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by ARLnow.com Sponsor — December 11, 2014 at 2:30 pm 1,176 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

The season of giving is upon us, and we have some great gift ideas to spruce up any new home, especially if they are tight on space. Here is our list of 10 great gifts under $50.

The Practical Gift – A Crock Pot is an excellent idea for everyone, whether you are a busy student, or a family on the go. You can make simple, healthy meals in a pinch, without needing a microwave, oven or stove. Available at Amazon for $39.99.

If you are feeling a little generous, throw in a cookbook like Cooking Light Slow Cooker Tonight!

For the Cook – An eight-piece Nesting Bowl set is a great gift for the person who loves to cook but is tight on space. With two mixing bowls, a colander, a sieve, and 4 measuring cups, they could have what they need to make you something tasty as a thank you! Available at Bed Bath & Beyond for $34.99.

Keep Warm – Soft, cozy Sherpa throw blankets are a great gift for someone who loves to snuggle up on the couch with a good book in the winter. Multiple colors are available to match any décor, and at a price of $22.77 at Amazon, you might even want to pick one up for yourself.

For the Host – Keep that new furniture looking sharp while entertaining with stylish Antique Silver Coasters from Pottery Barn. At $29, these coasters are a great gift that will work with just about any home style.

For the Beer Enthusiast – Hopefully the recipient of Pilsner Glasses can make room in the freezer because beer just tastes better in a chilled glass. These attractive glasses are perfect for entertaining or settling in on the couch after a long day’s work. A set of four is $39.80 (sold individually for $9.95) from Crate & Barrel.

Keep It Simple – When you just don’t know what to do, a wood cutting board is a great idea. This works great to chop up fresh fruits and veggies or to serve appetizers like a charcuterie spread. Either way, you can’t go wrong. This one is from the Martha Stewart Collection at Macy’s for $29.99.

Pizza, Pizza, Pizza – Who doesn’t love pizza? Use a simple homemade pizza crust recipe, and throw on fresh ingredients, and this pizza stone will be a go to item to make a quick, easy dinner. Pizza Stone available at Target for $26.99.

Grilling Without the Grill – Since most apartments and condos do not allow grills, the next best thing for a healthy grilled dinner is to use a grill pan. With easy clean up and storage, a grill pan is also great when cooking for one. This Calphalon Grill Pan is available at Kohl’s for $49.99.

Just for Fun – If you know someone who loves frozen treats and has a little extra counter space, this might be the perfect gift. The Magic Bullet Dessert Bullet makes delicious, fruity treats in just a few seconds, making it the perfect choice to calm that post workout sweet craving. Available at Bed Bath & Beyond for $39.99.

When All Else Fails – When in doubt, grab a nice basket ($14.99 at Michaels) and fill it up with coffee, fresh fruit and maybe a gift card to the nearest grocery store. The basket can be used later for much needed storage, and the items you throw in will be much appreciated while they settle in to their new place.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to info@urbanigloo.com.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — November 26, 2014 at 12:00 pm 735 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Budgeting for a new apartment might seem simple. Many renters know the 30 percent rule, which says that, in general, your rent should be no more than 30 percent of your gross income. So for example, if you make $60,000/year, you can afford $1,500/month for rent. This is a good rule of thumb to start with, but there are several more pieces to the rental budget puzzle than just base rent price.

Parking – It is safe to assume that an apartment in Arlington will charge extra for on-site parking. So if you plan to have a car, you will need to budget anywhere from $50-$150 or more for parking depending on the area.

Transportation – Of course, transportation costs are another big piece of the pie. Whether or not you are driving to work every day or using public transportation, you will need to consider the cost from your new home to work or school. If you are using Metro as your primary transportation, you can determine your daily fare by going to their Stations Page and selecting your starting station, then scroll to your final destination. It will give you Peak and Off Peak fares as well as general transport time. If you are driving to work, don’t forget to factor in fuel, tolls and parking at the office, if necessary.

Utilities – Most likely, your new apartment will not include utilities. Depending on the unit, you will need to pay all or a portion of electric, gas, water, and trash. Some units will charge a flat fee, while others will be individually metered. Ask when looking at an apartment what the general utility cost is for your size unit. Most likely, you can expect to pay around $100-$200 per months for general utilities. And if you are like most people these days, you will need cable and Internet for another $100-$150 per month.

Laundry – Does your apartment have a washer and dryer? If not, don’t forget those quarters (or these days many building have prepaid cards for laundry). At around $3 per load, the laundry expense can add up quickly. Many newer apartments do have in-unit washer and dryers, so depending on the other features and amenities included in the price, a newer place may be worth the extra cash.

Pets – If you are bringing Patches or Fido along, it could cost you anywhere from $25-50 per month or more. Some places charge a flat fee or deposit up front, in lieu of pet rent, but others charge it in addition to pet rent.

