Tag Archives: rent

6 Apartment Upgrades That Landlords Hate (Bye-Bye, Security Deposit)

When you move into a place, it’s normal to want to make it your own, by hanging pictures or even painting an accent wall cherry red. But when you’re renting, you’d best remember: Any changes you make may be reversed by your landlord once you move out and with your money. That’s why renters have to walk a fine line between making themselves feel at home and making changes that will cost them their security deposit.

“If you decide to paint the walls while you are there, you must return them to their original color or the landlord is within their rights to use the deposit to pay for it themselves,” says Trent Zachmann of Renters Warehouse. He explains that many landlords treat modifications or improvements and accidental damages the same when it comes to taking money from your security deposit. “An owner can withhold all or part of the deposit to correct either type of issue,” he says.

But all is not lost: Sometimes modifications can be made with the owner’s approval. Just make sure you’re 100% clear about the stipulations of your lease before you pick up a paintbrush or hammer. Straight from the mouths of landlords, here’s a list of upgrades tenants have attempted that they hate—and will use your security deposit to fix.

1. Painting

This is the No. 1 alteration that landlords complain about.

Annmarie Bhola, a landlord in New York City, understands that for first-time renters especially, there’s an excitement with moving into a new home. And, to many, that means breaking out the paint.

“To feel at home, a fresh coat of personality-defining color is the icing on the cake,” she says. “That’s all cool, but know that if you paint the walls hot pink, it will be coming out of the security deposit! That was one of the most memorable colors I’ve had to repaint.”

Atlanta landlord Bruce Ailion describes creative painting projects as his biggest headache.

“You would think a tenant would pick a neutral color and have a professional paint,” he laments. “Instead they paint purple or black, get paint on the ceiling, on the trim, on the door knobs and outlets. Some will paint around the bed and pictures. It’s a mess.”

2. Hanging pictures

After repainting, filling in holes in drywall is one of the most common issues landlords have to deal with after a tenant moves out.

“Everyone likes to put up pictures, and fortunately new technologies have brought about alternative, less destructive hanging methods, which is great,” says Bhola. So then why don’t more people think to use Command strips instead of nails? “Nine out of 10 times, I always have to fill in the holes and bust out the spare bucket of paint.”

3. Installing window treatments

We know: Those white plastic vertical blinds are so ugly. Your impulse to put up a curtain rod or Roman shades is completely normal. But the holes you have to drill into the wall to mount the window treatments, like those for your pictures, will require patching once you move out. Landlords fume every time they see big screw marks around the window frame.

“Repairing the holes ends up being expensive and time-consuming,” says Zachmann. If you must hang curtains, use large Command hooks that adhere to the wall and don’t leave any stickiness behind.

4. Mounting a TV

What’s worse than hammering nails into the drywall to hang pictures or curtains? Drilling holes in the wall to mount your flat-screen TV.

“The screws have to go directly into the center of studs,” says Brian Davis, director of education at real estate service company SparkRental. “At best, the renter will have screwed 10 to 20 holes into the wall. At worst, the TV will crash to the floor [because it wasn’t mounted correctly], possibly injure someone, shatter the TV, and take a chunk of the wall down with it.” He recommends that renters use a TV stand.

5. Gardening

You would think that planting a few tulips would delight a landlord. But that’s not necessarily the case.

“As a landlord, I want the most maintenance-free rental as possible,” says Atlanta-area property owner and real estate writer Laura Agadoni. “In some cases, I pay for a landscaping service, but I would not want to keep up a garden.”

So, don’t make any changes to the landscaping without the landlord’s written permission. And if you do, don’t be surprised if your security deposit is used to return the yard to its previous state.

6. Updating appliances

If you’re not a fan of that noisy old refrigerator in your rental, it’s perfectly fine to swap it out with a new one of your own so long as you talk it over with your landlord first, and then reconnect the old one after you move out.

“What’s never acceptable is swapping out an appliance, throwing the old one away, and then taking the new one with you when you move out, leaving a gaping hole where there was once an appliance,” says Davis.

So if there’s something you’d like to update, just ask your landlord about it first. You never know.

“What some landlords will allow may be different than what other landlords allow,” says New York City broker Eric D. Rosen. “In some cases, it might even be possible that a landlord will share the cost.”

Article originally found on realtor.com

Homeownership 101: Are You Ready?

