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Apartment Living

Home Buying and Selling During the Pandemic: What You Need to Know

Home Buying and Selling During the Pandemic: What You Need to Know

Technology and good-old-fashioned creativity are helping agents, buyers, and sellers abide by COVID-19 health and safety practices while getting deals done.

Some buyers are touring houses virtually. Others visit in person while remaining at least six feet from their agent. Sellers are hosting open houses on Facebook Live. Appraisers are doing drive-by valuations. Buyers are watching inspections via video call. Masked and gloved notaries are getting signatures on doorsteps.

“We have had to make some adjustments, for sure,” says Brian K. Henson, a REALTOR® with Atlanta Fine Homes / Sotheby’s International Realty in Alpharetta, Ga. “Everyone is trying to minimize face-to-face interactions. There have been some delays, but mostly, deals are getting done, just with tweaks.”

Here’s what home buying and selling during the pandemic looks like.

Showings Go Virtual

The rules around in-person showings vary by city, county, and state. Some allow them and some ban them. Check with your state, county, and local government to get the latest on business closures and shut-down rules.

Agents have conducted home tours via FaceTime and other similar tools for years. But these platforms have proven invaluable for home buying and selling during the pandemic. Real estate sites report a surge in the creation of 3D home tours. Redfin, a real estate brokerage, saw a 494% increase in requests for video home tours in March.

“I’ve done several FaceTime showings,” says Henson. He conducted virtual showings before COVID-19, too. He recently closed a deal on a home the buyers only saw on video, he says, but hasn’t yet done so during the pandemic.

In places where in-person showings are allowed, agents wipe down door handles, spray the lockbox with disinfectant, and open up the house, closets, everything for a client. “We leave all the lights on so no one touches switches, and we don’t touch cabinets or doors during showings,” Henson says.

Safe-Showing Guidelines

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, which produces HouseLogic, recommends only one buyer enter a home at a time, with 6 feet between each guest. NAR also recommends agents have potential buyers wash their hands, or use hand sanitizer when they come in the door. They should also remove their shoes. No children should be present at showings, either.

“We’re living in extraordinary times and unusual circumstances. If you have the ability to work, you have to be creative,” Mabél Guzmán, a Chicago real estate agent, told NBC News. Guzmán, who is also vice president of association affairs for NAR, has put together a video offering tips and strategies for virtual showings during the pandemic.

Down Payment Help

Many organizations offering down payment assistance to first-time home buyers have temporarily suspended the programs or changed the rules. You can check the status of programs in your area at the Down Payment Assistance Resource site.

Desktop, Drive-By Appraisals

Appraisers are essential workers in many areas, so home valuations are continuing. But often remotely. New, temporary rules from the Federal Housing Finance Authority allow drive-by and desktop appraisals for loans backed by the federal government.

In a desktop appraisal, the appraiser comes up with a home estimate based on tax records and multiple listing service information, without an in-person visit. For a drive-by, the appraiser only looks at the home’s exterior, in combination with a desktop appraisal. The Appraisal Foundation has put out guidelines for handling appraisals during the pandemic. Here’s the FAQ.

And here are specific new appraisal guidelines by agency:

On the other hand, some private lenders still require in-person appraisals, which are allowed even in areas with shutdown orders. Private lenders hold about 35% of first-lien mortgages, according to the Urban Institute

When appraisers come to your home, they should adhere to Centers for Disease Control guidelines, including wearing gloves and a face mask, keeping at least 6 feet apart from anyone in the home, and asking if the homeowners have been sick or traveled recently to a COVID-19 hotspot.

Inspections Via Live Video

Inspectors are now often working alone, no buyers in tow, and using hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes. The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors advises inspectors to videotape their inspection so clients can watch it at home later, or to use FaceTime or other live video chat apps to take their clients along on the inspection, virtually. They can also call clients with their findings after they’re done.

The American Society of Home Inspectors has also issued guidelines for inspectors so they keep themselves and the homeowners safe while providing an accurate assessment of a home’s condition.

Mortgage Rates and Locks

With mortgage rates fluctuating quickly and closing times taking longer than usual, some lenders are extending mortgage rate lock periods. You can grab a good rate and hang on to it even if your lender takes longer than usual to process your loan.

But the protocol depends on the lender and the loan. Some lenders are offering this for all loans; others for refis. Check with your lender about its policy.

Related: How to Get Home Financing

Employment Verification

An important step in getting a mortgage is proving the borrower has a job. In pre-coronavirus days, lenders called the borrower’s employer for a verbal verification.

The Federal Housing Finance Authority, which oversees Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and federal home loan banks, has relaxed the rules for loans backed by the federal government because so many businesses are closed.

Lenders for federally backed loans now accept an email from an employer, a recent year-to-date paystub, or a bank statement showing a recent payroll deposit as proof of employment.

Walk-throughs

Home buying and selling during the pandemic means real estate agents can conduct the final walk-through via video with their clients. Or they can just open the home and have buyers walk through on their own. Henson says he still accompanies his clients, but stays six feet away and has them wash their hands when entering and exiting the house. Everyone’s wearing masks, too.

And, of course, when the buyers take possession, they should disinfect.

Remote Notarization Depends On Where You Live

About one-half of states have permanent remote online notarization (RON) policies. These allow a notary and signer in different locations to sign electronic document, usually by use of video apps like Zoom or FaceTime. Notaries will watch you sign either a paper document or do an electronic signature on an e-doc, via camera.

Some states have rolled out temporary rules allowing RON. Here’s a state-by-state list of notary law updates, and the type of remote notarizations allowed. The number of states allowing remote notarization could grow as federal and state pandemic legislation expands.

Closings Get Creative

Traditional closings, where everybody gathered around a big table to sign the final papers, are no longer possible. Title companies and banks are getting super creative in dealing with the limitations.

A Minnesota company, Legacy Title, rolled out a drive-thru closing service at one of its offices in an old bank branch building. The title company rep sits in a bank teller window and handles the closing papers while the customer sits in their car. Legacy completed 14 closings in the first week it offered drive-thru service.

Then there are drive-by closings, where the entire transaction takes place in cars. Masked and gloved notaries meet buyers in parking lots and pass documents through car windows.

“I had a closing where the buyer sat in her car the whole time. The attorney came out to her car, gave her paperwork, had her sign in her car, and my buyer never got out of her car,” Birmingham, Ala., agent Isaac McDow told WBRC television.

Says Georgia-based agent Henson, “I’ve had closings the last three weeks [that] I’ve been asked not to attend. There was one where the seller signed two days before buyer. Then the seller came back two days later and signed.”

Henson, who is also licensed in New York, has had to extend closing dates on two sales there since. Co-op boards won’t let non-residents into buildings ­­­– not even an electrician who needs to make repairs as part of an issue that came up in the inspection. He left the closing with an open-ended date.

“It’s all about being really flexible right now,” he says.

TIP: Find out if your county recording office can complete the deal online.

Student Loan Relief

Finally, if you’re also trying to swing your student loan payments, know that federal student loan borrowers get an automatic six-month break in loan payments from April 10, 2020, through Sept. 3, 2020. Thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, they also won’t be charged a dime of interest in that time.

Learn more at the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s site.

Keep in mind that payment suspension only applies to federal loans owned by the Department of Education. Some help may be available to borrowers with private student loans and other loans (like Perkins Loans and Federal Family Education Loans) that aren’t covered. But it’s not automatic. Reach out to your student loan servicer for information.

So, Should You Buy or Sell?

The real estate industry is creatively and safely responding to the situation, and mortgage rates remain low. Your agent is a great source of information about home buying and selling during the pandemic to help you feel comfortable. But, ultimately, it’s a question only you can answer.

Related: 5 Questions to Ask Your Agent When Buying a House

Published at Fri, 01 May 2020 21:31:14 +0000

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How to Get COVID-19 Utility Relief: Three Examples

How to Get COVID-19 Utility Relief: Three Examples

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in massive levels of unemployment, in turn dramatically shrinking the budgets of many apartment dwellers. To save money, some people may change their heating or air conditioning use habits, but if your financial situation requires you to scale back on utility spending more urgently, you may have other options. Many utility companies and state governments have enacted COVID-19 utility relief measures that may make your life significantly less stressful. To give you an idea of the potential options in your area, here are three prominent examples of COVID-19 utility relief.

covid-19 utility relief

1. San Diego Gas & Electric unveils assistance programs

In Southern California, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has rolled out assistance programs that can drastically lower utility bills for people whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. SDG&E is offering many of its newly jobless customers utility bill reductions of 30 percent or more through its CARE program, to which even people receiving unemployment benefits can apply. SDG&E also directs all non-qualifying CARE applicants to its FERA initiative, through which families of at least three people can receive a monthly utility bill discount of at least 18 percent. No formal documentation is required – applying is as simple as going here.

2. Additional California utility companies pledge not to shut off

If your local utility company isn’t taking steps to lower the amounts it charges you given your lessened income, you might still be safe from having your power or gas cut. In California, SDG&E, Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, Liberty Utilities, and Sacramento Municipal Utility District have promised not to cut any customers’ utility access during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to gas and electricity providers, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has also pledged not to disconnect water access to any customers who fail to pay during the pandemic. Utility companies in your state may be taking similar measures to keep you fully powered during the pandemic.

3. New York state government bans utility shut-offs

In general, utility companies have proven to be understanding when it comes to the dire financial circumstances that the COVID-19 pandemic poses for many people. However, companies are not necessarily required by law to lessen customers’ financial burdens. The New York state government has acknowledged this gap and passed legislation banning utility companies from cutting their services to any customers during the pandemic.

According to the New York City Comptroller website, the New York Department of Public Service has barred the region’s gas and electricity providers (National Grid and Con Edison, respectively) from suspending service to customers unable to pay their bills. Additionally, Con Edison has suspended any new late payment fees, a move that National Grid has not taken. This policy difference demonstrates a key tenet of COVID-19 relief: State legislation does not necessarily outline how a utility company must work to relieve customers of their monthly bills. Be sure to research your state’s utility legislation and read the fine print of whatever you find.

What are some COVID-19 utility relief programs and laws you know of in your area? Share links and other relevant information in the comments!

Published at Thu, 14 May 2020 13:14:14 +0000

How Can You Get COVID-19 Rent or Mortgage Relief?

During the two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, stay-at-home orders necessary for public health and safety have resulted in massive unemployment, in turn affecting apartment renters’ and owners’ budgets. Rent and mortgage payments become considerably tougher to pay without income, and though there were some federal interventions to delay evictions and foreclosures at the start of the crisis, some temporary laws have since expired. Here’s the latest on how you can get COVID-19 rent or mortgage relief.

covid-19 rent mortgage relief

Federal COVID-19 rent relief regulation

Through the federal CARES Act passed in late March, evictions are banned for 120 days in many forms of housing. Under the CARES Act, tenants in federally-backed housing cannot be given an eviction notice before July 25. Thereafter, these tenants cannot be evicted until August 24.

