Archive for the ‘Renting’ Category:

Roommate Relations: Making Smart Use of Shared Spaces

Renting a home with other people can be stressful. But with careful planning and clear communication, living with others doesn't have to lead to passive-aggressive notes and arguments.

Whether you live with your sibling, your bestie or your significant other, try these tips for making smart use of those shared spaces.

Closets

What matters most when sharing closet space is equality. No, you don't need to make a line with tape on your closet floor (please don't). But you should stick to your designated areas.

Hang vertical cloth shelves in the middle to store your shared towels and extra sheets, while also creating a closet divider. And when you toss your shoes in the closet, make sure they're on your side.

Cabinets

Maximize the cabinet space you're given by adding stackable wire shelving racks. In the kitchen, they’re great for storing plates on top and bowls below. And under your sink, you can put extra sponges, cleaning rags and garbage bags below with your cleaning spray bottles up top.

Storage bins and plastic stackable boxes can also save the day - especially when it comes to bathroom storage. Put your skincare items in one and your dental products in another.

These stackable boxes come in all sizes - the ones with more depth can fit your bulkier products, and the shorter boxes are better for smaller items, like your travel-size products.

Pantry

Once you place those stackable wire shelves in your kitchen pantry, you'll soon learn that labels and plastic bins rule.

If you decide to share spices and other items like flour, vegetable oil and cooking spray, try arranging them in bins with labels that say "Shared." Use more labels to mark shelves and bins with each roommate’s name, if you think you'll all need the reminder.

Countertops

Decide with your roommates if it’s OK to keep items on the kitchen and bathroom counters. It may seem silly to discuss countertop space, but you'll be glad you did.

Decide how many and which items you agree to allow on the counters. Does the toaster that you never use drive your roomie crazy? Are you okay with your BFF's curling iron always being on the bathroom counter?

Air out your countertop pet peeves - you can always find ways to avoid potential disagreements.

The shower

Avoid any possible product mix-ups with a couple of shower caddies. Hang one over the shower head, and put another one (or two) with suction cups on the shower wall. Plus, storing your bath products in hanging caddies leaves the corners of your tub easy to clean.

Storage

If your place comes with its own storage space, try using a tall shelving unit and dividing the shelves equally among you.

If someone ends up slowly taking over the unit, try putting your belongings in labeled plastic bins. If things really get out of hand, see if your storage buddy may be willing to pay a bit more in rent or utilities.

Parking

Your apartment comes with a covered parking spot? Sweet! Oh, it only comes with one parking space? Not so sweet.

Try rotating its use every week or month. Or make an arrangement saying that whoever uses the parking spot can pay more in rent each month. Another idea: The roommate with the covered parking spot could do more chores than the other roommates.

The key is deciding as a team in advance what's fair - and sticking to it.

Pets

If one of you has a pet, how do you decide where the crate, toy basket, and food and water bowls go? It may make sense to put pet items in common areas, but the pet owner shouldn't assume all roommates are cool with squeaky toys all over the living room floor - no matter how cute that pup is.

Just like you'd pick up your things from the living room, you'll want to pick up Fido's stuff too.

Wall space

Don't hang your art in common areas without getting your roommates' opinions first. Turn decorating your walls into a roommate activity. Gather all the art and decorative wall items you want to hang, and have everyone choose their favorites.

You can even turn it into a chance to get to know your roommates better. Have a cool story about where you got that tapestry? Got your favorite mural while studying abroad? Tell your roomies all about it - and listen to their stories too. They may be cool with your wall decor once they know the meaning it holds.

If all else fails, stick with similar color palettes, and decorate based on shared color groupings. Remember that what doesn't go up in the living room can go up in your room.

Space-saving lifesavers

You can use all the fancy organization materials you want, but sometimes the basics are best.

  • Adhesive hooks are great for hanging towels when you need extra bathroom space - or for hanging keys in the entryway.
  • Use shoeboxes to store smaller items like scarves, winter gloves and cosmetics. Label them to make everything easy to find, and you can even decorate them with wrapping paper to pretty them up.
  • Toilet paper rolls are an organizational lifesaver when you have too many cords. Designate each type of cord within one roll, and label them so you never mix up your roommates' cords with yours again.
  • Over-the-door hangers are essential for items like purses and coats. Or try an over-the-door shoe hanger on one side of the door, with your things hung on the other side for double the saved space.
  • Under-the-bed storage containers are key for off-season clothing items or bulky boots that don't seem to fit anywhere else. Your roommate will thank you for the extra closet space.
  • Fabric panels are an inexpensive way to divide a room for added privacy.