Owning your own home is part of the American dream. But it takes more than just dreaming of buying and maintaining a home. Before you take the plunge, here are some things to ask yourself.

Does it make sense to buy?

Buying instead of renting needs to make sense financially. To help you decide, play with Zillow’s Buy vs. Rent calculator to see how many years it will take before the cost of buying equals the cost of renting. It’s called the breakeven horizon, and it varies by area of the country.

If you plan to stay in your home past your breakeven horizon, then buying makes financial sense. If you think you’ll move earlier, then renting may be the way to go.

Are you financially ready?

Buying a house involves raising a down payment and paying a monthly mortgage, which lasts anywhere from 5 to 30 years, depending on the home loan you can afford and are offered. There are other costs as well, but let’s focus on the big money.

Down payment: It’s the lump sum you’ll pay upfront that funds equity in the property and proves to lenders that you’ve got skin in this homeowner game. Down payments vary. In the go-go days that led up to the housing collapse, some lenders dismissed the down payment altogether – and we see how well that ended. Today, 20 percent is preferred and often gets you the best rates, but some loans allow down payments as low as 3 percent. Sometimes parents or friends can offer help with the down payment. If you have a choice, take a gift rather than a loan, not only for obvious reasons, but because lenders will add that debt to other monthly obligations and potential mortgage payments to determine your debt-to-income ratio, which generally can’t top 43 percent to qualify for a home loan.

Monthly mortgage payments: This is what you’ll pay each month. In most cases, a mortgage includes the loan principal and interest (both amortized over the life of the loan) plus homeowners insurance and property taxes (pro-rated). When credit was tight, getting a mortgage at any rate was reserved for only the most credit-worthy borrowers. Things have loosened, but lenders still want to know that you’re a responsible, gainfully employed and credit-worthy candidate.

Are you emotionally ready?

Owning a home is a huge commitment so before jumping in, consider if you are ready to make lots of decisions, from picking an agent to picking paint colors. Are you confident enough to select a neighborhood where you’ll want to stay for a while? And are you up for devoting the time and attention to maintaining a home? Weekends will disappear under chores like pulling weeds, cleaning gutters, shoveling snow, sealing counters and decks, and on and on. Taking care of your biggest investment can be gratifying but only if you’re ready.

Do you have the skills?

Your home will require regular maintenance and repair, and there’s no landlord to call for help. You’ll need some basic handyperson skills so you won’t go broke hiring a repair professional to remedy every odd sound or smell. Here are some things every homeowner should learn how to do:
• Change a toilet flapper
• Shut off the main water valve and outdoor faucets
• Change a furnace filter
• Clean gutters of debris
• Change smoke detector batteries
• Locate and flip breaker switches
• Locate studs to hang shelves
• Paint a room

Post courtesy of zillow.com

6 Apartment Upgrades That Landlords Hate

When you move into a place, it’s normal to want to make it your own, by hanging pictures or even painting an accent wall cherry red. But when you’re renting, you’d best remember: Any changes you make may be reversed by your landlord once you move out and with your money. That’s why renters have to walk a fine line between making themselves feel at home and making changes that will cost them their security deposit.

“If you decide to paint the walls while you are there, you must return them to their original color or the landlord is within their rights to use the deposit to pay for it themselves,” says Trent Zachmann of Renters Warehouse. He explains that many landlords treat modifications or improvements and accidental damages the same when it comes to taking money from your security deposit. “An owner can withhold all or part of the deposit to correct either type of issue,” he says.

But all is not lost: Sometimes modifications can be made with the owner’s approval. Just make sure you’re 100% clear about the stipulations of your lease before you pick up a paintbrush or hammer. Straight from the mouths of landlords, here’s a list of upgrades tenants have attempted that they hate—and will use your security deposit to fix.

1. Painting

This is the No. 1 alteration that landlords complain about.

Annmarie Bhola, a landlord in New York City, understands that, for first-time renters especially, there’s an excitement with moving into a new home. And, to many, that means breaking out the paint.

“To feel at home, a fresh coat of personality-defining color is the icing on the cake,” she says. “That’s all cool, but know that if you paint the walls hot pink, it will be coming out of the security deposit! That was one of the most memorable colors I’ve had to repaint.”

Atlanta landlord Bruce Ailion describes creative painting projects as his biggest headache.

“You would think a tenant would pick a neutral color and have a professional paint,” he laments. “Instead they paint purple or black, get paint on the ceiling, on the trim, on the door knobs and outlets. Some will paint around the bed and pictures. It’s a mess.”

