Apartment Living

Four Ways to Introduce Yourself to New Neighbors

Four Ways to Introduce Yourself to New Neighbors

Living alone in your own apartment is nice, but chances are that you’re never 100 percent alone. If you step out into the hallway, you might see your neighbors, and in many apartments, you’ll sometimes hear your neighbors moving around or listening to music in their apartments. It can feel slightly uncomfortable to know your neighbors are around without actually knowing them, and if you find yourself dealing with an unruly neighbor, you might have an easier time approaching the situation if you already know the person. Here are four ways to introduce yourself to new neighbors, whether it’s you or your neighbors who are new to your building.

1. A simple knock

You don’t necessarily have to get creative and step far outside the box to introduce yourself to new neighbors. A simple gesture of friendliness often does the trick. To that end, just head over to your neighbor’s apartment and give their door a gentle knock – a hard, fast knock might sound intimidating. Once your neighbor opens their door, just introduce yourself, then say you live in the apartment and just wanted to say hi.

If your neighbor is new to the building, they’ll likely appreciate that you’ve gone out of your way to say hi. If you’re new to the building, then you have an additional excuse for making an introduction: Apologize for any inconvenience that your move-in – movers constantly going up and down the stairs, your possessions lining the hallway as you get them from your moving vehicle to your building – has caused. Not only will this give you a natural conversation starter with which to introduce yourself to new neighbors, but it will show that you’re courteous and considerate.

2. A knock plus a gesture

It’s one thing to show up to your neighbor’s apartment just to say hi. It’s another to arrive with something they can remember you by. Purchase a tray of cupcakes, cookies, or other baked goods (or better yet, make them yourself) and give one to each of your neighbors. This way, nobody can accuse you of playing favorites as you delight everybody in equal measure. Keep in mind that baking a whole cake for each neighbor or one for just one neighbor can be seen as, respectively, an overstep or a slight.

3. Have a housewarming party

If you’re an outgoing person, you were likely already planning to have a housewarming party. Of course you’re going to invite your friends, but what about including your neighbors? Inviting your neighbors to your housewarming party allows you to get to know each other in a low-key, fun environment with drinks, snacks, and other bonuses you might not have with just a simple door knock. And it’s a way to introduce yourself to new neighbors without adding another activity to your daily list of tasks.

4. Find common interests

Although it’s noble to want to introduce yourself to new neighbors, you’re not guaranteed to click with every one of them. You also might be worried that knocking on everybody’s door will feel mentally exhausting. A middle ground is to see if you can find common interests with your neighbors. If you have a dog and you notice your neighbor does too, mention that. If you realize you’re shopping at the same boutique grocery store miles away, talk about how the distance is worth the products. If you bike everywhere and someone else in your building does too, chat about that. With common interests, you don’t need a party or baked goods to forge meaningful relationships – being genuine is key.

How do you go about introducing yourself to new neighbors? Share your experiences in the comments!

Published at Wed, 26 Feb 2020 14:26:12 +0000

Curtains, Blinds, or Shades: Which Is Right for You?

When it comes to covering your windows, your options might seem limitless, if not confusing and a bit overwhelming. Why would you opt for blinds when curtains seem so much easier to install? Is it worthwhile to install shades if you’re worried that curtains will far too far below the window frame? Below, learn about the differences among curtains, blinds, and shades to see which is right for you.


Curtains are pairs of fabric panels (it’s rare to see individual curtains sold instead of pairs) that come in all manner of colors, sizes, materials, and patterns. They may come with metal rings, pockets, or hooks that enable you to connect them to curtain rods for hanging. The metal ring option can be especially easy to install – if you find a tension rod wide enough for your windows and narrow enough to fit through your curtain rings while stably holding the curtain, setup should take just a few minutes and no extra tools. 

Additionally, some curtains are known as drapes. Like curtains, drapes are usually sold in pairs and always hang from a rod. However, drapes are lined with additional fabric that often gives them additional light-blocking capabilities. And whereas only some curtains touch your floors, drapes almost certainly “puddle” at floor level. Generally, drapes appear more formal and luxurious than curtains, which can often be simple, basic sheets of fabric that accommodate rod hanging.

Given their ease of setup and versatility of appearance, curtains might be best for you if you’re looking for a quick way to cover your window while matching your apartment’s aesthetic. However, curtains tend not to block all incoming light (though blackout curtains can help to address this problem), so if you’re really looking to keep your room dark for uninterrupted sleep, you might want to consider shades, too.


When you purchase curtains or drapes to cover your window, you buy fabrics that extend past your window. Shades, however, stay within your window frame. And the name shades gives away a major feature of these window coverings: They’re designed to block as much sunlight as possible.

Shades, like curtains, hang from a rod, though they tend to come with their own thin rod for hanging (whereas, with curtains, you’ll likely need to buy the rod and, if applicable, rod holders separately). You’ll need to use a cord, roller, or another cable-like mechanism to raise the shades and let light in. They can be slightly difficult to hang, so they might be best used in conjunction with curtains rather than standalone if you’re trying to block as much light as possible.


Blinds resemble shades in one way: You can raise or lower them using a cord-like mechanism. Where they differ is in their composition. Shades are single sheets of fabric, whereas blinds are distinct rows of solid material stacked together. Since there are gaps between these solid rows, you can rotate the rows to allow more or less light to enter your apartment. This light-filtering function allows you to change your apartment’s lighting levels without sacrificing the decorative qualities that your blinds bring to the room.

That said, blinds can actively detract from your apartment’s decorative setup if you’re not careful. Although blinds have become popular due to their affordability, they can easily be damaged and discolored, thereby becoming a blight on your apartment. If you’re serious about making sure that your window treatments add to your apartment’s decor scheme, opt for woven or wood blinds – or just go for shades (which are somewhat more expensive, but require similar hanging processes to blinds).

Which do you think is right for you: curtains, blinds, or shades? Share your opinion in the comments!

Published at Mon, 24 Feb 2020 14:24:55 +0000

Apartment Living

The Best Museums in Washington D.C.

The Best Museums in Washington D.C.

Ready to get your learn on?

Washington, D.C., is home to dozens of world-class museums featuring interactive exhibits ranging from an authentic Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton to a historic slave cabin to a complete collection of presidential portraits.

Here’s a guide to the best museums in Washington, D.C. Note that while admission is free to the Smithsonian and other publicly funded institutions, a few of the top attractions are privately owned and charge admission fees.

International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum

Editorial credit: Erik Cox Photography /
  • Address: 700 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, D.C. 20024
  • Admission: $22.95 for adults, $14.95 for kids (Children under 6 are free)

The privately-funded, nonprofit museum opened its new location in Southwest Washington, D.C., in May, 2019 and features interactive exhibits and the world’s largest public display of authentic spy tools and gadgets.

Exhibits highlight both U.S. intelligence work, as well as the operations and history of espionage agencies around the world, including those in the Middle East, China and Russia. The rooftop provides some of the best panoramic views of Washington, D.C.

Museum of the Bible

Museum of the Bible

Photo courtesy of Museum of the Bible
  • Address: 300 D St. SW, Washington, D.C. 20024
  • Admission: $19.99 for adults, $9.99 for kids (Children under 6 are free)

This gorgeous contemporary 430,000-square-foot, eight-story museum invites people of all faiths to engage with the Bible through high-tech exhibits and interactive experiences.

The museum was privately financed by Steve and Jackie Green, owners of the arts and crafts store chain Hobby Lobby to house their personal collection of more than 40,000 rare biblical texts and artifacts.

There’s also a state-of-the-art lecture hall, a performing arts theater, a children’s area, restaurants and a rooftop garden with panoramic views of Washington, D.C.

National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum

  • Address: 600 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C. 20560
  • Admission: Free

The Smithsonian’s most popular museum maintains the world’s largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft at two facilities. The flagship building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., houses many of the icons of flight, including the original 1903 Wright Flyer, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, John Glenn’s Friendship 7 spacecraft and the Hubble Space Telescope.

The museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, VA, houses many more artifacts in an open, hangar-like setting, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde and the sole-surviving Boeing 307 Stratoliner. Both museums feature IMAX films and special programs for all ages.

