Apartment Hunting: What Do Renters Look For in a Property?

When prospective tenants are looking for while apartment hunting there are many things they look for. This goes beyond the usual square footage and amenities questions. They want a location that is convenient to their work. They want good schools nearby if they have children. It is a competitive environment for landlords, but even tenants want to know what renters are looking for.

Here are some examples of what renters want while apartment hunting.

Location is Key

As mentioned above, location is critical for tenants. It goes beyond just a location near work, however. They want to be located close to shopping, grocery stores, and more. If a property is close to everything a prospective wants they might be willing to pay a little more for rent. Of course, everyone’s tastes are different. What one person desires in a place another person may want something different.

Security

If you own a home you want to make sure it is safe and secure. If you’re renting, the landlord is responsible for maintaining a secure environment. Many landlords may look into having an alarm service or extra security on the property. Most tenants will look into nearby crime statistics too before signing a lease.

Condition of the Apartment

Moving is already a large hassle. If a tenant is looking to move into a unit that needs repairs they might look at another place that is more move-in ready. Appearance is everything. When a prospective tenant arrives, they want to make sure they have a property that looks like they could move in immediately. This is also where the age of the property factors in. An updated and renovated property definitely appeals to prospective tenants.

Outdoor Spaces and Amenities

One of the downsides to renting an apartment is that you don’t have your own yard, but outdoor community spaces are an important draw for many renters. Does a property have a playground on site? Are there areas for cookouts? Is there a basketball court? These are all things that can help attract renters. Having a wide variety of community amenities is important in this day and age. It makes a property have a sense of community and residents are encouraged to interact with their neighbors.

A Good Tenant-Landlord Relationship

A good tenant-landlord relationship is not something that is established in a day. It is built over time through trust and respect. If a landlord makes promises like renovations or upgrades the tenant should expect them to be fulfilled. As long as the landlord fulfills his or her promises, the tenant is usually happy. Happy tenants become tenants that renew leases and stay longer.

Finding a new apartment is a process. When tenants and landlords have a good relationship and a tenant finds what they are looking for in a place that process can go much more smoothly.

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How to Lower Your Heating Bill in Winter

heating bill

Apartment living comes with many perks, but utilities are often still part of the cost of living. In the summer that can mean higher electric bills when it comes to cooling, and in the winter that often means a higher heating bill. When winter’s chill sets in it can start to get expensive. It seems like the heater is always running, and that means costs are rising. There are ways you can save on your heating bill, however, even in the middle of winter.

Keep the Thermostat Low

This is one easy way to lower your heating bill. While you may not be able to install a power saving programmable thermostat like a NEST, keeping the heat lower helps save a few coins. Most experts recommend keeping the thermostat between 62 and 68 degrees in winter. That maintains a comfortable temperature and you can often make up the difference with blankets and sweatshirts.

Monitor Your Hot Water Usage

The hot water heater in your apartment is also a major user of electricity, and when it is cold out few things feel better than a long, hot shower. If you have a dishwasher in your apartment this also is a major user of electricity. Try to run it only when it is full and not for just a handful of dishes. This conserves both electricity and hot water.

Install LED Light Bulbs

Energy efficient bulbs may cost a little more up front, but they save money in the long run with how much energy they save. LED bulbs use a fraction of the energy that conventional bulbs use, and even when you put up your Christmas lights most newer light strands are energy saving LED lights.

Plastic Window Sheeting

This one may seem simple, but most hardware stores and even regular retailers sell window sheeting plastic that can got over windows and be easily removed. This type of sheeting helps to seal out drafts and helps your heater work more efficiently. Since they go up with a special dual-sided tape they are also easy to remove when spring comes.

Saving money on your electric bill is not hard. It only takes a little bit of work. With some simple tips like are outlined above you can make sure that your apartment stays warms and you have some extra money in your apartment.

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Things to Stock in Your First Apartment Kitchen

First ApartmentThings to Stock in Your First Apartment Kitchen

You’ve done it! You’ve moved out on your own for the first time and you have your first apartment. It can be a daunting experience because of any number of reasons, especially after you move in. Now that you have all of your things in the apartment it is time to start making it a home. A great place to start is the kitchen.

The thing is, you may not know what you need in your new kitchen. Here are a few ideas for what you need in your first kitchen to make many great meals.

Boning Knife

Every kitchen needs a good knife that is also versatile. A mid-sized boning knife can serve many purposes. It can slice and dice fruits and vegetables as well as meat. Boning knives can serve a variety of purposes across many food groups. They are a great prep tool for any meal. If you want to save space by having just one knife this is the choice to go with.