Gym – Now, here’s where you might actually get a little savings. If you have a gym in your building, you can probably skip the gym membership. Depending on your preferences, most apartment gyms have a few pieces of cardio equipment like a treadmill, elliptical and bike. They also have free weights and other strength equipment. Some buildings may even offer some on-site Yoga classes for residents. Gym memberships can run from $10-$100/month so that on-site gym could keep a little extra cash in your pocket every month.

Using our $1,500 rent per month example, here is a sample budget:

Parking: $50

Transportation: $100

Utilities and Cable: $250

Laundry: $27

Pet: $25

Total: $452

That brings your total housing budget up to about 39 percent of gross income using the $60,000 example.

Keep in mind, a $1,500 budget for Arlington can be low. While there are definitely deals out for a lower budget, you will likely pay more for something else like transportation. If a $1,500 budget is out of your range, you may need to consider a roommate to take advantage of a great location while keeping costs down.

For more help on budgeting, take a look at Mint.com. It is a free tool to help you set and track your budget. For help with the Arlington rental market, contact a local expert to discuss current pricing, availability, and other expert tips on renting.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to info@urbanigloo.com.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Rental Report: Closet Shock

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — November 13, 2014 at 2:30 pm 883 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

As you sit in your new living room surrounded by dozens of boxes, the shock sets in and you think to yourself, “Where am I going to put all my stuff?” The thought crossed your mind during your apartment search, but finding that great place, close to the Metro and your favorite restaurant, all within your budget was really all you dreamed of, so you can handle a tiny closet.

The key to putting a lot of stuff in a small space is organization and creativity. Here are our top tips for getting organized in your new space.

Sort – What items do you use every day, week or month? What items are occasional? What are “keepers” no matter how often you use them? Are there any more items that you can live without? Prepare your occasional and keeper items to go into a secondary closet, hide-a-way storage, or a storage unit, and then get them out of the way.

Baskets, Baskets, Baskets – Find them in all shapes, sizes and materials. If you are on a tight budget, get crafty. Make baskets from boxes and fabric, or cover a cheap, plastic basket with rope of twine for a varied look. Check out the clearance baskets whenever you head to Target — they always come in handy. Place baskets around the house on shelves, next to furniture, under furniture, and anywhere you can find a place to stash your every day items. Baskets also help in the kitchen to organize a pantry, and for your items under the sink.

Bins and Space Bags – Space bags are your new best friend. Those occasional items, including your warm winter blankets, can get tucked away in a space bag, placed in a storage bin, and stuck under the bed until you need them. Space bags squish everything down to a much smaller size, allowing you to pack much more in that storage bin than usual.

Other Organizers – Treat your self to a housewarming gift at the Container Store or Ikea. They have so many choices in custom closet organizers to maximize your space. Be sure to take measurements of your space and make a list of exactly what you need (shoe storage, accessory storage, etc.) to make these trips more seamless.

Maximize Furniture – Get creative with what you already have, and don’t be afraid to step outside the norm. If you have to store towels in your nightstand, go for it. Cover a small table with a tablecloth, and store your cookbooks or your serving pieces underneath.

Take advantage of the storage spaces in your building. Sometimes they are included with your rent, but generally the charge is about $25-50 per month for a space in the building, which can be less expensive than a storage unit outside the building.

Spend an hour on Pinterest getting ideas of inexpensive, DIY storage ideas. But most of all, do your best to downsize and donate as much as you can. Moving to a smaller space is a great excuse to get rid of things you rarely use. Call Good Donor to come pick up your extra items.

Remember the rule — if you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it! Then sit back, and enjoy your organized home.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to info@urbanigloo.com.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 30, 2014 at 3:30 pm 752 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

The weather is cooling off, and it won’t be long before winter brings wind, snow and cold temperatures to our area. Now is the time to get your rental ready so your place is a warm, cozy retreat after a long day. We have a few tips to help you keep the chilly winter air out of your place, and stay warm this winter.

Curtains – One of the easiest, most inexpensive fixes for drafty windows is to buy curtains. Keep your curtains open during the day to let in the light and help heat the rooms in your home. At night, shut the drapes to keep out the bitter cold air. As an extra bonus, curtains can add some style to your place. Just be sure to fill in the holes from the curtain rods before you move out to keep from being charged for damage.

Foam Sealant – Another simple fix for a nasty draft is to use some foam sealant around the windows. A quick trip to the home improvement store can save up to 20 percent on your energy costs this winter. The foam sealant is not the most attractive solution, but it gets the job done. If you choose to use a clear caulk instead, be sure it is removable, so you can easily open the windows in the spring.

