Arlington, VA

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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 lot of places, cars are a must. Sidewalks, public transportation and walkable neighborhoods just don’t exist everywhere. One of the greatest assets of the Metro D.C. area is the public transportation network and endless neighborhoods with everything you need right outside your front door. If you are relocating to the area keep in mind that having a car can be expensive. But if you work or go to school where public transportation is readily available, then perhaps getting rid of those wheels is a good plan. Here are a few items to consider when weighing the pros and cons of keeping your car.

Rent – Living within a half mile walk to the Metro can cost about 30 percent more than living just a little further away. With rent prices pushing $2000, that can certainly be enough to make you want to move a few miles out and hang on to your trusty vehicle. But there is so much more to it.

Parking – Parking in this area is difficult to say the least, not to mention pricey. It isn’t just parking at home you need to think about but parking at work. Depending on where you work, that could carry a hefty price, especially if you work somewhere in the District where Metro and buses are easily accessed. Parking at an apartment or condo can range anywhere from $50-300 or more. Same goes for monthly parking at garages in the heavy traffic locations. Some of the outer Metro stops have parking available for less, so that is an option if you choose to live further out. Prices for monthly Metro parking passes range from $45-65 per month.

Registration – If move to Arlington County, you will not only need to register your car with the state of Virginia, but also the county. You will have to pay personal property tax on the vehicle annually, and you will need your Arlington County permit. Personal property tax is based on the value of the car, and the Arlington County decal costs $33.00.

Time – This is one a lot of people may not really think about. But what is your time worth? Depending on where you live and work your commute time can be up to an hour or more with traffic. If you are able to hop on the Metro and be home in 20-30 minutes perhaps a Metro accessible/walker friendly apartment might afford you a better quality of life.

Exercise – Ditching the car will force you to either walk or bike around. Getting a little exercise on the way to work is a win-win. Not to mention the benefit of walking off some of those calories you ate while enjoying one of the hundreds of restaurants Arlington has to offer. And on a beautiful, spring weekend it is easy to head in to DC for sightseeing using Capital Bikeshare.

Worried about not having a car for emergencies? This area has that covered. You can always rent a car. Only need a car to head to Costco for two hours? Check out a car sharing service. With Zipcar or Enterprise CarShare you can rent a car for an hour or two just to get what you need.

Out on the town and catching a cab has you stressed? No worries there either. You can use an on demand car service such as Uber or Lyft, and with phone apps, catching one of these cars is right at your fingertips.

Having a car gives some of us a sense of security. For others, it can be a relief to ditch the wheels. If you are somewhere in between, and you are going to work or school where Metro or buses are an option, it is worth considering a little higher rent and losing the car. Don’t forget to think about parking costs, registration, and quality of life when making your pro/con list. While neither option is perfect, your family situation (think kids with hockey gear) and priorities will dictate which option may be better for you.

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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 have a great new apartment, and now it is time to deck those halls. Here are some tips to pull off a great holiday party in your new digs.

Location – Sure you want to show off your apartment, but what if the guest list is longer than a 6 year old’s letter to Santa? You might be in luck. Remember that party room they walked you through on the building tour? It could be the perfect location. Most party rooms can be reserved for free for residents. You might have to put down a small cleaning deposit, which you will get back as long as you return the room in the same condition. If your building doesn’t have a party room, then you may have to consider trimming that guest list.

Invite the neighbors – Still planning to have everyone in your apartment? Think about including your neighbors. If you don’t know them, it is a perfect time to introduce yourself. It is a nice way to let them know there may be some noise and extra traffic that evening, and even if they don’t show up, they will appreciate the gesture. If you don’t want to add anyone to the guest list, maybe you can take over a nice tin of cookies (skip the fruitcake), and let them know your plans. They will likely excuse the extra noise for the evening. Just keep it to a respectful time.

Notify the front desk – If your building has controlled access with a concierge be sure to let them know even if your guests can call you to let them in. It is their job to observe people coming in and out of the building, and it is nice to give them a heads up so they can help direct people where to go. If your guests can’t call up, then coordinate with the desk as to whether they need a guest list, or guests should show their invite to the desk as they arrive. Be sure to let your guests know what they will need to do, and maybe drop off some of those yummy holiday treats to the front desk as a thank you for helping out.

Drop-in Party – Another way to have a larger guest list, but save the guests from a shoulder-to-shoulder soiree, is have a “Drop-In” party.  Say something like, “Drop in anytime from 7-10 p.m. for a holiday treat and a glass of egg nog.” This can help keep the party moving, and guests don’t feel obligated to stay for a long time.

Living in close quarters doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the holiday festivities. Just be sure to share the cheer with the neighbors and folks working in the building. Now that you have the logistics figured out, you can head on over to Pinterest to figure out how to make some delicious goodies for the party.

~Happy Holidays!
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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 over 600 new multi-family units coming on the market in Arlington during the first two quarters of this year, and several hundred more under construction, individual landlords may be having trouble stacking up against the competition.

These new managed properties are offering things such as free rent, an iPad, or a 42-inch TV to draw people in to their new apartments. These are all great offers, and they do appeal to some renters, but others are still looking for that privately owned condo in a great building. So how can independent landlords standout in this new market with so many competitive options?

  1. Price – Make sure your unit is priced for the current market. With so much new inventory, you may not be able to command the same price you did two years ago. Be sure to check out these new buildings and know their pricing. When a renter comes to you to negotiate, you can bet they have checked out all the new buildings as well and they know exactly what they can get elsewhere.
  2. Amenities – Does your building have great amenities? Be sure to highlight them in your marketing and show them off during a visit to your property. That new building down the road might have a party room and business center, but maybe your building has a 24-hour concierge, a pool, or a convenience store.
  3. Neighborhood and Charm – Tell them what makes the area great. Is there a dog park across the street? A grocery store two blocks away? A bus stop right out front? These are all great things to tell prospective renters either in person or through your marketing highlights.
  4. Give them what they want – There are some things an independent landlord can include that their competition may not. Top suggestions: free parking, utilities included, no pet rent or lower pet fee.

There are other more obvious things as well. Keep the property well maintained and its appliances updated. Even if you can’t renovate a kitchen or bathroom, a fresh coat of neutral — but modern — paint can do wonders to spruce the place up.

Keep it simple when advertising. Emphasize the stand-out attributes, but don’t write a novel. And most of all: be responsive. If you take too long to respond to a prospective renter, they will look elsewhere. Of course, you can always get the help of a qualified real estate agent to help you get your property rented quicker.

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

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