Find Your Perfect Apartment in the NRV

Apartment-Kitchen-Ideas-apartment-kitchen-ideas-4Whether you’re a young adult about to live on your own for the first time or you’re going from a mortgage to a month-to-month rental in a new area, you need to be prepared before starting your apartment hunt. Finding the right place at the right price is no easy task, but it doesn’t have to be too overwhelming. After you figure out what you can afford, it’s simply a matter of finding the right apartment, agreeing to lease terms, and then signing on the dotted line. To find an ideal apartment or rental home – and to make the search go smoother – there are a number of steps you can take to ease the burden and expedite the process.

1. Determine Affordability

The U.S. Census Bureau suggests that your monthly rent should not exceed 20% of your monthly income – 30% at the most. For instance, if you bring home $4,000 each month, you should cap your search at around $1,200. Taking the time to update and polish your personal budget before you start looking for apartments can not only help you figure out your price range, it can also help you identify areas in your personal finances where you can cut back if you want to spend more on a pricier apartment. After scrutinizing the numbers, you may decide to drop that costly TV subscription to allow you more wiggle room in your budget for the right place.

2. Add Renters Insurance

For some, renters insurance is a choice, but for the vast majority, it’s required by a landlord. In either case, you should add it to your budget. It covers losses in case you suffer a break-in, and it also helps cover your landlord if you do damage to the property. A landlord insures the building, but renters insurance covers what’s actually inside it.

Luckily, it’s pretty affordable. Rates depend on geographical location, amount of coverage, and amount of rent paid, but, on average, you can expect to pay around $500 per year on $25,000 worth of coverage – about $12 to $15 per month.

3. Talk to Tenants

While you want to make a good impression on the landlord, you also need the landlord to make a good impression on you. The best way to find out if you really want to live in a certain property is to talk to past and current tenants. In general, you want a landlord who is courteous and safe, and who takes care of maintenance issues promptly. Ask about tenant turnover, infrastructure issues, and response times to complaints.

This is also the ideal time to ask about living expenses in the area, especially if you’re moving to a new neighborhood. Current tenants can give you a rundown of what they spend on transportation, utilities, and entertainment, as well as information about the neighborhood, such as where to eat, the location of specific school districts, and the best local amenities.

4. Do a Walk-Through

Don’t sign that lease just yet. After everything checks out and you’re happy with the apartment, location, and landlord, you should do a final walk-through before signing on the dotted line. Because previous tenants may have caused damage or maintenance issues, you need to be sure that you won’t be responsible for any issues that weren’t your fault.

Come prepared and check for the following:

  1. Turn on lights and faucets, and flush toilets throughout the apartment to make sure they all function properly.
  2. Check for rodent or insect infestation, particularly in cupboards and storage spaces. Chew marks or droppings are a major red flag.
  3. Bring along a cell phone charger and plug it into the outlets to make sure they all work.
  4. Check smoke alarms and look for fire safety equipment, such as an extinguisher in the kitchen.
  5. Open and close and lock and unlock doors and windows.
  6. Turn on all included appliances to make sure they’re working.
  7. Examine floors and walls for any type of damage. Carpet, hardwood, linoleum, drywall, and tiles should all be inspected.
  8. Take pictures of any problem areas with a digital camera and show them to the landlord. Save the file so if there are any discrepancies with maintenance or problems getting your security deposit back when you move, you have evidence to prove you didn’t cause the damage.

Tips on Buying a Carpet Cleaner for your Apartment

101228_steam-vacuumThere’s no reason to deal with stained carpets when you can buy a carpet cleaner for your home. Whether you want a portable carpet cleaner to clean up spills immediately or a steam carpet cleaner for scrubbing dirt from your floors, the following suggestions will help you find the right carpet steam cleaners for your space. Read on for tips on buying a carpet cleaner.

