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by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 15, 2015 at 3:30 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.

A reader recently asked us for advice on renting for freelancers or self-employed applicants. This renter group represents quite a few folks in the D.C. Metro area. And while it may be a bit trickier when initially approaching landlords, with a little preparation, you should be able to rent a perfect place.

Ability to pay is certainly the top concern for a landlord looking to rent out their property. As a freelancer, you have to be able to prove that you still have a steady stream of income or enough savings to cover your rent in the event work slows down.

When you start your rental search, be ready to show proof of income in the form of tax returns. Good credit and rental history are important in this instance as well. Ask your current or past landlord for a reference to show you kept their property in good condition and you paid your rent on time.

Are you able to offer a larger security deposit? In Virginia, the landlord can request up to two months’ rent as a deposit. That may be enough to put a new landlord at ease if your credit and rental history are good, but maybe your income isn’t regular.

Fair Housing doesn’t cover employment, so unfortunately, landlords can deny you. Private landlords may be more likely to work with you. An agent may know of specific landlords that are more friendly to non-traditional renters, so it might be helpful to contact an agent.

Right now, the rental market is shifting in favor of the renter, so you may have more negotiating power now than you have in the past.

Other options are to get someone to co-sign for the apartment. Or you could try a roommate if none of the other tips work in your favor.

If you are in between jobs or you have less than perfect credit, check out our other two articles with recommendations for those situations.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

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 1, 2015 at 2:30 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.

Even if you have not rented an apartment before, it is likely you’ve heard about security deposits. A security deposit is a sum of money a landlord will request upon leasing an apartment or house to cover any potential damages incurred during the lease. But what does that mean, and what are the obligations of the landlord with regards to the security deposit?

In Virginia, the landlord can collect up to two months’ rent for a security deposit. The landlord should hold that deposit in a separate escrow account for the term of the lease. And if the VRLTA applies, you could be due interest if you leased the property for more than 13 months. Keep in mind, the interest amount is minimal totaling a dollar or two, so you won’t be booking any vacations off your interest earned.

At lease termination, the landlord has 45 days to return the deposit to you. The following is a list of items you should do before moving out to be sure you get all or most of your deposit back.

  • Transfer the utilities back to the landlord as of the last day of the lease, pay the final bills, and provide the landlord with proof the bills are paid.
  • Depending on your lease, have the carpet cleaned, patch any holes in the walls, and thoroughly clean the unit. If you painted and the landlord did not specifically note you are required to repaint, you’ll want to repaint in a neutral color approved by the landlord anyway.
  • Walk through inspections – do these with the landlord upon move in and move out and both of you keep a copy of the signed inspection reports with the lease. This way, there will hopefully not be any surprises with regards to your deposit. If the landlord isn’t available for these walk through inspections, take pictures and provide them to the landlord along with your inspection list.
  • Return all keys, door openers etc. to the landlord.
  • Don’t forget to give the landlord your new address.

What types of things can your landlord deduct from the security deposit? Essentially, anything beyond normal wear and tear.

  • Unpaid utilities
  • Carpet replacement due to excessive damage like holes, stains and damage beyond the normal wear and tear of use.
  • Repairs for any damaged property.
  • Cleaning – If you left items in the unit, or did not clean it before you moved out, the landlord can charge you for removal of items and cleaning.
  • Replacement locks and keys or equipment – if you do not return the keys or any other types of equipment that was provided upon move in (like cable boxes, garage door openers or key fobs) the landlord can charge you for the replacement.
  • Late fees or returned check — If there is a late fee noted in your lease, and you did not include it in your rent upon paying late rent, the landlord can deduct that fee. Same goes for a returned check fee.

It is important to keep good records for yourself. Be sure you understand exactly what you are responsible for when you sign your lease. If there is outdoor maintenance required, be sure to keep up with it. Did you change the air filters regularly? And so on.

If you dispute the charges to your deposit, be sure to send a certified letter to the landlord disputing the items. And if the dispute goes beyond that, you may need to contact an attorney.