Weather Stripping – Sealing the area around any outside doors is one of the efficient ways to insulate, as doors tend to let in the most outside air. Install a door sweep at the bottom and weather stripping around the doors to seal out cold air. You can also use temporary weather stripping around your windows for another window sealant option.

Window Film – Although a pricier solution, window film not only retains up to 55 percent of your home’s heat in the winter, but it also helps reflect the light in the summer to keep your place cool.

Space Heaters – For small spaces, space heaters can help you save on energy costs while heating up a room to a nice, toasty temperature. Space heaters allow you to keep your thermostat down at 68, while using a little extra energy to heat up a small room while you are home. If you have pets or kids, be sure to buy heaters that are cool to the touch, and have an automatic shutoff if the heater is tipped over. Don’t forget to unplug it when you leave your home!

The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a colder than usual winter for the Metro D.C. area. Use these tips to stay warm, and help you save a few dollars on your heating costs this winter.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to info@urbanigloo.com.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 16, 2014 at 2:15 pm 402 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

At some point during your rental search, you’ll likely hear a reference to Fair Housing. But what do Fair Housing regulations really mean?

The Rule – The Federal Fair Housing Law prohibits “housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status (families with children under age 18).” In addition to the Federal law, the state of Virginia also includes those over the age of 55 as a protected class.

The Meaning – As long as you meet the income, credit, employment and background requirements for a particular property, the landlord cannot turn you down for an apartment rental. In addition to renting a property, a property manager, landlord or real estate agent cannot refuse to show you a property you qualify for or are interested in based on any assumptions they have regarding a protected class.

For Renters – As a renter, especially when you are new to the area, you likely have a lot of questions about neighborhoods and building demographics. Understand that the real estate or leasing agent, by law, cannot answer specific questions regarding area demographics or safety. They can recommend sources for you to do your own research, but always take Internet commentary with a grain of salt. Everyone has different opinions. You might find it helpful to observe people in the neighborhood and building during different times of the day. This can give you a good idea of the breakdown, and help you determine if a particular place meets your needs.

For Landlords – First and foremost, be sure your qualifications are clear to renters. Put the qualifications in your advertising, and email them to prospective renters. If you turn down an offer from a renter, you want to be crystal clear the reason is based on one of your qualifications not being met. For example: they do not meet your financial standards, or they haven’t been employed long enough. Whatever the reason, be sure you let them know up front your exact expectations. Keeping in mind, many people moving to the area are first-time renters, with their first jobs out of school, so be clear on whether or not you will accept co-signers to help bridge the gap for those with minimal rental and credit histories. Landlords, if you are listing your place without the help of an agent, be aware of Fair Housing when advertising your property. Comments such as, “great for roommates” or “will only consider singles” in your ads is unacceptable.

Overall, Fair Housing is meant to protect renters and buyers from discrimination. It can be frustrating when you aren’t familiar with an area, because you can’t get a straight answer. Just know that those working to help you aren’t trying to be difficult, they are normally trying to follow the rules to treat everyone equally.

Virginia Fair Housing Office

Phone: 804-367-8530 or 888-551-3247

Email: FairHousing@dpor.virginia.gov

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm 465 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

You’ve navigated the Arlington rental market to find the perfect place. We have some great apps to make the move and the transition a little easier.

Moving – Looking for something to help you stay organized during your move? Apps like In That Box (for iPhone) and BoxMeUp (for Android) will help you organize all of your stuff. Using QR codes, photos, lists and search, these apps help you find your stuff once you get to your new place. Need a storage unit too? Use these apps to keep your stored items organized as well. No digging through all the boxes to find your holiday party plates.

Neighborhood – Now that you are settled in, it is time to meet the neighbors. Check out Nextdoor, (Android and iPhone), a social network for specific neighborhoods. Nextdoor is still growing in this area, so you could be a trailblazer and start a network in your area. Use Nextdoor for organizing social events, meeting like-minded people, and even to sell your stuff.

Groceries – Obviously one of the more important things to figure out in a new area is where to shop and where to eat. For groceries, check out apps like PeaPod (Android and iPhone) and Instacart (Android and iPhone.) Peapod is a grocery delivery option from Giant. Instacart is a personal shopper service where you can get your items delivered in as little as an hour. The service is available for stores such as Whole Foods, Costco and Harris Teeter in the Arlington area.

Laundry – For many, laundry and dry cleaning is a hassle. Worry no more. Check out Washio (Android and iPhone) for all of your laundry needs. Washio is a door-to-door laundry and dry cleaning service. You schedule your service, someone comes and picks it up and they deliver your items back to you the next day. Prices start at $1.60/lb for laundry and $6.00 for dry cleaning dress shirts. Hate ironing? Laundered and pressed shirts are $2.75.