The CARES Act covers many, but not all, rental situations. If your apartment is covered according to section 41411 of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 or the rural housing voucher program outlined in section 542 of the Housing Act of 1949, the CARES Act applies to you. Likewise, if your landlord has a federally backed or multifamily mortgage on your apartment, the CARES Act protects you from eviction. 

If the CARES Act applies to your apartment, your safety net expands past a ban on evictions. Your landlord is also banned from adding late fees or other penalties for missing rent. Despite these renter protections, the CARES Act does not free tenants of their obligations to pay their rent, meaning that even though this law may provide you with housing stability in the short-term, it might not do so in the long-term.

Federal COVID-19 mortgage relief regulation

The CARES Act also applies to apartment owners unable to pay their mortgages. Under the CARES Act, lenders and loan servicers may not foreclose on apartments and homes for 60 days following March 18. During this 60-day period, lenders and services are banned from starting foreclosure proceedings or finalizing any foreclosures that were pending before the pandemic.

Additionally, you can request a forbearance on your mortgage payments for as long as 180 days, and you can ask for an additional 180-day extension at the end of your first forbearance period. To explore this option, you must directly contact your lender or servicer, who will be banned from implementing penalties or any other extra fees, though all scheduled interest will remain part of your mortgage. 

Under the CARES Act, you technically do not need to provide documentation of any financial hardship you face due to COVID-19. If you remain able to pay your mortgage, do not exploit this documentation gap to receive unnecessary mortgage relief. Loan servicers and providers are currently inundated with unprecedented volumes of phone calls from apartment owners in desperate need of mortgage relief.

State COVID-19 rent and mortgage relief regulation

In addition to federal COVID-19 rent and mortgage relief regulation, individual states (as well as Washington, D.C.) have implemented their own guidelines regarding evictions, foreclosures, and other housing concerns. For a state-by-state list of eviction and foreclosure bans and other relevant regulations, click here.

Published at Tue, 12 May 2020 13:12:32 +0000

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Apartment Living

Expert Interview: Avoiding Aesthetic Monotony in Your Rental during Quarantine

Expert Interview: Avoiding Aesthetic Monotony in Your Rental during Quarantine

If you’ve lived in your apartment for a while now, it is sure to carry your unique style with it. However, being indoors all the time can make the apartment feel a bit too flat, since you’ve probably gotten used to the layout and the overall look of your design. That’s why it is a good idea to look for design tips and implement some creative solutions for avoiding aesthetic monotony in your rental.

These solutions can range from rethinking your layout and moving the furniture around, to painting your walls or adding some accents. Depending on your lease and your level of commitment, there are different options for you to try. Below, you will find some tips from interior designers on how to do just that.

add art colors

Also, as more and more people start working from home, another innovation is likely to pop up in your apartment: a home office or a workspace. Although many people think it takes a whole lot of space, that mustn’t always be the case. Check out what practical tips these experts have about creating a productive workspace.

Beth Diana Smith, owner of Beth Diana Smith Interior Design

interior design advice“Art and décor are both quick and simple ways to transform a space; plus, they’re easy to take with you when you move. If you’re not ready to make a large art investment, prints and digital prints are budget-friendly especially when you use places such as Etsy, Minted, and Juniper Print Shop. As far as retail décor goes, CB2, Jung Lee NY, and West Elm are great online choices.

When it comes to creating a workspace, keep it clean and create storage for the items that you want easy access to such as pens, scissors, AirPods, and charging cords. And you could easily do that now by using items you have around the house; for example you could use a mug for pens and scissors, a simple binder clip to help you keep the cords at bay, etc.”

Kesha Franklin, principle designer of Halden Interiors

interior design advice“With the standard restrictions that come along with renting an apartment, renters can sometimes feel like it’s not worth investing in decorating their home. But, there are ways to add interest in the space. One of my go-to recommendations is hanging art on the walls. A gallery wall in particular can make a great statement and show off your personal interests. Another cool visual option is removable wallpaper which has a big impact; it’s easy to install and won’t cost you anything to bring the apartment back to its original state when it’s time to move on to bigger and better things!

Let’s discuss the home office situation. Typically, a rental apartment means there is limited space. So, having a designated area to work from home during times like this can be a challenge. A few tips that I would offer are to find a spot near a window to pull on the outdoor energy to feel productive. You can also purchase a folding screen to create a work area with a small desk and chair, that you can use and keep visually separate from the rest of your living space. Lastly, a C-Table is a great option to easily use at your sofa where you can place your laptop, phone and notebook. They come in a variety of heights, widths and finishes and are aesthetically pleasing to compliment your existing décor!”

Mally Skok, founder of Mally Skok Design

interior design advice“I am an Etsy fiend. Nothing warms up a space like a fun Turkish or Morrocan vintage rug. The Etsy shipping is usually free, the vendors are reliable, and there’s a whole lot of bang for your buck. Also you can roll the rug up and take it with you when you need to move.

Colorful pillows are a way to make your space feel distinctly yours. John Robshaw has ready-made pillows that are gorgeous; if these are too pricey, you can always find some cheery ones on West Elm or Crate and Barrel.

There are some clever new ways of hanging pictures on the walls without a nail. I am all for piling up the things you have hanging around in your life — old posters, old photos or postcards. Buy ready-made frames off Amazon and go bananas on your walls.

Another great idea for a quick improvement is plants. Do some research on plants that do well with limited water and sunlight. There are many! Having another living thing in your space — even though it won’t talk back — will make your apartment a whole lot homier.”

Stacey Sheppard, founder of The Design Sheppard

interior design advice“When you live in a rented property it is often difficult to put your own stamp on it. Many landlords are not particularly flexible with what they allow you to do to a property, but there are plenty of creative ways in which you can adapt your home to avoid aesthetic monotony. Changing up your textiles is a great way to make a space look different. Adding new cushions, blankets, rugs or curtains/blinds is very simple. You can change them with the seasons and — by switching to a new color palette — you can give a room a whole new look.

Repainting is a cheap and easy option that has the ability to completely transform the look and feel of a room. You don’t necessarily even need to paint entire walls. Making a feature by painting geometric shapes in different colors can work wonders. Wall art is also a great way to add visual interest. If you aren’t allowed to hang pictures, consider investing in larger framed pieces and simply lean them against the walls. And don’t forget the power of plants. Plants are not only good for our well-being and our health, but they can really bring a room to life. Move them round to change things up, buy new ones to fill empty spaces or — even better — propagate your existing plants to breed new ones.

add plants

To comfortably work from home, you should design a space for your home office. You don’t need a huge amount of room to set up a productive workspace. There are plenty of space-saving desks on the market that will fit into narrow spaces, unused corners or even that fold away when not in use. Make the most of the space you have available by putting wall shelves up above the desk to store all your office supplies. If your landlord won’t allow you to drill into the walls, consider buying a freestanding shelving unit that has a small desk shelf built-in. It is extremely important to invest in a good office chair that supports your back and provides maximum comfort. Whatever your desk space is like, try to ensure you position it in an area of your home that gets plenty of natural light, is quiet and comfortable. You’ll be most productive when you enjoy spending time in a space.”

We hope these tips proved useful and you’re ready to embrace a bit of change. Even the simplest details can wake up your apartment, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Start small and build your way up to refresh your home.

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Published at Wed, 06 May 2020 11:51:30 +0000

Expert Interview: Keeping Kids Happy and Healthy While in Quarantine

Isolating at home with kids is a task that requires constant creativity. Thinking of ways to keep them active and engaged and coming up with activities and games they enjoy is no simple endeavor; parents need to adapt and overcome these situations. Luckily, there are many sources for inspiration online, as well as free tools and advice.

If you’re in need of extra help, we’ve asked some expert parenting bloggers what their tips for dealing with this new situation are. From ways to keep kids active to discussing the much feared screen time, here’s what these parents shared with us:

Julie, founder of Fab Working Mom Life 

parenting blogger“Living in a small space — especially during this time when parks are closed — is a challenge. Try to go on family walks around the neighborhood, and find some options for good exercise for the entire family.

My son loves doing silly minute-to-win-it type games and arts and crafts. Those are great ways to keep him motivated and having fun (and off his tablet). He’s in Pre-K so the amount of homeschooling we need to do is minimal, but I try to do a few letters and early reading activities with him daily to continue preparing him for kindergarten. If parents in a similar situation are able to take family walks along their neighborhood streets, do so daily. Parks might be closed but the outdoors is still available for a healthy lifestyle.

cooking with kids

Try to make any activity meaningful. For example, during the walks, point out specific flowers and have your kids count the different types you see. Parents living in an area where long family walks are not as easy to accomplish can have fun, active time with their kids by following along an online video, such as Cosmic Kids Yoga. Break out the board games if kids are older, and even make clean-up a fun competition. This is the time to simplify and focus on the few things that matter so we don’t get overwhelmed with it all.”

Tara, founder of Feels Like Home

parenting blogger“First of all, don’t panic about screen time. Accept that your kids are going to have more screen time than usual during this weird and difficult time. Just like you are feeling the need to be more connected to the outside world, they are feeling the same need, and getting on social media or YouTube helps. More screen time also helps to keep them engaged and out of parents’ hair during work from home time. It’s not ideal, but it works.

Every kid has passions. Help yours cultivate their unique passions, even if it means more screen time or making messes. One of my daughters is in love with Minecraft. She plays Minecraft on the phone and watches endless Minecraft YouTube videos. When I lamented about this infatuation to an educator whom I really respect, she reminded me of all the things my daughter is learning while she plays and that problem solving and creativity are just as important and valuable as math and reading skills. It was an eye-opening moment for me as I realized that Minecraft is not time wasted but a valuable activity because she’s pursuing something she loves.

kids activities

Finally, encourage independence in your kids. Allow them to self-monitor their activities and switch when they want. Remind them to clean up after themselves, and help a little if they need it. Show them where the (healthy) snacks are and allow them to feed themselves throughout the day. Prepare enticing “stations” where there are interesting activities or games, and give your kids the freedom to wander into and out of the stations. Don’t harass them to do what you think they should do; let them guide themselves.

My favorite thing to say to my kids is this: “Boredom is good for your brain.” I say it anytime someone tells me that she’s bored, because it’s true. Boredom sparks creativity and passion. Let your kids be, even when they’re bored. Feel free to use my line, tell them that you know they’ll come up with something good to do, and let them do it.”

Vicki, founder of Honest Mum and author of Mum Boss

parenting blogger“Parents like myself have a challenging job right now, as we juggle homeschooling duties with work during the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s crucial that parents make time for self-care so they can be strong and well for their families. This means taking some time off, eating well and exercising once a day (getting the heart rate up to burn off stress).

What you can do is head out once a day for exercise, kids in tow, wracking up a minimum of steps each time, following the social distancing rules. Use this time as an extra-curricular educational moment, exploring nature trails, logging birds, insects and flowers, using these findings during home-school activities, researching what you’ve discovered on your trips out, and illustrating the observations.