Arlington County offers landlord tenant mediation services if it becomes necessary. You can also contact the county Housing Division at 703-228-3765 if you have questions about anything deducted from your deposit.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

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 — September 17, 2015 at 2:30 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.

Finding a great apartment can be like trying to catch a leprechaun. It seems impossible. But once you do find a great place you might feel uncomfortable about the negotiation process. You might wonder if you can negotiate at all. We have a few tips on how to negotiate and when to get the best deal on your next apartment.

Negotiating rent depends on the landlord. You will likely have better luck with a private or smaller landlord. Larger managed properties tend to have less wiggle room as the pricing comes from an algorithm rather than a person. The leasing agents might not have any authority to make deals. But that isn’t to say it isn’t worth a try. You won’t know unless you ask.

Arm yourself with market knowledge. This is the best offense when starting the negotiating process. Find comparable apartments with similar amenities and options. Know the rent, but also know the price per square foot. That is the best way to know if you are getting a deal. Just because the apartment down the street is $200 less per month, you may be getting a better price per square foot on the more expensive place. Be sure to compare apples to apples and decide what is most important, lower rent or a bigger apartment.

Negotiate early. Don’t wait until you are about to sign the lease to start negotiating with the landlord. This could blow the whole deal. When you decide on a place, make an offer to the landlord in writing. Put all of your terms on the table including any repairs or upgrades you’d like to see. The landlord may accept your terms in full, but they may counter or in rare cases, they could just walk away if your terms are too far off. Be sure you know exactly what you are willing to give up, and what you absolutely must have. Are you willing to walk away if all your terms aren’t met? Do you have enough time to start over? Having the proper expectations when starting the negotiation is important so you aren’t angry or left in a desperate situation because things didn’t go as planned.

So what can you negotiate? Just about anything really. Rent, parking, pet fees, deposit, or repairs. Maybe you see a few improvements needed and you ask for a smaller deposit or a break on the first months’ rent. Perhaps you don’t need a parking space, so you ask for a break on the rent. Do you have near-perfect credit and a good landlord history, maybe they can cut you a break on the deposit so you don’t have to have so much cash up front. The only rule on security deposits is they can’t be more than two months’ rent, there is nothing saying they can’t charge a $500 deposit. Offer a longer lease term. If you know you are staying put for a few years, and you really like the place, offer a 24-month lease in exchange for a break on the rent. Many landlords are willing to give a little on this knowing they will have a good tenant for longer saving them the headache of having to market the property again and risk lost rent with a vacant unit.

Lastly, this cannot be stressed enough, get all terms in writing. Nothing will sabotage a landlord/tenant relationship faster than issues over what was agreed upon. Put it all in the lease, and don’t sign anything until everything is in it.

Again, most of these recommendations are for private or smaller landlords. The larger properties may be able to give a little on things like parking or pet rent, and can sometimes offer a deal on longer leases, but probably can’t give much on the monthly rent. The best time to score a deal at these properties is when they are new, and they are trying to lease up the building. Or if the property has a high vacancy rate, so ask the question. If they are over 95% occupied, they are pretty full, but if they tell you they have a 90% occupancy rate, they might have some room to work with you.

Negotiating can be tough for some people, so if you know at the beginning you aren’t comfortable with the process, you can always ask a friend to help, or better yet, find an agent to work with who will do the negotiating for you.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

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 — September 3, 2015 at 3:30 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.

Moving to the Metro area requires a lot of decisions. One of the bigger ones is whether or not to bring a car. The area has plenty of transportation options including Metro, buses, taxis and of course biking and walking. If you do decide to bring a car, where do you plan to keep it? Here are some details for parking in the Arlington area.

On-site Parking

If possible, the easiest option is to use your apartment or condo on-site parking. During your apartment search, be sure to ask about the parking fee. Some buildings only allow one space per unit, so be sure to find out if the building meets your requirements before entering in to a lease.

If your building doesn’t offer parking, or if you are living in a house or townhouse without off street parking, there are a few more options.