Even if the people you live with are not quite as organized as you, rest assured that at least your belongings are contained on their shelves and in their assigned containers. Having smart shared spaces allows you to enjoy your time with your roommates without stressing over whose stuff is whose.

Looking for more information about renting? Check out our Renters Guide

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Originally published September 9, 2016.

Quiz: How Much Do You Love Your Home?

Your life changes over time: new relationships, new jobs, new hobbies. Sometimes, you can make changes to your home to adapt to your lifestyle - but sometimes you can't. And the hardest part? Knowing when to let go.

Take our quiz to find out your relationship status - with your living space.


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5 Things to Look for in a Rental Listing

Whether you're looking for an apartment, single-family house or townhome - and whether you're in a city, the suburbs or a small town - be prepared to spend a lot of time online and even more time driving around to tour the most promising places in person.

If you want to save time and avoid headaches, make sure that every rental listing you consider has all the information you need. High-quality listings help you weed out the places that don't fit your criteria (wait, Fido's not welcome?), but they also indicate an organized, communicative and professional landlord - something every renter wants.

As you begin your search, consider these five important things every good rental listing should contain:

1. Detailed details

Front and center should be the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, storage space and a floor plan to help you visualize the layout.

Avoid listings with vague terms like "junior one bedroom" or "open one bedroom." According to Zillow research, 65 percent of renters require their preferred number of bedrooms. Landlords know this, so they get creative with descriptions to attract more tenants.

Another need-to-know detail is how safe the property is. Zillow research reports that 75 percent of renters said that a safe neighborhood is a must-have. Most landlords will say that the neighborhood is safe, so do your own research, especially if you're new to the area.

Speaking of being new - if you're moving to a new part of town or an entirely new city, look for listings with important facts about the neighborhood, including proximity to transit or major freeways, convenient shopping centers, and nearby recreation and entertainment options.

2. Amenities - all of them

Beyond basics like heating and kitchen appliances, every renter has different amenities that they consider must-haves.

The most popular amenities renters look for include air conditioning, in-unit laundry, ample storage and private outdoor space. Watch for other nice-to-have in-unit amenities, like recent renovations, hardwood floors, plenty of windows and upgraded kitchens.

Shared amenities should be included in the listing too - things like parking, rooftop decks, fitness areas, outdoor space, swimming pools and bike storage.

3. Major (and potentially problematic) policies

The listing should disclose any policies that could be a deal breaker for you. Examples include rules around pets (including specific breeds), the maximum number of people who can live in the unit, smoking, parking, noise and - most importantly - lease terms and length.

Additionally, see if you can tell if the landlord lives on-site or if a local property management company manages things. If the landlord is nearby, they'll likely handle repair requests quickly, along with general building upkeep and maintenance.

4. Clearly described costs

Make sure the landlord is exceptionally clear about the dollars and cents:

  • What is the monthly rent?
  • How much of a deposit is required, and is any of it refundable?
  • Are there any one-time fees?
  • Is there a pet fee or monthly charge?
  • Does parking cost extra?
  • Who pays for utilities?

These additional charges can quickly move a listing from feasible to fruitless, so make sure you have all the info you need to do the math ahead of time.

5. High-quality photos

Focus on listings that have not only good photos but also recent photos - and lots of them.

Look for listings that include both interior and exterior shots, plus photos of all shared amenities. But renter beware: If the landlord says the photos are of a similar unit - not the one that's actually for rent - you may find yourself in a bait-and-switch situation.

Once you find a few listings that include these details, you're off to a great start. You can more easily compare properties side by side, identify deal breakers and find areas where a landlord might be open to compromising.

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Originally published June 2018. Statistics updated January 2019.

How to Move Cross-Country: See How These Renters Made It Work

When former New Yorkers Erica Warren and Cici Harrison drove across the country and settled in the Pacific Northwest, they had a list of criteria for their new rental.

They’d need a parking space, a home office so Erica could work remotely and, of course, a yard so they could adopt a dog. And this rental couldn’t be too splashy, because a cross-country move is expensive enough.

All of this complicated their search in Portland’s tough rental market. Luckily the couple were able to stay locally with friends until they found the right rental. And their new home ticks all the boxes - while requiring some minor compromises to make it all work.

We chatted with Warren to hear how she and her wife navigated a cross-country move, including finding a home in a new city and making their new rental feel like home.

Where is your home, and how long have you lived there?
We're in the Southeast, specifically the Richmond neighborhood. We moved there in March of 2017, and we've been there a year and a half.