National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art

  • Address: Constitution Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20565
  • Admission: Free

The world-class art museum displays one of the largest collections of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture and decorative arts from the 13th century to the present. Its exhibits span two buildings and include an extensive survey of works of American, British, Italian, Flemish, Spanish, Dutch, French and German art.

The museum’s six-acre sculpture garden is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the ambiance of the National Mall. During the summer on Friday evenings, jazz musicians entertain a crowd by the reflecting pool. In winter, the fountain is converted to an ice rink for outdoor skating.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Editorial credit: Lewis Tse Pui Lung /
  • Address: 1400 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20560
  • Admission: Free (Advance tickets may be required)

The newest of the Smithsonian museums, this popular attraction features a variety of exhibits and educational programs on topics such as slavery, post-Civil War reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights movement.

Favorite artifacts include the Harriet Tubman hymn book, a Jim Crow railroad car, Rosa Park’s dress, a slave cabin from the early 1800s, Muhammad Ali’s headgear and more.

National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History

Photo courtesy of the National Museum of American History
  • Address: 1300 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20560
  • Admission: Free

With more than 3 million artifacts of American history and culture, the museum covers the nation’s history from the War of Independence to the present day. Favorite exhibits include the Star-Spangled Banner, America on the Move, the First Ladies and Many Voices, One Nation.

Object Project, Wegmans Wonderplace and the Sparks Lab provide hands-on activities that inspire kids.

National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian

  • Address: Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C. 20560
  • Admission: Free

The Smithsonian museum showcases Native American objects from ancient pre-Columbian civilizations through the 21st century. Multimedia presentations, live performances and hands-on demonstrations bring Native American culture and history to life.

Dining at the Mitsitam Native Foods Café is highly recommended. The cafe offers indigenous cuisines that change quarterly representing each of the five geographic regions covering the entire Western Hemisphere.

National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural History

  • Address: 10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20560
  • Admission: Free

This family favorite Smithsonian museum maintains of some 145 million natural history specimens and human artifacts. Visitors can get a closeup glimpse of a life-size model of a blue whale, the 45-carat Hope Diamond, live insects and butterflies and more than 274 specimens of mammals. The new dinosaur hall features a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton alongside more than 700 specimens.

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

Editorial credit: Matt Smith Photographer /
  • Address: 8th St NW & F St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001
  • Admission: Free

The National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum are housed together in a historic landmark building in the Penn Quarter neighborhood. The exhibits tell the story of America through the visual arts and represent one of the most inclusive collections of American art of any museum today. America’s Presidents is the nation’s only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House.

The Phillips Collection

The Phillips Collection

Editorial credit: Orhan Cam /

  • Address: 1600 21st St NW, Washington, D.C. 20009
  • Admission: Free for permanent collection, $12 for adults for ticketed exhibitions

The Phillips Collection presents one of the world’s most distinguished Impressionist and American Modern art collections in an intimate setting in D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood.

Art lovers enjoy paintings by renowned international artists, including Renoir and Rothko, Bonnard and O’Keeffe, van Gogh, Diebenkorn, Daumier and Lawrence, as well as contemporary artists such as Wolfgang Laib, Whitfield Lovell, Zilia Sánchez and Leo Villareal. The Phillips’s is a private museum, supported primarily by donations.

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

  • Address: 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl. SW, Washington, D.C. 20024
  • Admission: Free (Timed tickets required between March and August)

This museum tells the story of the Holocaust and is a memorial to the millions who died during the Nazi regime in Germany during World War II. The permanent exhibition presents a narrative history of the murder of 6 million European Jews By Nazi Germany from 1933 through 1945.

The exhibit uses graphic images showing film footage and eyewitness testimonies of Nazi concentration camp survivors. The museum is recommended for visitors 11 years and older.

Published at Mon, 24 Feb 2020 13:02:37 +0000

3 Things to Know About a Notice to Vacate

It’s time to move on.

A notice to vacate is given when a tenant is planning on moving out or if the landlord needs the tenant to move out of a rental property. It’s a written form that specifies the date by which the tenant will be moved out.

1. A notice to vacate can be written by the landlord or the tenant

If a landlord needs a tenant to move out, they may write a notice to vacate to give the tenant a final move-out date. On the other hand, if a tenant is planning to move out, they may write a notice to vacate to the landlord, letting them know the date when the rental property will be empty.

2. A notice to vacate is sometimes known as an “eviction notice”

When a landlord gives the notice to vacate, it’s the same thing as giving an eviction notice. It tells the tenant when they need to be out of the rental property, why they’re receiving an eviction notice and what they need to do before moving out.

3. A notice to vacate should be given at least 30 days in advance.

Whether the landlord or the tenant is giving the notice to vacate, it should be given at least 30 days in advance. Some states have laws that require more time — even 45 or 60 days. So, make sure you check out your state’s laws to find out the legal time period for a notice to vacate.

notice to vacate

The more notice, the better

No matter who is giving the notice to vacate, if you can give more time, it’ll be better for both parties. It will make it easier for the landlord to find a new tenant or for the tenant to find a new place to live.

Additional resources

Published at Mon, 24 Feb 2020 13:00:17 +0000

Apartment Living

26 Baltimore Facts All Locals Know to Be True

26 Baltimore Facts All Locals Know to Be True

You know that Star Spangled Banner? You’re welcome.

When people imagine Baltimore, they think of the harbor and the aquarium. However, the city has so much more to offer. In fact, there are certain things only real Baltimoreans know to be true.

If you’re a true resident, you’ll know about these Baltimore facts.

1. Everyone loves the Ravens, whether it’s the local football team or another raven, since the city is where Edgar Allan Poe died under mysterious circumstances.

2. Who needs salt and pepper? In Baltimore, the only seasoning you need is Old Bay, which can go on anything you eat.

3. You can’t miss Artscape, America’s largest free arts festival, attracting more than 350,000 attendees each year.

4. Baltimore is beautiful year-round. However, locals will argue the city is at its peak in autumn, when the leaves are changing colors.

5. You must order the works, unless you’re at the city’s infamous Polish sausage restaurant, in which case it’s “da works.” Otherwise, you’re missing out.

6. Everybody eats blue crab, and you can order it practically anywhere. Get your bib and mallet ready.

7. You can pretend you’re in “Hairspray” by walking around some of the filming locations from the 1988 movie, such as the corner of East Fairmount Avenue, where the Turnblads lived.

8. You can’t escape Captain Chesapeake. It’s also not uncommon to hear people talking about Mondy and Neptuna, characters from an iconic public access children’s show.

9. HONfest is the best time of year. Held each summer in Hampden, this festival celebrates working women, live artists and amazing hairdos.

10. Everyone is “hon,” no matter your age or gender.

11. If you want to see some of the city’s best sights with your friends — Walters Art Museum, Oriole Park, the Fort McHenry National Monument — the best option is the Metropolitan Shuttle.

12. It’s appropriate to shout “O!” during the National Anthem at baseball games.

13. Natty Boh is the one true beer.

14. Old-school movies reign supreme, especially at Bengies Drive-In, a blast from the past entering its 60th season.

15. It’s not pronounced “Baltimore.” The correct way to say the city’s name is “Bawlmer,” as it’s essential to drop the T.

16. Who needs white and lace linens? In Baltimore, where blue crab is the perfect meal, all you need is brown paper or old newspaper.

17. You don’t want to miss the Kinetic Sculpture Race, an event where people create works of art that can travel by land or water.

18. You shouldn’t go in the woods because “The Blair Witch Project” was filmed in Maryland. It’s still too soon.

19. Getting dressed up for the Preakness sounds like a great idea until you remember how hot and humid the city can get in May.

20. The Poe Toaster is a true mystery. Each year for 50 years, an unknown masked man would leave three roses and a bottle of cognac on Edgar Allan Poe’s grave. Will we ever find out who the mystery man was?

21. You must have a friend with a boat. Waiting for water taxis is worse than waiting for Uber.

22. The best pizza is square, and it preferably comes from Ledo Pizza.

23. You initially loathed the 51-foot male/female statue outside of Penn Station, but now you love it.

24. Sunday farmers markets are key. You haven’t lived until you hit up the market under the Jones Fall Expressway and quickly hop in the breakfast line for Blacksauce Kitchen.

25. You’ve likely gotten caught by a speed camera before. Now, you know the exact position of every trap.

26. Maryland has the best state flag. Just look at it! How can you not appreciate the symbol celebrating the first Lords Baltimore who founded the state?