Transportation – With all these great things delivered to your door, it seems like you might never need to leave the apartment. Maybe now you’ll have some free time you need to head out and enjoy all the city has to offer. Below is a list of apps and sites to help you hit the town.

  • Car Free Near Me – This app/site helps you find just about any of the transportation options in your area. Enter your location and Car Free Near Me tells you the nearest Metro or Metro and ART Bus Stop along with upcoming schedules. It will also tell you where to find the nearest ZipCar or Capital Bike Share.
  • ZipCar and Car2Go – Need a car for a few hours for a quick trip out of the area, or to stock up on essentials at Target and Costco? These car share options are a great way to go.

Lastly, do you need an easy way to pay rent? Cozy is a great option, especially when you have roommates. Use Cozy to collect payments and send one payment from all to the landlord. Best part about Cozy, it’s free!

One of the greatest things about living in the Arlington area is having so much to do right outside your door. Technology helps create more free time to enjoy. So head out and enjoy!

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to info@urbanigloo.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — September 18, 2014 at 2:30 pm 467 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Overwhelmed by searching for rentals in the DC metro area market? Maybe you should enlist the help of a real estate agent. Here are some of the advantages to working with an agent in your rental search:

Expertise – If you’re new to the area, the expertise of a local agent could save you a lot of headache and stress. A local agent knows the area, knows the properties and can act as a matchmaker to find a great rental in an area you’ll enjoy. You may not have a lot of time to actually spend in the areas you’ve researched. An agent can help steer you to the right neighborhoods based on your wants, needs and hobbies. Your perfect neighborhood may be one you never considered.

More Options – Navigating the rental market alone, your search is limited to apartment websites, Craigslist etc. An agent will have access to the database the Multiple Listing Service, or MLS. Agents can research properties and schedule showings. While you may be able to find properties on the MLS without an agent, you will have to contact the listing agents and arrange the showings on your own. Rental agents may also know about specials coming up at particular buildings before they are made public, helping you score a deal on your apartment.

Representation and Cost – Ask the agent to provide a disclosure that they represent you and will be paid by the landlord. With this, they can help you negotiate and understand the terms of your lease.

Time – A rental agent can save you time. Again, they know the area, they know what buildings meet your criteria and they know the current rates and availability. They make calls and set appointments for you, saving you countless hours.

What else you need to know – Most rental agents don’t work with all properties and landlords in the area, so keep that in mind. That’s why they might tell you they can’t show you a particular property but they should be able to tell you how it compares to what you have seen.

  • Rental prices can change daily in managed apartment buildings. The pricing is based on the vacancy rate, and is often automatically adjusted with rent-optimizer algorithms. Just because you saw something on a website last week at one price does not mean that same price is available now.
  • Most rental agents won’t show you a dozen units. Just as your time is valuable, so is theirs. If they’ve shown you four units within your criteria, you are in pretty good shape. At that point, you should make a decision on the area and building you like best, as many apartments look similar and offer similar features. Seeing 10 more of the same category of units likely won’t make your decision any easier — in fact, it may make you more frustrated.
  • Agents can’t tell you everything. The Fair Housing Act prohibits agents from giving you specifics about demographics of a neighborhood or building. So they can’t answer questions like, “Are there young professionals in this building?” Don’t hold that against them, as they are just trying to keep the playing field fair for all.
  • Give them all the details. If you are going to need a co-signer for your apartment, let the agent know. Not all properties will accept co-signers. You don’t want them to waste your time showing you a unit if it isn’t going to work for you. If you have a dog, be sure to mention that in your first conversation. Many properties don’t allow pets, or they charge a fee or additional rent money. The agent will need to factor that in when selecting units for you. If you need to be close to the Metro, let them know, and let them know what close means to you. Every person is different. Tell them a little about yourself, what you enjoy doing, what type of food you like and where you work. Every little bit of information helps them find you a great place.
  • Not all agents are created equal. It is beneficial to find an agent who is licensed, and who specializes in rentals. This way you are sure to find a professional who understands your needs and is willing to take the time to work with you. You want someone who is going to listen and find you a rental that will make you truly happy.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to info@urbanigloo.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — September 4, 2014 at 2:30 pm 568 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

You’ve decided to dive in to the landlord pool. Don’t start your landlord adventure with a belly flop. Some landlords have no trouble managing rentals themselves, but others need some help, especially new landlords. Hiring a property manager can save time, headaches and even some legal troubles, but is it right for you? Here’s what you should consider.

