Monday, October 11, 2010

Apartment Locators and Apartment Finders Save You Time and Money!

Apartment Locators and Apartment Finders Save You Time and Money!

‘How’ you say?  How many times have you been looking for an apartment and thought “Wholly cow!”  There are literally thousands of apartment listings on the internet, in rental publications, on services like Craigslist and in the newspaper.  No wonder it’s hard to figure out where to begin!  To complicate things, what if you are moving to a new city and you don’t even know the area?

Most apartment searches are conducted blind.  ‘Blind’ meaning, you are not 100% sure of your options , what you qualify for, sometimes even what you really want – I mean is it really better to live close to where you work or where you play?  There’s a whole lot to consider when you are committing to a lease!

Apartment locators are experienced in the hunt for a new apartment, and know what steps get you to the perfect rental as fast as possible without skipping any of the important questions, verifications and paperwork that ensure that you end up in the home you want.  Not many people truly understand the value an apartment locator can add, especially considering the service is free to you, the client.  Here’s how apartment finding works:

Make contact with the apartment locating company.  There are many factors that can help you determine which service to use.  Online directories like Yelp and CitySearch have rankings and customer reviews, referrals from your friends, family and coworkers, the quality of their website and office, even the longevity of the Apartment Locating service can help you decide who is the right apartment locator for you.  Some questions you might ask a potential apartment finder:

-How long have you worked in this city?

-What area of the city do you specialize in?

-Do you prefer to send listings or escort me to the properties?

-Can you drive us around (if you are coming in from out of town)?

-Have you worked with my circumstances before?

Meet with your apartment locator.  Your locator can ascertain your basic needs from a conversation on the phone or information submitted on a form, but every situation is different, and the job of your apartment locator, the part that saves you time, gas money and headaches, is to filter out as many non-qualifying apartments as possible BEFORE you leave the office.  This means they will have a lot of questions and often times will be tweaking their apartment search on the fly.  If you are in the office with them, they can do this much faster and easier.

Qualifying you for the apartments and the apartments for you.  Here is where the bulk of the work comes in.  It still amazes me that more people don’t use locators because they do all of this for you, for FREE.  Once you and your apartment finder have pared down your apartment selections to those that meet your basic needs like location, beds / baths, rent, pets, etc…NOW the apartment locator will:

-Contact apartment management to verify exact unit availability of not JUST the floor plan, but also the location with the community, the floor number, the view, move-in date, whether or not a garage, storage unit or assigned parking comes with the unit and much, much more.

-Verify the qualification criteria for the apartment community: credit, rental history, public record, income, etc. to make sure that you are not wasting your time or application fees.

-Confirm the apartment community or rental rules regarding any special circumstances like pets, guests, parking, bike storage, etc. that might be relevant to your situation.

-Find out if there are any relevant specials that would reduce your rent, deposit or administration fees, or what, if any utilities are included in the rent, as well as whether there are additional fees you might not be considering, like a parking fee or pet fee.

If any of these do not suit your current situation, your apartment locator can help you decide whether to remove them from your list or make an exception.  Taking the time to visit apartments that don’t fit your needs, don’t have units available when you need them or you don’t qualify for, can cost you loads of time and money!  A good apartment locator can save you from many of the most common rental mistakes and oversights.

Escort you to the RIGHT apartments and rental properties.  Once you and your apartment locator have come up with your final list, it’s time to tour the apartment properties!  Your apartment locator will often escort you to your apartment selections so they can ensure that all your questions get answered and that you have a chance to ask them!  They can also help you with the necessary paperwork if you decide to apply.  This is really helpful if you are coming in from out of town.  Regardless it’s still great not to have to spend your own gas money going from place to place!

“Wow!” you say?  Not really; this is what they do for a living and they are really good at it!  This FREE service is a real gem in so many situations.  Whether you are just very busy, you are moving to a new city or you just don’t know where to start, try an apartment locator.  Many people consider their service the biggest value in renting!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Right Questions: What To Ask When Your Looking For The Right Apartment!

General Guidelines

Finding that perfect apartment means taking some time and coming up with exactly what you're looking for. Having a well defined list of must-haves and nice-to-haves will make your apartment search much easier.

1. Investigate the areas you'd like to live in:

*Find out the crime rates in these areas
*If schools are important, find out how they rate in that area?
*Are shopping, services, health and recreation facilities convenient?
(Check out Realtor.com's neighborhood search tool)

2. Identify your top priorities

*Do you have pets?
*Do you need extra parking spaces?
*How many bedrooms, how much living area?
*Do you prefer to be on the ground floor?
*Is a view important?
*What amenities would you like - swimming pool, recreation or fitness room, tennis courts?
*Do you need laundry facilities?