Permit Street Parking

In some areas of Arlington, residents are eligible to apply for permit parking. To find out if this is an option, go to the Arlington County website and enter your address, and it will tell you if you are eligible to apply for a permit. Your car needs to be registered in Virginia, with a few exceptions for military and students. The fee is $20 per year, and you will also get a FlexPass to use for guests. The permit process can take some time, so you can get a temporary permit while awaiting approval so you can still park in your local zone. Keep in mind, just because you are eligible to apply, it doesn’t mean you automatically receive a permit, as there is a limited amount per zone. Zones have certain time restrictions, and parking in a permit zone during restricted hours risks ticketing and towing.

Parking Garage

If you aren’t eligible for permit parking, monthly parking garages are another option. The website ParkMe can help you find area garages that offer monthly parking. Monthly parking garages are likely the most expensive option. Keep in mind, this may only be a temporary need while waiting for a space in your building or a permit in your neighborhood to become available.

Short Term Parking

In permit areas, residents can either use a FlexPass for their guests or request a short term parking permit with allows parking in zoned areas for three consecutive days.

Of course there’s also parking garages and metered parking available all over Arlington. Some garages are free on the weekends while others are not, so be sure to check before entering.

Check out the Arlington County website for more information on long and short term parking. Be sure to ask your employer and property manager for more information on parking at work and at home.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

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 — August 20, 2015 at 2:30 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.

Sometimes renters don’t have the time or financial ability to do their apartment search in person. And while there is plenty of information available to apartment hunters, sometimes it can be overwhelming. If you aren’t familiar with the area, it is hard to know where to start. Looking at apartments on a listing service only gives you a small snippet of the overall picture. So what is the best course of action when relocating from afar?

Make A List – Determine your deal breakers. Write them down in order of importance. Sure, you know you want a washer and dryer in unit and parking included. But what if you can’t have both? Make a list of neighborhood features you want, and put those in order too. Need a dog park within a few blocks? What about a grocery store? Are you willing to walk a half mile to the Metro, or would you be willing to walk a little further?

Enlist Help – Do yourself a favor, if you aren’t familiar with the area, ask for help. Even with all of the information out there at just a few taps on a smartphone, it is hard to narrow things down. If you are relocating due to a job, ask the HR department for recommendations. Maybe they can connect you with some of your new colleagues who can give you some advice on where to look. If you have a friend in town, promise them a pizza or brunch, and maybe they will help you out by doing a video tour with you of your favorite apartment.

Find an AgentAgents in the area are able to listen to your priorities and help you narrow down your search. They are going to know the neighborhoods and the properties that meet your needs. Give them your priority lists and your budget. Be open so they can really help. Agents can direct you to better information about neighborhoods of interest. While many managed buildings are able to help you virtually, remember their job is to lease their building. A rental agent deals with several properties, in several neighborhoods, and is able to give you options, and pros and cons of each.

Virtual apartment hunting isn’t going to be easy. Most likely, nobody but you is going to find you that perfect apartment. But help from a friend or an agent will make it less of a headache. Do some research, prioritize, and ask for help, and you’ll likely be able to find something great!

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

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 — August 6, 2015 at 2:30 pm 1,794 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.

Did you know the average rent price for a one bedroom in Arlington in 2014 was $1678? Are you looking for a one bedroom apartment in Arlington, but you don’t know where to start? We have a few suggestions of units running the gamut of pricing and neighborhoods to help you narrow down your search area.

Probably the top-requested Arlington neighborhood by newcomers is the Clarendon/Courthouse area. This section between Rosslyn and Ballston is teeming with restaurants, shops and active residents. Of course this spot also has some of the highest rents.

This new, luxury building in Clarendon is perfectly located near the Metro, Trader Joe’s and Washington Blvd, which can get car commuters to Route 50 and I-395 in just a few minutes. This building has 1 BR units currently starting around $2270, and it has amenities galore, including a roof top pool, fitness center and 24-hour concierge.