You know you’re from Baltimore when…

If you’re a Baltimorean, you’re proud of your city and its quirks. From tasty Old Bay to a love for the Ravens, locals have a lot to celebrate.

Published at Tue, 18 Feb 2020 14:39:33 +0000

The Best Ways to Survive with Only One Closet

Is it better to live in an apartment the size of a closet or not have any closets at all?

Some of the most charming rentals in expensive markets like San Francisco and New York City were built at the turn of the century, which means they may come with only one closet (if you’re lucky) or none at all.

If your new place doesn’t have a closet, would that be a dealbreaker? There are ways to survive with only one closet or none at all — you just have to get creative with where you store your stuff. Here are the best ways to survive with only one closet (or none at all).

1. Get rid of unnecessary items

One in 11 Americans pays an average of $91.14 per month to use self-storage, which is a $38 billion industry. Save money and forget putting your unwanted stuff in storage — it’s time to declutter.

Infographic with some facts about decluttering and cleaning

Source: OfferUp

Thanks to the likes of Marie Kondo, the minimalist movement and reality TV shows that help families get rid of their junk, decluttering has become a cultural phenomenon. A 2019 Spring Cleaning Report from OfferUp revealed that 37 percent of Americans dedicate an entire day to clean and declutter and 61 percent do it to de-stress.

The general rule of thumb is if you haven’t used it or worn it in a year, get rid of it.

Here are some quick tips to help you quickly purge and free yourself of unwanted stuff.

  • Start with the bedrooms. Go through your bedroom closet and drawers and make two piles. One for donation and the other to sell online or at a consignment store. If you don’t have a consignment store nearby, consider ones that are online, such as thredup or Poshmark.
  • Then, go into the kitchen and make piles of unwanted kitchen supplies that can be donated or sold
  • Repeat in each room (attic, other closets, basement or garage)
  • Take advantage of apps and services, such as letgo, OfferUp, Craigslist or Decluttr

Freeing yourself from unwanted clothing, shoes, accessories and unused kitchen appliances can help you narrow down what you want to store in your only closet. Plus, you can probably make a few bucks along the way.

2. Create a capsule wardrobe

In keeping aligned with the purging theme, consider putting together a capsule wardrobe. This is a collection of 30 or so essential items that are classic pieces and won’t go out of fashion.

A capsule wardrobe will force you to focus on paring down your closet to just the basics, such as slacks, skirts, button-down shirts, trousers, coats, a few pairs of shoes and accessories. Even if you have no interest in creating a capsule wardrobe, you can still simplify your closet by starting with items you no longer wear or don’t fit you anymore.

Then, remove and store clothing that isn’t in season. For example, if it’s summer but you have fall and winter sweaters and jackets hanging in your closet, store those away in plastic storage bins and slide them under your bed.

Hopefully, you should have some extra space by now since you got rid of some items.

3. Maximize all vertical space

DIY shelves in an underutilized nook

Source: Hometalk (Pinterest)

A good way to create space is by building up. You can create more storage space by adding shelving towards the top of the closet. Use the shelves to store seasonal items that you may not need on a daily basis.

DIY closet in an unused part of a room

Source: (Pinterest)

If you don’t have any closets, hang a rack from your ceiling or frame a window with shelves and racks. Piping also makes a great place to hang clothing, like this example from Pinterest.

Take advantage of handyman services on Yelp or TaskRabbit if you don’t feel confident hanging shelves.

4. Utilize all nooks

Take advantage of oddly positioned or unused spaces around doors or corners. Get creative, like our friends on Pinterest.

You can hang a couple of floating shelves or hooks, depending on the size of the space.

5. Buy furniture with built-in storage

Getting furniture with storage can be a godsend. There are ottomans, couches and beds that come with drawers and storage. Use it to store your winter/summer clothing, blankets, towels, tablecloths and other bedding.

6. Purchase an external closet

Of course, there are plenty of options for useful standalone clothing racks and wardrobes, like this one from Urban Outfitters.

Freestanding clothing rack

If you’re OK with seeing your exposed clothes on a rack and have space for it, you can easily find one from Bed Bath & Beyond, The Container Store or IKEA.

You may even be able to find an inexpensive used one on letgo, Craigslist or OfferUp.

Plan and research beforehand

Having little to no closet space isn’t ideal, but with a little decluttering and planning, you’ll be able to store your stuff without making it look cluttered. Use Pinterest for ingenious ideas and create a DIY hanging rack, hang some shelves or upgrade to a simple standing rack.

Published at Tue, 18 Feb 2020 14:34:33 +0000

Apartment Living

25 Houston Facts That All Locals Know to Be True

25 Houston Facts That All Locals Know to Be True

No, the nickname H-Town doesn’t stand for humidity but believe us when we say that the Texas metropolis of Houston is far more than the sum of its weather forecast.

Located not far from the coast, Houston owes its prominence as the fourth-largest metro area in the country to founders who thought very big from the very beginning. Today, Houston’s status as home to big oil, big space and even bigger plates of brisket make it both a delicious and prosperous (if sweaty) place to live.

Only Houston natives know these facts to be true

1. Literally everyone feels at home in Houston, the most ethnically diverse area in the entire country. No matter what language you speak, it’s bound to be one of the more than 145 spoken here.

2. Don’t think of Houston as being particularly hip? Beyonce (that’s Queen Bey to you) grew up in the city’s 3rd Ward. Enough said.

3. While we’re on the subject, they’re not neighborhoods, they’re wards.

4. Get the hair product ready. Houston’s average annual humidity level runs around 75 percent, with September as the most hair-offensive month of the year. In fact, do yourself a favor and just go ahead and resign yourself to a messy bun that month.

5. But your skin will be dewy and soft year-round thanks to said humidity, so there’s that.

6. We still love NASA, even if Houston was originally second choice to Tampa to be the center for manned space flights.

7. Houston, by any other name, is still Houston. That said, it has an epic array of nicknames, including Bayou City, H-Town, Clutch City and Space City.

8. Our hospital is better than yours, and the whole world knows it. Texas Medical Center is the largest anywhere, with more than 10 million visits every year by patients from all over.

9. Houstonians can avoid the heat, enjoy a snack and get some exercise by way of the city’s intricate network of underground pedestrian tunnels. Originally created to connect two movie theaters, they now feature all kinds of shops, restaurants, newsstands and other vendors running 95 city blocks.

10. Houston is shockingly artsy. A lot of big-money oil tycoons settled in Houston back in the day, leading to lots of investment in the local arts scene.

11. That said, Houstonians haven’t lost sight of their roots. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a three-week-long extravaganza of everything that makes Texas what it is. Where else can a person enjoy mutton bustin’, an event where young kids (wearing helmets, of course) get a taste of what bull riding must be like, except on the backs of comparatively harmless sheep?

12. The Astrodome was once glorious. Now, it’s wasted space. Someone needs to make up their mind about what to do with it, already.

13. Spring is where it’s at in Houston, thanks to the profusely blooming azaleas and mild 70-degree temperatures.

14. Sure, the Astros cause us occasional grief and massive, widespread controversy, but we still love them.

15. The Big Bubble isn’t the weirdest thing in Houston, but sometimes it feels that way.

16. You definitely want to be in the Loop (Interstate 610).

17. Unless you want to pay less, have more property, and don’t mind suffering through a daily commute. In that case, out of the Loop is just fine and dandy, too.

18. All hail fried chicken from Frenchy’s!

19. Houston is a no-zoning law zone, and locals mostly deal with it just fine. The only city in the country to function this way, Houston relies instead on other building code measures and regulations to keep the area from going totally buck-wild.

20. Sam Houston didn’t mess around, and we love him for it. Houston earned his namesake designation by helping win independence from Mexico and various other super-courageous acts.

21. Hong Kong Food Market is the place for adventurous foodies.

22. The highways have about 24 different nicknames each. OK, maybe not that many, but enough to be extremely confusing to outsiders.

23. If a quarter-million Mexican free-tailed bats in flight is not your idea of a good time, steer clear of the Montrose Waugh Drive Bridge between Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway around sunset every day. The rest of us will be laid out on a picnic blanket with a bottle of wine and some crackers to enjoy the free, natural show.