How much time do you have? – Do you have the time to devote to managing a property? Getting tenants in the door is just one task on a laundry list of property management to-dos. Even before you find the right tenants, you will need to set up your business, educate yourself on landlord tenant law, prepare your marketing plan, determine your tenant qualifications and find services for credit reporting and lease documents. While you are marketing the property, you will need to talk to prospective renters and show the property. For a first time landlord, navigating through these tasks can be overwhelming and they can cut into work and leisure time. Once you have tenants, collecting payments and handling maintenance issues also dip in to your time. Are you able to handle a leaking shower during your Tuesday staff meeting, or an A/C unit on the fritz during your vacation? Some things can’t wait.

How much does it cost? – In general, property management services are broken down into leasing the property and then ongoing property management. The general cost for leasing is one month’s rent, and ongoing property management is generally 8 percent of the monthly rent. For a $2000 unit, the leasing will cost $2000, and the management for a 12-month lease costs $160 per month or $1920 for the year. Total cost is $3920. To some, that sounds like a good bit of money, but to others, that is a small price to pay for to keep their business running smoothly.

Other considerations – If you live out of town, a property management may be necessary. They are nearby to handle emergencies and check out other maintenance issues to determine the best solution. It is impossible to do that on your own when you are out of state or out of the county. Some renters will favor renting a professionally managed unit over one managed by the landlord themselves, especially if the landlord isn’t local. A property management firm (or leasing agency) likely will rent your unit faster than if you try to rent it yourself, which in turn can actually save you money. So you need to weigh that cost in addition to the cost of your time.

A property management firm is also going to make sure you get paid. If you don’t, they will be the ones handling collections, court and evictions. While hopefully this is never an issue, it is good to have someone familiar with that process to help you out.

Lastly, a property manager knows the rules. They understand landlord-tenant law and relations, and will make sure you are doing things by the book. This can also save you time and money in the event that a tenant has a complaint or issue.

Be sure to find a licensed property manager. Check their references, and be sure to understand you contract. For most landlords who are new to the business or only have one property, a property management company can save a lot of headache as well as money.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to info@urbanigloo.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — August 21, 2014 at 2:40 pm 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

These days, earth friendly living tips are everywhere. Most people know the basics: change the light bulbs to LEDs, use non-toxic cleaning products, take reusable bags to the grocery store, and of course the 3 “R”s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. We have a few more suggestions for taking care of Mother Nature and yourself while living in an apartment.

Size, Direction and Windows – When looking for a place, consider a smaller unit. A smaller apartment is easier to heat and cool. Think about the size of the windows. We all love a lot of light, but floor to ceiling windows may be an issue if not properly insulated, and of course the extra light generates heat, which requires more energy for cooling in the summer. The extra heat may be welcome in the winter, but if not properly insulated, you could be battling the winter winds coming through the windows.

Same theory goes for the direction of the windows. If the apartment gets the afternoon western sun, it is going to get much warmer in the afternoon. If you really like having that afternoon light on the weekend, you can at least keep the blinds closed during the day when you are at work to help keep it cool.

Recycling – We mentioned recycling above, but sometimes the building recycling doesn’t accept all items. Think about items such as water filters, compact fluorescent light bulbs, ink cartridges and electronics. Most likely, you have to go the extra mile for these items. Water filters like a Brita filter can be recycled through the Gimme 5 program (which has drop bins at most Whole Foods). Gimme 5 also has an app where you can earn Recylebank Rewards for dropping off your items.

Arlington County accepts electronics, most for free, and small fees for things like TVs and computer monitors. Take your CFL’s to your local Lowe’s or Home Depot, as most have bins to recycle those. While you are there you can check to see if they have battery recycling. You didn’t think you were supposed to throw those in the trash did you? How about earning cash rewards for recycling ink cartridges? Both Staples and Office Depot will take your ink cartridges and give you points towards cash rewards to use in their stores.

Air Quality – Most of us know to changing our air filters helps with not only air quality but efficiency too. But what else helps with air quality in the home? Less carpet for one. Carpet and furniture are treated with several chemicals including flame retardants. Not to mention they trap dust, dirt and allergens. So finding a place with wood, concrete or tile in most areas definitely improves the air quality in the home.

Find out what kind of paint they are using in the building. Many buildings are switching to low VOC, which stands for Volatile Organic Compounds, paints. Low VOC paint helps lower harmful chemicals in the air. Another tip with paint — the lighter the color, the lower the VOCs because the more pigment in the paint increases the level of VOCs, however there are some brands that use no VOC pigments. The simplest way to improve air quality is to get some plants. Plants purify our air for us and improve mood. If you don’t have a green thumb try plants like a Zeezee Plant, Dracaena or Philodendron, which are pretty low maintenance.

Buy Local – The local food movement continues to gain popularity, and luckily in Arlington and the Metro D.C. area there is no shortage of local markets to pick up healthy treats. In Arlington, you can find a farmers market in Clarendon, Courthouse and Crystal City. Nearby in Alexandria, the Old Town Farmers market takes place every Saturday. And of course the trek to Eastern Market via the Orange or Blue Line is always worth it.