Just down the road in the Ballston/Virginia square area is this property just a block or so from the Virginia Square Metro station. Their one bedroom units are currently starting at $1725. While this is a smaller building with fewer amenities, they do still have controlled access and a fitness center, and the proximity to the Metro is hard to beat.

If proximity to the Metro isn’t a requirement, but you still want to be fairly close to the Ballston area, this building offers large one bedroom units, this pet friendly building is a great option. The 700-900 square foot units start at $1530, and amenities include a new gym, controlled access and parking.

If you head over to the Pentagon City/Crystal City area, you can be close to a Metro, shopping, restaurants, running trails and, of course, Reagan National Airport. This area is often overlooked by newcomers interested in the Rosslyn/Ballston corridor, but it has a lot to offer for renters.

This property is located right in the heart of Pentagon Row, steps from the Metro, grocery shopping, restaurants, Virginia Highlands Park and the Pentagon City Mall. Amenities include a fitness center, indoor pool and it is cat-friendly. Their large, one bedroom apartments with are starting at $1750.

Not far from Pentagon City, in South Arlington, this large, garden style apartment community offers apartments that are pet friendly, include some utilities and a parking space all starting at $1510. Additional amenities include a weekday shuttle to the Pentagon City Metro station, a fitness center and a pool.

This is just a snapshot of apartments available in the Arlington area to show what is available at different price ranges in Arlington. Not to mention several other great neighborhoods to choose from. For more information on Arlington neighborhoods check out some of our other posts including Top Reasons Arlington is a Great Place to Live and Arlington’s Most Walkable Neighborhoods.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

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 — July 23, 2015 at 2:45 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.

Once you’ve settled in to your home, job and life in Arlington you may be itching for something more. Civic and philanthropic work is just what you need to connect to others in your community with similar interests. While this area has plenty of organizations on the national level, we’ve highlighted a few local organizations in the Arlington area that may pique your interest.

Arts – If you have a passion for the arts, you can take a look at Arlington Arts, which helps serve as a liaison between the art community and the county of Arlington. Or if you are looking to connect directly with the artists in the community, check out Arlington Artists Alliance, which has events and classes for folks in the area.

Human Services – While Arlington is one of the more affluent communities in the country; we still have thousands of people in need every day. If you are looking to get involved in helping the less fortunate in the area you could look in to one of these organizations.

Political – No matter which side of the aisle you fall, there is likely a group in Arlington where you can meet up with folks of similar political opinions.

Pets – Of course, we can’t forget our furry friends and family members. You can help out at the SPCA of Northern Virginia or Animal Welfare League of Arlington. These organizations can almost always use help with adoptions, facility care, donations, fundraising and of course animal fostering. Just be sure to check with your landlord before fostering any pets, no matter how small.

Neighborhood Associations – If speaking up about sidewalk maintenance, new community facilities, park beautification or roadwork is your thing, you may want to look in to joining a neighborhood association. Renters are still able to help out, as most of these are different than homeowners associations, and as long as you are a resident of the area who wants to help, they will welcome your assistance. Check out this comprehensive list for those associations around Arlington.

Of course this is only a sampling of organizations in Arlington. Being so close to D.C., Arlington is a passionate and involved community with a host of causes waiting for eager volunteers. Here is a list of more organizations within the community in case we didn’t list one for you. Bottom line, volunteering will help you connect with other likeminded people, and give you something to do outside work to feed your soul. So get out, and get involved.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

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 — July 9, 2015 at 2:30 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.

The Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act (VRLTA) is the governing law with regards to landlord-tenant relations in the state of Virginia. Most residential rentals within the state are covered by the act, and those that are not, such as single family units where the landlord owns fewer than 10 dwellings, can still be covered as long as there is a clause in the lease that states VRLTA applies. Here are a few important clauses in the VRLTA every landlord or renter should understand.

Application Fees: A landlord is allowed to charge an application fee and hold an application deposit for their unit. If an applicant opts to not move forward with the unit, or if a landlord declines their application, the landlord must refund the application fee, less any costs or damages, to the applicant within 20 days. The costs and damages must be provided to the applicant in an itemized list.