3. Evaluate the apartment

*Is the building in good condition?
*Are the grounds well landscaped and neat?
*Are the grass and plants green or dieing?
*Are common areas, both inside and outside, well looked after?
*Are steps, walkways, windows and doors safe?
*Visit the apartment at night. Would you feel safe in the parking lots, garages, walkways and hallways? Are they well lit?

4. Evaluate the security

*Is there a private security service? If so, during what hours?
*Is there secured access to the grounds? To the building? If so, are doors and gates kept locked?
*Do the apartments have adequate locks on doors and windows?

5. Ask the neighbors how they like living there

It may take a little courage, but it is worth asking current residents how they feel about the building. See what response times are like for maintenance and repair requests. 

The Right Questions

6. Check out the amenities

*Who's allowed to use swimming pools, recreation and fitness rooms, tennis courts?
*What hours are they open?
*Is there additional fees charged to use those facilities?

7. Ask about Utilities

*Does the owner or tenant pay the water bill?
*Are any utilities, such as gas and electric, included in the rent?
*Do units have individual thermostats to control heat and air conditioning?

8. Examine the lease

*How much notice must you give before moving at the end of the lease term?
*Can the rent be increased? If so, by how much and how often?
*Are pets allowed?
*What provisions cover your security deposit and end of lease cleaning costs?
*What is the responsibility of tenants for wear or damage to property?
*What is the penalty for breaking a lease?

9. Be prepared! Collect information to present to landlords and leasing agents before beginning your search. Include:

a. Credit Report
b. Application
c. Pay stubs/tax returns
d. References

Do-It-Yourself Movers Guide

How do you pack those items that are hard to wrap or items of value? Here are some simple packing tips:

How to Pack Furniture:

Disassemble furniture if possible and cover
Wrap table legs separately
Lay down padding between your furniture and the floor of the truck
Place tables with legs assembled top down on floor with legs up
Stack chairs seat to seat

Packing China:

Use special "dishpak" boxes
Wrap plates, saucers, and bowls individually using several sheets of paper each
Start from the corner, wrapping diagonally, continuously tucking in edges
After wrapping individually, wrap 4-6 pieces in a bundle with a double layer of newspaper
Place cushioning material in bottom of carton
Place flat, heavier pieces like platters, plates on bottom
Place bundled items in a carton in a row on edge.
Surround each bundle with crushed paper, being careful to leave no unfilled spaces.
Cups and glassware should be wrapped in a double layer of paper and placed upside down on rims in a row on an upper layer within the box with all the handles facing the same direction.

Packing Clothing:

Shoes may be left in shoe boxes and placed into large cartons.
Or, wrap each shoe individually, then in pairs.
Shoes should be cushioned to avoid damage occurring to high heals or ornaments.
Do not pack heavy items on shoes.
Clothing may be left on hangers and transported in wardrobe cartons.
Lightweight clothing such as hose, lingerie and sweaters may be left in dresser drawers.

Lamps:

Remove the light bulb.
Wrap the base, harp and bulb separately, in newsprint, and place together in a carton, filling spaces with crushed paper.
Never wrap the lamp shade in newspaper.
Carefully wrap each shade in 3-4 sheets of fresh tissue paper, a pillow case or large lightweight towel.

Pictures and Glass:

Use a standard picture box or cover both sides of the picture with cardboard.
Place packing paper along the sides and edges of the picture to prevent it from moving inside the box.
Place no more than 3 or 4 pictures in one box.
Keep the box right side up at all times.

What NOT to Pack:

Heat from the sun can raise temperatures inside a closed moving van and trucks to more than 150 degrees. Even in the middle of winter, heat builds up inside. Many common items, including aerosol hair spray or cleaning products, can trigger an explosion or fire that could destroy your possessions when packed inside a van.
For your own safety, make sure that no member of your family packs these items in a container to be moved. Replacing a can of hair spray is much easier than replacing all of your belongings.
We want you to have a satisfying move. For the safety of your belongings, review the list below and eliminate all dangerous items before packing:

Hair spray
Cleaning products
Shaving cream
Spray starch
Deodorants
Insecticides
Spray paint
Oil-based paints
Bleach
Gasoline
Muriatic acid
Kerosene
Auto batteries
Naptha
Propane in tanks*
Tar remover
Oxygen in tanks
Paint thinners
Lighter fluid
Turpentine
Matches
Lacquer remover
Ammunition
Mineral spirits
Chlorine granules or powder
Any other type of combustible

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What is a Townhome?