Another good activity is cooking as a family more at home. Parents tend to focus on baking with kids, but I’ve decided to teach my sons more about healthy snacks and main meals to help them slowly become more independent. You can do the same with more detailed chores. Give your kids more of a chance to skill up and learn about the daily chores of maintaining a home.”

There’s no right recipe for caring for your kids, and as such you should follow your instinct and listen to their needs and requests. Everyone is different, but we hope these other perspectives helped you out in understanding what others are also going through. Take it easy and stay safe!

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Published at Sun, 03 May 2020 09:50:41 +0000

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RentHop Q1 2020 Rental Report – COVID Edition

RentHop Q1 2020 Rental Report – COVID Edition

How COVID-19 is Changing Renter Neighborhood Preferences in NYC

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted NYC more than any place in the country. Given the unprecedented health, economic, and social disruptions inflicted upon the city, it should come as no surprise that NYC apartment hunters are changing their preferences as to where to live. As one of the city’s largest apartment rental platforms, RentHop possesses a massive data set of rental leads giving us a unique insight into where prospective tenants are looking to rent in the current environment. In this quarterly report, we’ll analyze the trends in each borough, highlighting the neighborhoods seeing the greatest increases and decreases in leads year-over-year.


Overall Lead Traffic Decline and Resurgence Since COVID-19

On March 20, Governor Cuomo ordered all non-essential businesses to close, and for residents to stay home as much as possible in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Not surprisingly, from March 23 through April 5 there was a dramatic decrease in average daily renter leads sent on RentHop.

By the numbers, the period of March 13 through March 22 saw a 45% drop in weekly lead count compared to the weekly leads sent by renters from February 10 through March 15. In other words, renters stopped looking for apartments in unprecedented numbers. This downward trend continued through the rest of March and into April.

However, this trend rapidly reversed by mid-April. The week of April 13 through April 19 saw a whopping 56% increase in weekly leads over the period March 23 through April 5. And this upward trend appears to be accelerating as a growing number of renters are more eager than ever to move out of the apartments they’ve been spending so much time within during the lockdown.

Increased Demand for Roommates

As the economic crunch caused by the pandemic is felt by New Yorkers, there appears to be an upward trend toward renters looking to move into a roommate situation rather than lease their own apartment.

Looking at the top 10 neighborhoods measured by roommate leads in NYC, eight out of the 10 neighborhoods saw significant year-over-year increases in renters inquiring about room shares. For example, Hell’s Kitchen saw a 227.4% increase in roommate leads, Hamilton Heights saw a 166.8% jump, and in Crown Heights, the number of room share inquiries went up by 83.6%.

Most Popular NYC Neighborhoods by Renter Inquiries

 
Top Growing Neighborhoods
 

With respect to renters seeking full apartments, certain popular neighborhoods have seen an outsized increase in renter leads year-over-year from the first quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020. Looking at the most inquired about neighborhoods, the neighborhoods with the highest growth appear concentrated in Brooklyn and Manhattan, with Weeksvillle seeing a 116.8% increase in leads, Crown Heights a 52.3% increase, and Bay Ridge a 49.9% increase. Flatbush also saw a 49.4% jump in leads in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. In Manhattan, Hamilton Heights saw a 61.5% increase and Central Harlem a 35.3% increase. Meanwhile, lead volume in the East Village grew 32.8% year-over-year.

 
Top Declining Neighborhoods
 

At the same time, many popular neighborhoods in the city have seen a substantial decrease in renter leads year-over-year in the first quarter of 2020. The majority of these large declining neighborhoods are concentrated in Manhattan, with the Financial District seeing a 35.5% decrease,East Harlem a 18.6% decrease, and the Upper West Side a 12.1% decrease. Lead also dipped 10.1% in Gramercy Park. Meanwhile, Bushwick, the hip and artsy neighborhood in Brooklyn, saw a 29% reduction in lead volume year-over-year.

Top 10 Neighborhoods By Borough

Of these popular neighborhoods in Manhattan, the most notable increases in year-over-year leads were seen in Hamilton Heights (+61.5%), Central Harlem (+35.3%), the East Village (+32.8%), and the Upper East Side (+18.4%). The two declining neighborhoods were the Financial District (-35.5%) and East Harlem (-18.6%).

8 out of 10 of the most popular neighborhoods in Brooklyn saw an increase in year-over-year lead traffic, the most notable increases in leads were seen in East New York (+463.2%), Weeksville (+116.8%), Crown Heights (+52.3%), Bay Ridge (+49.9%) and Flatbush (+49.4%). The lone declining neighborhoods were Bushwick (-29%) and Ocean Hill (-10.7%).

Most of the neighborhoods in Queens saw relatively little change year-over-year compared to Brooklyn in Queens, with the exceptions of Flushing (+160.8%), Forest Hills (+67.2%), Long Island City (-24.2%), and Hunters Point (-19.9%).

Relative to the other boroughs, the Bronx saw a massive growth spurt in leads year-over-year, topped by Highbridge (+420.5%), Central Riverdale (+308.9%), Mount Eden (+252.6%), Kingsbridge (+183%), and Mott Haven (+73%).

Methodology

Released on a quarterly basis, the RentHop Rental Report analyzes the NYC rental market using the platform’s traffic and lead generation data. The lead volume, most inquired apartment type, and year-over-year changes are determined based on the inquiries sent by renters visiting the RentHop site. The median asking rent is calculated using all listings created in the previous quarter across all apartment types. Please email press@renthop.com for a detailed report covering all NYC neighborhoods. Note that unlike other RentHop studies that analyze and summarize data using the Neighborhood Tabulation Areas, the RentHop Rental Report adopts a more granular neighborhood shapefile for the analysis, which is consistent with the listing search criteria on the consumer side.

Published at Mon, 27 Apr 2020 14:00:55 +0000

Evictions Dropped Thanks to Cuomo, and Gravesend Is Now One of the Most Livable Places in NYC

Finding the right apartment is never easy, especially in the City of New York.

To find the right apartment, we need to first identify the right neighborhood. But how do we do that? Well, this is where data science comes in handy. Instead of blindly recommending neighborhoods based on how “hip” they are, the Data Science team at RentHop crunched the numbers and ranked the NYC neighborhoods by livability. We understand that each person values different things. For some, finding an apartment in a quiet neighborhood is of the highest priority, while for others the number of subway stops in the area is just as important. We believe, by analyzing the pros and cons of each neighborhood, we can help renters make an informed decision.

Our findings this quarter include:

  • Battery Park City-Lower Manhattan ranks the best neighborhood among 150+ NYC neighborhoods for the second straight quarter. The NTA, which includes FiDi and Battery Park City, has 14 subway stops, or 20.5 per sq mi, with a renter-friendliness score of 93.6. However, its quiet score went down 21%, from 91.2 to 72.9 this quarter, possibly related to COVID and the State’s stay-home order. [Neighborhood Livability Infographic]
  • Upper East Side-Carnegie Hill replaced Brooklyn Heights-Cobble Hill as the second most livable neighborhood in NYC with a high cleanliness score of 93.1, which means that the residents experience fewer poop complaints and rodent sightings. With median 1BR rent at $3,050, it is more affordable than Lower Manhattan. [Neighborhood Livability Map]
  • Brooklyn Heights-Cobble Hill continues to be the most livable neighborhood in the Brooklyn Borough. However, its overall ranking dropped from #2 to #3 this quarter due to lower cleanliness and noise scores. The noise score dropped 11.3 points to 78.6 this quarter. [Top 5 Neighborhoods in Brooklyn]
  • Erasmus remains one of the least livable neighborhoods in New York City. The neighborhood suffered in categories including quiet score and renter friendliness in the past three months. From January 14h to April 13th, Erasmus received in total 492 noise complaints (or 481.3/10k households) and 418 heat complaints (or 521.0/10k renter-occupied units).
  • Many neighborhoods experienced a significant drop in their quiet score due to noise complaints, including Manhattanville (-36.4 points), Washington Heights North (-34.8 points), and Prospect Lefferts Gardens-Wingate (-25.1 points), which could be related to people staying at home and practicing self-isolation.
  • As the most livable neighborhood in Queens, Ft. Totten-Bay Terrace-Clearview improved its overall ranking from #12 to #5 in our Q2 index, thanks to its perfect cleanliness score and outstanding quiet score (94.6). Meanwhile, Oakland Gardens improved its ranking from #38 to #9 with a 10-point increase in the cleanliness score. [Top 5 Neighborhoods in Queens]
  • The average score among neighborhoods in the Bronx is 60.3, 1.4 points lower than the previous quarter. This is mainly due to the growing noise complaints. [Top 5 Neighborhoods in the Bronx]

NYC Neighborhood Livability Map

The map below illustrates the livability of each NYC neighborhood. The darker the shade, the higher the score. You can click on the neighborhoods to learn more about the score breakdown as well as the median 1BR rent.

Thanks to Gov. Cuomo’s mandate, evictions were down in most NYC neighborhoods, including Crown Heights North (-26) in Brooklyn, Crotona Park East (-20) in the Bronx, and Central Harlem South (-18) in Manhattan. However, most neighborhoods saw an increase in the number of noise complaints in the past 90 days due to the COVID pandemic and the New York State “stay-home” order. In fact, over 85% of the neighborhoods in our index experienced a surge in noise complaints, which resulted in city-wide changes in the quiet score category.

Generally speaking, Manhattan neighborhoods enjoy higher base scores thanks to the comprehensive MTA subway lines. Compared to the other three boroughs, Manhattan neighborhoods also have relatively higher renter-friendliness scores (average 83.2). The average quiet score in Manhattan is down from 75.1 to 63.0 this quarter, which translates to a 16.1% dip. Specifically, Central Harlem North-Polo Grounds and Washington Heights South had seen over 2000 noise complaints respectively in the past 90 days.

In Queens, the average cleanliness score went down 6.7 points, from 91.6 to 84.9, only 0.1 higher than Manhattan. Brooklyn neighborhoods scored an average of 83.7 in terms of safety, 1.1 points lower than the previous quarter. But the borough is a lot noisier these days – Prospect Lefferts Gardens-Wingate and Bushwick South saw 903 and 821 more complaints respectively in the past 90 days. The neighborhoods in the Bronx improved slightly in the renter friendliness category thanks to the warmer weather and fewer heat complaints. The borough also saw some positive changes in terms of cleanliness. The score went up 19.2 points (27%) in Spuyten Duyvil-Kingsbridge and 10.9 points (14%) in Pelham Parkway.

Here are the Top 10 Neighborhoods in New York City

How We Did It

To determine the most renter-friendly and best neighborhoods in New York City, we compared over 190 Neighborhood Tabulation Areas (NTAs) across six key categories, including (1) Neighborhood Greenness, (2) Transportation, (3) Quality of Life, (4) Renter Friendliness, and (5) Safety, using in total 13 relevant metrics.