Prepaid Rent: In Virginia, prepaid rent is allowed, however, all prepaid rent must be placed in an escrow account within five days of receipt, not to be removed until rent becomes due, or with consent of the tenant.

Insurance: The landlord may require the tenant to have renters insurance which should be noted in the lease agreement. The landlord may obtain insurance on behalf of the tenant and charge the tenant for the actual cost plus administrative fees.

Unsigned Rental Agreements: Occasionally, one party may not send back a signed lease agreement, or perhaps the landlord may have forgotten to provide a copy to the tenant. While this is a “no-no” under the VRLTA, it doesn’t mean the terms of the lease do not apply. If the landlord accepts rent from the tenant, or if the tenant takes possession of the unit and/or pays rent, the terms of the lease agreement still apply. Bottom line: Just because you forgot to sign, doesn’t make your obligations void. Make sure everyone has a copy of the signed agreement to save headaches later.

Special Clauses: Sometimes landlords or renters like to cherry pick lease language or add special clauses to override something in a standard lease document, however the VRLTA specifically states such language is prohibited.

Security Deposits: In Virginia, a landlord may hold a security deposit equal to two months’ of rent. A security deposit must be returned to the tenant within 45 days of lease termination, less any damages. The landlord is required to accrue interest on the security deposit, however no interest is due or payable back to the tenant unless the deposit is held for 13 months or more.

The above represents only a snippet of the VRLTA. These are the more common questions asked by either landlords or tenants. If you have additional questions, contact an attorney or the Arlington Housing Division at 703-228-3765.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

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 — June 25, 2015 at 2:30 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.

So you’ve searched and interviewed potential roommates, and you’ve finally found someone you think fits the bill. There are still a few things to work out.

The Lease – In Virginia, anyone over the age of 18 will need to apply and qualify for any rental, and all roommates will be named on the lease. This makes you jointly and severally liable, meaning no matter what, all parties named on the lease are financially responsible. Regardless of whether or not you both live there for the full term. So if your roommate bails, you are still 100% responsible for the apartment. Likewise, if you take off, you are absolutely still responsible for the remainder of the rent payments.

Roommate Agreement – It is a good idea to draft some sort of roommate agreement. While you certainly don’t need to be as detailed as Sheldon, it might be good to know if your roommate does expect a ride to work every day, or if they expect to split their bi-weekly Costco expenses with you. Hammer out the important details as to how you will split utilities, and who is responsible for making the payments. Does the other party want proof of payment?

The last thing that you want is to come home to no lights, or an eviction notice on the door when you paid your portion of the bills. Is rent split evenly, or did one of you say they will pay more for the bigger bedroom? Get that in writing. What about buying essential supplies like toilet paper and cleaning supplies? What about chores? You don’t necessarily have to have full details here, but note some general expectations on cleanliness. You may also want to cover expectations on pets and guests.

Useful Tools – Luckily, the daily business of roommate life is pretty simple these days. A few apps can make your arrangement a smooth operation. Check out Homeslice, which is basically a project management tool for roommates. There is a Whiteboard that is basically the app dashboard showing all the messages, chores, supplies and bills due. Once your roommate posts that you owe $27.05 for the electric, you can head over to Venmo to pay them your portion.

Be sure to not to get clever on your payment description, save your emojis for happy hour and late night pizza, and actually post what you are paying for so you have a record. Lastly, you can use something like Cozy for your rent payment. It is free, everyone can submit their portion of the payment and send over one payment to your landlord.

While some of this might seem a bit dry, it is important to treat a roommate relationship as a business, as that is exactly what it is. You are making a financial commitment to someone, and you want to make sure the business side is handled, so you can then move forward to enjoying life, and perhaps making a lifelong friend.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

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 — June 11, 2015 at 3:30 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.

In our last column, we discussed searching for a potential roommate. Now that you’ve found a good candidate, you need to meet up and get to know each other a bit to see if you are a match.

When chatting with a potential roommate, it is good to put it all out there. Letting them know what you like and what you don’t. What you are hoping to get out of the roommate relationship is important to lay on the table up front. You are going to be sharing space with this person for at least 12 months, so you want to do your best to keep conflict to a minimum.

