75°Clear

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — August 20, 2015 at 2:30 pm 304 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.

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

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.

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 407 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.

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 964 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 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 347 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.

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 622 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.

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 964 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.

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

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 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.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — April 30, 2015 at 2:30 pm 896 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.

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 585 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.

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 342 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.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 19, 2015 at 2:30 pm 476 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.

Sometimes an unavoidable life event happens that damages credit such as divorce, illness, or unemployment. Does it mean you are doomed for the dark basement apartment you found on a bulletin board with a landlord who can only be reached by pager?

Not necessarily. The key is communication. Plan ahead and know your rights before you start your search, and you can still find a great place to live.

Start the dialogue early, so there are no surprises after going through the application process. Since you will not have the good credit on hand to show, other items such as landlord references, employment history, and proof of ability to pay are essential. Sometimes landlords will accept co-signers for challenged credit, and sometimes they will not. Just make sure your co-signer has good credit and enough income where they can cover not only their own expenses but your rent as well. Otherwise, they are not likely to be approved.

You should also understand your rights as a renter under Virginia law. You cannot be required to pay more than two months’ rent for a security deposit. Also, if you do have the ability to pre-pay some of your rent, the landlord is required to keep the pre-paid rent in an escrow account, and only distribute the amounts as it becomes due. People with poor credit are not directly protected under Fair Housing laws, but landlords should be up-front with their screening requirements, so you know ahead of time whether or not to pursue a particular place.

It is also a good idea to think of the situation through the eyes of the landlord. What would make you feel comfortable? Someone with no credit and a lot of cash may make a landlord uneasy, and they have an obligation to make sure their tenant is not involved in anything illegal. More information is always better. You are entering into a financial contract with this person, and all parties need to be happy.

Lastly, know where to look. Private landlords are often more likely to work with renters with challenged credit. Managed apartment buildings may not have as much flexibility with screening requirements. Enlisting an agent is also beneficial as they may know who is willing to work with you.

If you have challenged credit, you should go into the search with the understanding not everyone will be able to work with you. Be prepared up front, communicate, and make your case, and you can still come away with a great new 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 — March 5, 2015 at 2:30 pm 426 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.

Hopefully the non-stop winter weather will soon come to an end, but the last few months have been wreaking havoc on fitness routines. The constant snow, ice and wind test even the heartiest of winter warriors. Aside from hitting your local gym, what can apartment dwellers do to fight off the winter blues with fitness? Here are a few of our ideas.

Make Use of Building Amenities — Sure your community gym is the obvious choice, but what about organizing a weekly group yoga or strength training class in your community room? This choice comes with the added benefit of meeting your neighbors.

Set up a Home Gym — This is easier than it sounds. You can get in a great workout with little to no equipment. Resistance bands are probably the best option for space saving and portability. There are plenty of body weight exercises that require zero equipment yet still give you a great workout. Just be mindful of your neighbors, and maybe keep the high impact stuff for the outside workouts. Here is a good workout designed just for apartments to keep the noise to a minimum.

Exercise Videos — Long gone are the days of Richard Simmons work out videos, and now we have great options with things like Insanity, P90X and the like. But if exercise videos are only a last resort, there are plenty of options through cable (Comcast has several fitness options On Demand) and Internet for free. Check out Gaiam or Fitness Blender for some great options online if you don’t have cable.

Find a Workout Partner — Nothing says couch potato like cold winter mornings. Find someone to keep you motivated on the days you find it hard to get out of bed. Even if you don’t work out together, find someone who will call or text you to get you moving. Or you could use an app or fitness community to keep you motivated. Gym Pact is a fun way to stay motivated, as you can earn rewards for meeting your goals. Websites like Spark People have a robust community to keep you going.

Not only do these workout options work well on snow days, but they are great for travel, too. Sometimes body weight and a tablet are all you need to get the job done. Just keep up the good work, as spring is right around the corner, and you’ll want all the extra energy to enjoy a D.C. spring.

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 — February 19, 2015 at 3:00 pm 670 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.

(Updated at 5:50 p.m.Q: Why is the rent on the apartment I looked at last week higher this week?

A: In managed apartments, rent prices change frequently, and depending on the building, they could even change daily. Many companies use software that looks at a variety of factors each day to determine the rent they charge for a specific unit.  Even though their algorithms are complex, pricing primarily boils down to vacancy rate. A 95 percent occupancy rate is considered efficient in multifamily buildings, and if the occupancy rate is more than 95 percent, then you will likely pay a premium for a unit in that building.

Tip: When touring a building, ask about their vacancy rate. If they have 5 percent of their units or less vacant, then you may want to shop around in buildings nearby to see if there is a better deal.  Also, if you find a place you like, at a price you can afford, you may want to lock it in at that price. Ask what you need to do in order to hold a unit.

Q: Is there a time of year when I will get a better deal on an apartment?