Townhouse / Townhome / Town House / Town Home:

-Noun: one of a row of houses joined by common sidewalls.

As an expert real estate agent in Austin, Texas, I have come to understand that people today assume a townhome to be a freestanding unit, considerably like a duplex or home. This is not actually the situation. By classification, it’s a “row” of houses. Frequently individuals compare most townhomes with “row houses” much like the ones in New York . A look that comes to mind might be “the Cosby Show” dwelling. Austin’s a little different in the definition of a 'townhome'.

The majority of of the townhome type floor plans in San Antonio are located inside an apartment type community. Presently there are some that are strictly townhome communities, however it's not the norm. A good deal more often than not, the communities have several other floor plans including one and two bedroom apartment properties and flats somewhere on the property. Often, these flats are situated beneath a townhome floor plan. Consequently, the entry is normally located on the second floor as opposed to the first floor.

Since the usual townhome floor plan is two stories, there usually are a number of downsides. One in particular is that utilities could possibly be a bit higher. One more problem to consider is that the stairway is actually incorporated in the overall square footage; therefore homes could in many cases feel more large than they realistically are.

On the up side, a townhome floor plan customarily has no neighbors on top of the flat, the only wall space shared usually are on the sides or bottom. Furthermore, townhomes with a first floor entrance may possibly have a much bigger expanded outdoor patio area as a result. 

If you have more questions about the differences in types of rental units, feel free to give us a call - this is what we do day in and day out - and we can definitely help!  Happy renting!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Moving Tips Timeline - What To Pack And When To Pack It For An Easy Move!

Moving is complicated, time consuming and is often done completely out of order.  In this post we are going to outline some of the important things to do when you are moving and best order in which to do them so that you can have the smoothest move possible.  So here we go...

Six Weeks Before the Move:

1) Start by making an inventory of all of the items you want to move, what you would like to give away, sell or trash.

2) Organize a garage sale or call your favorite charity to clean out household items you do not want to move. If necessary locate a dumpster or order a bulk trash pick up for larger items you intend to through away.

3) Get estimates from several moving companies and select your mover. Make sure you find out the payment terms and  from the mover: when payments are due and what types of payments they accept.

4) Start packing NOW. Start with items that are stored in your attic or basement, that aren't used often. 

5) Contact your insurance agent to transfer or cancel coverage. 

6) Check with your employer to find out what, if any, moving expenses they will pay.

Four Weeks Before the Move:

1) Notify your accounts, mail, magazine subscriptions, newspaper delivery, etc. of your change in address. 

2) Get records of your pet's medical history and immunizations from the veterinarian.

3) Contact utility companies for refunds of your deposit and set turn-off dates.

4) Service power mowers, snowmobiles, etc. Drain all gas/oil in motorized vehicles to prevent a fire.

5) Obtain all family records and prescriptions from your family doctors and dentist.

6) Get your children's school records.

7) Move your valuables to a safe deposit box to prevent loss.

8) Give away or arrange for transportation of house plants (most moving companies will not move plants)

One Week Before the Move: 

1) Transfer or close any checking, savings or other accounts that you cannot access in your new location. 

2) Have your automobile(s) serviced. 

3) Fill out Post Office change-of-address forms and give to the postmaster. 

4) Empty your freezer and plan use of foods. 

5) Defrost the freezer and clean refrigerator. Use baking soda to dispel odor. 

6) Arrange for sufficient cash or traveler checks you might need for moving expenses. 

7) Separate cartons and luggage you need for personal/family travel. 

8) Organize at least one room in the house for packers and movers to work freely. 

9) Plan for special needs of children and pets. 

10) Arrange to have utilities turned on at your new address. 

11) Remove valuables from the safe deposit box before moving day so they aren't left behind.

On Moving Day: 

1) Plan to spend the entire day at the house. Don't leave until the movers have gone. 

2) Carry jewelry and valuable documents yourself; or use registered mail. 

3) Stay with the moving van driver to oversee the inventory. 

4) Be sure to tell packers and/or drivers about fragile or precious items. 

5) Take a final tour of your apartment or home. Double check closets, drawers and shelves to be sure they are empty. 

6) Approve and sign the Bill of Lading. If possible, accompany driver to the weigh station. 

7) Double check with the driver to make certain moving company records show the correct delivery address and date of delivery. Give driver phone numbers both here and in new community to contact you in case of a problem. 

8) Get complete routing information from the driver and phone numbers where you can call the driver or company while en route. 

