Apartment Composting 101

Now you can follow my blog with Bloglovin! It’s tough to save money and live sustainably when you are renting but often you can grow a few staple veggies on a patio even in the smallest spaces.  You can save even more (and be greener) by composting your kitchen scraps as a growing medium!  Learn how with this infographic from Sustainableamerica.org: Have you tried composting in your apartment?  What do you do to live sustainably in your apartment? ...

There Are Mice in my Apartment!

  I moved to Boston two years ago, into a lovely 2-bedroom apartment in Brookline with two amazing roommates. We were complete strangers who just met the day before Moving Day and enlisted the help of a realtor in our apartment search. He showed us three apartments; we ended up taking the first one we saw. Rent was steep, but it worked between the three of us and the location was wonderful. We converted the living room space into a third bedroom (the realtor’s suggestion, OK-ed by the apartment building manager,) my roommate’s mother put in a real door for the third bedroom when she visited for Thanksgiving, and our apartment was complete. Life was good. But about seven months in, small, dark pellets began appearing on our kitchen counter top and stove. We cleaned it up once, twice, several more times until it was clear: the pellets were mouse poop, and there were mice getting into our apartment. The first thing I thought of was that the realtor had said, very definitively, that our apartment building had no history of mice or pests whatsoever. I never saw a single cockroach or centipede in that apartment, but the mice… well, they stuck around for eight months or so before they were completely out of our apartment. Note to self: never believe what a realtor says about an apartment. We called our super in to get the mice out. He pulled out the stove (yes, they can be pulled out, and you should clean behind them regularly) and found large gaps in the wall where the mice had been getting in and out. He filled the holes with foam sealant, and cleaned up the mice poop. We stopped seeing the poop for a short while, but it reappeared. More holes were found in the floor and walls around the heating pipes. Glue traps were set (although no mice were caught, thank goodness.) A ‘pest exterminator’ came, but the situation didn’t improve. Our super came in at least two more times, each time finding a hole that wasn’t sealed previously. The mice finally stopped coming when the last hole was sealed: a one-inch crack in the tiled bathroom wall. Have you ever encountered mice in your apartment?  It’s pretty gross but you can do something about it!  The next time you are looking at apartments, here’s what to do before signing the lease: Bring a flashlight with you to an apartment showing. Look for mice poop in dark corners, underneath the heating baseboards and near any visible cracks in the walls or floor. Are the existing tenants keeping the kitchen clean? Talk to them and apartment neighbors if you can and ask about pests. When you move in, look underneath heating baseboards and behind the refrigerator and stove for gaps and seal them before you block them with your furniture and forget about them. You can prevent mice living in the walls of your apartment from coming into your unit by making sure that there are no gaps through which they can enter. Often, the holes around heating pipes are deliberately left there to allow for expansion, especially for copper pipes. So do ensure that gaps are properly sealed with an appropriate material. And if, God forbid, mice find their way to your apartment, take care of them right away. Call your landlord to bring someone in and be home when the work is done so you can ensure it is done thoroughly. Don’t let them stop after finding and sealing the first hole; look everywhere for holes and seal them all. I’d rather never see the mice again than catch them in traps, but here’s a good link for the different mouse traps both you and your landlord can install. A seemingly-perfect apartment can be indelibly marred if you have to live with pests. My apartment’s mice problems made the other perks – perfect location, reasonable rent, free heat and hot water – completely insignificant. The lease ended recently, and I have no plans for renting from the same company, or using realtors, again. ...

GIVEAWAY! – $50 The Container Store Giveaway

You spoke and Rentwhich listened!  During our IKEA gift card giveaway, many of you said that one of your biggest renting challenges was finding space to store and organize in your small apartments.  To help you manage those small spaces, we’re giving away a $50 The Container Store gift card!  Share your most creative tips for storage in small spaces for a chance to #win! Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. You can read the full terms and conditions there, but the most important parts are: the giveaway is open to readers in the U.S. 18 or older (you must be an adult according to your local laws). Giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. on October 6th, 2014. a Rafflecopter giveaway ...