Here’s a sample list of a few questions to ask:

  • Where are you going to be working or going to school? What are the hours you’ll come and go?
  • What are your hobbies? (Do they share your interests, or do something you find annoying?)
  • Do you plan to have a lot of friends over, overnight visitors etc? Do you mind if I do?
  • Are you a night owl or an early riser?
  • What about your lifestyle? Physically active? Vegetarian?
  • Do you have a pet, or want to get one? If you have one, do you expect your roommate to assist with pet care?
  • Do you have a car? Are you willing to share?
  • What do you consider clean?
  • Do you smoke? Drink?
  • What are you hoping this arrangement to be?
  • Can you give me an example of a past roommate issue, and how you resolved it?

While some questions may seem a bit nosy, keep in mind you are likely sharing no more a thousand square feet, give or take. It is important to know as much as you can up front to minimize headaches later. Little annoyances can turn in to big deals when you spend so much time with someone, so you want to find out now if they only eat steak, and you are a vegan, or if they are a couch potato on the weekend, and you are the weekend warrior type.

Think of the interview as speed dating with a 12 month commitment. You aren’t trying to impress a person, but get to know as much as you can in a short period of time before signing on the dotted line together.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

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 — May 28, 2015 at 3:00 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.

Finding a roommate is hard. Living with a roommate can be even harder. In the D.C. market, roommates are a must for many renters. In this three part series, we will share our tips to make the roommate relationship a little easier.

If you are moving to the area blind, you’ll either want to find a roommate first, or an apartment first. At a minimum, figure out what neighborhoods you like, set your budget, and determine your must-have amenities, and then you and your new roommate can apartment hunt together. (Check out: Apartment Hunting with a Roommate.)

You can use websites such as Roomster, Roommates.com and Craigslist to search for potential roommates. Or if you are starting at a new company, sometimes the HR department can connect you with other people moving to the area. Lastly, ask friends or family. They may either know someone looking for a roommate, or know someone you could ask about potential roommates.

If you do go the website route, make sure when reviewing listings you look for specific traits and qualities you will or won’t accept. Sometimes this involves reading between the lines. “Friendly, outgoing grad student” may mean exactly that, but it could mean they like to have a lot of friends over, or they want to be social with you on a regular basis. This works for some, but not others. “Loves to cook,” may sound spectacular if you don’t. But what do they cook? If they only cook fish and sauerkraut and that isn’t your thing, you might have a problem.

Some listings may include pictures. It might be a good idea to check those photos like a CSI detective. They can tell you a lot about the person. Cleanliness, hobbies, pets etc might be right there for you to see.

After you’ve selected a few you are ready to contact, you’ll want to come up with a list of questions or things to discuss. You may also want to sit down and really think about what they should know about you. What are your quirks they should know about? Are you really private, or are you allergic to dust? Those are important things to share with someone you may live with.

Safety Tip: Make sure if you are doing an in-person meetup, do it somewhere public and safe for the first time. If you are going to look at a place where they are just looking to add a roommate, take somebody with you not just for safety, but a friend may pick up on something you don’t.

The search is probably the hardest part. So once you narrow it down, hopefully the next steps go faster and easier for you. In the next article, we will cover questions to ask potential roommates.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

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 — May 14, 2015 at 2:45 pm 1,514 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 D.C. area has hundreds of neighborhoods, each with their own character and charm. Arlington is no exception. Arlington offers something for everyone, making it one of the top neighborhoods in the D.C. Metro area. What makes it so great? While this list could be very long, we narrowed down what we think are the best of the best reasons to live in Arlington.

Food

For Happy Hour, or anything in between, check out Whitlow’s on Wilson. Voted Virginia’s Most Popular Bar by Buzzfeed in 2013, Whitlow’s offers a casual fun atmosphere. In the warmer month’s diners enjoy the Rooftop Tiki Bar, and don’t forget to hit up the Bloody Mary bar while enjoying brunch.