Shopping for a Carpet Cleaner:

  1. Buy a carpet cleaner that’s the right size for your home. If you have large rooms with thick carpets, you’ll probably like an upright home carpet cleaner best for scrubbing your floors. These heavy-duty machines feature wide tracks for cleaning carpets quickly, several brushes, large tanks for holding cleaning solution and plenty of power. Make sure you buy home carpet cleaners that include different settings for scrubbing rugs and carpets and modes for rinsing, spot cleaning and picking up spills. If you live in a small apartment, you may prefer a portable carpet cleaner. A handheld model will allow you to maneuver around tight spaces and remove dirt and debris from your carpet while you scrub spots with the included brush. The best carpet cleaner will work efficiently and clean all grime from your floors, no matter what size it is.

  2. Purchase a carpet cleaner with the features you need. Before you buy a carpet cleaner, you’ll want to make sure it has all of the functions and tools you need to effectively scrub your floors. An efficient steam carpet cleaner should include a spraying tool that can quickly soak stains and spills and a built-in water heater for keeping your water hot for a long time as you clean. You’ll also want to buy a carpet cleaner with a dual tank, whether you prefer portable or upright cleaners, so that the clean water and used water do not mix. Make sure your steam cleaners and carpet cleaners include cleaning formula, too, if they require special chemicals.

  3. Choose a carpet cleaner that you can store easily in your home. While you may be tempted to buy the biggest carpet cleaner you can afford, especially if you have large rooms and a lot of carpet to clean, you’ll want to consider your storage space before choosing a cleaner. The best carpet cleaner for your home may be a canister or portable style; these models are compact and fit into almost any closet. An upright carpet cleaner the size of a traditional vacuum can also fit into tight spaces, but you’ll need a larger storage space if you want a wide-track carpet cleaner.

Tips for Renting Your First Apartment

Tips for Renting Your First Apartment Tips-for-Renting-Your-First-Apartment

Looking for an apartment can be a difficult task, but there are some really important things to keep in mind before signing a lease. Living on your own can be a lot of fun, but it also comes with a good amount of responsibility. Understanding your rights as a renter, knowing what to look for in a good apartment, and making sure you’re getting the most for your money are just a few of the things you need to keep in mind. Because most leases are a minimum of one year, you want to make sure you find the right apartment for you, and that it will be a place where you will enjoy living.

Finding the Right Apartment:

Be sure to set a budget so you know how much you can afford.

Make sure you feel safe in the neighborhood you are considering renting in.

Decide whether you will need a furnished or unfurnished apartment, and keep in mind that unfurnished apartments are typically less expensive.

Find out about parking in advance, especially if there will be more than one car that will need to be stored.

If you are considering having a roommate, make sure you will get along with them, especially in a live-in situation.

Make a checklist of the things you want and need in an apartment, and use that as a guide for choosing an apartment.

Asking the Right Questions:

Find out if utilities are included in the rent, and if so, what they entail.

How much is the security deposit? This is important to ask before making any lease agreement.

Is your rent stabilized? If not, how much is the landlord allowed to raise it every year?

Do a walk through or inspection before renting. Make sure the apartment is safe.

How is the air quality? Is there mold, mildew, or ventilation problems?

What are the neighbors like? Get to know who lives next to or above and below you.

Understanding Your Lease and Responsibilities:

Most realtors and landlords will run a credit check, so make sure your credit is in good shape.

Learn about residential leases, and what they mean to you. Get familiar with the terminology.

Learn about renter’s insurance, what it covers, and if you will need to get it before you sign the lease.

Understand what the main terms of your lease are, and what you must do to avoid being in violation of the lease agreement.

Have a good grasp on what your responsibilities as a renter are, as well as what your landlord’s responsibilities are as well.

Read up on what an apartment lease really is, and what the advantages and disadvantages are.

While you are obligated to follow through with your lease agreement, some of the terms may be negotiable, but you’d need to arrange for these changes before you sign.

After You Sign the Lease:

Once you’ve signed the lease, have fun decorating your apartment just the way you want it, to make it feel more like home.

Make sure you set up all utilities to be turned on the day of or the day before your move so you will be comfortable once moved in.

You can furnish your apartment on a budget by looking in thrift stores or smaller furniture stores that sell items at a discount.

Find out what the main reasons for eviction are, and understand the eviction laws of your state.

All renters have rights under the law. Make sure you understand the rights that apply to your state.

What to Do When Moving Out:

Not everyone gets their entire security deposit back in full; find out what the terms are from your landlord so you can get it all once you move out.