The following metrics were used for this neighborhood livability index:

Base Score [25 points]

  • Population Density — NTA Population / Land Size (sq mi) [2.5 points]
  • Transportation — MTA Subway Stops / Land Size (sq mi) [10 points]
  • Neighborhood Greenness: Tree Data — Street Tree Count / Land Size (sq mi) [6.25 points]
  • Neighborhood Greenness: Park Coverage — Park Area / Land Size (sq mi) [6.25 points]

Cleanliness [15 points]

  • Poop Complaints — 311 Canine Violations / 10k Households [7.5 points]
  • Rodent — 311 Rat Sightings / 10k Households [7.5 points]

Quietness [20 points]

  • Noise Complaints — 311 Residential Noise Complaints / 10k Households [16 points]
  • Potential Construction Noise — DOB Permits Issued / Total Housing Units [2 points]

Renter Friendliness [30 points]

  • Landlord Level of Responsibility: Heat Season — 311 Heat Complaints / Renter-Occupied Units [9 points]
  • Landlord Level of Responsibility: HMV — Housing Maintenance Code Violations / Renter-Occupied Units [3 points]
  • Percentage of Renter-Occupied Units — Renter-Occupied Units / Total Occupied Units [3 points]
  • Evictions — Evictions / Renter-Occupied Units [15 points]

Safety [10 points]

  • Motor Vehicle Collisions — Collisions / 10k Population [10 points]

We also adjusted the curve based on rental unit availability since that it’d be easier for renters to find an apartment in a given neighborhood if it has more available units on market. The rental rates were calculated using RentHop listings from January 14, 2020, to April 13, 2020.


We will be releasing the RentHop Neighborhood Livability Index on a quarterly basis, and we’d love to hear from you! Think we missed something? Any specific 311 complaints or dataset you’d like us to include? Or, would you like to work on an urban planning project using our underlying dataset? Email us at press@renthop.com.
 
You can also check out our previous quarterly report here.

Published at Mon, 20 Apr 2020 14:20:31 +0000

Categories
Apartment Living

7 Ways to Relax and Reduce Coronavirus Stress

7 Ways to Relax and Reduce Coronavirus Stress

Stress relief … social distancing style.

As the coronavirus lockdown drags on, everyone is managing as best they can. We’re all muddling along, trying to keep upbeat and informed and safe. So, this week, we’re going to change things up. We’re going to make some small changes to our routine to help us manage our new normal with some coronavirus stress relief.

Here’s the good news: None of these steps are earth-shattering or necessarily surprising. It’s the same coronavirus stress relief advice we’d give our friends or parents. It may even be things we’ve done in the past. But sometimes we need a refresher.

1. Use those gym clothes you’re wearing

Yeah, you know it’s time. And at first, you were going to be really good. And then, not so much. Now is a really good time to pick it up again. Spring weather has finally arrived in much of the country, and with it, we’re getting some much-needed sun.

Social distancing is still vitally important. And depending on where you live, you may have to wear a homemade cloth mask when you’re out in public. So, if you feel healthy and know the rules in your area, get your cloth mask and sunscreen (and if you’re in the South, your allergy pill) and get some steps in. Remember to limit contact with others, but even an hour of exercise a day can have a huge impact.

food

2. Eat well

You know to eat your fruits and vegetables just like you know “quarantine calories don’t count.” Don’t stock up on a ton of produce that will go bad when you eat an entire frozen pizza instead. It’s a lot easier to eat your greens by adding them to something you’re already eating.

Pick up an extra veggie or two on your next trip to the store. Cube them up and put them in storage containers so you can add them to a dish you’re already making.

How do scrambled eggs with wilted kale and sweet potatoes sound? Why not combine the instant mac and cheese you’re making with broccoli and peas? What about pasta with garlic, spinach, grape tomatoes and squash?

Toss it with olive oil and black pepper and you have a satisfying pantry raid pasta dish with ingredients you may even already have in the house. No grocery runs required!

3. Maintain connections

You know those Friday night happy hours with your girlfriends on Zoom? You should keep doing them. They’re helpful in keeping us sane and connected to our friends and loved ones. The mental and emotional effects of social isolation are real. And no one is immune to these feelings. Especially the elderly.

Assisted living facilities and nursing homes all over the country are on lockdown, keeping seniors in their rooms and apartments to limit exposure to the virus. As often as we’ve needed our parents and our grandparents throughout our lives, they could really use our help right now, too. So, pick up the phone. Or, if you’re feeling really ambitious, walk them through downloading the video chat app of your choice.

4. Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises are a fast and effective way to mitigate stress and help keep a level head. For example, when you feel the stress starting to rise, take a slow deep breath through your nose for five seconds. Hold it for two seconds and exhale through your mouth slowly for 10 seconds. Repeat as necessary.

If you find you need a little more help, there are relaxation apps like Calm that feature guided meditations, relaxing sounds and even bedtime stories meant to lull you to sleep. For someone more plugged in and on the go, GIFs can be surprisingly helpful. Small, looping video clips like this are the perfect on-the-go solution.

5. Listen to relaxing music

But when the anxiety and stress become overwhelming, it might be a good time to add a new song to your playlist. “Weightless” by Marconi Union is scientifically proven to be the world’s most relaxing song. It’s so relaxing, it’s actually suggested that you not listen to it while driving.

The song syncs with your brain’s beta waves to lower blood pressure, slow down your resting heart rate, and make you feel more relaxed. It’s even proven to reduce anxiety by 65 percent. You won’t find it on Top 40 radio and there won’t be a club remix anytime soon. But you can find it on most music streaming services.

There’s also this 10-hour loop of the song on YouTube if you want to listen to it at night before going to sleep.

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6. Limit your news intake

You want to stay informed. You want to keep others up to date on what’s happening. And you want to be able to call out any fake news you see that crosses your social media feeds. But there’s such a thing as overdosing on information.

If the news is stressing you out, consume less of it and be smarter about the news you do consume. Be wary of sources on social media and stick with the outlets you know. No one’s saying you shouldn’t watch the news or keep up with the current events and commentary you like, but limit yourself to 30 minutes in the morning and an evening newscast at night.

7. Be careful with the booze

A glass of wine may help you relax. Many of you have figured that out by now. And a drink at night is an effective way to unwind and decompress after a day of digital learning, work from home deadlines and the general stress of what everyday life is like now. But you have to mind your intake and not start pouring every day.

If you do think you’re developing a problem, the resources used to help people quit also have evolved. Zoom video chats have replaced church basements as the new place to go for help managing addiction. Nothing triggers substance abuse or a relapse quite like external stressors, which is why groups like AA are taking their resources and meetings online. It’s the best way members can be there for each other, while still staying six feet apart.

Coronavirus stress relief tips

Cut yourself a little slack. There’s no road map for working through a pandemic, and some of these coronavirus stress relief tips may work better than others. Now is the time to take stock of the things that matter in your life. So, take care of yourself, take care of your health and exercise some self-care. Because when we’re all allowed outside again, it’s going to be a beautiful day.

Published at Tue, 05 May 2020 12:05:10 +0000

Rental Home Garden Makeover: 6 Best Budget Ideas

Get your green thumb without spending too much green.

Everyone’s always looking for new ways to personalize their living space. You might hang pictures in different frames, buy new outdoor furniture or decorate everything according to your favorite color. It’s easy to find things to switch up your digs, but it’s a little more challenging if you rent your home.

Landlords often have strict policies regarding what you do with the property while you rent from them. They could decide those policies for themselves or work according to homeowners association (HOA) rules. After you check your lease to learn what’s allowed and what’s not, you can get creative with any space — including your garden.

Here are six of the best budget ideas for a rental garden makeover. Be sure to check with your landlord if you have any questions about what might or might not break your lease.

1. Build a stone path

stone path

The key to abiding by most rental agreements is to create things that aren’t permanent. You can stick with that guideline and still make something that looks like it will last forever by building a stone path in your backyard.

Find large, flat stones and lay them in your yard, leading to features like your garden or garage. You can pick them up when your lease ends, and the property won’t be damaged.

2. Buy a fountain

jar fountain

Large fountains might require some construction, but most are smaller and easier to set up. As long as you have access to a hose faucet, you can put together something beautiful and temporary.

Place a fountain between your garden plants or in your grass, whatever you have to work with.

3. Hang mood lighting

string lights

Another way to spice up your garden is to hang budget-friendly mood lighting around your patio area or yard. As long as you avoid floodlights, you can create the perfect atmosphere for some evening gardening or hanging out with your friends outdoors.

4. Construct raised garden beds

garden bed

Raised garden beds prevent your yard from getting ruined and work well on rental home patios. With the right supplies and a little time, you can construct raised garden beds to add to your space. Paint or decorate them however you like, and then carefully pick what you grow so you get the bonus of low-maintenance plants.

5. Grow plants vertically

vertical garden

Use your garden space differently with a vertical trellis. You can attach pots to it and grow whatever you like or use it as a stand for vine plants. These can look natural and fit right in with your living space, without requiring permanent installation.

Vertical gardens also work great on apartment balconies.

6. Paint a backdrop

painted backdrop

Play with colors before your flowers bloom by painting a backdrop for your garden. Depending on what sized space you’re working with, you can use wooden pallets to form a wall. Paint it with whatever splash of colors you like and place it against your patio wall or garden fence.

This is an easy decor piece to play with because you can drape lighting over the pallet or use it as your vertical garden wall. Think about what you want to see when you look at your garden and what kind of space you have.

Stick with your vibe for your rental home garden

The best way to know how you should decorate your garden is to learn what kind of style you enjoy. Certain ones will match your vibe and feel like an extension of yourself. Use that to guide you when you build your raised garden beds, pick your plants or paint a backdrop. You can still express yourself, even if you rent from a landlord with strict rules.

Published at Tue, 05 May 2020 12:00:56 +0000

Categories
Apartment Living

Coronavirus Mortgage Relief: What You Need To Know

Coronavirus Mortgage Relief: What You Need To Know

Mortgage lenders, and the federal agencies that regulate lenders, are putting coronavirus mortgage relief measures in place to ensure homeowners have options if they’re unable to make payments.

Your first stop in the face of financial hardship is your lender or bank.

Just keep in mind lenders are working to figure out and implement the new mortgage relief polices outlined by the regulatory agencies. So you might read one thing from the FHFA, a federal regulator, but your bank might be doing something else.

In addition, due to the number of homeowners affected by the pandemic, lenders are dealing with a crush of calls and online queries. Be patient, persistent, and prepared to spend time on hold.  

Here are the resources you need now.

Your Mortgage

Federally Backed Mortgages
If you have a mortgage backed by Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veteran’s Administration (VA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac, your loan servicer must offer you deferred or reduced mortgage payment options – called forbearance — for up to six months. This means you don’t have to pay your mortgage and you won’t be charged late fees, penalties, or interest while you can’t pay.