Saucepan

The saucepan is the do-everything utensil in every kitchen. The common size is three-quarts, but going with a five-quart saucepan can also work. These pans can be used soups, sauces, hot cocoa, or even a frying pan if needed. As long as they have oven-safe handles you can even use them for roasts and more.

Measuring Cups

These are essential devices for almost any time of cooking, but especially for baking. Stainless steel measuring cups are the best choice. If you select plastic cups they can break easily, while stainless steel cups are durable and can even last in the dishwasher.

Mixing Bowl

When it comes to mixing bowls, the larger, the better. It is easier to use a large mixing bowl for small tasks than a small mixing bowl for large tasks. If cost or space is an issue a large mixing bowl is the way to go because it is one tool for many purposes. If you can get a tempered glass bowl it will be even more durable.

Spatula

Rubber spatulas are hygienic and they last longer than a traditional wooden spoon. They also work well with hot saucepans. Their flexibility allows you to scrape ingredients out of bowls so nothing goes to waste.

These are just five tools, but they are great for stocking your kitchen and getting life in your new apartment off to a great start.

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What to Do During an Apartment Visit

What to Do During an Apartment Visit

You might have a great idea of what you’re looking for in a new apartment, but finding a great place can still be tricky. There are a lot of different factors to consider from pricing to amenities. It can be an overwhelming experience for sure. Here are some tips on what you should do during an apartment visit.

Take Notes

Taking notes is the most important thing you can do. Nothing is too small to miss as a note. Without notes, you can forget small details that might become major issues later on after you have already signed a lease. You can also take note of small things like the exterior grounds and how well the property is maintained. This will give you an idea of how well maintenance works around the property.

You should also take note of how friendly the staff is. These are the people you’ll be speaking with whenever you have an issue, so if they are friendly and accommodating that is a good start. If you can, try to talk to any current residents of the property. Their experience can say a lot about the property.

The Unit Itself

Visiting the apartment itself is a critical step in the process. If you notice broken items or a strange smell it can immediately turn you off to the space. Remember, the rental agent is making a first impression too. Be sure to ask to see an empty unit and not just the model. It gives you a better idea of how each unit is maintained by the staff.

Take Pictures

In this case a picture is definitely worth a thousand words. Taking pictures allows you to keep a visual record of the place and keeps it fresh in your mind. If you’re visiting multiple places take a picture of the sign first so you can keep each property’s pictures grouped together.

Stick With a Checklist

Always be sure to have a checklist of what you’re looking for in a new home. If a complex with a pool is important to you then keep it on your checklist. If you want a ground floor apartment don’t settle for a third floor walk-up. By sticking to your checklist you’ll have a much happier experience in the end.

Yes, apartment hunting takes time, but it can be easier by making sure you get what you want and by taking notes of where you visit. It can also help you nab the apartment you want quickly before anyone else gets it.

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All You Need to Know About a Roommate Agreement

All You Need to Know About a Roommate Agreement

When you’re just starting out on your own money can be tight, especially when it comes to living in cities. That’s why many people opt to live with roommates in order to share costs. It can be a great way to save some money on living expenses, but it can also be fraught with peril due to the ups and downs of interpersonal relationships. If you choose to live with a roommate here are some things you need to know before signing a lease when it comes to a roommate agreement.

What is a Roommate Agreement?

A roommate agreement is basically a written document that puts down the responsibilities of each roommate. It is often made without the landlord present.  This can range from financial responsibilities to personal ones. It often outlines how rent and utilities are to be divided, but it can also be modified to include chores, food sharing, quiet times, and the policy on guests.

The three biggest things included in the roommate agreement are rent, security deposit, and utilities. These financial items are critical to any agreement.

Is a Roommate Agreement Legally Binding?

The answer to this can be tricky. A lease with a landlord is legally binding from beginning to end. If there is legal action against a tenant that broke a roommate agreement a judge will likely only hold them responsible for certain items. For example: If the roommate moves out early because they had to take a job elsewhere, leaving you to pay all rent and utilities, the court may order the roommate to pay you back in full.

The court likely won’t get involved if some of the more personal terms are violated like playing the TV too loud. Another important factor is if the roommate files for bankruptcy or has no money. If they don’t have any funds it is unlikely you will be able to collect on any judgment.