2. Hanging pictures

After repainting, filling in holes in drywall is one of the most common issues landlords have to deal with after a tenant moves out.

“Everyone likes to put up pictures, and fortunately new technologies have brought about alternative, less destructive hanging methods, which is great,” says Bhola. So then why don’t more people think to use Command strips instead of nails? “Nine out of 10 times, I always have to fill in the holes and bust out the spare bucket of paint.”

3. Installing window treatments

We know: Those white plastic vertical blinds are so ugly. Your impulse to put up a curtain rod or Roman shades is completely normal. But the holes you have to drill into the wall to mount the window treatments, like those for your pictures, will require patching once you move out. Landlords fume every time they see big screw marks around the window frame.

“Repairing the holes ends up being expensive and time-consuming,” says Zachmann. If you must hang curtains, use large Command hooks that adhere to the wall and don’t leave any stickiness behind.

4. Mounting a TV

What’s worse than hammering nails into the drywall to hang pictures or curtains? Drilling holes in the wall to mount your flat-screen TV.

“The screws have to go directly into the center of studs,” says Brian Davis, director of education at real estate service company SparkRental. “At best, the renter will have screwed 10 to 20 holes into the wall. At worst, the TV will crash to the floor [because it wasn’t mounted correctly], possibly injure someone, shatter the TV, and take a chunk of the wall down with it.” He recommends that renters use a TV stand.

5. Gardening

You would think that planting a few tulips would delight a landlord. But that’s not necessarily the case.

“As a landlord, I want the most maintenance-free rental as possible,” says Atlanta-area property owner and real estate writer Laura Agadoni. “In some cases, I pay for a landscaping service, but I would not want to keep up a garden.”

So, don’t make any changes to the landscaping without the landlord’s written permission. And if you do, don’t be surprised if your security deposit is used to  return the yard to its previous state.

6. Updating appliances

If you’re not a fan of that noisy old refrigerator in your rental, it’s perfectly fine to swap it out with a new one of your own so long as you talk it over with your landlord first, and then reconnect the old one after you move out.

“What’s never acceptable is swapping out an appliance, throwing the old one away, and then taking the new one with you when you move out, leaving a gaping hole where there was once an appliance,” says Davis.

So if there’s something you’d like to update, just ask your landlord about it first. You never know.

“What some landlords will allow may be different than what other landlords allow,” says New York City broker Eric D. Rosen. “In some cases, it might even be possible that a landlord will share the cost.”

Renters: Are You Ready to Buy a Home?

Photo credit: Milles Studio / shutterstock.com

While you save up your down payment, take these 5 steps to get you closer to closing.

For renters planning to buy a home, preliminary steps like creating a budget and saving for a down payment are obvious. Here are five more advanced steps toward moving out of your rental and into a dream home of your own.

Understand the full cost of homeownership

As a renter, a single rental fee covers your monthly housing payment. But as a homeowner, four main factors go into your monthly housing payment: principal, interest, taxes and insurance (P.I.T.I.). Understanding these costs will help you determine how much house you can afford.

Together, principal and interest comprise your monthly mortgage payment, with the principal paying down your loan balance each month, and the interest paying your fee for borrowing the money. Use a mortgage calculator to determine how much of your payment goes toward principal versus interest each month.

Taxes refer to property taxes, which are assessed by the county you live in. They average 1.2 percent of your home’s value each year.

Insurance — paid to a homeowner’s insurance company of your choice — is required when you have a mortgage. Lenders require that your insurance cover the cost of rebuilding the home if it is ruined by fire or other disaster. This “replacement cost” is determined by your insurer, and must be agreed to by your lender. Insurance will typically cost $700 to $1,200 per year for a single family home.

For condo owners, there’s a fifth monthly cost category: homeowners association (HOA) dues. These fees cover common area amenities, landscaping, ongoing upkeep and reserves for future maintenance like roof replacement or exterior painting. These monthly dues range from $100 for cheaper condos to $1,000 or more for luxury condos.

Single family home buyers can take a useful cue from HOA budgets, which generally require that at least 10 percent of dues go toward reserves. Even if you’re not buying a condo, it’s a good idea to set up a similar savings plan for future maintenance like replacing a roof or major appliances.

Know your homeowner tax benefits

Mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible when you file your annual tax returns, and reduce taxable income.

