or is it the opposite, you’re tired of living alone and you’d rather share the living space with three other people? If the roommate situation is what troubles you the most – having more or less of them, moving to a larger or smaller space is the right choice. Remember the general rule of the thumb: the more people living in a house, the less each pays per month.

Check your finances. Know that on the short-term, moving means spending more. Moving itself means expense, while staying put implies none.

Review your income – if you’ve been promoted in the past year and received a raise (or improved your financial situation somehow else), perhaps you don’t want to renew and go for a real upgrade. For example, if you can ditch the studio and pay for a one-bedroom, do it!

Review your spare time as moving means apartment hunting, planning and then the move itself – and that means some serious dedication and amount of time. If one of your constant thoughts revolves around a new place, then you should probably find the time to move.

If you decide that a new place would make your life better, you should call your renter’s insurance provider and announce the change of address as soon as possible. Otherwise, review and renew not only your lease, but also your renter’s insurance.

14 tips for moving with pets

You’ve written list upon list, made calls, got boxes, tape and bubble wrap, prepping everything you can in advance for your move. Regardless how much prep-work you’ve done moving day is going to pack a pretty big stress punch. And while your pet won’t have to label, pack and oversee movers, your furry (or feathery) little friend might very well go through his own stressful rollercoaster. Here are a few tips to make moving as easy on your pet as possible.

Dog and woman playing on a sofa

  1. This one might seem obvious, but make sure your new apartment community is pet-friendly. You really don’t want to show up on moving day only to find out Fido isn’t welcome.
  2. Even if your community is pet-friendly check if they have any breed restrictions. It would also be wise to check with local government, especially if you’re moving to a different city or county.
  3. Make sure your renters insurance policy is up to date. Consider adding Pet Damage Coverage. It not only adds and extra safety layer, it will also make you look like a super responsible pet owner to your new landlord/property manager.
  4. If you’re moving far enough to need new animal health care services, ask your current vet for your pet’s medical records, especially vaccination records. Shot records might also be essential for your new apartment community to allow you to move in with your pet.
  5. Ask your current vet to recommend a new doctor, veterinary clinic and emergency pet hospital in your future location. If you current vet is unable to assist you request information from the state veterinary medical association. Tour your pet’s new clinic before committing and check how clean the kennels are, the staff’s knowledge and training, business hours, whether or not they offer emergency or boarding services.
  6. When you found a new veterinarian, ask if there are any health risks in your new area, such as heartworm.  Follow the doctor’s recommendations regarding preemptive medication, shots or avoiding specific areas in your new neighborhood.
  7. If your pet isn’t familiar with crate travelling or has a new crate, slowly train him up to get used to it. Forcing him inside a new, restrictive environment such as a crate, on moving day could skyrocket his stress levels. Make sure you get a comfortable, well ventilated, sturdy crate to keep your pet safe.
  8. Pack food and medications for about a week to have on hand. If your pet has special dietary needs, buy extra food, in case your pets’ specialty food isn’t readily available in your new location. If he’s taking life-saving medication, considering asking for an extra prescription from your current vet. Vets are forbidden to write medication prescriptions without a pre-existing doctor-patient relationship.
  9. On moving day, confine you pet in a quiet, safe, well-ventilated space, clearly marked as such – you can post a sign on a door or even lock it.  This way your pet will be separated from all the unusual activity, won’t feel (as) threatened by strangers and will have no occasion to slip away through a carelessly open door or window. Surround your pet with favorite toys, blankets, food and water.
  10. Update your dog’s collar with your new address and new phone number.
  11. Leave your contact information (new address, phone number, even vet contact info) with a few of your neighbors and your landlord. Should your pet get loose and make his way back to your old home, you’ll get word of it asap.
  12. If you trip takes more than a quick one-hour drive, regularly check on how your pet is handling travelling, if he’s got enough water and food, or if he needs a walk.
  13. As soon as you arrive to your new location put him in a similarly clearly marked safe area, surrounding him with the same comforts as right before the move. As soon as the strangers have left (movers, landlord, friendly neighbors) let him out of his seclusion to roam and explore his new home at will. If you own a dog, take him out for a quick walk as soon as he seems to be a little less apprehensive of his new surroundings. Make the walk quick, se he doesn’t get overexcited. Slowly increase the duration of outside walks every day, so your dog has time to readjust.
  14. Enjoy your new home!