How did you find your rental?
When we got here, we were staying with Marty and Tera, our friends who live here locally. The day after we arrived, there was the biggest snowstorm Portland had ever had in 30 years. That put a damper on our apartment searching, because we couldn't drive our car or get anywhere. This place was actually the first one we saw, because it was in walking distance from Marty and Tera's house.

We heard about it because Tera had sent an email around at her job asking if anyone had a lead on a rental. Someone else who worked with her had recently purchased a duplex and was looking for renters for the other side.

We walked over and saw it, and it was a very nice place. But it was the first place we looked at. We had no context for if it was a good deal or not. Of course, it seemed like a good deal to us, coming from New York. I was like, "It has a washer and dryer, it has a yard - I'll pay any amount of money for that!"

So we didn't say yes right away, and then we probably spent the next two or three weeks looking at places. We looked at about a dozen places all over the city. We saw all the different variations.

At some point we were almost ready to sign a lease on a 1 bedroom in a new apartment complex. It was, on paper, everything we were looking for. And Cici, out of nowhere, goes, "Why didn't we want that first place that we looked at?" The one we were going to sign a lease for was 1 bedroom, and this was 2 bedrooms, and it was bigger, and the monthly rent was less. And we were like, "Oh, that was a much better place!" So we emailed the landlords to see if it was still available, and it was.

What price range were you looking for, and what did you end up paying?
We were looking in the $1,500-$1,700 per month range. This place ended up being right in the middle. It was $1,600 when we started the first year we were here, and it's now $1,685. It seems like a pretty reasonable price for the neighborhood we're in, because the rental market in Portland seems to be growing so fast.

What was the application and approval process like?
It was really straightforward. Our landlords live on the other side of the duplex, and they're really nice people. I think they were looking for good neighbors as much as they were looking for good tenants. So I think that also helped with the relationship.

Were there any surprise fees?
We paid first month's rent and a security deposit. The only extra fee when we moved in - we had just adopted Billie, and they had a $25 monthly dog rent. Which they told us about beforehand, because we were very particular about wanting a building that would allow us to adopt a dog. We got her a month after we moved in.

What was your cost of moving across the country?
We paid about $5,000 total for a full-service moving company, which is a lot of money. It was our biggest moving expense, but all we had to do was box up our things. They sent a whole team of people, packed our stuff into a storage cube, stored the cube for us, and then when we found a place, shipped it across the country. We didn't have to do any of the logistics, and we didn't have to do any of the carrying of things - we just had to pack a few boxes and unpack the boxes when we got here.

New York is notorious for small apartments. Is your Portland space bigger or smaller?
It's slightly bigger, and I feel like it's most noticeable in the kitchen. The kitchen that we have here is two or three times bigger than what we had in New York. I didn't know how much I wanted a really nice kitchen, but now that I have one, I'm like yes, this is exactly where we needed the extra space!

We also have outdoor space, which makes a huge difference. It's not huge - it's more like a patio than a yard. We have a little grill, and we can sit out there on a nice day. Plus, it's got a fence, so we can let our dog out.

Did you have any challenges making the place functional?
Nothing major. It was built in the ’60s or ’70s, but the landlords had renovated our unit before we moved in, so the kitchen, bathroom and flooring were all brand new - you know, everything works and is nicely designed, so that helped.

I did a little bit of work in the yard, just because it was a little muddy, and it's Portland, so it's wet in the winter, and Billie likes to dig. I got some pebble stones to fill in some of the muddy areas. We got into some light container gardening, because we never had outdoor space in Brooklyn. So we have a little blueberry bush, some star jasmine and some other little things I'm trying not to kill.

What else have you done to make your rental feel like home?
We painted a couple accent walls, which our landlords were totally fine with. We have this wide picture window in the living room that faces the road, but because of that you can see right into our house. So we got a custom shade that you can pull up from the bottom or pull down from the top, just so that we can have privacy but also sunlight if we want.

How long do you think you'll stay?
I don't know specifically. When we moved in, we talked about how we'd love to stay here until we're in a position to buy a house. One day I'd like to own a house - a dining room would be nice at some point in my life. But where we’re at right now, this is the right amount of space, and it’s a really great neighborhood.

What do you want from your next place, other than a dining room?
A big fenced-in yard for Billie! Cici’s mom sent us an article about how the thing that's finally getting millennials to buy houses is their dogs.

I'd also like a little bit more guest space so we could have people visit more frequently, because all of our family is on the East Coast.