Loan servicers for FHA, Freddie, and Fannie must provide an additional six months of forbearance if you request it. 

Not sure who backs your own loan? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have loan look-up sites where you can find out who owns it, and how to get in touch with them.

In addition, here are direct links to some lenders and banks’ Covid-19 resources:

Mortgages Not Federally Backed
If your mortgage is one of the 5 million in the United States not backed by a federal entity, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which includes a coronavirus mortgage relief mandate, doesn’t apply. But regulators have encouraged those lenders to work with borrowers who can’t pay their mortgages, and most banks and other lenders are suspending mortgage payments or offering forbearance.

The level of relief you get will depend on who owns your loan. Contact your lender to find out what’s available.

Regardless of the type of loan you have, you must apply for coronavirus mortgage relief through their mortgage servicer. That’s the entity that collects your monthly payments and decides how long the assistance will last. When you reach your mortgage servicer, you’ll need to explain your situation and provide information about your income, expenses, and assets. 

TIP: If you’re an at-risk homeowner, this downloadable PDF will help you understand the sources you can approach for help.

Foreclosure and Evictions

Federal officials have imposed a nationwide halt to foreclosures and evictions for more than 36 million Americans with home mortgages backed by the FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.

The moratorium only affects borrowers with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA, and RHS (Rural Housing Service loans through the USDA). This doesn’t apply to the roughly 35% of mortgages held in bank portfolios and private label securities. But some individual lenders are offering relief.

Some cities, counties, and states, including Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Texas, have placed a moratorium on foreclosures. Check with your city, county, and state governments. Find state-by-state tallies online.

Housing Counselors

Another tool in your relief toolbox are housing counselors. Counselors can provide independent advice on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, and credit issues. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s look-up tool lets you can find counselors in your state.

Your Credit

The CARES Act forbids lenders from dinging your credit score for missed payments on federally backed mortgages and student loans during your forbearance period. The federal government is also encouraging private lenders to suspend reporting late payments on eligible mortgages. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has more advice about protecting your credit.

To keep close tabs on your credit, you can now obtain a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, every week for the next year through April 20, 2020. The companies ratcheted up their once-a-year allowance to help consumers “protect their financial health during the sudden and unprecedented hardship caused by COVID-19.”

Get all three reports in one spot: annualcreditreport.com.

Your Student Loan

The CARES Act includes immediate relief for those who can’t make their monthly payments on federally held loans due to coronavirus. All loan payments (both principal and interest) are suspended through Sept. 30, 2020, with no penalty. You don’t need to apply for this program or contact your lender. It’s automatic.

If you keep making payments, they’ll be applied entirely toward the principal. These suspended payments will count towards any student loan forgiveness already in effect.

Here’s a list of servicers — and their phone numbers — for loans backed by the U.S. Department of Education.

Some loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program and some Perkins Loans not owned by the Department of Education aren’t eligible for suspended payments. Nor are private student loans owned by banks, credit unions, schools, or other private entities. If you can’t make payments, contact your loan servicer to find out what options are available. Many are offering ways, like forbearance, to postpone payments.

Not sure who your servicer is? Look on your most recent statement and contact the servicer immediately.

If your student loan is already in default, the relief act immediately suspends wage garnishments or tax refund deductions. They’ll resume after the suspension ends.

Find out more about student loan relief at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Your Taxes

The IRS has pushed back the deadline for filing and payment of federal taxes to July 15, 2020. Many states are following suit. Check with your state tax agency, or see this list from the American Institute of CPAs for details on deadlines.

Related: Tips to Get Filing Ready for (Delayed) Tax Deadline

Your Real Estate Transaction

If you’re going to be buying or selling a home in the near future, find out if your county recording office can complete the deal online.

In addition, more than half of states, many under emergency state directive, allow for remote online notarization of documents. This makes it safe and easy to complete real estate transactions under social distancing orders. The number of states allowing remote notarization could grow as pandemic legislation expands.

Your Appraisal

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have provided detailed appraisal alternative guidelines, so homeowners and appraisers can practice social distancing on Freddie and Fannie loans through May 17, 2020.

FHA, VA, and RHS are also allowing variations on the usual appraisal protocol. Check with your servicer for details.

Look Out For Scams

Fear breeds scams. And scammers are out in full force during the pandemic. Beware of third parties offering mortgage assistance and other help. Seek help from your lender directly.

For information on circulating scams, and guidance on identifying them, visit the Federal Trade Commission website.  

With additional reporting by Christina Hoffmann

Published at Tue, 07 Apr 2020 13:23:42 +0000

How to Disinfect Your Home in the Time of Coronavirus

There’s
everyday clean, guest clean, and then there’s COVID-19 clean.

To get down the absolute nitty gritty on how to disinfect your home, you’ll want your big guns: bleach, rubbing alcohol, and hot water.

The
Best Disinfectants

For your high-touch surfaces, the Centers for Disease Control recommends a bleach solution diluted with water, or a 70% alcohol solution.

Follow
this bleach recipe: 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water, or 4
teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.

Make sure to properly ventilate when disinfecting with bleach.

And check to see if your bleach has expired. Who knew it could? After
about 9 months to a year, and if it smells less bleachy, it’s lost its disinfecting
power. Time for a new jug.

Tip: Don’t mix bleach with anything other than water; otherwise, it could set off a dangerous chemical reaction. For instance, bleach + alcohol is a deadly combo.

How to disinfect your home if you don’t have bleach? Regular old rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol) works, so long as it’s at least 70% alcohol, according to the CDC. The alcohol concentration will be listed on the bottle. Rubbing alcohol you buy should already be diluted, unlike bleach.

Is There a Such a Thing as Too Much Disinfectant?

According to an EPA fact sheet, studies have found that using some disinfectant products can cause germs to become resistant.

The EPA has issued a list of disinfectants on the market that it believes are effective in killing COVID-19. Look for the EPA registration number on the product and check it against this list to ensure you have a match.

Erica Marie Hartman, an environmental microbiologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., whose research focuses on resistance, confirms soap, bleach, and alcohol are your best bets.

What about the various disinfecting wipes on the market (at least if you can find them)? Hartman says the active ingredient in many of those is an ammonium compound, which could become resistant to viruses over time.

Surfaces That Need Your Attention

With your preferred disinfectant, wipe down high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, tables, remotes, banisters, toilets, sinks, and faucets daily or more often, if someone in your home is sick.

Contact time is another key aspect of surface sanitizing. “Disinfection isn’t instantaneous,” says Hartman. [For a bleach solution], you want to leave it on the surface for 10 minutes before wiping it off. ” 

By the way, new research from scientists at the National Institutes of Health, among other agencies, shows that at least some coronavirus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

But a report in “The Washington Post” notes that the most likely period for infection from the virus on surfaces is in the first 10 minutes to one or two hours.

Not All Floors Can Handle Bleach

For your nonporous floors, like those in the bathroom, the CDC recommends mopping with the bleach solution. 

Avoid bleach on hardwood and other porous floors because of staining. Instead, use a disinfecting wet mop cloth without bleach.

Cleaning Isn’t Disinfecting

From the you-might-be-surprised files: Disinfecting with bleach isn’t actually cleaning. If you also need to clean your countertops of dirt and grime, do that first with soap and water. Then use the bleach solution or rubbing alcohol to combat the virus.

Killing Microbes on Clothes

Most washing machines today do a bang-up job on dirty clothes with cold water, which is best for energy savings. But, and especially if you have a sick person in your house, the hot-water setting followed by a high-heat dry for about a ½ hour to 45 minutes is best for virus eradication.

Don’t forget about your laundry hamper. Wipe it down like you
would other surfaces. You can also use a reusable liner bag, which you can
launder with the clothes.

What If I’m Selling My House, and Inviting More Germs In?

How to disinfect your home when it’s for sale? Virtual showings and tours are the ideal, and your agent can set those up.

However, if there’s a need to have someone come in, talk to your agent who will work with you to establish a hygienic protocol, including requiring visitors to wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer when they arrive, and to remove shoes or wear booties before entering. Removing shoes not only reduces dirt coming in, but potentially germs.

In addition, many agents are eliminating open houses.

After any showings, practice your surface wipe-down routine.

Finally, when you work with disinfectants, practice some self care. “Alcohol and bleach can be very aggressive on your skin, so wearing rubber gloves can help protect your hands,” Hartman says. 

Related: 9 Cleaning Tasks That Homeowners Tend to Overlook


Published at Tue, 17 Mar 2020 14:46:32 +0000

Categories
Apartment Living

Pros and Cons: Signing a Multi-Year Lease

Pros and Cons: Signing a Multi-Year Lease

In our Pros and Cons series, we weigh the advantages and disadvantages of important decisions that apartment dwellers are making every day.

When you sign a lease for your new apartment, chances are that you’ll sign a one-year lease, with the ability to renew your lease every 12 months. However, you might also have the option to sign a longer multi-year lease. As the name suggests, a multi-year lease obliges tenants to stay in their apartment rentals for longer than a year. The length of commitment involved in a multi-year lease – often 24 months, but sometimes 18 months – may work better for certain renters. 

multi-year lease

Is a multi-year lease right for you? Weigh the pros and cons below to help with your decision.

Pros of signing a multi-year lease

Rent stability

If you want to re-sign your one-year lease to keep living in your apartment, then some landlords might raise your rent for the next year’s lease. (This changes by jurisdiction; not all cities and states allow landlords to raise rent after the first year.) When you sign a multi-year lease, you lock in a rent amount for a time period longer than a year, which may prove better for your budget in the long run.

Cheaper rent

In some cases, landlords looking to find trustworthy tenants for longer periods of time will sign leases for lower rent prices to lure in good tenants who might otherwise look elsewhere. That’s why, when you sign a multi-year lease, your monthly rent might be much less expensive than with a one-year lease.

Location stability

Even if you’re happy in your apartment, when your one-year lease ends, you might find yourself at least toying with the possibility of moving. When you sign a multi-year lease, you can immediately nip that temptation in the bud. If you’re the kind of person who finds yourself moving more often than you’d like, then signing a multi-year lease on an apartment that meets all your standards can ensure the location stability you’ve been missing.

Cons of signing a multi-year lease

Too much commitment

You might find that a one-year lease gives you more flexibility if you’re unsatisfied with your apartment. If the best apartment you find during your hunt is still not quite up to your standards, then if things don’t work out at the end of your one-year lease, you can just look again and potentially find an apartment that’s better for you. When you sign a multi-year lease, you don’t have this flexibility, so if you discover a dream apartment only to move in and find it deeply flawed, then you’re stuck there for much longer than you’d like.

Risky if your finances change

If you don’t think you’re particularly picky about apartments, keep in mind that the commitment of a multi-year lease can be stressful for more reasons than just your preferences. If your financial situation suddenly changes and you can no longer afford your rent, with a multi-year lease, you’re far more bound to your apartment than with a one-year lease. 