Always Do Your Homework

The phrase “caveat emptor”, or “buyer beware” is important before agreeing to live with a roommate. Be sure that it is someone you know and trust if it is at all possible. That makes the entire rental experience much more enjoyable for all parties involved. If you are meeting someone for the first time be sure to do your homework and find out more about them. In this day and age of the internet and social media you can learn a lot about a person before living with them.

In the event you do have to go to small claims court for failure to pay rent and utilities a roommate agreement can be a handy tool in your favor. It can help you get the share of the bills the other party agree to pay, but it is by no means a guarantee. By getting to know the person and trusting them you can make sure you have a much better experience, and it will end up as a much better experience for the second party as well, because they likely need a roommate too!

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Advice for Moving From a House to an Apartment

Advice for Moving From a House to an Apartment

No matter the reason for the move, going from a house to an apartment can be a difficult transition. There are limitations to space, storage, and even something as car storage can be an issue. It is important to keep many things in mind when it comes to a move like this. Here are some tips on how to deal with this tricky transition.

Dealing with Less Space

Unless you manage to snag a gigantic apartment you’re going to have less space. It can make for cramped quarters, but it can also be a positive. You’ll be able to cut out a lot of clutter and live more minimally. Things like heavy duty furniture and old clothes in your closets are areas where you may have to cut down. With fewer and smaller kitchen cabinets you will have to keep appliances and utensils in mind.

If the apartment is only part of your short-term future you might consider renting a self-storage space. This is a great option for things you just cannot get rid of, but you simply don’t have the space for it.

Considering Your Pets

Pets are part of our families, but when you live in an apartment they can be a limitation. Not all apartments allow every type of pets. Some may allow cats but not dogs. Even if you do find a place that will accept your pet it can be a stressful time for them as well. Dogs may not adjust to losing a big yard. Be sure to consider amenities such as nearby dog parks when it comes to keeping your furry friends happy.

Get Cozy with Your Neighbors

Are you used to playing music as loud as you want or having quiet time at any time? A downside to living in an apartment is that you probably now share walls with your neighbors. Sure, you can pick a corner unit to help with noise, but it can still be a factor.

Increasing Rent

If you had a house you’re probably used to a static house payment every month that did not increase. That’s often not the case with renting an apartment. In an apartment complex your rent can increase every year. It is also subject to a property management company, so there is not a lot of room to negotiate.

As you can see, there are many aspects to consider when it comes to renting, especially if you are moving from a house to an apartment. It is not all bad, however. With the right complex and amenities apartment living can be quite comfortable. Plus, you can live more simply and efficiently.

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4 Tips for Cleaning Pet Hair from Carpeting

4 Tips for Cleaning Pet Hair from Carpeting

It’s the one thing that annoys pet owners the most: the fur that spreads on every piece of furniture, every inch of carpet, like a disease. Some people refrain from wearing dark clothes in general because their pet’s fur somehow lingers on clothing surfaces despite multiple tumbles in the dryer. What are pet owners to do? Luckily, these four easy tips can help you both prevent and clean pet hair, no matter your carpet.

Vacuuming is a given. Although you should at least vacuum your carpet three times a week to remove most pet hair, Home Guides provides a useful technique for gathering up all the hair into clumps, like leaves. To make vacuuming easier, they suggest, “raking your carpet with a rubber-bristled carpet rake collects the pet hair in clumps, so you can remove the hair by hand before vacuuming.” RugCare.com adds another step to this process: if you powder baking soda over your carpet before you vacuum, it can help loosen up the fur, making the cleaning process much easier.

Similarly, News Press Now explains that some pet owners purchase pet beds for the sole purpose of limiting pet fur to a certain section of the apartment. If you get your pet a large enough bed, or a flat pillow, all you’ll have to do is take it outside every once in a while and shake it out to prevent pet hair from spreading all over the carpet and furniture. Rugs can also act as a catch-all for pet fur. Carpet Keepers Inc points to this role when they write that if you place a rug along your pet’s high-traffic area, it can both catch whatever dirt is on its paws and also the fur that falls off it when it moves.

Just remember, rubbery tools like rubber rakes and gloves can help you collect pet fur from the carpet, and catch-alls like beds and rugs can help prevent fur from spreading. Although there are no perfect solutions to cleaning pet hair from carpeting, these four tips will make pet shedding somewhat beside the point, and the pet hair a little less annoying.