For traditional American food try the Silver Diner. While the Silver Diner may look like the old school diners of the past, don’t let that fool you. They offer local, farm fresh foods, with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes and healthy options for the kids. The Silver Diner is open 7 days a week, and is open late in case you get a craving for a midnight snack.

For something a little more ethnic, head over to Jaleo for spectacular tapas and wine. Jaleo was created by renowned chef José Andrés and it has won several “Best of” awards. Jaleo has three locations in the area including Crystal City, Bethesda, and Penn Quarter in DC.

There is no shortage of excellent food in Arlington. Head out anywhere on Wilson/Clarendon Blvds in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor or over to Pentagon Row and Crystal City and you shouldn’t have a problem finding something to suit all your cravings. Not to be forgotten, check out Shirlington where you can get great food from all around the world.

Fitness

After sampling some of the delicious food in Arlington you may want to head over to one of the local area fitness centers. Check out Revolve, SuperNova, or LA Fitness to work off those extra calories. Arlington County Recreation also offers several fitness classes for the whole family at facilities all over the county.

If you prefer outdoor activities try Four Mile Run, Mount Vernon Trail or the Custis Trail for biking, running or walking.

Sightseeing and Activities

Arlington is home to several historical sites and monuments including Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, the Marine Corps War Memorial, and the Air Force Memorial just to name a few.

Mondays in the summer check out Crystal Screen, the outdoor movies in Crystal City. Just a few blocks from the Crystal City Metro, bring a picnic and enjoy a movie with friends.

No winter season in Arlington would be complete without taking at least one trip to the Pentagon Row ice rink.

Additionally, Arlington practically has a farmer’s market for every day of the week. In peak season, you may barely need to head to the grocery store.

Work

Arlington has the lowest unemployment rate in the region at 3.4 percent according to the county profile. Arlington has several large employers including Deloitte, SAIC and Marriott International. But you don’t have to work in Arlington to enjoy living there, as Arlington has easy access to D.C. and other Virginia suburbs via the Metro, Bus or the VRE. Access to I-395, I-66, Route 50 and GW Parkway make it a great choice to live no matter where you work in the Metro D.C. area.

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by ARLnow.com Sponsor — April 30, 2015 at 2:30 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.

One of the great parts about city living is having everything just outside your door. Convenience is especially important when you don’t have a car to help get the things you need. Luckily, the Arlington area has an abundance of options to get toilet paper or milk to your apartment in a snap.

We have a few suggestions on where to stock up on your favorite groceries close to your apartment in Ballston-Clarendon-Courthouse.

Grocery Stores:

Trader Joe’s — Less than a block from the Clarendon Metro station, Trader Joe’s is always a favorite for shoppers. They carry plenty of healthy food choices at great prices. They also have a good wine selection and great prices on cut flowers, when you need to pick up party gift on the fly.

Harris Teeter — In the Ballston area on Glebe Road, Harris Teeter offers a great selection of traditional groceries.

Whole Foods — Centrally located between Clarendon and Courthouse Metro stations, just across from the Market Common, is the best place in town to stock up on organic and fair trade groceries.

Giant – Just a block from the Virginia Square Metro station, this local Giant store is just what you need for picking up last minute dinner items.

Delivery:

Don’t have time to go to the store? Try online services Instacart or Peapod for groceries delivered right to your door.

Farmer’s Markets:

If local, farm fresh foods are your thing, Arlington has enough markets open nearly every day of the week, so you are sure to get the freshest items in town.

Arlington Farmer’s Market – closer to the Courthouse side of things is the Arlington Farmer’s Market, located just a block from the Courthouse Metro Station. This market is open year-round offering fresh, local produce along with other great seasonal goodies. Come out on Saturday morning to support local growers and vendors while stocking up for the week.

Clarendon Farmer’s Market – Open every Wednesday from 3-7, April through December. Located right outside the Clarendon Metro station, this market offers a variety of goods from local farms and vendors. An excellent choice to stock up mid-week on your local favorites.