Breaking your lease is never easy (and rarely encouraged), but with a single-year lease, you may be able to try riding out the remainder of your lease if money gets tight. This prospect is far less realistic with a multi-year lease, and often, the penalties for breaking your multi-year lease are harsher than with a one-year lease. When you’re signing a multi-year lease, thoroughly read the consequences for breaking your lease before you sign it.

Would you rather sign a one-year lease or a multi-year lease? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Published at Thu, 23 Apr 2020 13:23:53 +0000

Can’t Leave Your Apartment? Five Ways to Keep Busy

Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to hundreds of millions of Americans sheltering in place. This means going out minimally if at all, perhaps only for groceries or other essential goods and the occasional neighborhood walk or jog. In other words, it means you mostly can’t leave your apartment, and if you’re like most people, you enjoy going out, seeing friends, and getting away from home for a bit. If you’re struggling to stay entertained while you’re stuck at home, here are five ways to keep busy when you can’t leave your apartment.

can't leave apartment

1. Make big meals

It’s one thing to toss together a sandwich using whatever’s left in your fridge and cupboard. It’s another thing to spend hours putting together a delicious, giant homemade dish with enough leftovers to feed yourself for days. Chopping vegetables, waiting for large pots to boil, and cleaning up all your kitchenware after can quickly kill hours of time you might otherwise spend bored. Bonus points if you follow-up your meal prep with a video dinner party to also keep busy without leaving your apartment.

2. Work out in your apartment

Not much of a jogger? Then your exercise options outside your apartment might be limited, as gyms nationwide have closed in response to the pandemic. That doesn’t mean you can’t get in plenty of heart-pumping, muscle-building exercise at home. Try any of these in-apartment workouts for inspiration, or head to social media or video streaming services to find a class to follow. Just remember that, even if you can’t leave your apartment at all and are desperate to keep busy, rest days are important, too!

3. Redecorate, rearrange, and reorganize

Adding new decorative touches to your apartment, rearranging your furniture, and reorganizing your belongings can take up a large portion of your day. These activities can also change the way your apartment feels for a while – realigning the couch with a different wall or adding some new houseplants to your windowsill can completely change the mood and ambiance of your space. And when your apartment feels different, you might associate it with less with boredom, restlessness, and other emotions you might be coping with when you can’t leave your apartment and are struggling to keep busy.

4. Get started on spring cleaning

Although you can’t leave your apartment, each day now has slightly more sunlight hours than the last, and as more natural light makes its way into your apartment, you’re probably seeing spots where you didn’t even notice dust accumulating before. Take a few hours to get started on spring cleaning and make your floors, countertops, walls, and other surfaces shine like new (and don’t forget to disinfect, too). Between spring cleaning and redecorating, reorganizing, and rearranging, you’ll easily keep busy, and you’ll do so productively, too.

5. Chat with friends

Just because you can’t see your friends in person doesn’t mean you can’t see them at all. A video call or even a regular old phone call with your friends is a great way to keep busy and kill time doing something you’d normally be doing in person. You’re far from the only person who can’t leave their apartment right now, so your friends are very likely to appreciate the call and the activity to keep them busy, too.

How do you keep busy when you can’t leave your apartment? Sound off in the comments!

Published at Mon, 20 Apr 2020 13:20:17 +0000

Categories
Apartment Living

Cities Where Your Stimulus Check Covers More of Your Rent

Cities Where Your Stimulus Check Covers More of Your Rent

Help is on the way.

Stimulus checks are popping up in checking accounts across the country. This means you could be getting a financial boost during this very uncertain time during the coronavirus pandemic to help reduce the burden of everyday living.

There are a lot of caveats in the CARES Act that spell out how much each person gets. In general, most individuals are eligible for a $1,200 payment, while married couples who filed their 2019 taxes jointly, will get $2,400. Children under 16 net you an extra $500 per child.

You can end up with a sizable amount of money to help make a dent in your monthly bills. If you’ve lost your job, it may be enough to cover expenses until unemployment kicks into gear. But how far stimulus checks will go is really dependent on where you live.

Covering rent with your stimulus check

Are you a party of one or two? The distance your stimulus check goes to help pay large expenses like rent is dependent on where you live and how much you’re getting. As a single person, you may have enough for one month, with a little left over.

As a couple, or if you’re in a living situation with roommates, you may stretch stimulus checks a little further. Applying the money to rent can help delay the need for rent assistance while giving you a bit of a financial break in covering your usual expenses.

One-bedroom apartments

Looking at the average rents in 100 of the most populated cities in the U.S., a single stimulus check will cover a month’s rent in about 38 of them. If you can add up to $100 of your own money, then that number goes up to 46 cities.

If you’re a married couple living in a one-bedroom apartment, there are 88 cities where your check would cover the rent for one, maybe two, months.

one bedroom heat map

  • The South takes the lead with the most cities that have an average monthly rent of less than $1,200. Tulsa, OK tops the list with an average one-bedroom costing only $688 a month. Other Southern cities in the top 10 include Lubbock and El Paso, TX, Greensboro, NC and Oklahoma City.
  • San Antonio, TX is the most populated city with an average monthly rent less than the standard stimulus check. It just makes the cut at $1,131. This is good news for the percentage of the 1.5 million residents who rent. All of which are patiently waiting for the Alamo, River Walk and authentic Mexican restaurants the city is known for, to reopen.
  • For couples sharing a one-bedroom, having double the stimulus checks to apply to rent opens up the ability to live somewhere a little more expensive. Cities like Phoenix, Dallas, New Orleans, Sacramento and Philadelphia all have average monthly rents coming in below $2,400, but above $1,200.

Curious to see where your city lands? This is where your stimulus check will go the furthest in paying rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the 100 most populated cities.

Two-bedroom apartments

If you happen to live alone in a two-bedroom, not to worry. There are 18 cities out of the 100 most populated in the U.S. that have average monthly rents less than $1,200. If there are two of you picking up the tab, that number jumps to 77 cities.

Number 77 is Atlanta, and at only $2,233 on average for rent, you still have enough left over to order delivery from your favorite restaurant.

2 bedroom heatmap

  • It’s the South and Midwest that offer the best average monthly rent for two-bedroom apartments. Wichita, KS ranks No. 1 with an average rent of only $827. With $2,400 in stimulus money, that’s almost three month’s rent, should you need it.
  • Houston is the largest city in the country where two people sharing a two-bedroom apartment can get a month’s worth of rent from their $2,400 in stimulus money. The average two-bedroom apartment there is about $1,650, so you’ll even have money left over.
  • Even a little break is better than nothing if you live in the most expensive U.S. cities. Los Angeles, New York, Boston and San Francisco residents can use their $2,400 stimulus checks to pay up to 44 percent of a month’s rent in a two-bedroom apartment.

A second bedroom opens up a lot of space but generally is more expensive. Here’s a look at how much rent relief you’ll get from stimulus checks in the 100 most populated cities.

Getting paid

If you received your previous tax refund through direct deposit, that’s most likely how you’ll get your stimulus check. It’s also the fastest method of delivery, and many people have already had their checks pop up in their accounts.

The alternative option is getting your check through the mail, but this takes longer. You can check on the status of stimulus checks on the IRS website.

Making the most of stimulus checks

However you decide to spend your stimulus check, putting it back into the economy in some way is what the money is all about. “The objective of a stimulus package is to reinvigorate the economy and prevent or reverse a recession by boosting employment and spending,” says Adam Hayes from Investopedia.

Whether that means you cover rent, pay your bills, treat yourself to an Amazon splurge or spend a little extra on groceries, putting that money out there helps everyone. Get out there and give the economy a little boost and yourself a break.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory from March 2019 to March 2020. We use a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.

Published at Fri, 24 Apr 2020 14:57:31 +0000

7 Coronavirus Elevator Safety Tips You Need to Follow

The ups and downs of elevator safety during coronavirus.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to roar across the United States and the world, getting the right information to stay safe in every situation can be overwhelming. Normally, having an elevator in your apartment building can feel like a luxury, but during a pandemic, it can quickly become an anxiety-inducing activity.

According to Johns Hopkins research, the coronavirus tends to last longer on frequently touched hard surfaces like elevator button panels vs. soft surfaces like your clothes. Apartment complexes across the U.S. have taken note of this, like Brookfield Management, and regularly clean highly-traffic areas to keep residents safe.

“Our third-party cleaning company cleans all of our common areas twice a week, and they have added the following: disinfecting all door knobs, disinfecting all stair rails, cleaning and disinfecting all basement doors and fully disinfecting all laundry rooms,” says Justin Becker, the owner of Brookfield Management.

Sure, you started taking the stairs more often to walk the dog and go outside, giving you some much-needed exercise. But if you proceed with caution and follow these seven coronavirus elevator safety steps, you can protect yourself (and your neighbors) as much as possible.

1. If you can, take the stairs

Being inside all day can get old — real fast. If you’re an able-bodied person, consider skipping the elevator altogether and taking those stairs. It will help stretch your legs after sitting at your desk all day, it engages multiple muscles in a low-cardio exercise and it improves balance.

Just keep an eye on your hands and don’t touch any doorknobs or handrails. If you can’t push your stair door with your body and must turn the doorknob, bring gloves or use a napkin to turn it. Don’t touch your face or mouth during this time. If there’s another neighbor taking the stairs, step to the side in between flights and wait for them to walk by. It’s important to keep as much distance as possible.

2. Strategize your timing

If you live on a high-rise or can’t take the stairs, that’s OK. You just need to take extra precautions when riding the elevator. If you need to take the dog out for a walk, throw away your trash or hit the mailroom, try to go early in the morning (think 7 a.m.) or late at night, if possible.

By avoiding the busiest times in the elevator, you have the ability to ride alone and not ride in a small space with other neighbors.

elevator

3. Wait your turn

Unfortunately, sometimes you have to ride the elevator during peak hours. That’s OK, too! But patience is key during these times. Leave your apartment with a 10- to 15-minute buffer if you can.

When the elevator doors open, and you see two or more riders, skip it. At most, you should only ride the elevator with one other person. Unfortunately, safe elevator ridership is up to individuals and being courteous to others.

If you’re riding alone or with another neighbor and someone new wants to take the elevator, feel free to exit and use the stairs instead. It’s up to you to stay safe and kindness goes a long way during these times.

4. Stand on one side of the elevator

Once inside the elevator, stand on one side. Elevators are not large spaces, but it’s important to stand as far away as possible from the other elevator rider. Since the coronavirus is transmitted through droplets from the mouth, refrain from talking while on the elevator.

If you have to cough for any reason, cover your face with your elbow and turn away from the other person.

5. Wear a mask

Depending on where you live, you may not have access to a proper mask or have the financial means to obtain one. However, you can outfit yourself with a DIY facemask or cover your face with a bandana.