24. Air-conditioning is a necessity, not an option.

25. Houstonians might get knocked down by the occasional devastating natural disaster, but they always get back up. If nothing else, Texans know how to fight.

Beef with our list?

What’d we forget? Let us know in the comments!

Published at Thu, 13 Feb 2020 13:10:07 +0000

6 Apartment Renovations You’re Not Allowed to Make

One of the best parts of getting a new apartment is the process of making it your own. When you rent, you don’t own the place, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it feel like home.

However, there are limits to the apartment renovations that are actually allowed — and none are worth getting evicted over. That’s why you should be informed about your rights before doing anything.

We’ve covered the topic of renovations in apartments plenty of times here, so this time we’ll be covering renovations you’re not allowed to make. Read on to learn more about common apartment renovations that are not permitted.

1. Structural changes

One common lease provision you’ll find in many rentals is one that prohibits any structural changes to the unit. Most apartments are located within a larger apartment community and have the same floor-plan as a number of other units in the community, which is why altering that floor-plan is not allowed.

If you were thinking of taking down or adding any walls, replacing windows or changing your ceiling texture, you’ll definitely want to check with your property manager first.

knocking down wall

2. Changes to the outside appearance of your apartment

Some of the renovations that fall into this category may seem like they’re minimal, and that there’d be no problem. However, you may not have considered the idea that most apartment communities want to keep a uniform appearance. This is the reason that most communities will restrict changes to the outside appearance of your apartment.

Common apartment renovations that would change the look of your building from the outside include:

  • Adding retractable awnings
  • Hanging lights on a patio/balcony
  • Affixing a flagpole to an outside wall

3. Removing carpet

This rule is not nationwide and is likely rare in rural apartments. However, in many urban apartments, especially in New York City, property owners will require that a certain percentage of hard floors be covered by carpet to reduce noise in the building.

In NYC, the percentage is most commonly 80 percent, however, this clause could crop up in any lease agreement with any percentage requirement. If you’re thinking about removing the carpet in your apartment, you should be sure to check for one of these clauses first.

removing carpet

4. Electrical upgrades

You might be interested in upgrading some of the electrical components in your apartment, especially as the presence of smart-home technology increases in popularity. Most apartments do not allow DIY electrical work, and for good reason.

For one, you’re risking serious harm when you take on a project beyond your experience level. Beyond that, insurance typically won’t cover damage caused by apartment renovations done improperly.

The danger is somewhat beside the point, however, since the majority of landlords prohibit DIY electrical upgrades. However tempted you might be to upgrade your thermostat or light switches or install your own home security system, you need to leave the obligation to your landlord. Breaking the terms of your lease and doing any banned renovation could get you evicted from your home.

5. Replacing countertops

Apartments are notoriously outfitted with drab countertops and please-all fixtures. But if your dream apartment has luxury features like a stone or stainless steel countertop, you’ll need to rent it that way.

Property managers will likely not allow you to replace the countertops in your apartment and in many cases, will not even allow you to have them professionally replaced. If you’re looking at apartment renovations for your kitchen, you’ll need to consider other DIY options.

new countertops

6. Removing popcorn ceiling

Popcorn ceilings are also a notorious feature of many apartments — especially those built between 1930-1990. Some people on the internet will tell you that it’s easy to remove them yourself. However, the truth is, removing a popcorn ceiling is a messy job — one that should definitely be handled by a professional.

Not only is it difficult to achieve good results on the work itself, but the post-project cleanup is also actually harder. That’s why you should never take on this apartment renovation. Trust us, the property owner would not be happy.

However, you could likely negotiate to have this service done professionally in your apartment, though it may come with a rent increase. Professionals charge, on average, between $1-$2 per square foot to remove the popcorn ceiling.

You don’t always need major apartment renovations to make an apartment feel like home

Just because you’re in a rental with restrictions on major apartment renovation projects, doesn’t mean you’re limited in the possibilities of personalizing your space. There are a ton of DIY options for renters that give you the same options for upgrades that homeowners have. Getting creative is part of the fun!

However, if you do need a major apartment renovation project to truly make your apartment feel like a home, you should speak to the property owner. While under no obligation to negotiate with you, many times, it’s possible. Apartment renovations can make your place feel like home, and there are plenty of options that are completely within your rights as a renter! Don’t be afraid to get resourceful, just make sure you always follow the guidelines set out in your lease agreement.

Published at Thu, 13 Feb 2020 13:05:04 +0000

Apartment Living

How to Hire a Real Estate Agent — and Be Their Best Client Ever

How to Hire a Real Estate Agent — and Be Their Best Client Ever

When you buy a home, your agent is effectively a business partner. You’re both working toward the same goal: Closing a real estate deal. That’s why it’s in your best interest to to know both how to hire a real estate agent and how to build a good relationship with them.

Because the better an ally you are, the better an ally your agent will be. Here’s how to pick a real estate agent and work well with them.

1. Know What You Want

A lot of home buyers dive into the house hunt with no idea what
they want, so the first and best way to be a good client is to know exactly
what you’re looking for in a house.

Ask yourself a couple of basic questions. What’s my budget? What type of house do I want, single family or town home? Is there a design style I must have? A neighborhood I need to be in?  

Knowing these specifics – and telling them to your agent – will help him find homes that match your criteria. Because neither you nor your agent wants to waste time looking at dozens of houses that aren’t even close to what you have in mind.

“Over-communicating your intentions and goals is a really good
idea,” says Ashton Gustafson, an agent with the Bishop Group in Wichita Falls,

Knowing exactly what you want can help you know how to pick a real estate agent, too. Some agents specialize in certain neighborhoods, and some specialize in old houses or particular architectural styles.

2. Meet Agents In Person

It’s fine to start off your relationship with an agent via email, text, and phone, but before you hire him to work with you, set up a meeting. Yep, do a face-to-face interview.

It’s a good idea to interview three agents before picking one. Here
are some questions you should ask:

  • How long have
    they been an agent?
  • What
    neighborhoods do they specialize in?
  • How many
    homes they’ve helped people buy in the last year?
  • How many clients are they’re currently working with?

Meeting in person can help both sides determine compatibility and establish
trust. To the agent, meeting them IRL is a sign you’re serious about buying.

“When I ask a question of a buyer, if I can’t see their face
(then) I can’t see their reaction, and I have no idea if I’m really getting the
emotions that are behind their answers,” says Jackie Leavenworth, an agent and
real estate industry coach in Cleveland, Ohio.

3. Set Up Expectations for Communication

Tell your agent how you’d like to stay in touch during the buying process.  Do you do prefer texts? Facebook messenger? Or do you like old-fashioned phone calls (Telephone calls: Still a thing!)

Tell them how often you expect to hear from them, too. Daily? Weekly?
And tell them the best times of day to reach you, too.

“My successful buyers ask what kind of communication they’ll have
with me,” says Thai Hung Nguyen, an agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real
Estate Premier in Washington, D.C. “My answer to them is always, ‘It’s totally
up to you.’” 

4. Be Respectful

Be mindful of an agent’s time. Don’t flake on showings. Be

If you disagree with your agent, respectfully tell them why. 

Resist the urge to freak out if the agent doesn’t immediately respond to a text or phone call. “People hire me because I jump through hoops, but I also need buyers to know that I have a life, too,” says Leavenworth, the Cleveland agent.

5. Get Organized

We told you communicating your wants to your agent was key. Here’s a good way to do it: Write them down. We recommend filling out our first-time buyer’s worksheet.

Give a copy to the agent. He’ll be better able to find homes that match your criteria. 

You should also have your financial records in order. This means getting pre-approved for a loan. Pre-approval for a mortgage says you’re serious about buying a house and not just window shopping.

“Anything we do without a loan approval letter is pure
speculation,” says Marki Lemons-Ryhal, an agent and social media strategist for
real estate in Chicago. 

6. Admit What You Don’t Know

Real estate transactions are complicated. Don’t be embarrassed if
you don’t know what all the terms mean, or what to expect from each step of the

If you don’t know what escrow means, ask. If you’re confused about
the terms of an offer, say so. It’s totally normal to ask an agent for a little
hand-holding — that’s what they’re there for. 

Part of knowing how to hire a real estate agent is finding one you trust enough to tell you things you don’t know.