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Why You Should Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Why You Should Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

The importance of eating enough fruits and vegetables in your diet cannot be overstated. Sure, fruits may be sworn off by the most fervent No Sugar No Grain (NSNG) dieter, but the sugars in fruits are not exactly like processed sugars in candy bars. The NSNG crowd is not all wrong however, as there is some cause for concern for all kinds of sugar in our ultra-processed food ecosystem. Studies suggest you should avoid dried fruit as they contain more sugar with less nutrients. And smoothies and fruit juices should also be avoided, as they do not provide the benefits of an actual fruit but are densely packed with sugars.

According to NPR,

“There are lots of kinds of sugar. Fruits have fructose, glucose and a combination of the two called “sucrose,” or “table sugar.” But the sugars in fruit are packed less densely than in a candy bar, according to Elvira Isganaitis, a pediatric endocrinologist at Joslin Diabetes Center and a Harvard Medical School instructor.”

So it is better to eat a whole piece of fruit, as it contains fiber (providing the feeling of satiation after you eat) and other healthy nutrients and minerals. But, unfortunately, most Americans are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Here’s why they should.

The Harvard School of Public Health, a fantastic resource for all things dietary, published a general list of benefits associated with increased intake of fruits and vegetables in your diet. These include:

  • Reduce risk of heart disease and stroke;
  • Prevent cancer;
  • Promotes healthy eyes.

And, helpfully, The Huffington Post, summarizes more extensively the relevant literature on the benefits of both:

Vegetables:

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, and part of the Brassica family, which also includes kale, collards, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, turnips, and cauliflower. Members of the Brassica family are rich in phytochemicals, known to have antioxidant properties. Broccoli is a true nutrition powerhouse: It is chock full of vitamin C, the mineral calcium, fiber, and vitamin A. It is also rich in sulforaphane, a health-promoting compound that can fight cancer.

Carrots are a good source of fiber, which helps to maintain bowel health, lower blood cholesterol, and aid in weight maintenance. The orange pigment found in carrots are due to the antioxidant beta-carotene, also found in other deep orange foods such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, papaya, and cantaloupe. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body and helps to maintain healthy eyes, support your immune system, keep your skin healthy, and protect against certain cancers.

Spinach is available year-round in grocery stores around the country, offering a readily-available source of many vitamins and minerals. Spinach contains the minerals iron and potassium, as well as vitamins A, K, C, and the B-vitamin folate. Spinach also contains phytochemicals that may boost your immune system and flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties that may be preventative against certain cancers.

Sweet Potatoes are rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene and are also full of fiber, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, and the mineral potassium. They are especially nutritious when eaten with the skin on, and contrary to a popular dieting myth, they are not fattening!

Beets contain healthy doses of iron, the B-vitamin folate, and fiber. Red beets offer betacyanin, a plant pigment which may protect against colon cancer.

Fruits

Cantaloupe. This member of the melon family is rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, a plant-based vitamin A precursor that helps with eye health, among other conditions. It is also rich in the mineral potassium, which may help lower blood pressure and the risk for stroke. And, it is terrific if you are watching your waist — a one-cup serving contains a mere 50 calories.

Watermelon, which is especially terrific this time of year, offers a juicy, sweet taste and a high water content, while packing in the antioxidants lycopene, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, and the minerals potassium and magnesium.

Citrus fruits, including oranges and grapefruits, provide a significant source of vitamin C, folate, and potassium, as well as fiber. Pink grapefruits are particularly rich in the antioxidant lycopene. Eating these fruits whole yields more nutrients than drinking the juice.

Avocados are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which may help raise levels of HDL (good cholesterol) while lowering LDL (bad cholesterol). They are also high in the antioxidant vitamin E.

Grapes. Consuming grapes may reduce the risk of blood clots, lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), and prevent damage to the heart’s blood vessels, aiding in the maintenance of healthy blood pressure. Antioxidants called flavonoids may even increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind). The resveratrol found in the skins of red grapes may interfere with cancer development. Eating the whole fruit instead of consuming the juice contains the added benefit of fiber.

Kiwifruit, with its brilliant green inside, is packed with vitamin C and fiber.

As you can see, fruits and vegetables contain an absurd amount of vitamins and minerals. So much so that new guidelines suggest half of your plate should be split between servings of fruits and vegetables. Next time you’re in the grocery store, don’t leave out what could be the most important part of a balanced, healthy diet: eat more fruits and vegetables for a healthier life.

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What is the Keto Diet?

What is the Keto Diet?