A: While you may score a deal in the winter in many cities that does not necessarily ring true in the DC area. No doubt, the summer months are the busiest time because of students moving in and out of the area, and recent grads starting new jobs. Also, in election years, there is a shift in the late fall and early winter. However, DC generally has a constant influx of people throughout the year.

Bottom line: The deals to be had are often in new buildings trying to fill their units, not necessarily at any specific time of year.

Q: Any tips on how to find the best deals?

A: Obviously, working with an agent is going to help you save time. Agents know the buildings, the neighborhoods, and the pricing best. Also, when working with agents that specialize in rentals, they get “Hot Sheets” from the buildings weekly, so they know where the deals are. If you maintain a relationship with an agent, they can keep their eyes and ears open for you and let you know if something good comes up.

Also, looking into privately owned units, you may be able to score a deal. With privately owned units, pricing is based more on comps in the area, and their expenses, so you likely have more room to negotiate. Tip: If you are working with a private landlord, you may be able to negotiate price, get them to throw in parking, or make some small upgrades to the unit prior to move in.

Q: What does it cost to work with a real estate agent?

A: In the DC area, it should be FREE. In some cities, like New York, often the renter pays the agent fee. But here, the agents get paid by the landlords. The type of landlord does not matter, both multifamily and private owners will pay the fee to the broker or service provider. If you come across a company or agent that wants to charge you a fee, shop around.

Note: Because these brokerages and finder services do get paid by the landlord it means they only work with specific properties, not all of them. It also means they only get paid if you rent at a property they showed or referred. If you have a specific property you want to look at and the agent explains they do not work with that property, ask them if they have anything similar they could show you.

Looking for a rental, and still have more questions? Contact an agent for more assistance.

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 — February 5, 2015 at 2:30 pm 517 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.

Right now, blizzards and bitter cold are slamming parts of the country. Soon it will switch from blizzards to thunderstorms. Are you prepared for when disaster strikes?

Find Out 

  • Does your building have a generator? If it does, what will it power? It may only power minimal things to keep the building in operation, and not cover your apartment.
  • Does your water heater run on gas? If so, you will still have warm water if the power is out. That is a definite plus when it is cold outside.
  • Do you have a gas stove? You can still cook sans electricity too.
  • Does your renter’s insurance cover your fridge contents during a power outage? If so, you could file a claim if your power goes out for several days to replace your contents. This can be very helpful, as it isn’t just your milk and meats you need to replace, but all your condiments and extras, which can add up quickly. If you don’t have that coverage, see if you can add it. It should only cost a few dollars more and could save you hundreds later.

Have on Hand

  • At a minimum, review the Red Cross Survival Kit basics. Non-perishable food, water, medications, cash, batteries and so on.
  • Also check out the Red Cross Store for some handy other items.
    • Blackout Buddy $9.99 — a small LED light that is charged in water.
    • Emergency Bivvy $17.00 — Emergency blanket that keeps you warm and reflects 90 percent of your body heat back to you. This is good to keep in your apartment if you are without heat for several days, and would also be good to keep in your vehicle, if you have one, in the event you get stuck in the snow somewhere.
    • Emergency Radio $60 — This particular one is multipurpose. It has a light, a USB port to charge a phone, and also has a solar panel and hand crank in the event you run out of battery power.
  • If you are able to make a little more investment, check out a battery-powered generator. You can charge your electronics, jumpstart a car among other things. You may even be able to power an electric heater for a few minutes at a time to warm up a room a bit, if necessary. Don’t forget to make sure this is fully charged ahead of time.
  • Hands and feet get cold easily? Grab some hand warmers at your local outdoor store or ski shop.

What about Pets?

  • Depending on the disaster, you don’t want to forget to make some preparations for your pet. If it is a cold weather issue, just be sure to have enough food, water, and medications on hand in the event you are stuck somewhere for a few days.
  • If you have to evacuate, remember most shelters will not allow pets. Your best bet is to either find a hotel, or go to a family or friend’s house that will let you bring your pet. In Arlington County, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington has a temporary pet shelter available if necessary. One thing you don’t want to do is leave your pet behind.

Make a Plan

  • Unexpected disasters do happen every so often — remember the earthquake that hit the D.C. area a few years ago? Fortunately, it didn’t cause too much trouble other than slow commutes home and overloaded cell lines. It could have been worse. Be sure to have some sort of disaster kit on hand for when you least expect it. Have a plan on how to communicate with your loved ones, but keep in mind other people need to communicate too. Stay off your cell as much as possible.

Talking about disasters is never enjoyable. But some simple preparation can help you sail through the many events Mother Nature throws at us. Have a good plan in place with your family for communication, meeting places and so on.

Most importantly, don’t wait until the last minute when you do have time to prepare. And you don’t want to be caught off guard when you don’t. The time is now to start your prep, build your kits over time so you are not hit hard financially all at once, especially for some of the bigger items. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Learn about what your apartment or home has in place for emergencies and develop your plans around that.

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.

×

Subscribe to our mailing list