7. Don’t Play The Field With Other Agents

If you’re working with an agent who is hustling for you, don’t dally around with another agent. In real estate, just as in romance, that’s cheating. It can backfire by damaging your relationship with your agent.

If your agent finds out you’ve got other agents showing you houses, he may prioritize other clients. So a big part of knowing how to pick a real estate agent is knowing that you need to stand by your agent once you hire him.

In fact, it’s in both your interest and the agent’s to sign a buyer’s broker agreement for a set period of time. The agreements spell out the rights and duties of both parties, including exclusivity.

Related: Here’s How You’ll Know You Found the Right Agent

Published at Sun, 26 Jan 2020 15:47:42 +0000

5 Questions To Ask When Buying A House

Home buying seems simple enough: Find a house you like that’s close to work or school, tell someone you want to buy it, and move in.

But there’s more to it than that. You’ll have to find and get approved by a lender who will let you borrow a few hundred thousand dollars, lock in a mortgage rate, figure out how much house you can afford, put in an offer that will entice the seller, get an inspection and an appraisal, pay closing costs and sign a whole bunch of paperwork.

Phew! We need a break just thinking about all the questions to ask when buying a house.

Your real estate agent can help you understand the process. But if you don’t ask questions or get your agent to clarify something you don’t understand, they’re not going to know you’re confused. And you won’t learn anything.

“There are no such things as stupid questions,” says REALTOR® Ryan Fitzgerald in Raleigh, N.C. “If you have a question, ask it, no matter how foolish it sounds in your own head.” 

Don’t be afraid. Ask away. You’re making one of the biggest financial transactions of your life, so it’s a good idea to tap into your agent’s expertise.

Here are some questions to ask a real estate agent when buying a house.

1. How Many Clients Have You Helped Purchase Homes?

Before you pick a real estate professional, ask them how many clients they’ve worked with to find a home. Your real estate agent is supposed to be an expert, so one with a lot of experience will be a big help to a newbie home buyer like you.

That’s not to say a newly licensed agent can’t be a good one. But agents learn on the job. The more sales they’ve completed, and the more people they’ve helped buy a home, the more wisdom they have to share with you.

Related: The 14 Best Questions to Ask An Agent

2. How Old Is The HVAC, Water Heater, And Roof Of This Home?

It’s easy to be dazzled by 12-foot ceilings, crown molding, and other aesthetic features, but you need to pay attention to the nuts and bolts of the house. We’re talking the unsexy stuff like the HVAC system, water heater, roof, electrical system, and plumbing.

“Knowing the age and condition of the major items will help you
gauge how much your home could potentially cost once you move in,”
Fitzgerald says. “The older the home, the more likely you are to have
higher maintenance costs.”

These items could have more impact on a home’s value than quartz countertops or hardwood floors, because it’s expensive when they malfunction. A leaking hot water heater can do thousands of dollars of damage. And replacing an aging HVAC system can start at more than $5,000, putting it in the major expense category.

3. What If The Home Inspection Reveals Major Issues?

We won’t lie: The home inspection is one of the most nerve-wracking days of the homebuying process. It’s when you find out about every wart on the place you fell in love with at the showing. 

Most of the time the inspection goes as expected. But if you aren’t expecting a major issue and the inspector discovers something awful like a rusting sewer main or walls full of termites, it can be panic attack time.

Breathe. “What should I do when the inspector has bad news?” is one of the most common questions to ask when buying a house. Talk to your agent.

Your agent can calm you down so you can plan your next move, whether it’s “Let’s kiss this money pit of a house goodbye” or “Let’s negotiate with the seller and get those repairs done so you can close on time.” 

4. What Happens If The Appraisal Comes Back Low? 

In competitive markets where there are more buyers than sellers,
it’s possible to end up in a bidding war over a house. This can drive the sales
price higher than the appraised value of the home. Lenders balk when the price
is higher than the value, and this can jam up the deal.

Ask your agent what you should do if the appraisal comes in low. An experienced agent will have been in the situation before and have good advice. You’ll have a couple of options, including ordering a second appraisal, covering the difference in cash, or walking away from the deal. 

No matter what happens, keep your cool. Just because the
appraisal is low doesn’t mean the deal will fall through. 

“When things don’t go as expected, it’s important to remain level-headed. You never want to allow your emotions to be too up or too down when buying a home,” Fitzgerald says.

Related: How to Make the Appraisal Work, and When to Walk Away

5. What Do We Need To Do To Prepare For Closing?

Closing day is essentially the transfer of ownership, but it’s not just a formality. It needs to go well. This is when you sign the final paperwork and get the keys to the house.

One of the most important questions to ask a real estate agent is exactly what you need to bring for the big day. You’ll probably need your ID, a check for the closing costs, and proof of homeowner’s insurance.

Asking in advance will keep you organized and help your first big real estate transaction run smoothly. You don’t want to get there and realize you forgot a key piece of paperwork that keeps the deal from closing. Fewer things are as disappointing than not going home from a closing with keys to your new house.

So ask questions. Knowledge is power, so there are no silly questions to ask when buying a house.

Related: Closing — How to Seal The Deal

Published at Wed, 08 Jan 2020 17:33:58 +0000

Apartment Living

10 Things People Never Tell You About Your First Apartment

10 Things People Never Tell You About Your First Apartment

Whether you’re ready to fly the coop from on-campus housing, recently graduated or simply stepping off on your own for the first time, moving into your first apartment can be a wonderful and exciting experience.

It’s an opportunity to carve out and design a home that feels truly yours, and to physically manifest this new step you’ve taken. But because there are more than a few ways to get it wrong, here are 10 things people never tell you about your first apartment that will make you an “adulting” pro.

1. You have to be realistic about what you can afford

One of the most common errors committed by new and eager renters is the underestimation of monthly costs. When hunting for your new home, it’s easy to trick yourself into thinking that the maximum price you’re able to spend each month is the amount you’re able to dedicate to rent.

However, renters would be well-advised to subtract their anticipated food, utilities, travel and other incidental costs from their total monthly budget before settling on a price range for an apartment.

2. If you plan to stick around, plan ahead


If you anticipate staying put for longer than one year and don’t want to stomach moving costs again any time soon, it’s helpful to know that your rent will likely go up when you renew.

If you push yourself up against your maximum possible rent in year one, you’ll be hard-pressed in year two. Leave yourself some room on your first lease or sign for longer than one year!

3. Higher rent may be worth included utilities

Like all rules, there are always exceptions and factors to consider. A rent figure which may be prohibitive at first glance may actually be worth it for a host of nonobvious reasons.

Setting aside community amenities, your sticker shock may actually be unwarranted if your rent includes what would otherwise be additional, standalone costs. Ask your property manager if things like cable, water or electricity are included before you dismiss a unit out of hand!

4. Know what’s important to you


More is not always better. Before you hunt, take some time to reflect on what’s most important to you in your new home. Is a pool critical? Do you have a furry friend who needs somewhere to walk?

The answers to questions like these will help you both select and eliminate properties. Just because an amenity is offered doesn’t make the property any more valuable to you in the long run.

5. Tour the unit

When it comes to apartment hunting, pictures are not worth a thousand words. Property managers will always put their best foot forward in digital marketing materials. The rooms will always look well-lit and the facilities will always look well-maintained.

Trust but verify. Remember that this apartment will be your home, and even something as subjective as the “feel” of a room can make a huge difference once you’re moved in.

6. Investing in a tool kit will pay dividends


You’ll be shocked how often this comes in handy. For everything from hanging pictures to measuring for furniture, buying your first real set of tools is absolutely essential in your first month and beyond.

And treat the definition of “tools” loosely. You’ll want to have batteries and mounting hooks on hand to go with your screwdrivers and mallets. The hex wrenches included with furniture sets are woefully insufficient, believe me.

7. So will kitchen trappings

I can’t stress this enough. When you first move in, it will be hard to fight the urge to treat your new living arrangement like a never-ending sleepover. But delivery adds up and the fridge will not stock itself.

Invest in a decent set of utensils, plates and glasses. Outfit yourself with pots and pans, and then learn to use them. What’s more worthy of your time and energy than food? I didn’t think so.

8. Cleaning has a whole new meaning


Alas, the days when a tube of Clorox wipes and a trusty Dust Devil were sufficient are over. It’s time to learn how to clean. Your new apartment will have more types of surfaces and will require more attention than you’re used to.