And this is 100 percent because Cici has already claimed it - whatever house we buy has to have a basement so that she can play drums there. Number one is a yard for Billie, and number two is a basement for a drum kit and band practice.

Erica's tips for finding a rental in a new city

1. Look around to get a sense of the market

Look at as many places as possible. Because even if you don't want that unit, it gives you a sense of the market. So when you do find a good deal, you know that you have a good deal.

2. Know where you're willing to compromise

If you have enough money that you don't have to make sacrifices in renting, you probably don't need to be renting. So everything’s a trade-off. There's not a perfect rental out there. So it’s like, “This place has 2 bedrooms, but it's more expensive, or this place has a bigger yard, but it's farther out.”

3. Get a little help from your friends

We were so lucky to stay with Marty and Tera in their guest room until we found our own place. And Tera emailed co-workers to see if they knew of any rentals, which is how we ended up finding this place.

4. Conserve your energy and hire a full-service moving and storage company (if you can)

There’s enough stress in moving at all, amplified by moving cross-country. We probably could have gotten a U-Haul, packed it up, driven it cross-country and put our stuff into a storage unit here. But the logistics, let alone the physical labor, were not extra pieces of stress we needed. And even though it was really expensive, it was worth every penny.

Apartment photos by Erica Warren.

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How to Make the Most of 500 Square Feet: See How This City Renter Did It

When Lola Simmons and boyfriend Garrett Moore began looking for an apartment in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, they were hoping to spend around $1,400 on monthly rent. So when the pair found their dream spot for just over $1,000 a month in Seattle's infamously difficult rental market, they knew they'd struck gold.

"I walked in, and after about two minutes, I said, 'Yep, I'll take it,'" says Simmons.

From there, the process was easy, and the couple experienced little surprise throughout their move-in - besides an out-of-commission antique freight elevator on move-in day.

We sat down with Simmons to discuss how she found the perfect rental and how she's made the cozy 500-square-foot space into a home over the past three years - including turning the walk-in closet into a bedroom.

How did you find this place?
Garrett's good friends lived here, and they were moving out. They were looking for someone to take over their lease.

So after the lease was up, you renewed? Did the price change?
Yeah. When we moved in, I think it was $1,050, and when we renewed the lease, it went up to $1,245. Now it's $1,270.

And what about utilities?
They have a set rate included in the rent, which I thought was a unique way to do it. The only thing we pay for is electricity, which is about $40 every three months or so.

Other than it being a great deal, what else drew you to this place?
I've always wanted to live in this building, ever since I moved to Capitol Hill. Everyone's lived in this building. It's kind of special.

I think it's so cool that every apartment in this building is different. Each one has its own character. Even if you go into another one with the same layout, it's still totally different. Some flooring is different or the tile in the kitchen. It's really interesting.

When the old building manager was here, he'd leave the doors unlocked for me so I could go into the empty apartments and look at the different layouts.

It can be easy for a rental to look basic, but you've totally personalized yours. How did you make your space unique?
I'm drawn to that '70s palette that's really saturated and drab, and also those really bright '80s colors. I've acquired a lot of stuff. I think as much as I'd like to be a minimalist, I like to have stuff.

We've got a lot of plants, and I think tending to those is really fun. Learning about them, making it cozy for the cats - there's really nowhere in here they can't be.

Having a lot of music and books and colors everywhere was really something that I was working toward, and I just really love the junk stores, so I go and buy a bunch of stuff. It scratches the itch, you know?

It's hard for me to understand why people would spend a ridiculous amount of money on stuff. I like to mismatch stuff and make it work. It's not as easy as buying straight from IKEA, but you're not going to find the same stuff in someone else's house. The thrill of the hunt is important to me.

Garrett has a lot of worldly things like instruments and things from his travels, and it definitely goes with my stuff, but it makes it feel more cultured.

Other than sourcing interesting items, what's been your greatest challenge with your apartment?
There have been a lot.

The outlets. It's an old building - it was built in the early 1900s, and you have all these gadgets today. From our living room outlet, we run a cord into the closet, which is also the bedroom, so we can charge our phones at night.

When we first moved in, the only outlet in the bathroom was the one attached to the light fixture. It was blown out when we first started living here, so I had to blow-dry my hair in the living room.

When we moved in, I had a queen-size bed, and basically it was sandwiched in there with the edges coming up on the sides against the walls. We ended up getting a full-size bed, and it fits perfectly - exactly. I mean, if the bed was a quarter of an inch bigger it wouldn't fit.