While in the elevator and beyond, make sure you don’t touch your mask or readjust. Don’t remove your mask or face covering until you’re back in your apartment.

pressing button with cloth

6. Use a cloth to press buttons

Outfit yourself with gloves or bring a pen or handkerchief that you can wash later to touch the buttons. Use the handkerchief on the same side every time to prevent skin contact. Don’t touch any buttons or doors at any time with your hands. Bring hand sanitizer with you, as well.

7. Most importantly, wash your hands

Whether you’re going on a walk or simply headed to the mailroom, it’s important to avoid touching any surfaces with your bare hands. If you have gloves, use them. If you accidentally touched something, reach in your pocket and use your hand sanitizer immediately. In the end, nothing replaces washing your hands.

Once you return to your apartment, remove your gloves from the inside (here’s how to do it correctly) and throw them away. Remove your mask from the back (don’t touch the front of the mask) and set it with your laundry. Then wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap to kill the coronavirus.

Return to the packages, if any, that you placed by the door and disinfect their contents. Lastly, disinfect your apartment’s doorknobs that you touched when you came in and you’re done.

Stay socially distant and follow coronavirus elevator safety tips

In some buildings, taking the elevator right now is unavoidable. Follow these coronavirus elevator safety tips to protect yourself and your neighbors from coronavirus.

Published at Fri, 24 Apr 2020 12:00:12 +0000

Categories
Apartment Living

How to Find an Apartment During the Coronavirus Pandemic

How to Find an Apartment During the Coronavirus Pandemic

I had to find an apartment during the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s how I did it.

A coronavirus apartment hunt may sound like the last thing anyone would do right now, as the virus continues to spread and shelter in place rules have been extended.

The majority of states in the U.S. have told its residents to stay home and practice social distancing. As of this writing, there are about 750,000 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., with roughly 70,000 recoveries.

Undoubtedly, coronavirus is hitting us hard, so the thought of moving in the near future felt impossible and overwhelming. I emailed my landlord, who said it would be OK to extend the lease. But because I had plenty of time to be inside, I decided to slowly start looking.

So, I started emailing apartments in prime areas in Oakland and realized that almost everyone got back to me. Competition for popular areas has gone down, and newer developments began slashing rent prices or even offering a month or two for free.

After searching for a few weeks, this is what I learned about my coronavirus apartment hunt and how to navigate this tricky landscape.

Note: With shelter-in-place in most states, it’s best to stay inside. This post is not encouraging you to move. Extend your lease or go month-to-month if you can. If you’ve lost your job and can’t pay rent, there are eviction moratoriums, depending on your state.

1. Virtual tours are a thing now

Many apartment leasing offices and landlords are adjusting to social distancing and offering virtual tours. On our partner site Apartment Guide, you can go on a virtual tour with a leasing agent or take advantage of extensive video and 3D tours.

virtual tours on apartment guide

You can then contact the property via email or phone. (Soon you’ll also be able to submit your application through the site as well.) The property will request you fill out a lease application, send the application fee and submit pay stubs. They may also ask you for your credit score and run a background check, which may be included in the application fee.

Pro tip: This is a great time to negotiate, so if you notice anything in the video that concerns you, bring it up in the follow-up conversation. For example, in the apartment I am moving into, the door to the bathroom was sticky, so I asked them to either replace the door or have it fixed.

2. Potential tenants may get to enter the unit without meeting an agent

Perhaps signing a lease on an apartment “sight-unseen” makes you uncomfortable. That’s perfectly understandable. If you’re interested in an apartment, ask if the building can leave the door unlocked.

Many places I looked at left a phone number for me to call, so I could be buzzed into the building without someone having to meet me.

3. Ask for discounts

Normally, I would never even consider asking for a discount on rent, especially for units that are in a prime location with tons of competition. However, uncertain times may mean people are willing to be more flexible, so I started asking if there were any deals they could offer me. I asked for a $150 discount on rent, and I got it.

I was also able to negotiate a temporarily reduced price on rent for the first two months.

In addition to asking for discounts on rent, you could ask if the landlord has any wiggle room for the following:

  • Discount or deferment of the security deposit
  • Waive or defer the application fee or pet fees

4. Reiterate the fact that you’re a stable tenant

It’s a good time to be braggy. Landlords are probably feeling the strain of filling empty apartments and want to know they’re renting to the right person, not the only person.

Give them peace of mind by showing them your strong credit score, your steady income and zero prior evictions.

man moving during coronavirus

5. Stagger your schedule with movers

This part might be tricky, because many moving businesses may be temporarily shut down due to coronavirus. Start by asking the landlord or management office if they know of any movers who are still operating.

At the time of writing, TaskRabbit, an online service with individual helpers and movers, is still open, however, they’re adhering to the social-distancing mandate.

Pack your valuable items ahead of time and leave the big stuff for the movers.

It may be challenging, but on moving day, you could pack your car ahead of time and head over to your new place before the movers, so you’re staggering the schedule and potentially lessening physical interaction.

Making the decision to move or stay put

Moving to a new place is stressful enough — throw a worldwide pandemic into the mix and it just got that much more stressful.

If you’re not finding a lot of places offering virtual tours or keyless entries (without having to meet someone at the building), consider going month-to-month or asking your building or landlord if they can extend your lease.

Of course, the best-case scenario would be to stay put until the virus is better contained and shelter in place orders are lifted.

Remember to always stay six feet apart from others in public, wear a mask and wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds when you return home.

Published at Tue, 21 Apr 2020 12:05:14 +0000

25 Denver Facts That All Locals Know to Be True

It’s more than just the mountains, but there are a lot of them, too.

If you’ve ever signed a lease in Denver, you know what it’s like to plant roots in the Mile High City. You understand the city’s appreciation for quality craft beer, you spend all your free time outside, you care about recycling and you root for the Broncos.

Don’t try to argue with someone from Colorado about these Denver facts

1. Denver isn’t necessarily bohemian or grungy, but its people have certainly embraced an outdoorsy, yoga-in-the-park culture.

2. It’s big on its breweries. Each year, the city hosts several beer festivals, plus Beer Week: the largest beer competition in the nation.

3. If you plan to ski on the weekends, expect to sit in traffic for at least two hours —and that’s before you even try to park at a ski resort.

4. Locals love their parks, and it’s not uncommon to see any given park in Denver littered with locals (and their dogs and bikes) on a Saturday or Sunday.

5. Speaking of parks and beer, to initiate as a local you must have a picnic in the park (and that picnic must include some beer).

6. The Mile High City is known for its transplant-friendly attitude — mostly because most locals are transplants themselves.

7. Most of Denver is pretty sheened up with high rises (oh, and Denver has some of the highest rent costs in the country, by the way).

8. Denver and Salt Lake are both mountain cities, but Denver has a hipper, more robust nightlife and downtown than Salt Lake.

9. Denver is no cow town. Between art districts and crystal shops, any remnant of the cowboy vibe (other than bearded bros with banjos) is now long gone.

10. To date successfully in Denver, you need to be outdoorsy and like beer, or be great at pretending you are.

11. Most dating apps in Denver are 90 percent composed of dudes that wear cargo shorts and flip flops who also work at a tech company

12. Those in the 702 keep up on current events and are usually glued to local news apps (and are also passionate about saving planet Earth).

13. Denverites love their Mexican food, and if you head West of the city, you’ll get the best of the best.

14. Denver’s health food scene isn’t quite as dedicated as LA’s, but locals into running, hiking and biking definitely appreciate eating green and clean.

15. Colorado was one of the first states to legalize marijuana, and locals in Denver love their pot.

16. Denver’s population is primarily white working professionals in their 20s and 30s. It’s, uh, not the most diverse town.

17. The city isn’t sketchy. Denver has an especially low crime index for a city its size.

18. The mountains are to the West of Denver, and just about every local uses them to tell where they are at any given time. Instead of “Take a left at Main street,” it’s “head west once you hit Main Street.”

19. Denver’s public transit system is so-so, so if you want to really get around the city, you’ll need two sets of wheels.

20. Right next to drinking beer and taking your dog to a park, hitting up a farmer’s market is another favorite Denver pastime.

21. Denver has some of the most unpredictable weather in Colorado (Trust me on this one).

22. What Denver lacks in its food scene, it makes up for in its underground, grunge, you-heard-it-first-on-SoundCloud music scene.

23. It’s cool to ski or snowboard. Even if you fall on your butt, it’s worth it to post a cool Instagram and pretend to be a ski bum.

24. Between cliff divers and margaritas, it’s a tradition that every local goes to at least one birthday party at Casa Bonita.

25. It’s not uncommon to see drunk people cruising in the fast lane on Birds and Limes between brewery hops — so watch where you drive.

What’d we miss?

If you’re a Denver local, do you agree with our list? What did we miss? Let us know in the comments section below!

Published at Tue, 21 Apr 2020 12:00:39 +0000

Categories
Apartment Living

What to Do if You Can’t Afford Rent Payments Due to Coronavirus?

What to Do if You Can’t Afford Rent Payments Due to Coronavirus?

For the 36 percent of Americans that are renters, the virtual national business shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis is hitting hard.

With an estimated 10 to 20 million people out of work, innumerable citizens are or will soon be struggling to pay their rent on the first or 15th of the month.

Housing is the No. 1 monthly expense for most people. So, amid the spread of this novel coronavirus, rent payments may be difficult to come by.

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If you’re having trouble paying your rent — or fear you soon will be — you can follow these steps to meet your lease obligations.

Communicate with your landlord if you can’t pay your rent

For many, even the combination of unemployment compensation and government assistance isn’t enough to cover the rent along with other bills. The best plan is to discuss your situation with your landlord or property manager and come to an agreement together. And regardless of what you need or the solution you may be able to come to with them, the first step is to be honest, open and upfront with them.

“[No landlord] wants to just get a text or email saying times are tough and we need help. What is your runway on finances? When do you think you might need help if it’s not right away? Be as honest and open as you can, because this will help your landlord plan too,” Portland, OR, landlord Colin Cook told CNBC.

And your best course of action is to get ahead of the problem. Don’t wait until your rent is due to spring your need for help. Give your landlord or property manager as much notice as you can, which gives them more time to put a plan into place and also shows your willingness to follow any agreement and that you’re acting in good faith.

Of course, if possible, do all this by email or phone. Don’t make an unnecessary trip to the property manager’s office if you can avoid it, for your safety and theirs. Chances are, they are working remotely anyway.

signing lease

Ask if you can restructure your payments

The most feasible arrangement to offer your property manager is a reasonable payment plan. Present them directly with a plan based on your current needs and limitations.