It’s all the rage these days: the ketogenic, or “keto,” diet. It tells you the ideal diet is the opposite of the food pyramid, which makes grain and carbohydrates the staple of a healthy diet. According to the Harvard Medical School blog, the “ketogenic diet is not something new. In medicine, we have been using it for almost 100 years to treat drug-resistant epilepsy, especially in children.” Continuing, the Harvard blog explains the diet succinctly:

“In essence, it is a diet that causes the body to release ketones into the bloodstream. Most cells prefer to use blood sugar, which comes from carbohydrates, as the body’s main source of energy. In the absence of circulating blood sugar from food, we start breaking down stored fat into molecules called ketone bodies (the process is called ketosis). Once you reach ketosis, most cells will use ketone bodies to generate energy until we start eating carbohydrates again. The shift, from using circulating glucose to breaking down stored fat as a source of energy, usually happens over two to four days of eating fewer than 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day.”

Because this diet moves away from carbs, each meal contains more fats and proteins than a typical meal. There is, of course, no restriction on vegetables with this diet, but it is emphasized that the main source of energy come from fats rather than carbs. That’s what sets the ketogenic diet apart. As a result, people on this diet utilize oils to cook foods more regularly. And Dr. Cate Shanahan, a biochemist from John Hopkins University, provides a useful list of good and bad oils to use for cooking.

So is the ketogenic diet good? Dr. Eric Westman, director of the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at Duke University, is summarized by Time Magazine as reporting it “can help reduce appetite, spur weight loss and improve markers of heart disease.” Dr. Westman’s studies also suggests that “a ketogenic diet can help treat obesity, type-2 diabetes and fatty liver disease.”

The main risk with the keto diet is confusing good fats with bad fats, and eating too much processed foods, which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. As with any change of diet, you will want to approach with caution, consult with your doctor, and thoroughly research the keto diet if you plan to jump on the bandwagon.

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Don’t Fall for the Fruit Juice Trap

Don't Fall for the Fruit Juice Trap

As carbonated, sugary drinks fall out of favor with the public, fruit juices and fruit smoothies are on the rise. Whereas sugary soft drinks have been linked to obesity, squeezed fruit can’t be unhealthy, right? The logic is pretty simple: people believe fruit juices are equivalent to the serving sizes of a few piece of fruit, contain real fruit sugar, and have about the same effects as eating fruit. Unfortunately, this wrong in every case. In fact, the same scientists who blew the whistle on corn-syrup in soft drinks are ringing the alarm bell again.

In his interview with The Guardian, the scientist Barry Popkin warns us against the myth  that a glass or two of fruit juice is equivalent to one or two pieces of fruit:

“Think of eating one orange or two and getting filled,” he said. “Now think of drinking a smoothie with six oranges and two hours later it does not affect how much you eat. The entire literature shows that we feel full from drinking beverages like smoothies but it does not affect our overall food intake, whereas eating an orange does. So pulped-up smoothies do nothing good for us but do give us the same amount of sugar as four to six oranges or a large coke. It is deceiving.”

Indeed, because fruit juices contain little-to-no fiber, you don’t feel satiated after drinking them. According to Susan Jebb, a government advisor and head of the diet and obesity research group at the Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research unit at Cambridge University, “Fruit juice isn’t the same as intact fruit and it has as much sugar as many classical sugar drinks. It is also absorbed very fast, so by the time it gets to your stomach your body doesn’t know whether it’s Coca-Cola or orange juice, frankly.”

But that’s not all. Barry Popkin continues,

“The most important issue about added sugar is that everybody thinks it’s cane sugar or maybe beet sugar or HFC syrup or all the other syrups but globally the cheapest thing on the market almost is fruit juice concentrate coming out of China. It has created an overwhelming supply of apple juice concentrate. It is being used everywhere and it also gets around the sugar quotas that lots of countries have.”

Disturbingly, “Popkin and colleagues found that fruit juice concentrate was the fifth most common sugar overall and the second most common, after corn syrup, in soft drinks and in babies’ formula milk.” And, “all the long term studies on fruit juice in anything show the same kind of effect whether it’s a smoothie or natural [juice] and whether it’s a diabetes or weight gain effect,” Popkin added.

As The Guardian reports,

“Researchers from the UK, USA and Singapore found that, in large-scale studies involving nurses, people who ate whole fruit, especially blueberries, grapes and apples, were less likely to get type 2 diabetes, which is obesity-related, but those who drank fruit juice were at increased risk. People who swapped their fruit juice for whole fruits three times a week cut their risk by 7%.”

So don’t fall for the fruit juice trap and don’t believe the hype that it’s a good addition to a balanced meal. At least, not all juices are created equal. Be sure to conduct thorough research before you make up your mind as to whether fruit juice will find its way into your fridge.

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