These deductions significantly lower your cost of homeownership. For example, for a $300,000 home with 20 percent down and a 30-year fixed mortgage at 4 percent, monthly P.I.T.I. is about $1,545. Tax deductions reduce this total housing cost to about $1,215.

Study rent-vs.-buy math

Often, people judge the cost of renting vs. buying by comparing P.I.T.I. to a rental payment. But to get an apples-to-apples comparison, you actually have to look at after-tax-benefit homeownership costs and rent costs.

Using the example above of a $300,000 home that costs $1,215 per month after taxes, you could compare this residence to a home that rents for about $1,200. If the $300,000 home was more spacious or in a more desirable area, the math would seem to favor buying — but don’t forget this example requires a $60,000 down payment.

Identify mortgages that fit your budget and timeline

If you don’t have 20 percent to put down, you can still get a mortgage with as little as 3 percent down. However, if your down payment is less than 20 percent, you’ll have to pay mortgage insurance, which is about .85 percent of your loan amount, and isn’t tax deductible.

Your monthly P.I.T.I. (which includes mortgage insurance) is about $1,995 on a $300,000 home with 3 percent down and a 30-year fixed mortgage at 4 percent. After tax deductions, this total housing cost drops to about $1,614. And you’d only need $9,000 for the down payment.

You can also lower your rate and P.I.T.I. with a shorter-term loan like a 5-year ARM, but rates on these loans will adjust in 5 years, so you risk having a much higher payment if you plan to stay in the home longer than that.

Start preparing your credit score now

Credit scores are critical for getting the best mortgages with the lowest rates. Lenders want reliable on-time payment history as well as credit depth.

More credit accounts are better, so renters with only one credit card should consider obtaining more credit. Just note that your credit score can drop 5 to 15 points when you first open a new account, then will come back up when you’ve established a good payment history.

Post courtesy of zillow.com.

How To Be a Good Tenant

Photo credit: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek / shutterstock.com

Come on, let’s face it. We all think it, we all know it: We’re perfect. We put ourselves on a pedestal because our brains are wired to do so, so it’s not always easy to see when we’re in the wrong.

And when it comes to being a tenant you are, of course, the definition of perfection. That’s why it is so annoying that your landlord is constantly bugging you. Why is he giving you notice after notice when you’re already the ideal tenant? You signed his lease, pay your rent on time and take care of the property. What more does he want?
Hey, I’m up here with you, too. So let me level with you. What we think is “right” isn’t always reality. Down there — down where everyone else lives in the real world — they have these things called rules. And in order to live in harmony with the rest of humanity, we must learn their rules and play their game. That is how you should think of your landlord-tenant relationship: It’s like a game. Learn the rules, play the game fair and everyone wins! 

Lucky for us, it’s not that difficult:
  • Read your lease. Really. Really. Read it. Paragraph by paragraph, word by word. Your lease is a binding legal contract. It creates a symbiotic relationship between you and your landlord. What are you agreeing to? Read what it says, “get” it and don’t forget it.
  • Don’t arbitrarily change the rules. You want to paint? You want a little furry friend? You want to wallpaper your hallway? You’ve got good taste, so clearly you’re making an improvement to the place. Get the landlord’s written permission first. If the lease says “DON’T,” you must get the exception in writing (not a verbal, not a handshake — in writing) to make it a “DO.” Save the signed letter and keep it in a file. You’ll need it later when you move out and your landlord has forgotten.
  • Submit all maintenance requests in writing. If you have a non-emergency request such as a leaky faucet, submit the maintenance request to the landlord in writing. You can also follow up with a phone call. You can write a note to the landlord and submit it with your rent check. Or, you can fax or email the request as well. While landlords appreciate being notified of maintenance issues right away, keep in mind there are some small issues you need to take care of yourself. For example, if a light bulb goes out or the smoke detector needs a replacement battery — grab a step stool and swap it out on your own. No need to bother the landlord.
  • Do unto others as you would have done to you. Be a respectful and courteous neighbor and tenant. Landlords often find themselves mediating arguments between tenants. Many of these issues can be resolved without involving the landlord. If you have problems with a neighbor, don’t be passive-aggressive. Address the problem directly with the offending neighbor. The goal is not to argue or prove your point, but to create an environment where both parties can live peacefully.
  • Respect your home. Keep your house in clean and sanitary condition. If you have pets, pick up after them.
  • Pay your rent on time. Many tenants believe they have a “grace” period. Most leases will not charge a late fee until three to five days after the due date. Though this appears to create a grace period, it does not. If you pay rent three days late every month, you may never incur a late fee. However, when you move out and you need your landlord’s reference, he can state you were late every month on rent. Make sure to get your rent in on time.
If you can follow these rules, then you really can say, “I am the perfect tenant!”
Post courtesy of HGTV.com