And then storage is a huge challenge - making it look like it's not just a bunch of stuff everywhere. We have a lot of under-the-bed storage. You have to get really creative.

So what do you want out of your next rental?
I really want a bathroom that has a huge clawfoot tub with a lot of natural light. An actual-sized bedroom, to be able to walk on either side of the bed, maybe have a nightstand. And I just want a really big kitchen.

Despite what it lacks in space and outlets, how do you feel about your apartment?
My childhood was all over the place, and we moved around a lot, and I never had that sense of "home." We're entertaining the idea of moving to California because of the seasons - it gets kind of hard when it gets cold and gray.

I'll be really sad to leave this apartment. It's honestly the first place I've lived that I've really, really loved.

Lola's tips for small-space living on a budget

1. Live with a complementary partner

I think if you're going to live in a small space, you have to really have a plan about responsibilities, because they pile up. And he pretty much lets me have my way when it comes to design, which is good.

2. Get creative with storage solutions

A lot of that isn't stuff that comes to me right away, but I experiment by moving stuff around and asking if it's functional - is it in my way? Does it serve the purpose I'm looking for?

It sometimes takes a long time. It's a lot of measuring and returning things, and it's not always easy, but I think it's rewarding. I feel really accomplished when something fits perfectly.

3. Let your space evolve

I'm not very patient whatsoever, but something I've learned is that when you don't have a large budget or you shop the way I do at secondhand stores, you have to be patient. You don't know what they're going to have.

You also have to cycle things out. Our free pile in this building is great - I've gotten so many cool things from that.

4. Look for unique ways of acquiring items

I got a table from the free pile, and the top was really worn down, so I was going to sand it and restain it. But once I sanded it, I realized it was particle board, so I returned all those supplies and got paint. I also added a shelf below it to put my blankets in.

I think repurposing things and making sure they fit with all your other stuff is the trick. There's a bunch of other shelves in here I painted the same color with the rest of the paint. They were different colors, and it looked kind of weird, so I but painted them orange.

You work with what you have. I think it's really fun, because I like DIY projects. Being able to think of what you want and then create it with a really small amount of money is really pleasing to me.

5. Measure the benefits against the costs

Our security deposit was only about $300, so if we did want to repaint at any point, I might consider taking that hit. You want your space to look the way you want, you know? It's a lot of work, though, to paint a whole room, so I'd have to really think about it.

Photos by Callie Little.

Related:

5 Expert Tips for Organizing Your Rental’s Bathroom

For many renters, it’s easier to live out of a suitcase than face organization headaches head-on. But according to organization expert Dorothy Breininger, the process starts with debunking the myth that being organized means being neat.

“Your stuff can be a jumble,” Breininger says. “Being organized is about finding what you need when you need it.”

The key, she says, is to think about how you use a room. Breininger believes that home organization is highly personal and should cater to your lifestyle.

For example, if you don’t use cotton balls, why do you need them in a jar next to the sink? If you don’t use washcloths every day, why keep a huge stack on a shelf?

Check out Breininger’s five bathroom organization tricks below:

1. Hang out

“When it’s a small apartment, I love using over-the-door organizers with clear pockets,” Breininger says. “Traditionally they’re used for jewelry or shoes, but you can use them for all your little bathroom stuff, like hairbrushes and toothpaste.”

2. Get hooked

“I really like hooks for blow-dryers and curling irons,” Breininger says. “Even if you just put a nail in the wall, it’s an inexpensive space saver.”

Get creative about where you put your hooks or nails too - place them inside cabinet doors to keep tangled cords out of sight.

3. Throw it in

“If you’re lucky enough to have under-the-sink storage or counter space, you can organize supplies in plastic drawers,” she says. “Figure out the different categories of products you use, and designate a drawer for each of them - nail supplies, dental hygiene, etc.”

Breininger recommends not worrying about how stuff looks in the drawers.

“You just need to get it into the right drawer,” she explains. “Being neat with everything is something different.”

4. Be lazy

Lazy Susans are ideal for organizing spices, but Breininger says this tool’s functionality doesn’t have to stop there.

“Put your Lazy Susan under the bathroom sink,” she suggests. “Put everything from toilet bowl cleaner to hairspray on it. You can easily access everything because it spins.”

5. Look up

A bathroom wall - especially the space above the toilet - is prime real estate.

“Over-the-toilet shelves are a good idea,” Breininger says. “Just ask yourself what you’re using them for - to store beauty supplies you never use, or to access stuff you use a lot?”

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Originally published January 22, 2015.

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