9) Disconnect all utilities. 

10) Lock all the doors and windows. 

11) Leave all keys with apartment manager, realtor, or neighbor.

No matter how organized you are during you move, moving is stressful.  Be sure to let close friends and relatives know your route, including overnight stops, and carry cashier checks or travelers checks for quick available funds.

After You Arrive:

1) Check on service of utilities at new address. 

2) Check pilot light on stove, hot water heater and furnace. 

3) Have new address recorded on driver's license, or obtain a new one. 

4) Register your car within 5 days after arrival in new state, to avoid penalty. 

5) Register children in school. 

6) Obtain phone numbers for emergencies, such as fire/police, and determine the nearest hospital. 

7) Register to vote.

Every move is different, but these are fairly standard things that every mover will need to do.  You will have to add some of your own personal needs in these lists to successfully make your move as organized as possible.  Good luck!

Rich Chilleri, Manager - Austin Apartments Now!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Lease Agreements: What To Look For In A Lease

Leases can be very complicated. In addition to the legal aspects of a lease, you need to make sure that the terms are favorable and the information provided by you and the landlord is correct. Here are a few things to look for in a lease to make certain your lease contains the details you and the landlord have agreed
upon:

1) Is the specific address of the apartment you selected correct?

2) What is the designated length of the lease, and specifically what day does it terminate on? Is that inclusive (meaning you move that day) or non-inclusive (meaning you must be out by the day?

3 Is there a sublet clause which will allow you to rent your apartment to another person if you will not be living there during your co-op period?

4) What is the amount of the rent? Also...
a) when it is to be paid?
b) where it is to be paid?
c) are there penalties if you pay it late?
d) can the landlord can increase it during the period of the lease?

5) What utilities are your responsibility in addition to the rent? I.E. electricity, heat, water, and sewage...

6) How can you terminate your lease or renew it?

7) Do you and your landlord have to give 30 or 60 days notice to terminate or continue the lease? Specifically, when will the landlord send out a renewal letter, where will they send it and what do you need to do to renew or not renew? Many landlords will automatically renew your lease on an expensive month-to-month basis if you do not give proper notification of non-renewal.

8) What is the penalty you must pay if you have to break your lease?

9) What is the amount of security deposit required?

Leases are not to be taken lightly. Read your lease carefully. This is just a sampling of the potential terms included in a lease. Don't just assume that the landlord has provided accurate details that give you all the legal rights you agreed to verbally. An experienced apartment locator can help you review your lease and ensure that you are receiving the terms you agreed to.

Apartment Safety - Important Tips For Living In Apartments

View this article on the Austin Apartments Now SlideShare account!

Before committing yourself to a particular apartment, try to ensure that:

1. All locks on the apartment doors offer good security, and the cores of the locks will be changed when you move in.

2. The doors of the apartment have peephole viewers.

3. The hallways are well lit, and no bulbs are missing or burned out.

4. There are mirrors at bends in the corridors to prevent someone from waiting unseen.

5. The intercom buzzer system for the front door works properly.

6. Mailboxes show no evidence of tampering.

7. All exterior doors and locks are in good working order.

8. All windows accessible from ground level are protected by bars. (Make sure that the bars or grating can be opened from the inside in the event of a fire, and that you will be given a key, if one is required.)

9. All fire escapes are alarmed or enclosed to prevent unauthorized access.

10. Trees and bushes near the building are not overgrown, and bushes are kept below window height.

11. Garage doors are kept locked, and are controlled by either a key or magnetic card.

Once you've chosen an apartment, and have moved in:

1. Never leave your apartment door unlocked, even while taking out the trash. You may find someone waiting inside when you get back!

2. If required to give the superintendent a key to your apartment for emergency use, seal it in an envelope and sign your name across the flap with your signature overlapping onto the body of the envelope. This will deter against tampering. Periodically ask to see the envelope.

3. Make an effort to meet your neighbors. Learn to look out for each other's interests. Know who "belongs."

4. Don't get on an elevator with a stranger. In an elevator, stand beside the control panel to have direct access to the alarm button.

5. Never isolate yourself in a basement laundry room. If possible, arrange to do laundry with a neighbor.

6. Never open your door to a stranger. Utility company employees can slip their IDs under the door. If in doubt, look up the company telephone number yourself (don't rely on a number they give you), and call to verify the information.

7. Do not prop outside doors open for any reason. If you find one propped open, close and secure it.

8. Use only your first initial on your doorbell and mailbox, and in the phone book.

9. Immediately report any building security problems to the superintendent. Follow up to be sure the problem is corrected.