Top Cities for Young Professionals – Infographic

The most obvious advantage to renting is that your financial chains are lighter and you, therefore, have more freedom to move around.  If you are a bit of a rolling stone and need to decide which city to call home next, check out this helpful infographic from Forrent.com.  Though we would like to add that we’re partial to a few other cities (ahem.. Boston!). Top Cities for Young Professionals and Families Created by: ForRent.com Alright city loyalists!  It’s time to duke it out.  What city do you think is best for young professionals? ...

5 Things I Learned from Moving to Canada

Before last December, I’d briefly visited Montreal and Vancouver, but the idea of moving to Canada never crossed my mind. Then my fiancée/common-law husband landed a new job opportunity in Victoria, British Columbia and six weeks later, we were packing up our Boston apartment and moving to B.C. We’ve spent almost six months in our new adopted city, so Lyn asked me to share some of my cross-border experiences. Expect non-citizen surcharges. Having lived in the U.S. as a U.S. citizen for my entire life (aside from study abroad in London one summer), I hadn’t noticed all the little things that cost more when you aren’t a citizen or permanent resident. When I visited the doctor to get my prescriptions transferred, the clinic wanted to charge an extra $100 to cover the extra liability of treating an American who might try to sue them in her home country (I guess our reputation as being overly litigious precedes us!). I’ve heard of auto body shops that charge expats for lots of extra repairs when they get their vehicle inspected and registered. And don’t get me started on the first-time home-buyer transfer tax exemption that doesn’t apply to recent immigrants! Find a flexible landlord. Moving to a new country is pretty big step and the last thing we wanted was to be locked into a 12-month lease in a neighborhood we’d end up hating. So we lived in two short-term furnished rentals, before we bought a condo of our own (yes, bought). The first place was super-modern, stylish and in a cool neighorbood. But that apartment turned out to be pretty chilly in February. We didn’t know that until we moved in, because we visited it during a whirlwind 36-hour trip and never even removed our coats for the showing. Whoops! At least we’d only committed to living there for a month. The other apartment was not drafty despite being right on the water, but as transplants, we didn’t know that homeless people tend to congregate near the building because of its proximity to a shelter. That landlord only required 30-days’ notice, so once we found our condo, we didn’t have to worry about breaking a lease. In general, British Columbia tends to be a bit more tenant-friendly than Boston, which is nice. Turn OFF data roaming on your smartphone. When we first arrived, I hadn’t planned on getting a Canadian smartphone, because I figured I’d just use the WiFi on my American phone. I knew enough to turn off data roaming, but I after restarted my phone multiple times and updated the software, we were shocked to receive an extra large bill for (you guessed it) data roaming. I now have a Canadian smartphone so I can look up directions or check emails on the go, but I’m still figuring out how Canadian cell phone plans work. Unlike the U.S., where you can call anywhere in the country with the same pool of minutes, you can actually incur long-distance charges here even for calling someone with the same area code. And not all phone plans automatically come with voicemail. (You have to request it, which baffles me!) You won’t miss Hulu (that much). The TV-streaming service Hulu.com does not work in Canada unless you use a VPN. At first, Lyn was horrified to hear that I got my “Parks and Recreation” fix by binge-watching episodes I’d missed on trips back to the U.S. But as I later discovered, most U.S. shows are available on Canadian networks, often a different one than the U.S. Substitute Hulu for any small luxury you’re used to in your home country (Trader Joe’s products, say, or iTunes Radio), and I think most expats can relate. You figure out substitutes or new little indulgences over time. I even talked to an American expat living in South American who missed Ranch dressing so much he learned to make his own. Embrace the local culture. I didn’t full understand how much people could love maple syrup and ice hockey until we moved here just before the Winter Olympics. Aside from all the touristy stuff, we’ve been binge-watching “Dragon’s Den” (the Canadian version of “Shark Tank”) on Netflix. Hearing entrepreneurs from all across Canada pitch their ideas has given me a crash course in the different provinces and nuances of how people speak and do business. One notable difference between “Dragon’s Den” and “Shark Tank” is that the investors in the tank (two of whom are Canadian and also in the Den) get extremely cutthroat about competing offers. In the den, they’re more likely to partner with another dragon or graciously bow out, saying the other dragon’s offer was better. That friendlier, more collaborative mindset is a breathe of fresh air! Have you moved to another country? How was your experience and what did you miss most? Leave a comment and let us know! ...