But it’s remarkable how cathartic cleaning your apartment will be once you accept that dust will remain without your intervention and that glass cannot be cleaned in the same way as your floor. A good vacuum is never a bad idea, and even sinks need a good scrub on occasion.

9. Pest control is a must

Your community may offer pest-control as part of your rent, on request or not at all. If either of the latter two is true for you, get and stay on top of it. Request pest control once each month or make sure you have bug spray and ant traps on hand.

There’s nothing worse than turning a light on in your new, beautiful apartment and watching little critters scurry away. And once it starts, it’s very hard to get under control, so a little prevention goes a long way.

10. Your new home should reflect your stage of life


Finally, remember that this move marks a beginning. This apartment is not a dorm room and it’s not your childhood bedroom. It should reflect who you are right now and who you plan to be.

One need not break the bank to design an apartment that’s both cozy and grown-up. Use online resources like Dwell and garage sales. Invest in durable furniture and accessories that make your new home feel truly yours. As a bonus, if you do it well, you shouldn’t have to re-furnish for many years to come.

Published at Thu, 06 Feb 2020 13:10:15 +0000

3 Things to Know About Apartment Lease Penalties

Lease penalties can vary from insignificant to quite costly.

Lease penalties are the fees that must be paid when one vacates a rental before the end of their lease. Lease agreements are usually for a specified term — perhaps one month, six months, nine months or a year.

Anytime the lease is ended before the specified term is up, there will likely be a penalty. The amount required for lease penalties is usually set out in the lease agreement.

1. Lease penalties can be avoided

Lease penalties can be avoided. The most straightforward way to avoid a lease penalty is to complete the entire term that’s required in the lease. Beyond that obvious choice, you may be able to avoid the penalty by subletting your unit for the remainder of your lease period. In a sublet arrangement, a short-term tenant occupies your unit in your place for the remainder of your lease term under an agreement called a “sublease.”

2. Lease penalties are sometimes quite high

Lease penalties can be for a rather high amount in some cases. However, some state laws do have caps or rules regarding maximum allowable lease penalties. Many lease agreements require tenants to pay the amount of rent for the remaining months in the lease to end the agreement early. Other lease agreements may require a specific percentage of the remaining rent. Lease agreements will often even have two separate amounts and require either the higher or lower of the two, depending on how much of the lease was actually completed. It’s all up to the property owner’s discretion.

3. There may still be a way to get out of your lease early

The only way that you can get out of a lease early, without paying a required penalty, is if the property owner lets you out of the agreement. Check your lease to see if there are any situations that would allow you to leave early. And when all else fails, simply ask. You never know how the property owner will respond.

writing a check

Make sure you know of all possible lease penalties

The best way to handle lease penalties is to know what to expect. The best time to learn about lease penalties is before signing the agreement. If you’re planning on ending an existing lease early, read the agreement to see what kind of penalty you should anticipate.

Additional resources

Published at Thu, 06 Feb 2020 13:00:31 +0000

Apartment Living

Going Dark on Social Media

Going Dark on Social Media

Going Dark on Social Media

Weidner Apartment Homes, the 15th largest owner of apartments in the US, announced in December of 2019 that it will suspend it’s use of Facebook to better protect the privacy and data of its residents and business operations. They will be looking at new in-house options that are safe, secure and easy to use. (Source: Multifamily Press) That’s why Central Media Solution added Call Assist 24/7 to their suite of print solutions for Multifamily.

Many companies are starting to “go dark” with their print marketing in the past few years. They believed that people would prefer using the internet versus reading a magazine. This was another example of a bold decision. Who takes the time to read any more? Lots of folks.  Print does not require another new password or leave a trail of cookies with every page that you turn. It provides a story through content and pictures.  Central Media Solution is a publisher of many targeted magazines such as Apartment Magz and  New Homes Monthly and their latest pub, The Vender Guide. People are craving for print once again. Especially our seniors who prefer print than Internet as the Boomer generation downsizes to look for an apartment home.

Fake news has been an ongoing concern and alternative facts are now accepted as commonplace. (Source: The Guardian) Facebook has suspended about 400 apps associated with developers.  Many people are returning to conventional venues for information such as newsprint, radio and TV. Weidner is looking for simple and easy to use solutions to communicate with their residents. But can we just disconnect from social media? And why are we as consumers so easily addicted to “likes” and “shares”?

Technologies improved our daily living.  It can be used to enhance our lives. Social media gives people a forum to express their opinions and connect with companies, family and friends. At first the multifamily industry was very cautious of social. Then we dipped our big toe in the Facebook ocean to see what would happen. Negative and positive reviews poured into our profile pages. These negative reviews were scary, but we learned that they are an opportunity to show how we respond to our residents and solve their issues. That’s telling a positive story. We focused on increasing our followers, post likes and linked our websites to channel our leads in-house creating SEO. Is Social media a monster to be tamed or another solution in our leasing toolbox?

Each company will have to NAVIGATE their way through the fake news and concerns of data safety. Is Weidner being a visionary by “going dark” on Facebook? Planning to look for simple, safe and easy technology is a very smart decision indeed. That’s why Central Media Solution has created Call Assist 24/7 . Its simple, easy call management platform designed with feedback from on-sites in multifamily. It has no Apps, snap photo feature and uses the native tools our cell phones to communicate in real time. And all info is easily updated and stored in the cloud. Call Assist 24/7 is a game changer for call management… just what you are looking for now!

Published at Thu, 30 Jan 2020 13:51:22 +0000

Who’s Getting App Fatigue?

Who’s Getting App Fatigue?

There’s an app for that.  There seems to be an app for almost everything these days!  Then why do so many of us feel app weary or fatigued? Are these apps adding value to our lives? Why do we need all these apps?  With Central Media Solution’s new IVR call management system, Call Assist 247, no app needed. There is snap photo or video functionality using the native tools in our smart phones. The apartment resident calls in an after-hours service request and the maintenance tech on call, requests a photo or video getting image showing water coming out of the ceiling of an apartment. Seamless communication without an app. (Source: Vanilla plus)

I am blessed to be of an age where I can recall the excitement of getting a colored television. Soon we were playing “Pong” Pong was a table tennis sports game that was one of the first video games. How exciting it was to see the little white blip bounce along the television screen. Soon Atria and ColecoVision battled it out in the 80’s to bring the arcade experience into our homes. Then……this thing called the Internet. To access the world wide web, you needed to use a dial up router through your phone system. While you were on the internet, you could not make any outgoing or receive incoming telephone calls. But no worries because we had pagers to help us be accessible 24/7.

Fast forward to cordless phones that look like a small “brick” and paired with a pager, gave us the ability to be more mobile with our information. We jumped from razor and flip phones to the first Blackberry allowing us to read email and respond immediately. We can work from anywhere now!  But the release of the first iPhone in the UK changed our world forever. Because now we have smart phones and we are so much smarter.  To stay smart, we need lots of apps to help us do stuff better than ever before.

The average person could have over 100 apps on their smart phone. I thought this seemed high, so I checked the settings on my android phone and was shocked to see that I have 91 apps. How the heck did I get so many apps and am I using them all? What the heck is eBay Attribution? It’s even scarier that if I try to remove an app, I get a message effectively saying that “removing this app may disable my data”! Now I am anxious that I could break my phone.

Call Assist 247  understands that technology needs to be intuitive and simple for every generation. Having one less app for us to download makes Call Assist 247 a smart choice for your property management answering service and call management. We were built specifically for multifamily with the goal of helping your leasing and maintenance teams communication seamlessly with your valued residents. Our system allows your residents to send a video or photo of their maintenance issue while your residents receives a photo of the maintenance technician coming to make their repair. No app to download. Out tools work on every mobile phone. So, if you are app weary, we hear you!

Published at Thu, 30 Jan 2020 13:48:14 +0000

Apartment Living

28 Brooklyn Facts Every Local Knows To Be True

28 Brooklyn Facts Every Local Knows To Be True

Brooklyn was once the epicenter for beard-touting hipsters, artisanal donuts and craft beer. It’s the kind of place where it wouldn’t be totally weird to see people bring their typewriters to the park to write.

In case you haven’t heard, Brooklyn is gentrifying.