Lastly, look for LEED Certified apartments. These newer apartment buildings are built to certain efficiency standards set by the EPA. They will have better insulation, building materials and Energy Star appliances. They will also use low VOC paints, and most likely have excellent recycling programs. Need help on where to find a LEED apartment in Arlington? Find a local agent for help. Below are just a few LEED certified apartments in the area.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to info@urbanigloo.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — August 7, 2014 at 11:45 am 362 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Now that you’ve found the perfect place, the hard part is over, right? Well, almost. You still have some work to do, but it doesn’t have to be a headache. We have a few tips to help make your move a bit easier.

The Paperwork – First, you’ll need to change your address for all of your important accounts such as your bank, student loans, car loan, insurance, credit cards, cell phone provider and so on. Then you need to notify your family and friends. You may need a two-pronged approach for that since maybe your grandma doesn’t have email. There are some great options for “We’ve Moved” e-cards and regular mail cards. Get that set up and ready to go, so you don’t miss those birthday cards and wedding invites. Don’t forget about your magazine subscriptions. Most magazines allow you to do this easily online these days, and as long as you remember to forward all of your mail at the Post Office, you shouldn’t miss an issue.

More Paperwork – If you are new to the Arlington area, then you will have to do a few more things as you settle in. You need to get your Virginia Driver’s license. If you are bringing a car, you need to register it in the state of Virginia, and you will need to register your vehicle with the county of Arlington for your parking sticker and personal property tax. All of which should be done within 60 days or your move, unless you are military, in which case you may be exempt. And don’t forget to register to vote in your new district.

Set Up Utilities – Most likely, your new building will give you information on setting up utilities for your unit. But it never hurts to be proactive. This page shows all the utility services for the Arlington area. Check with your building or landlord to find out whether you have Comcast or Verizon service for cable and internet. You may have a choice.

Get Organized – Find a moving company or a moving truck. Start going through your things. Most likely, you have a lot of items to donate or throw out. Check out Good Donor to schedule a pickup of the items you plan to donate.

If you are handling the packing and moving yourself, an app like BoxMeUp is a great choice for staying organized. It is especially helpful if you will have some items headed to your unit, and others headed for storage. You can label your boxes with QR codes, and then enter a content description for the box. This way, you can easily search and organize your items without having to dig through boxes to find your party platters.

Moving can be an exciting and stressful time. Having a good plan of action can help avoid most of the hiccups. If this is your first big move, get some tips from family and friends as well. Somebody will always have a great tip, or remember something most of us forget. Happy Moving!

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to info@urbanigloo.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — July 24, 2014 at 2:30 pm 769 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

You found a great apartment in your budget in a great location. Then the first morning you wake up to a barking dog. You say to yourself, “I didn’t hear that dog when I was on my tour.” Now what?

Well, not much you can do after the fact, but on the front end there are several things to think about, that you might not consider. Here are our top recommendations for additional questions to ask when looking at a potential rental.

Is it noisy? Let’s face it, city living isn’t quiet. But there are some places that are noisier than others. When you look out the window, what do you see? Is there a dumpster down below? That means you may wake up to the trash truck banging and beeping a few days a week. Are you on top of some retail or restaurants? Check to make sure you don’t overlook the loading dock if you’re looking for peace and quiet. If you get a chance to talk with potential neighbors, ask them about any odd noise you might not know about. In Arlington, there is an airport, so take a listen to see if you can hear the planes, or if it is tolerable noise.

What about the heat and A/C? In some buildings, the units are on shared systems. Find out when they turn the heat on for the winter or A/C for the summer. If it isn’t shared, then is it electric, gas, or radiator? Do the apartments have window A/C units? Find out when they install/remove the units for the season. Same goes for the water heater. Does your unit have an individual water heater or is it shared?

What about odd smells and fresh air? OK, this is a strange one, but check the area around your building. Is there a water treatment plant nearby? If so, you can expect some unpleasant smells coming through the window. Are you near a power plant? What are the environmental considerations that go with that? Maybe the apartment is above a restaurant or bar. Will you like the smell of food every day? What about folks smoking outside — will it come in to your unit?

What about cell signal? It seems like anywhere in a city should have cell signal these days, but that is not necessarily true. Take a look at your phone, and make some calls. Some areas of the building may be better than others, so make sure you check in the unit you will be renting. You don’t want to have to hang off your balcony just to make a call.

This is just a short list of a few things some folks don’t think about in the excitement of finding a place they really like. Take a little extra time after you learn about the amenities and neighborhood to be sure the actual unit you are leasing is going to work for you. It can save a big headache later.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to info@urbanigloo.com.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — July 10, 2014 at 2:30 pm 850 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

If you are moving in to an apartment or condo in Arlington, chances are it is a high-rise, or at least a mid-rise building. Moving in to a building can be challenging, especially if you aren’t prepared. We have a few suggestions so hopefully the only worry you have on moving day is trying to find the box with your coffee mug.