Most landlords expect the apartment to be cleaned out before you move out. Clean all floors and carpets, empty the refrigerator, and remove any stains or smudges from the walls before you move out.

When you move out, make sure you turn off the utilities so you do not end up stuck with a bill later on for services you are no longer using.

See if you can do a final walk-through with the landlord before you move out, so they can see that everything has been cleaned and repaired to their satisfaction.

Think about all of the steps needed before you move out, so that the transition will be fairly easy.

Understand your rights as a renter so you will get the most out of your renting experience.

5 Great Tips for Apartments and Pets in SWVA

The housing downturn made renting instead of owning a popular choice for many Americans. Many families have turned to smaller spaces to save money.  And in terms of roommates, one of the pets-in-apartments-swvamost agreeable cohabitants can be of the canine variety – they don’t steal your groceries or borrow your clothes, and they can be a constant source of companionship and unconditional love! Living in an apartment is possible with a dog, given a little foresight and planning. Here are some considerations when downsizing with your pooch, or adopting a dog into your current apartment situation.

1. Be realistic     

There are some breeds and temperaments of dogs that are not well-suited to apartment life. Dogs that are very high energy, such as a Labrador or Border collie, may really struggle being confined to a small space.  Often the frustration of being cooped up and bored translates into destructive behaviors like chewing.

Especially large breeds won’t fit well in tiny spaces, either. Take an honest look at your main living areas and map out space for a kennel, dog bed, food dishes and toys. You may discover you’ll be better off with a 20-lb. mutt than the Chesapeake Bay retriever you’ve always wanted.

2. Communicate with your landlord

Always talk to your landlord about existing pets when searching for an apartment or before adopting a pet.  Some landlords will have specific requirements about what size and breeds of dogs are acceptable – sometimes for legal reasons.  There will most likely be an extra pet deposit for post-move out cleaning or any damage Fido might cause.  Whatever you agree upon, read your lease thoroughly before signing.

It’s not realistic to try and sneak a dog into a no-pet apartment. Eventually, the landlord or a neighbor will discover your pup and then you’ll be in a real bind, forced to move or give up your beloved dog.

3. Keep your dog current on vaccinations and parasite preventives

This is really important since most apartment complexes have shared outside grounds. If children and other people are using the common yard areas, your pet needs to be free of parasites and vaccinated in order to prevent parasitic and infectious diseases. In addition, in the rare case someone accuses your dog of biting, proof of vaccination will be paramount.

4. Be courteous to neighbors

Be cognitive of the fact that many people will be sharing a small space. A dog that barks constantly will not be favorably received in an apartment setting. Consult with your veterinarian regarding behavioral training if your dog is a barker. Citronella collars can be an effective and humane way to prevent barking if used correctly.

5. Be prepared to devote time every day to your dog

A dog that lives in a small space without a fenced yard will require daily leash time, probably more than a few times a day to go potty and stretch out those four legs. Be sure to set aside time for activity every day, and recognize that leash walks will be part of your daily routine, even in the rain and snow. Consider having a professional dog walker come by while you are at work to squeeze in a little more activity.

 

Apartment Life: Great Food for Great Apartments

Whats-In-the-FridgeLiving in an apartment can sometimes be filed with trips to the fast joint, pizza and everything else under the sun here in the Blacksburg and NRV areas. As a former student there myself, I found myself often eating out in downtown, although I also found myself eating better at the apartment too. We’ll, today I’m going to give you a couple of great tips that I learned when I lived in the Burg for great cooking.

Keep Cooking Basics on Hand

To avoid late-night fast-food visits, keep a few of your favorite foods on hand. “Canned goods are good,” says  Author Jill Carle, who suggests canned beans: “They always work very well in the microwave.” Supplement with rice and you’ve got a meal. Always have salt and pepper, plus other seasonings, like a Cajun mix, to keep things interesting. If you’ve got the room, stock basic starches. “Rice, pasta, and even potatoes because they keep for a long time,” suggests Carle. “You can always make something with those ingredients plus a few canned and fresh vegetables.” If getting or carrying supplies is a problem, learn to substitute. Buy bouillon cubes instead of canned stock. “It doesn’t have the same flavor, but they aren’t as heavy as carrying home 12 cans of stock,” says Carle.