Renter’s insurance has your back on vacation

Ah, summer, the golden months when all we want to think about is vacation. The summer escape, whether it’s a mountain cabin, a beach bungalow, or some city condo, is the sweetest relief.

Some of us travel light, using the occasion to satisfy shopping pleasure. Others consider heavy bags to be the sign of a happy vacation. Yet all that stuff we take with us – laptop, camera, sports equipment, musical instruments, jewelry – is not only heavy, but also valuable. What happens if these items are damaged or stolen while staying at a hotel or a vacation rental? For peace of mind, first determine whether or your luggage with its contents will be covered by your insurance policy in event of loss due to fire, theft, or some other unfortunate events.

Your renters or homeowners insurance most probably has “off-premise” coverage. In other words, your personal possessions will still be covered outside your home – regardless if it happens to have your property stolen from your car or your vacation rental. Furthermore, you will also be covered for the common perils such as fire, theft, vandalism, and hurricanes. However, if you put your bike on the roof of your car, don’t secure it properly and it falls down, most probably you won’t get a new bicycle under insurance coverage.

The Insurance Information Institute advises to check on the off-premises coverage as some policies limit it to 10 percent of the amount of coverage you have for your personal possessions. Specifically, if you have $100,000 worth of coverage for your personal items, you’d get only $10,000 for off-premises coverage. Check with your agent before you start your vacation. If your off-premise coverage is too low, you may want to consider raising your policy limits.

Depending on where you spend your vacation, be selective with the items you take with you. On the beach or on some mountain, you won’t need all that expensive jewelry or tech. Make an inventory of the things that make it in your luggage and keep it documented and detailed in case you have to make a claim for damage or loss. If you must travel with valuable items, consider adding a floater to your renter’s policy. This endorsement will cover the cost of specific higher-value items, whether at home or on vacation.

 

 

Renting from private parties (vs. property management companies)

What if your dream apartment belongs to an individual instead of a company? How does the procedure differ from renting from an individual as opposed to renting from a company? It’s a compromise: give the 24/7 maintenance, the workout room, and the community gathering spaces for a more personable, friendly, and flexible process.

Flexibility is the main benefit. Working one-on-one allows you to develop a relationship with the landlord and the option to negotiate the policies or whatever situation you might find yourself in. Whether it’s pet related or rent payment date, individual landlords might be willing to work with you. It may also save you money in some places: since you can negotiate, you may do so with the rent amount, or work out some trade situation.

Since they own the property, they have vested interest in the property’s condition, thus he may allow you to improve the living space, indoor or outdoor, for a discount on rent. If the two of you get along well, he will want to keep you as a tenant for as long as possible and probably enable you the possibility to avoid rent increases at renewal or even get a discount for signing a longer term contract.

Of course, there are also risks and many of them are unknown as every experience will vary, depending on who you are renting from and the terms you have agreed upon. A great risk is visible when you don’t have a contract/lease in your renting transaction. If the landlord doesn’t insist on having one, be very careful, investigate. It is as much in your protection as it is in his.

Make sure that the landlord actually owns the apartment as he might be renting it, in which case, check to make sure he has the right to sublet. And as in any case, sign a contract that you know you can follow through – contracts work the same with individuals as they do with companies.

Questions for the landlord:

  • What is the monthly rate? What utilities will you be paying for and how much?
  • How much is the deposit, if there is any?
  • What are your responsibilities?
  • What amenities are available to you – WiFi, laundry facility, maintenance?
  • How will the two of you manage situation in case of emergencies or if something breaks, are there any emergency expenses?
  • How long will the space be available to you?
  • Are they planning on selling the property?
  • Is he the owner of the property?
  • Are there any personal policies – noise or visitors related?
  • Are you the first renter or has someone else leased the apartment before you? – you might be able to find out more about the location, or about doing business with the landlord.
  • How much will the landlord be involved in your life? Will you see them every day or will they give you privacy?
  • What situations will make the landlord require access to your apartment?
  • Ask for a copy of the contract to take home and read it fully before signing it.