10 Fall Decor Ideas for Renters

Seasonal decorating in a rental is tough. It is tempting to purchase cute ceramic autumn leaves, witch statuettes or plastic jack o’lanterns, but these items need a lot of storage space and are irrelevant for most of the year. So how can you make your home festive and cozy without using all of your closet space to store Halloween décor and pumpkin scented potpourri bags? Luckily, there are a few small tricks to make even a white-washed apartment feel cozy this fall: Clean Away Signs of Summer – The first and easiest way to prep your living space for fall is to clean away remaining signs of summer. Store fans and air conditioners, and put most of those flip flops currently by the front door back in your bedroom closet. Dust – There is a good chance you’ve had your windows open all summer, which is wonderful, but it’s probably allowed dust from the city streets to settle on your furniture and tabletops. Before shuttering the windows for the season, take a wet rag to all surfaces in your apartment so you can start fresh for a new season. This quick task is surprisingly effective at making your home more comfortable and guest-ready for a new season. Doormat – A doormat is a welcoming gesture that can is helpful all year round. Its purpose is particularly relevant in the fall, however, because the changing seasons often mean dirty, rain-soaked boots! Blankets – Adding a few stylish throws over the back of couches or chairs is both inviting and cozy. Plus, you can save a few dollars on your monthly heating bill by using blankets and sweaters to keep warm in the late fall instead of tuning up your thermostat. Just be mindful not to let temperatures get so low that pipes burst. Pumpkins – pumpkins are festive, fun, and disposable at the end of the season (and compostable)! Carve jack o’ lanterns with friends and family, or keep a small pumpkin as a centerpiece on any table. Music – music is a clutter-free way to bring atmosphere to a space of any size. Décor is often thought of as a visual tool, but creating an atmosphere in your home requires all of the senses. Especially for people in tiny apartments, music can become a valuable method in creating a good vibe. Electric candles – Landlords, particularly in older, densely-populated areas, really don’t like candles because of the high risk of fire. However, flickering battery or solar-powered candles are a great solution to making an apartment cozier as the temperatures drop. They are safer, longer-lasting, and can be set on timers to go on and off at the same times every day. Candy – A small candy dish is also a great piece of décor since it requires very little storage space, while also giving everyone a reason to smile. Candy, of course, is especially important for Halloween season. Choose candies that can handle small changes in temperature – mainly, avoid chocolate for this reason, until winter. Bake Something – Like music, having something baking when you’re expecting guests is a great way to add yet another sense into your rental space’s atmosphere. Baked goods smell fantastic, don’t take up space, and definitely add a level of coziness and warmth to any kitchen. Tea Kettle – A simple stovetop tea kettle is a charming way to add a sense of “fall” to your home. It doesn’t take up too much space (I mean, when you’re not cooking, there isn’t much else you can store on a stovetop indefinitely), and is helpful when unanticipated visitors stop by or the weather has suddenly gotten chilly. Voila, ten budget-friendly autumn décor suggestions for renters of small apartments! Renters, what do you do to make your apartment feel like home?  What is your favorite thing about fall? ...

Cost of Renting in NYC – It’s Not Your Imagination

It’s hardly worth repeating but, yes, In fact, the smarties over at the NYU Furman Center did the math to determine exactly how high the rent has gotten.  Check out their infographic! New Yorkers!  What are you doing to combat exploding rents?  Moving further out?  Downsizing?  Taking on extra work hours? Readers from other cities!  Are you city’s rents getting too damn high too?  Tell us in the comments. ...

What’s Your Top Must-Have Apartment Feature?

We always hear that the most important features in real estate are location, location, location but, at Rentwhich, we understand that the decision about which apartment to call home can be more complicated than that. Let us know what you think is the most important feature of an apartment.  If your top feature isn’t listed, choose other and tell us your top feature in the comments or tweet to #musthaveapt! ...