Before Moving Day

  • Find out the building’s move-in policies. This is a question to ask prior to lease signing. Most buildings have some rules about scheduling move-ins, especially private condo buildings. Remember, you probably aren’t the only person hoping to move in on a given day, but most buildings only allow use of one elevator, so you want to reserve early. You wouldn’t want to sign a lease for a place only to find out you can’t move in until two weeks later.
  • Learn if there are move-in fees. Apartment buildings should provide you a list of fees when you apply. When working with an independent landlord or agent, be sure to find out if there are fees involved to move in. These fees are generally to cover administrative costs for the building management. You may have to pay an elevator fee or deposit as well, to cover any damage to the elevator.
  • Check out the loading dock. Most buildings have a loading dock area, and a special freight elevator for residents to move in. Make sure your moving truck will fit near the loading dock or find out where you will need to park your moving truck. If you need street parking, you will have to arrange that with Arlington County early, at least a minimum of 72 hours in advance. The fee is $34 for the permit, plus additional fees for meter closures based on size of the space needed.

Moving Day

  • Make sure you start on time. As stated above, you may not be the only person moving in that day, and if someone is waiting on you to finish your move, you don’t want to cut in to their time. Nothing worse than starting out on the wrong foot with the neighbors.
  • Keep an eye on the clock. Some buildings are very strict about cut off times. If they tell you that you need to be done by 5:00 p.m., don’t assume that means they will let you go to 5:30 p.m. They may shut you down with your bed still on the moving truck. And many places will fine you if they catch you trying to move items in after hours or in an undesignated elevator. Get the big stuff out first, and maybe you can move a few boxes or suitcases later.
  • Make sure all helpers/movers know the rules as well. And if you have a tight window of time to move, make sure they aren’t taking too many pizza breaks. Also, make sure they are careful, not just with your stuff, but with the elevator and common areas. That deposit you pay may go to damage of common areas as well, if your coffee table just happens to put a big scratch in the hall paint.
  • Have fees on hand. You may need to pay move in fees and elevator deposits ahead of time when you schedule your move, or you may just need to pay them on moving day. Come prepared with your checkbook or check ahead of time if they accept other forms of payment.

It goes without saying, but we’ll still say it: be courteous to other residents and your new neighbors. Keep noise to a minimum, and respect the designated hours. Many of these rules and restrictions are bit more lenient in managed apartment buildings versus private condo buildings. So be sure to ask any questions you have early. And of course, check out the local take out places so you can grab a quick meal after a day of hard work.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to info@urbanigloo.com.

by ARLnow.com — June 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm 1,028 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

In the D.C. area, good rentals are a hot commodity. Locals may have an advantage when looking to move, as they better know the ins and outs of looking for their next great space. But for those who are relocating, the process can be very overwhelming.

To add to it, many of our renters are frustrated to learn that they cannot find their apartments as far in advance as they would like. If you know you are moving to D.C. six months from now, when should you start looking? If you are able, come to town a few months out and check out neighborhoods. Narrowing down your search to a few locations you like and can afford prior to looking at actual units helps ease the stress of the search.

If you can’t come ahead of your actual search, try to do some online research. There’s plenty of great blogs and websites with information to help you get a feel for certain areas. Also make sure what you are reading is current. With all the development happening in this area, new hot spots are popping up all over.

Once you hone in on the neighborhoods in which you are interested, plan to come to town between 30-60 days prior from your move date to find your actual apartment. In Virginia, renters are required to give 60 days notice to vacate, so apartment buildings and individual landlords will know their availability within that time.

When you plan your trip, be ready to rent a unit you like while you are here. More often than not, if you walk away from a unit you like, it won’t be there a few weeks from now. While you are visiting, be sure to have everything you will need to apply for an apartment. At a minimum, you need a form of identification, proof of income (2 recent paystubs, W-2, or offer letter from a new position), and monies for an application fee and deposit.

Application fees generally run around $30-60 depending on the property. At a managed apartment, you may have to pay a deposit upon application of a few hundred dollars to reserve the unit if you are approved. Some places take credit cards and some don’t, so be prepared with a checkbook, or possibly certified funds. When applying for an individual rental, requirements vary as well, but be ready with an application fee, security deposit (usually equal to one month rent, but in Virginia it can be up to two months) and the first month’s rent.

Every real estate broker does this differently, but generally they will ask for personal checks upon application. Once your application is approved, and you may move forward with the lease, they will give you your checks back and ask for certified funds when you sign the lease. With individual units, you will sign the lease right away to secure the unit for your move date.