At all times make sure everything is clearly written down. Be aware of your move-in and move-out responsibilities. Don’t just look at the place, but try it out: operate the cabinets, test the faucets, flip the switches, turn on the air conditioner and heater; mainly check the little details to be functional. Of course, make sure any broken things are replaced or fixed before you sign the contract. Additionally, document the space: take pictures, write details, and have the landlord sign it. To make sure you really did your homework, research tenant rights in your area.

Regardless if you rent from a company or an individual, renter’s insurance should always be part of your plans. Remember the great benefits such a small amount of money will bring.

7 reasons why Millennials need renters insurance

As you’ve probably noticed in your group of friends, most Millennials rent, rather than own their home. There are many benefits to renting, but not needing insurance isn’t one of them.  While you don’t need homeowner’s insurance, you most definitely need renters insurance. Here are some of the essential reasons why:

  • Your landlord’s insurance doesn’t cover you. The insurance policy your landlord or property management company has only covers the structure itself. It does not extend to the valuables or furnishings you own.
  • It’s the only way you can protect your possession. You can and should all precautions against fire or theft and any other unwanted events, but no matter what you do, you can never be 100 percent safe. That is the nature of accidents. But with renters insurance, such as Resident Shield, you are protected against financial disaster should any of the following happen: fire, windstorm, theft, vandalism, smoke and lightning – even earthquakes if you live in California.
  • It protects you from liability. Say a potted plant from your balcony falls on a pedestrian. This makes you liable for the injury. Or you throw a party and a guest slips, falls and hurts himself.  Renters insurance will help you cover medical and legal fees in case you get sued. Resident Shield for example offers up to $100,000 of coverage against personal liability claims such as slip and fall injuries.
  • It protects you from animal liability. Which is quite handy should bite somebody or damage something in your unit or the community. Moreover, having renters insurance with animal liability coverage can help you secure a better apartment or even a unit in a community that isn’t very open to pets.
  • It will cover your living expenses after a claim. Should an unfortunate event make it impossible for you to reside in your rented unit, renters insurance will cover your living expenses for the duration of your displacement.
  • It’s cheap. Overwhelmingly people without renters insurance assume it to be very costly. That however is quite untrue. On average a policy will clock in at $300 yearly. In fact, Resident Shield will cover you for as little as 50 cents a day. A steal, especially when you factor in that in case of a claim, Resident Shield insure full replacement value for your personal property and that of your neighbors.

Peace of mind. Being in your twenties is stressful enough as you start out in adult life, especially financially. Renters insurance, at minimal cost and hassle, gives you peace of mind, knowing that should an unfortunate event happen, your finances won’t suffer

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.

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.

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.

Do seniors need renter’s insurance?

If you have a grandparent that lives in a rented house or apartment, pay them a visit and ensure they have insurance protection. Not only will it be a wonderful gesture for a dear one, but you’ll also be at peace knowing they are safe.

Many seniors are retired and live on fixed incomes. If an accident or incident were to happen, it could be extremely difficult for them to get back on their feet. Even though they might say they don’t have much, it is known that older adults have valuable jewelry and family heirlooms they’ve collected throughout the years. It doesn’t matter that these items have a greater sentimental value than a financial one, it is still worth it to protect them with a basic policy.

If your parent or grandparent decided to sell or rent their home and move to an assisted living center, make them aware that they’re losing an important insurance protection – the personal liability insurance (the policy that protects the holders from financial losses when someone is hurt on their property or has personal property damaged). Most people have personal liability insurance through their renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policies, but it disappears when someone moves into an assisted living center.

The assisted living center has or should have its own liability insurance, it usually only cover the common areas. This means that if a visitor falls and gets injured in a resident’s room or apartment the resident could be forced to pay for medical expenses.

Let’s not forget about the pet bites protection that falls under personal liability coverage as well. Many assisted living centers allow and in fact encourage residents to keep small pets. Without liability insurance, they can be responsible for any medical expenses if a dog bites a visitor or if a cat scratches an employee.