10. When your apartment is unoccupied for a long period of time, leave a radio or television playing to give the impression that somebody is home.

Friday, July 2, 2010

How to Evaluate An Apartment: 8 Tips To Get You Started!

View this article on the Austin Apartments Now Slideshare account!

Whether you're a first-time renter or an seasoned apartment dweller, it's worth taking the time to decide what's most important to you in where you live and to plan your search strategy accordingly. With that in mind, here are eight tips to consider:

1. Make a list of your top housing priorities:
Do you need extra parking spaces? A place that welcomes pets? A large kitchen or linen closet? A ground-floor entrance to your home? Thinking through your needs ahead of time can help you find an apartment that meets those needs, instead of one that just strikes your fancy at first glance.

2. Check out the property:
In addition to examining the condition of the for-rent unit, walk through the property to see whether it appears to be well-maintained. Is the landscaping healthy or dying? Nicely trimmed or growing wild? Are any windows, steps or railings broken or dangerous? Do the access doors open easily and shut tightly? Walk through at night, too. Are the parking areas and pathways well lit? What about the stairwells and hallways?

3. Talk to the neighbors:
If you're serious about a particular apartment, knock on a few doors and ask your potential neighbors whether they're satisfied with the building's amenities, management's responsiveness to repair needs and other issues of concern to you. Ask: Would you tell a friend to move into this building?

4. Examine the lease:
A lease is a legal obligation to pay rent for a specified length of time, and every lease has variations on the terms and conditions of tenancy. How much notice must you give before moving at the end of the lease term? Can the rent be increased? Are pets allowed? What provisions cover your security deposit and end-of-lease cleaning costs? If the terms of the lease agreement don't suit your needs, negotiate or reconsider renting the apartment.

5. Consider security:
Does the building have controlled access? If so, are the exterior security gates and doors closed? Are the locks in working order? Does your individual unit have secure door locks and window latches? (Some states have specific laws regarding minimum security devices for apartment units.) Does the building have a security service? If so, is a guard on duty 24 hours or does he or she just drive by periodically?

6. Ask about amenities:
Does the building have a swimming pool? A recreation or fitness room? Tennis courts? Laundry facilities? Who is allowed to use those facilities and during what hours? Is there an extra fee charged for use of the facilities? Where are the facilities located in relation to your prospective apartment? Do you really want to live poolside or near the laundry room?

7. Ask about utility costs:
Is the water bill paid by the owner or separately by the tenants? Are electrical or gas utilities included in the rejavascript:void(0)nt? Is there a single thermostat for the entire building? If so, who controls it?

8. Take notes:
Before you move in, document the condition of your unit and make note of any nonfunctioning doors or windows, leaking plumbing, missing fixtures, stained carpets and so on. Ask your landlord to initial a copy of your documentation to prevent disputes when you eventually move out. Better yet, take pictures or make a video of the premises before you bring in any of your furniture or belongings.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Renting with Pets: Tips and Tricks

View this article on the Austin Apartments Now Slideshare Account!



You may have already figured this out: Landlords tend not to be very appreciative of pets. If you have a cat or a dog, your search will be more difficult, but definitely not impossible. As a general rule, the tighter the rental market gets, the more selective landlords will become, showing a preference for tenants who don't have pets, particularly dogs.

Here are some good tips for renting with pets:

1) Most apartments will accept pets to some degree. Restrictions usually center around the quantity of pets you have, aggressive breed dogs, or large pets.

2) Start by looking for pet-friendly apartments. Apartment complexes with dog-parks, or that offer some units with small yards, are more likely to be accept more breeds or large

3) Get some references for your pet. Former landlords or building managers are best. Even your vet may put in a good word. The point is to make it clear that you don't have a problem pet.

4) Much of the resistance to dogs is a fear they will bark too much (especially when the tenant isn't home), disturbing other tenants. If your dog is not of the barking variety, be sure to emphasize that when applying for a place.

5) Some cat-friendly managers may consider small dogs.

6) Cats have a better chance of being accepted if they are declawed, neutered and guaranteed to be housebroken.

7) Houses are more likely to accept your pet, as they often have yards, so you might want to concentrate on that route.

We help renters find Austin pet-friendly apartments all the time. If you have a pet, and you are looking for an apartment in Austin that accepts pets, just give us a call at 512-258-8224 or 800-530-5832. Our locators have extensive experience in this area. Our service is always free. Use our expertise to save you a lot of time and money in your search for the perfect pet-friendly Austin apartment!