A few other tips:  (more…)

by ARLnow.com — June 12, 2014 at 2:30 pm 497 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

In a previous article (Where Do I Start My Apartment Search), we discussed focusing your apartment search on thre things: price, quality and location.

You know your price. So most likely, your next decision is location. Then you’ll figure out what type of quality you can afford for that area. But when deciding on locations there are several factors to consider. Aside from recommendations from friends, what else should think about? If you can really dig in on the following five questions, you are well on your way to finding the perfect neighborhood for your personal tastes.

  1. What do I like/dislike about my current location? This question can really help focus your search and rule out some areas. This area has something to offer everyone, but discovering your perfect neighborhood can be tough. If you opt to work with an agent, knowing your preferences can help them make good recommendations. So answers like: I like to walk to the grocery store, or I don’t want to be on a busy street, or I want to be able to walk right outside my door to take my dog out will help to start the search on the right foot.
  2. What are my transportation needs? With several public transit options in the D.C. area, it is important to determine what your transportation needs are. If you know you have to drive to work because of the location of your office, then perhaps living within a half mile of the Metro isn’t necessary. Living a little further away can save you money on the apartment and parking, affording you to rent a little bigger and/or nicer place. If you do need public transportation, don’t forget about the bus system. In many cities, the bus system is not always a great choice for transport, but in the D.C. area, buses are a big part of the landscape. Maybe you prefer to bike to work. Be sure to look at your route, and maybe you want to live somewhere near the Mount Vernon Trail and Four Mile Run to enjoy the view on your ride every day.
  3. Is the neighborhood safe? This is a question we get a lot, and so do the leasing agents at apartment buildings. Because of Fair Housing Laws, agents and property employees are not allowed to give opinions on safety or to give you information on demographics of a building or area. So to answer this question you need to research on your own. You can look up crime rates and demographic data. With so much development happening, a neighborhood that was less than desirable in 2012 may be a great place to score a deal on a brand new apartment now, with great amenities and location to boot. (more…)

by ARLnow.com — May 29, 2014 at 2:30 pm 674 0

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

With winter finally out of the picture, it is time to enjoy some summertime fun. There’s no shortage of outdoor activities in the D.C. area for you to soak up every minute of the warm weather. Sometimes, though, you just want to keep it casual and hang out at home. If you live in a building with a pool, patio, or rooftop deck, you are in luck! We have a few tips to take advantage of your building’s amenities and throw the perfect summer soiree.

Book Early – Odds are you aren’t the only one planning to host a summer get together on the roof or at the pool, especially on a Friday or Saturday evening. Contact your management office ASAP to reserve the space, if they allow exclusive reservations. If they don’t — find out if you can section off a certain area for your get together. It can’t hurt to offer a snack or refreshment to the rest of the neighbors hanging out. They may not take you up on it, but they will feel better about all the extra bodies on their otherwise quiet pool deck.

Consider the Guest List – Keep the guest list reasonable, especially if you don’t have exclusive use of the facilities. Remember there is a maximum capacity for the game rooms and roof/pool decks. So you have to consider your guest list and the neighbors. Not to mention, you don’t want your nice gathering turning in to a scene from Animal House. The more is not always the merrier, particularly in small spaces.

Tell the Concierge – If you have a concierge, make sure they are aware of your gathering. Give them a copy of the guest list so they know whom to let in. Maybe bring them a hors d’oeuvre or two since they are going to be dealing with a few extra folks coming to the door that night.  If you don’t have a concierge, but you do have controlled access – be sure your guests know what to do when they get to your building. Nothing puts a damper on an evening faster than not being able to get into the party.

Gather Party Supplies – Since you are going to be hauling your stuff up and down either via the stairs or elevator, be sure to plan accordingly. Also know the rules of the deck. Check to see if glass is allowed. If not, you might have to rethink your beverage menu. Keep everything lightweight. Snatch up a few trays to help you carry things up and down as well as for serving. Don’t forget clean up. Be sure to have extra trash bags, and it probably can’t hurt to have an extra can or two out (maybe one for trash and one for recycling) so you don’t have to spend the whole party cleaning up everyone’s trash.

Man the Grill – If you are planning to use the grills before the party, double check what you need for them to work. You should be aware of the fire codes. Make sure you have something to clean up the grill when you are done (and unfortunately maybe before too).

Keep it simple. Remember the key is to enjoy having an outdoor party with your guests. Not running back and forth to your apartment for supplies and things you forgot. Be clear on your invites and tell your guests what type of food to expect. It’s a bummer heading to a party expecting some delicious burgers and showing up only to find crackers and watermelon.

Head on over to Pinterest for summer party food and décor ideas, and enjoy.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to info@urbanigloo.com.

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