Farm Fresh Delivery:

Relay FoodsWant the best of both worlds? Have local, farm fresh foods delivered right to your door. This site lets you browse meal plans and recipes, and simplifies the shopping process by adding all the items to your cart with just a click. You can even add your own recipes for easy shopping for your favorite meal. Prices range around $4-8 per serving. Be sure to share the service with your friends and earn a $30 coupon.

If you need to find one of the apartments with convenience at your door, check here!

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

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 — April 16, 2015 at 3:15 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.

Every apartment search has its challenges. An apartment search coupled with a job search adds to the challenge, but unemployment does not immediately disqualify you for an apartment. Going into your search well-armed will help you find a great place to live with minimal difficulty.

When searching for an apartment while in between jobs, enlisting the help of an agent will likely save you time and trouble, freeing up more of your  time to focus on the job search. If you decide to go at it alone, have a package ready to prove previous employment, good credit and rental history. Having money saved up to prove the ability to pay a few months while still searching is also a good idea if you are able.

Those applicants who are new to the job market, such as recent grads, may need to be ready to provide a co-signer as well. Keep in mind, some landlords will only accept in-state co-signers, so don’t let that surprise you. The co-signer also needs good credit and employment history, as well as proof that they are able to not only pay your rent should you be unable, but they must have income significant enough to cover their own bills as well.

Fair Housing laws do not protect the unemployed, so a landlord can still deny the application on this basis alone. However, if you are unemployed due to a disability, you are protected under Fair Housing provided you have good credit and proof of income from disability payments or another source.

Landlords are allowed to have minimum qualifications renters must meet, and they should be able to give you these qualifications upfront. In Virginia, they are allowed to collect a security deposit equal to two months rent, and if you want to and have the ability to pay rent up front, the landlord is required to keep all pre-paid rent in an escrow account until it becomes due. Cash on hand is helpful, but that should not be the only thing you have to offer. Proof of previous employment, schooling, etc. should also provide the landlord with some piece of mind.

As with any apartment search, preparation helps ease the stress. Keep in mind that a qualified agent may know of specific properties that will consider your situation and can help you get into a great place so you can focus on settling in and finding a job.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

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 — April 2, 2015 at 2:30 pm 0

Rental Report header

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 D.C. area is no stranger to residents from all parts of the world. Navigating the rental market can be troublesome for those renters new to the area.

It can be especially daunting as an international applicant because some landlords and property managers may not be experienced in handling a rental transaction with an international tenant. But it is certainly easy to move through the lease process simply and quickly with a little preparation.

Be sure to have all your documentation ready. You need to have, at a minimum, a copy of your work visa, passport, and proof of employment. The potential landlord may not understand that you will likely not have a Social Security number if you are new to the U.S., which also means you do not have any U.S. credit history.

It is important that they do understand you are in the U.S. legally, and that being granted a work visa also provides some assurances you have proved to the State Department your ability to support yourself (and your family) while in the U.S. It may be helpful to enlist the help of a real estate agent to help communicate with private landlords.

Real estate agents in the D.C. area typically get paid by the landlord, so it should not cost you anything to work with an agent. If you are looking at managed properties, ask up front what is required when you do not have a Social Security number or work/rental/credit histories in the U.S.

While citizenship status is not covered as a protected class under Fair Housing, landlords still need to be consistent in their screening processes, and they still must follow the law with respect to security deposits and pre-paid rent. In Virginia, landlords are allowed to request a security deposit of up to two months’ rent. And under Virginia law, the landlord must keep all pre-paid rent in an escrow account until it becomes due.

If you’ve been in the States for at least a year, and you have established a rental history, having your current landlord provide a reference may be helpful to your prospective landlord.

While being an international applicant may throw up a road block or two, good preparation and communication can help get you through the process with ease. It may be helpful to think of it from the landlord’s point of view, as they are trying to minimize their risk and any applicant out of the norm presents an additional level of risk. Being aware of their concerns and providing as much documentation to prove yourself as a good tenant will get you off to a good start in your tenant/landlord relationship.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

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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