 

Equipment Essentials

Carle suggests stocking up on the basics: “Bowls, silverware, a plate, and a can opener.” If you do have access to a kitchen, also acquire a good knife — a chef’s or even a steak knife — and a big pot. “If you have a bigger pot, you can do a lot more. If you don’t have mixing bowls, you can mix in a large pot. You can make a big batch of something in a big pot and you can make a small batch in a big pot, but you can’t make a big batch in a small pot,” Carle says.

 

Shop Smartly and You’ll Save

After tuition and textbooks, your budget is tapped out. Though fast food might seem cheaper, it’s more economical (and healthier) to make your own meals. Stock up on items when they go on vegetables-basketsale. “If it’s something you eat regularly, then there is no reason not to buy sale items,” says Carle. Another cost-cutting tip: “If you’re cooking for yourself, that doesn’t mean you have to cut down a recipe for a single serving. Make the whole recipe and take the leftovers for lunch the next day or freeze it so you have it for a future dinner. In the long run, it’s easier, because then you don’t have to cook every single day.”

 

Avoid the Freshman Fifteen

“The first time on your own, it’s really easy to eat pizza for every meal and tempting to chow down on ice cream and fries, but it doesn’t mean you should,” says Carle. Get some variety in your diet. “I would say what every mom says: ‘Eat your veggies’ or some sort of fiber or it’s all just gonna sit there for a really long time.” That says it all.

 

Great tips for keeping the Peace with Noisy Neighbors

roanoke-va-apartmentThe other night I became a total apartment-living cliché. It was 5am and my upstairs neighbor had been hitting snooze (yet again) on her siren-pitched alarm clock for close to an hour. I finally stormed out of bed, stomped to the broom closet, and gave my ceiling several vigorous whacks. Not my best moment, or morning.

To keep you from meeting the same pre-dawn fate (and well, looking like a lunatic), I thought I’d research more neighborly etiquette. Here goes:

  1. It’s easy to forget when you’re in the moment, but remember to calm down (to be fair, I talked to my neighbor in person before the broom incident) and start with a polite intro. As we all know, you won’t accomplish anything by attacking them and many people aren’t aware that you can hear them. For example, I had an upstairs neighbor who worked late and could only workout at midnight, on his treadmill, above my bed/head. He was testy at first when I brought it up but I finally asked politely if there was another room where he could put the treadmill. Luckily, there was and it was no longer an issue.
  2. Sweeten the deal. Bring up some treats as a peace offering (try this no-bake cookie recipe from The Kitchn). I’ve never actually tried this method, but it can’t hurt, right?
  3. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching the person in person, you can leave a note (possibly funny but lose the sarcasm) letting them know that you can hear their music playing or sex-making or whatever. Make a copy of the letter though and date it to keep track of correspondence in case this turns into a bigger issue later.
  4. If the problem still occurs after a couple reminders, talk to your landlord. He or she may be able to offer a solution that worked for other tenants or encourage the neighbor to put down rugs or address the problem. You can remind him or her if your lease has a noise clause too, which grants you the right to quiet.
  5. Try to take the matter into your own hands. Earplugs helped me out when I lived above a bar in Blacksburg during my college years. White noise machines also work. And never, ever move above a bar that closes at 1am!
  6. I was once the noisy neighbor because the floors in my apartment weren’t insulated and the guy below could hear my footsteps, which apparently sounded like an elephant. We exchanged cell phone numbers so he could text me when it was too loud. I also never wore shoes indoors and made sure to put a rug pad and rug over the creakiest parts.
  7. If all else fails, the broom thing actually worked (fingers crossed, but it’s been quiet for a week!). I had tried #1 and she was apologetic, but this time she got the point. Loud and clear.

New photos of Arbors Apartments in Blacksburg VA

We were out taking a bunch of new photos this past week of Arbors Apartments in Blacksburg, VA. Here’s the first batch. Enjoy!

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Kingma Agency Launches New Apartment Guide Website

The new website is designed to give a better user experience with more visuals, galleries and easier navigation. The site also features a new Apartment Living Blog section that will feature tips and suggestions from apartment community insiders.