  • Show your need by providing documentation or proof of the severity of your financial situation. The more you have the better, whether it’s a memo from your employer indicating the length of your layoff or a copy of your unemployment compensation application. Don’t be ashamed of needing help. Millions of Americans are in the same exact situation as you are right now.
  • Let your landlord or property manager know how much you can reasonably pay now and how much you’ll be able to pay over the next month or two. Unless you’re in dire straits, you should offer to pay at least some of your rent. If you offer something, they’re more likely to agree to your plan.
  • Give them a specific date when you’ll be paying back the remainder, along with full payment of that month. Stick to that date. If you can’t, discuss an extension with your landlord as early as you can.
  • Provide all of this in writing, signed and awaiting their countersignature. Make it as easy for them as possible.
  • Assure them that this is only temporary until the crisis is over and that you do not anticipate this happening again.

There’s a chance the landlord will request a late fee to be paid at the time of settlement. Feel free to ask that it be waived if you’re a good tenant who has previously always paid on time. Your landlord might also present a counteroffer.

Know before you go in exactly how much you can afford and be clear about your limits. And if they’re not open to rent restructuring, ask them what solutions they may be willing to offer. All apartment communities will be handling this situation in a slightly different way, so don’t assume that this your only option or demand that your property manager accommodate you.

Have empathy for your landlord

We might think of our landlords as giant corporations getting rich off of our rents. But the truth is, almost half of rental properties are individually owned, mom and pop landlords and people just like us investing in real estate.

They’re also under stress from the coronavirus crisis with property taxes, insurance and mortgages coming due, repairs and upkeep to make and property managers and maintenance staff salaries to pay, with rent their only source of income. Even large rental companies will feel the pinch as they have difficulty covering expenses, utilities and mortgages.

Most landlords want to help you in this time of need, but they aren’t immune to the economy themselves. Be kind, have empathy and be patient with your landlord or property manager. Absolutely avoid making demands because you are asking them for help.

And don’t take advantage of the situation. If you can afford your rent, keep paying it. That will only lead to them being able to assist other tenants and staff.

stressed person

What if your landlord can’t or won’t help?

If your landlord is not willing or not able to help restructure your payments or offer any rent relief, you do have some other options.

1. Apply for rental assistance

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website offers links to a number of helpful resources for rental assistance, such as state or local financial assistance programs.

As well, the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities may also be sources of rental support. You can also contact the United Way by dialing 2-1-1 to be connected to local organizations that may be able to help.

And if you or anyone in your household is a veteran, HUD and the U.S. Veterans Administration has programs that can help with rent.

2. Take out a loan

If you have solid credit and can prove that despite the current crisis you’re a trusted recipient, you can turn to your bank and apply for a short-term loan. Banks will take into account your financial history and may be willing to loan you enough money to take care of rent and expenses.

Do you own a small business? Then you can apply for a Small Business Administration Disaster Loan. These loans are not only available for you to help keep your business afloat or pay employees but to keep your home and bills paid, as well. And through the Paycheck Protection Program portion of the federal government’s stimulus package, additional types of businesses can qualify for small business loans.

3. Take advantage of the CARES Act

The CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed last month, is offering a cash payment to most every American. The majority of those individuals making under $75,000 (or $112,500 as head of household) will receive a stimulus check of $1,200, plus an additional $500 per household with a dependent (a bit less for those making up to $99,000 individually or $146,000 as head of household). These payments have already started appearing in some bank accounts.

And for Americans who have lost their job due to the coronavirus crisis, the CARES Act is also providing an additional $600 a week for those receiving unemployment compensation through their state during the shutdown, on top of their regular payment, for up to 39 weeks.

Some states are also offering even more assistance to their citizens who lease. For example, Delaware is providing a payment of up to $1,500 for renters who have lost their income. Be sure to check if your state or city is offering similar programs.

The federal and state governments are encouraging Americans to use this stimulus money to help pay bills, including rent.

What shouldn’t you do?

It’s understandable that desperate times call for desperate measures. And for many people, this may be their first time in this sort of situation. Even if you can’t figure out other options, don’t put yourself in a situation where you kick the can down the road that will only make things worse.

  • Don’t send your landlord a check you know will bounce. You won’t accomplish anything but angering your landlord and possibly setting yourself up for future eviction. And worse, you’ll still owe the money.
  • Don’t just ignore the problem in hopes that it will go away. No one knows how this crisis will play out and the last thing you want to do is have unpaid bills and no recourse for how to resolve them. Your rent isn’t going anywhere, even if you ignore it.
  • Avoid turning to payday lenders and car title loan companies to find quick cash. In the end, you’ll be paying much more in the long run and putting yourself at risk of damaging your credit.
  • We’ve mentioned this a few times already, but don’t demand that your landlord or property manager needs to help you. They do want to work with you, but they aren’t going to let you live rent-free.
  • Lastly, and hopefully it goes without saying, absolutely don’t skip out on your rent. If you need assistance, speak up sooner than later.

Are you going to be evicted if you can’t pay?

If you can’t pay your rent on time due to income loss related to the coronavirus shutdown, are you in danger of being evicted? Most likely, no.

The CARES Act includes a freeze on evictions of tenants for non-payment in buildings financed by federally-backed mortgages (like those subsidized by Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and HUD). However, this protection only applies to about a quarter of all renters, with the rest funded by banks and private lenders.

For those not covered in the stimulus, most states and a number of individual municipalities have issued their own stays of eviction, many in place between one and three months. Keep in mind, a few locales do require some type of proof you have suffered a loss of income due to the shutdown.

But just because your city or state has passed a moratorium on eviction doesn’t mean all landlords are aware of the new rules. If your landlord does attempt an eviction and you believe you’re protected, check with the local sheriff, who in most cities is the one that carries out evictions and knows the temporary restrictions.

Eventually, you have to pay

Be aware: Just because you’re a beneficiary of an eviction moratorium, doesn’t mean you never have to pay. These provisions are deferments, not cancellations. Just because you can’t be evicted now, doesn’t mean you can’t after the crisis has ended. If you didn’t pay knowing you couldn’t be evicted, plan to pay back any months you didn’t pay once the situation has normalized.

“A moratorium isn’t a pass to skip paying rent. It means that your landlord cannot sue you for nonpayment or pursue the eviction process while the moratorium is in place,” debt resolution attorney and author Leslie Tayne told The Huffington Post.

However, there are a number of housing rights groups advocating a movement to end rental obligations during the crisis, most notably under the #CancelRent banner. The effort is requesting the federal government subsidize property owners so rent can be exempted. While unlikely, renters should keep an eye on the story.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional financial or legal advice as they may deem it necessary.

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Published at Fri, 17 Apr 2020 14:07:58 +0000

What To Do if You Run Out of Toilet Paper?

Don’t wait until you’re running low to consider toilet paper alternatives. Shoppers hoarding toilet paper during the coronavirus pandemic have forced us all to examine our bathroom habits. Suddenly, a private matter has become a very public conversation.

While there really aren’t any true toilet paper alternatives (that can be safely flushed, anyway), there are other options. With a little planning, conservation and creative thinking, you can handle toilet paper shortages with confidence, minimize shopping trips and help keep your apartment community safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Shop smart and plan ahead

Stock up the best you can. Add toilet paper to your grocery pick-up or delivery order and look for it every single time you shop. Be reasonable about what you purchase, or you become part of the panic buying problem. You just need enough to get you through two weeks, the amount of time you’ll need to self-isolate if you become ill.

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If toilet paper is missing on the shelves, try ordering it and other staples online. You can also call ahead to check availability at local stores to minimize the amount of time you spend in the building.

In a pinch, you can grab toilet paper alternatives like tissues, paper towels or wipes. These aren’t flushable, no matter what the packages say (more on that later), but they’ll get you through until your next shopping trip.

toilet paper

Conserve what you have

Save toilet paper for using the toilet only. If you’re in the habit of reaching for the roll to wipe your nose, dab at shaving nicks or clean up small spills, now is the time to switch to more appropriate materials, like tissues, napkins or paper towels.

Since these paper products are also in high demand, try using dishrags or towels for spills or a handkerchief for runny noses instead. Just make sure you’re washing them often.

Once you actually need to use the toilet, consider if you really need to use as much toilet paper as you normally would. When supplies are plentiful, it’s easy to mindlessly use a lot of toilet paper. Kids are the most common culprits, gleefully grabbing handfuls at a time, but adults can be surprisingly wasteful, too. So, monitor your own habits during times of scarcity.

Toilet paper alternatives

OK, so you’ve shopped smart and conserved toilet paper and you still ran out. Now what?

First of all, don’t panic. Toilet paper was only invented in 1857, so people have been making do without it for centuries.

Reach for the toilet paper alternatives you’ve already purchased. The most logical and readily available options are tissues, napkins, paper towels, personal cleansing wipes and baby wipes.

Anything other than toilet paper should be discarded in a small wastepaper basket lined with a plastic bag. A scented bag or the addition of a dryer sheet or air freshener will mask odors if you’re squeamish. Take the garbage out more often, just to keep things smelling fresh.

This solution seems strange to many Americans, but a wastepaper basket is common in Europe, where historic buildings and aging pipes mean any toilet paper at all is a strain to the system. If you can handle it on vacation, you can manage during your unexpected staycation.

You can also upgrade your toilet with another European solution — the bidet. A bidet gently rinses the area in question with water, reducing or eliminating the need for toilet paper altogether. Hand-held bidets are an affordable solution for apartment dwellers.

plumber

The consequences of flushing

It can be tempting to flush tissues, paper towels and wipes. But even though they feel like toilet paper, they don’t break down like toilet paper, explains Tom Bigley, Director of Plumbing Services for United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters. And that creates big problems when they enter the pipes.

“Anything other than toilet paper is going to be a problem because when they design the toilets, they base the engineering on how much water is needed to flush biodegradable paper and solids,” says Bigley. “If it’s not biodegradable, it’s going to leave it behind. It won’t transport the sewage to the sewer effectively. The water goes by and leaves the solids behind, so what happens is we start having stoppages.”

A flood of waste and water in your apartment isn’t ideal under any circumstances. But it’s even worse when you’re sheltering in place. Plus, you might have to wait longer than usual, because plumbers are in high demand.

“They’re getting more (calls) than normal because people are flushing things down. What I’ve been hearing is that people have been using baby wipes, Kleenex, paper towels.” – Tom Bigley, Director of Plumbing Services for United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters

Personal cleansing wipes often say that they’re flushable on the package. But Bigley says they don’t break down properly and are responsible for many stoppages. That stoppage might not just affect your apartment — it can affect your neighbors, too.

“Let’s use the scenario of a six-story building with, let’s say, 12 units,” says Bigley. “If somebody on the sixth floor is flushing something down that they shouldn’t be, it’s going to have consequences for everyone in the building. The stoppage is going to back up into the first floor. You’re not going to be able to use your water until it’s repaired.”

Plan, conserve and deal with toilet paper alternatives

Since many of your neighbors are working from home and most people are spending more time indoors, this is definitely not the time to flood their apartments and inconvenience the whole building.

A little planning, conservation and toilet paper alternatives will help you navigate a toilet paper shortage until the shelves are fully stocked again.

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Published at Thu, 16 Apr 2020 20:12:23 +0000