The home of Biggie Smalls is now a mecca for tourists and sky-high rents. Some are deeming it way too famous to be considered true hipster. Expensive rents are partly the cause of an exodus of residents who’d rather live in Phoenix, Dallas or Las Vegas.

With the rise of new condos, high-rise buildings and a Trader Joe’s replacing neighborhood bodegas, a significant shift has taken place. And for the OG folks who call Brooklyn their home (you know who you are), they’ve watched the city grow and change. They’ve rolled with the punches.

Only real Brooklynites know these truths to be real

1. Brooklyn is so expensive you’re thinking about moving back to Manhattan. Or Long Island City. Crap, it’s already too expensive there.

2. The G line is both a blessing and a curse. Why can’t they extend it to go into Manhattan?

3. Spending a Saturday at the insanely crowded Williamsburg Smorgasburg is a must.

4. Buying a small Christmas tree at the deli is normal.

5. You know the last authentic hold-out from your neighborhood’s OG cultural group — from pierogies in Greenpoint to cabbage in Little Odessa.

6. You’re not actually from Brooklyn. (You’re most likely from California or Ohio.)

7. If you lived in Brooklyn for more than 10 years, you happily give people the rundown on all of the neighborhoods you’ve lived in — in order. “Let’s see… I first moved to Bushwick, then Crown Heights, then…” (You also root for the Nets.)

8. Your friends with young kids live in stroller city, also known as Park Slope.

9. You know that driving on the BQE means taking your life into your hands.

10. You know BAM is the place to be for concerts, plays, and film screenings.

11. You shop at Khim’s and Fairway and despise the newest Whole Foods that’s creeping into your ‘hood.

12. You’ve been called a hipster from your out-of-town friends.

13. Talking about sky-high rents is on the same level as talking about religion or politics — you just can’t do it without strong opinions or frowning.

14. Happy hour is for seeing your friends on weekdays. Brunch is for seeing your friends on weekends.

15. You’ve spent at least one night in the past month at your neighborhood bar’s open mic night listening to the comedy, music or poetry of your fellow Brooklynites.

16. If you moved to your neighborhood more than 5 years ago, you reminisce about the hole-in-the-wall restaurant that’s been replaced by a Chipotle.

17. You steer clear of DUMBO because of the tourists.

18. You roll your eyes when you see the line in front of Grimaldi’s. Because clearly, Grimaldi’s is not the best pizza in town.

19. You’ve taken your out-of-town guests to Peter Luger at least once.

20. You love your local deli, even though you can shop for way less at the new Trader Joe’s down the street.

21. You always carry an umbrella in your bag, no matter what the season is.

22. You know that owning a car requires deep pockets or moving your car at 7 a.m. every other day for the street sweeper.

23. Flying out of La Guardia is so much better than JFK, but you still manage to complain about it.

24. On a beautiful day, you head to Prospect Park to enjoy rosé or McCarren Park to sip on a margarita from the Turkey’s Nest.

25. Some of your friends have named their kids Brooklyn — spelled Brooklin.

26. Remember when your friends from Manhattan would never even trek to Brooklyn? Now, they live in Brooklyn.

27. It’s normal to see celebrities like Michelle Williams or Keri Russel out walking their dog.

28. You know at least two couples who moved from Brooklyn to Portland, and plenty more who are thinking of moving to Texas or Arizona.

Did we forget anything?

Have we missed anything on this list? Do you agree or disagree? If you live in Brooklyn and want to let us know what we’ve missed, chime in below and send us a comment!

Published at Thu, 30 Jan 2020 20:10:36 +0000

Tips for Taking Home Office Tax Deductions as a Renter

Paying taxes is just no fun.

We’re a nation of freelancers and remote workers and it’s common for business owners to work out of their homes or apartments. In 2019, 57 million freelanced in the U.S., which means many people will want to deduct their home office on their taxes.

You may have heard that this kind of deduction is only for homeowners, but you can also use it as a renter. If you work from home, you may be able to use the deduction, as long as you meet the qualifications. The IRS doesn’t specify that you must own your home. Rentals work, too.

What to know about qualifications for home office deductions

guy on laptop

There are two primary qualifications to take this deduction. Your home office must be your principal place of business and be used exclusively for your business.

1. Your home office must be your principal place of business

As the IRS puts it, the space must be used “substantially and regularly” for business. Often, simply meeting clients at your home as a normal course for business satisfies this rule.

You may still work elsewhere, such as a co-working space or a local coffee shop. Just make sure that your home office is your primary place of business.

2. Your home office must be used exclusively for business

You can’t use your home office space for any other purpose. You can, however, still work in other areas of your home, or even in a local coffee shop.

But just because you meet clients in your living room doesn’t mean you can deduct your living room. It also means that bringing your business laptop into your kitchen doesn’t make your kitchen count, either. That also means you may only store business items in your home office.

However, your home office doesn’t need to be separated from another room. If you use a corner of your living room exclusively for business, you may still deduct that corner even if there aren’t any doors to separate it.

3. If you’re not self-employed, you can still deduct your home office

Good news if you’re employed by a company. You may still get a home office deduction even if you work for a company and are not self-employed.

You must meet the previous requirements listed above, but your home office must be for your employer’s convenience. This means working from home is:

  • A requirement for employment at your company
  • Necessary for the employer’s business to run properly
  • Necessary for you to do your job properly

Generally speaking, you would meet the requirements if your company didn’t provide an office for you or if you had some other business reason for you to work at home. Also, you must pay for all of your expenses. If your employer pays for your rent, for example, you may not deduct that rent.

You most likely won’t meet the requirements for a home office deduction if you have an outside office provided for you but you choose to take work home with you.

Calculating your deduction

When reporting your deduction with the IRS, you have two options: the simplified method or the regular method. You can use either method, any year. But once you choose a method for a particular year, you may not change mid-year.

Simplified method

If you don’t have the best record-keeping or live in a low-rent area, you may wish to choose the simplified method. Your deduction is then $5 per square foot dedicated to your home office.

For instance, let’s say your home office is 200 square feet. Your deduction is then 200 times $5 or $1,000.

Note: You may not deduct more than 300 square feet with the simplified method. So, if your office is 500 square feet, your deduction is only 300 times $5 or $1,500.

Regular method

If you have a large office, are diligent about bookkeeping and pay a large amount in rent, you may want to use the regular method. The regular method also allows you to deduct depreciation and carryover losses.

With the regular method, your deduction is based on the percentage of your apartment you use for business.

Let’s say your apartment is 1,000 square feet, and your home office is 200 square feet. That means 20 percent of your home is office space (200/1000). Then, if your yearly rent and other expenses total to $8,000, you may deduct $2,000 ($8,000 x 20 percent). Again, this can include depreciation.

Mistakes to avoid for home office deductions

people doing taxes

Beyond the qualifications mentioned above, there are other things you need to be careful with when trying to deduct your home office this year. This biggest mistakes are:

1. Not keeping proper documentation

If you take the home office deduction, make sure you document how your home office qualifies and to justify your expenses. Make sure your documentation clearly shows your office is used exclusively for business. Expenses may include things like utilities, including a landline phone and Wi-Fi.

2. Not separating your home office if it’s in a shared room

If your home office is located in another room, arrange your furniture to separate it from the rest of the room. That will help you create a clearly defined space that you can use on your taxes. Without that separation, it may be harder to justify that the area is used solely for business.

To help illustrate this point, in 2001, a San Francisco-based psychologist tried to use the deduction for her small apartment. However, because the home office was also the main pathway through the apartment, she wasn’t able to get the deduction and it did not hold in court.

3. Using your office for other work

If you’re both employed and self-employed, make sure to not use your home office for your employed work.

Unless you can show you can still take the deduction as an employee, using your home office for both types of work violates the exclusivity requirement.

4. Not taking the deduction

The deduction can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in taxes each year. Be sure to ask your CPA or learn how to learn how and where to take the home office deduction.

Tax codes have changed

For the first time in more than 30 years, the U.S. Tax Code changed significantly from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. This left many with fewer taxes to pay, but others with substantially larger taxes. Talk to your CPA to find out how the tax code changes affect you and your deductions.

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.