4 Things Every Landlord Thinks About Your Credit Score

Photo credit: Indypendenz / shutterstock.com

If you rent, your landlord may check your credit score. But what do they really think when they see that three-digit number?

You’ll need to submit a lot of personal information to a landlord when you find a great apartment for rent. And that can be a challenging process, especially in a competitive rental market like Washington, DC, or New York, NY. What’s a landlord looking for? What information can you submit to show you’re the best tenant for the space you want? And how heavily does your credit factor into the decision?

If you’ve ever wondered what potential landlords really think when they review your credit report with your rental application, read on. In addition to examining the data from Trulia’s Rental Resume tool, we consulted landlords and financial pros to understand the importance of that three-digit number — and how owners of rental units react when they see it.

1. Do you have good financial habits?

Your credit score isn’t an arbitrary number, and landlords want to see yours because it gives them an idea of how solid your financial foundation is. “There are three factors that landlords look at when making the decision to rent to a prospective tenant: your income and employment history, your history with landlords, and your credit,” explains Thomas O’Connor, a property manager at Boston Property Care. “A credit report gives the landlord a window to the applicant’s overall payment history of their financial obligations.”

2. Your low score isn’t (always) a deal breaker

As it turns out, not every landlord thinks your low credit score is that bad. Greg Johnson rents out property and shares his family’s experiences at Club Thrifty. He says it’s not unexpected to get rental applicants with low credit scores. They’re just one measure of a person’s financial health.

“In our area, housing is relatively cheap,” he explains. “Most people rent because they can’t get a loan. We have and do rent to applicants with bad credit, provided that their income qualifies and what they’ve told us on the application is accurate.”

Instead of fixating on just the score, Johnson looks for a history of past-due accounts or accounts in default. “We want to know whether or not the applicant has skipped out on their bills before,” he shares. “If they have, it could be a good indication that they may not be able to fulfill their part of the lease.”

Philip Taylor, founder of PT Money and a financial media conference known as FinCon, gathers credit reports to look for information that shows someone is financially stable and responsible enough to rent long term. “I’m looking for evidence of late payments or other negative issues,” he shares. While seeing a high score makes Taylor feel better about a renter, a low score doesn’t automatically rule someone out. “When I see a low credit score, I think the prospective tenant likely has issues with managing their finances — but the date and timeline of the issues matters too.”

3. Good credit scores don’t automatically mean you’ll be a great renter

Most landlords think the same thing when they see a good credit score: They feel more comfortable offering a lease agreement, because conventional wisdom dictates those with good credit scores present a lower risk of missing rent payments or refusing to pay altogether.

But there are other factors that matter even more. For Johnson, references from other landlords carry a lot of weight. “Those references are usually more important than having good credit,” he says. “Other landlords will let you know whether they had trouble collecting rent. They’ll also let you know if their former tenant damaged the property, which is probably the most important factor of all.”

O’Connor agrees, saying a record of paying rent on time and treating their apartment well is extremely important to any landlord. “Divorce, medical issues, student loans can all have detrimental effects on a credit score, but in context may be understandable,” he explains.

4. Big picture: Will this applicant work?

Without a doubt, your credit score matters, especially if there are a lot of applications submitted for one apartment. Most landlords will want to investigate your situation further if you have bad credit — and good credit scores make them feel more comfortable renting their apartment to you.

But as noted above, a good credit score is only part of the package. Trulia’s recent survey revealed that landlords want to see customized applications that detail your situation and show you’re eager, engaged, and reliable. In fact, those inquiring with a customized message about properties for rent on Trulia were 20% more likely to hear back from landlords than those inquiring without customizing.

And while a good credit score is ideal, you can still rent with bad credit if you make the effort to show why it was bad and how you recovered from past financial mistakes. This is especially true if you have a strong and steady income, which shows you have the funds coming in to actually make rent, and if you’re co-signing with a roommate or two.

Courtesy of trulia.com