Published at Thu, 30 Jan 2020 18:30:15 +0000

Apartment Living

Buying Houses, Selling Houses or Rent Housing; Choose Your Accommodation Type Aptly


There always exist a quandary among populace if they move to a new place is to take up housing for rent or buy. Buying houses or searching apartment for rent can be cleared up by analyzing one’s own position. Personal circumstances are a major driving factor if you want to say finds a cottage or villa to buy or rent in Sweden. One needs to aptly reckon that choosing apartment for rent proffers you with fitting flexibility while if you decide to buy a house; you might not be able to relocate if the situation arises. One also should not rush into selling houses and then buying houses in another location as one is never aware of the environment, surrounding and neighbors; therefore it is highly advisable to first chip in for apartment for rent and tries to make oneself settled. It should be noticed without any reminders that buying houses can definitely be expensive than just rent housing. It is also imperative to reckon that renting is maintenance free and is more qualitative. Now that you have gained a fair idea as to whether or not to locate cottage or villa to buy or rent in Sweden, we shall discuss some of the vital considerations which should be prioritized. Checking in for all prerequisite amenities such as electrical outlets, phone connections, water supply, internet accessibility and other miscellaneous things as furnishings, etc. will also make sure that you get the best value for money while rent housing. Visiting the site personally before going into any type of contract is the best feasible solution out there. In this way you will get a nice acquaintance with the property and check for yourself the amenities accessible there. But before going into any type of agreement on buying houses or selling houses, it is utterly critical to read the contract paper carefully. Rent housing essentially represents a low maintenance lifestyle wherein the property owners are liable for any kind of imbursement or maintenance work. The sense of security that seeps in when apartment for rent is considered is more likely to attract populace rather than in customary non gated access in stand alone houses and this is a pretty comprehensible fact that secure and sheltered accommodations are loved by one and all. The minimal level of commitment associated with apartment for rent also acts as a driving force for renters. The social facet of the residents is also a consideration as no one likes to live isolated from the society. But still there are individuals who would like to be sure of selling their houses. Hunting for cottage or villa to buy or rent in Sweden can be a daunting task if you decide to do it yourself without taking any assistance whether from the World Wide Web or real estate agencies. It is however imperative not to rush into agreements and take into account all pertaining facets related to the property. Utilizing every resource accessible will definitely prove practical and supportive. Source: Free Articles from

Mr. Sanjay is providing SEO Services to BoSpecialisten, a free service for those who want to rent or lease, buy or sell the apartment, house, villa and holiday home in Sweden. Explore Hyra Sälja Köpa fastigheter i Sverige and much more.

Apartment Living

How to Build a Wedding Registry Fit for Apartment Living

How to Build a Wedding Registry Fit for Apartment Living

Creating a wish-list of all the items you and your significant other want can be one of the most exciting parts of wedding planning.

However, creating a registry can be a little more difficult if you live in a small apartment. You have your eye on that shiny new mixer, but where will you put it? You need items that will keep things organized and maximize the space you have.

Luckily, there are a ton of gifts out there that combine pleasing aesthetics and great functionality, allowing you to make the most of your new household appliances and your apartment’s limited space.

Assess your space and take inventory

Before you even think about making a list, it’s important you and your fiancé look at your living area and consider how much space you have to add new items. Can you fit a coffee table in the living room? Is there room for a toaster oven in the kitchen?

Adding items to your registry when you don’t have space for them will only create frustration for you and your future spouse. You may even need to sell or return gifts if you can’t fit them. Avoid the hassle now and take some measurements.

Once you’ve assessed how much free space you have — or don’t have — to fill up, focus on items you want to upgrade. Consider everything you and your partner already have and decide which things are worth replacing. Now is the perfect time to upgrade to pieces that reflect your shared sense of style and taste. Plus, swapping out the old for the new doesn’t add any extra clutter, and you have the option to donate the used item to someone who can use it.

room with modern furniture

Make a List

List all the items you want to replace, as well as any other essentials you might need. Decide how you plan to use your kitchen or bathroom now and how you would like to in the future. Would you like to cook more? Are you really going to use a juicer? Maybe you’d like to use a Crock-pot. Do you like to keep towels in the bathroom? Where will you store or hang them?

Try to keep each other’s interests in mind while still trying to narrow down your list to the essentials and things you will actually use. Anything else will just take up space and make your apartment feel cramped.

A few space-saving items are always good to consider adding to your registry.

Storage furniture

Make the most of your apartment’s space by adding dual-purpose furniture to your wish list. Stools and floor poufs with hidden compartments are great for both sitting and storing. They’re also easy to push under a coffee table if you need more space.

Coffee tables that can expand or collapse depending on your needs are also a great idea. Even decorative pieces like woven baskets can function as storage space for dog toys, books or blankets.

Mounted shelving

Working with small living spaces means rethinking shelving. Floating shelves and leaning ladder units are a great option if you don’t have the space for a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf or china cabinet. These items save space while also giving your home an architectural element. You might consider using mounted hooks or racks to hang coats or planters to save on floor space.

Multi-purpose kitchen supplies

Just like in the living room, it’s imperative you find kitchen items that can serve more than one purpose. For example, multicookers can make anything from a pressure-cooked chicken to a big batch of rice. A blender that doubles as a food processor is another great appliance to have on hand. Multiple settings allow you to make everything from smoothies to hummus.

Save even more on space by adding items to your list that are collapsible or fit inside each other. Nesting mixing bowls and collapsible colanders are two great examples. A hand grater can also be used in multiple ways. Grate cheese, veggies, zests and even chocolate to get full use out of this essential kitchen item.

Don’t be afraid to think big

If you’re creating a wedding registry to fill a smaller space, you’ll inevitably need fewer things. Group gift-giving is becoming more popular, especially for weddings. Don’t be afraid to add a few more expensive items to your wish list — if you’ll use them, of course.

This is the perfect time to add a storage bed to your registry. A bed frame that incorporates storage drawer’s underneath is an ideal alternative to a shoe rack and is great for apartments without a closet. Most storage beds don’t require a box spring, so there’s no need to worry about that added expense. If you have a bed but need a nice coffee table or other living room furniture, now is the time to ask.

Make your registry work for you

When you have a small space, you want to make the most of everything and not overwhelm your apartment. After all, you don’t want to start your lives together in a cluttered mess. With a little planning, you can outfit your home in style.

Kacey Bradley is the blogger behind The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Along with writing for her blog, she has written for sites like U.S. News, SUCCESS, Guides for Brides, Hotel Online and more!

Follow Kacey on Twitter and subscribe to her blog to keep up with her travels and inspiring posts!

Published at Fri, 24 Jan 2020 18:53:13 +0000

3 Things to Know About a Guarantor

A guarantor is a person who … well … guarantees.

A guarantor is similar to a co-signer, though the term guarantor carries a more serious liability than the term co-signer inherently does.

A guarantor is a person who co-signs on a lease for a tenant with credit or income that’s not sufficient for approval on their own. A guarantor is “guaranteeing” the payment of rent by putting their own credit and income down as a fallback in case the primary tenant is unable to pay.

1. Anyone can be approved to be a guarantor

You might think that a guarantor has to be a legally defined parent, guardian, partner or spouse. However, basically anyone can be approved to be a guarantor, in theory. The only requirement is that the person signing as a guarantor has adequate credit or income to meet the property owner’s standards for approval.

2. You may not have to sign as a guarantor forever

Signing as a guarantor is a big commitment, but it’s not necessarily a lifetime commitment. Though there’s no expiration on the responsibilities of a guarantor, there is an opportunity to remove the guarantor from a lease agreement. This requires that the primary tenant reach a credit level or income threshold suitable for approval without the guarantor. In fact, in many cases, once the primary tenant has improved their credit or financial standing, you can often just ask the property owner to remove the guarantor from the lease.

3. Most of the time, a guarantor doesn’t change your chances of approval for an apartment

Landlords are legally required to provide housing decisions without personal bias, so most of the time, signing with a guarantor doesn’t make a difference in your chances at approval. After all, the guarantor is putting their name on a legally binding agreement saying they’ll cover any unpaid expenses by the tenant. It’s a pretty safe bet for property owners anyways.

shaking hands

If you need a guarantor, it’s important to know what they do

When renting, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need a guarantor, it’s important to know exactly what that means. Make sure you choose carefully and never get in a financial situation you can’t handle.

Additional resources

Published at Fri, 24 Jan 2020 14:27:15 +0000