5 Things to Look for in a Rental Listing

Lackluster listings abound — learn to cut through the clutter and spot the keepers.

Whether you’re looking for an apartment, single-family house or townhome — and whether you’re in a city, the suburbs or a small town — be prepared to spend a lot of time online and even more time driving around to tour the most promising places in person.

If you want to save time and avoid headaches, make sure that every rental listing you consider has all the information you need. High-quality listings help you weed out the places that don’t fit your criteria (wait, Fido’s not welcome?), but they also indicate an organized, communicative and professional landlord — something every renter wants.

As you begin your search, consider these five important things every good rental listing should contain:

1. Detailed details

Front and center should be the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, storage space and a floor plan to help you visualize the layout.

Avoid listings with vague terms like “junior one bedroom” or “open one bedroom.” According to Zillow research, 65 percent of renters require their preferred number of bedrooms. Landlords know this, so they get creative with descriptions to attract more tenants.

Another need-to-know detail is how safe the property is. Zillow research reports that 75 percent of renters said that a safe neighborhood is a must-have. Most landlords will say that the neighborhood is safe, so do your own research, especially if you’re new to the area.

Speaking of being new — if you’re moving to a new part of town or an entirely new city, look for listings with important facts about the neighborhood, including proximity to transit or major freeways, convenient shopping centers, and nearby recreation and entertainment options.

2. Amenities — all of them

Beyond basics like heating and kitchen appliances, every renter has different amenities that they consider must-haves.

The most popular amenities renters look for include air conditioning, in-unit laundry, ample storage and private outdoor space. Watch for other nice-to-have in-unit amenities, like recent renovations, hardwood floors, plenty of windows and upgraded kitchens.

Shared amenities should be included in the listing too — things like parking, rooftop decks, fitness areas, outdoor space, swimming pools and bike storage.

3. Major (and potentially problematic) policies

The listing should disclose any policies that could be a deal breaker for you. Examples include rules around pets (including specific breeds), the maximum number of people who can live in the unit, smoking, parking, noise and — most importantly — lease terms and length.

Additionally, see if you can tell if the landlord lives on-site or if a local property management company manages things. If the landlord is nearby, they’ll likely handle repair requests quickly, along with general building upkeep and maintenance.

4. Clearly described costs

Make sure the landlord is exceptionally clear about the dollars and cents:

  • What is the monthly rent?
  • How much of a deposit is required, and is any of it refundable?
  • Are there any one-time fees?
  • Is there a pet fee or monthly charge?
  • Does parking cost extra?
  • Who pays for utilities?

These additional charges can quickly move a listing from feasible to fruitless, so make sure you have all the info you need to do the math ahead of time.

5. High-quality photos

Focus on listings that have not only good photos but also recent photos — and lots of them.

Look for listings that include both interior and exterior shots, plus photos of all shared amenities. But renter beware: If the landlord says the photos are of a similar unit — not the one that’s actually for rent — you may find yourself in a bait-and-switch situation.

Once you find a few listings that include these details, you’re off to a great start. You can more easily compare properties side by side, identify deal breakers and find areas where a landlord might be open to compromising.

Related:

Originally published June 2018. Statistics updated January 2019.

Source: zillow.com

12 Great Summer Jobs for High School Students

Working during the summer when school is out of session is a great opportunity for teenagers to make money and assert their independence. Having a summer job can help you earn extra income, reduce your college tuition bill and corresponding reliance on student loans, and gain practical experience for a future career, all while providing opportunities that might not be available during the school year.

Deciding what you want to do is the hard part. Do you want to work outside? Work with others? Work with animals? Once you figure that out, you’ll find there are summer jobs that fit the bill for almost any interests you may have.

As a high schooler, you may feel as though you lack the necessary experience to land a prime gig. But there are plenty of entry-level jobs for high schoolers and college students that pay rather well and tend to be more plentiful during the summer. These are among the best.

Best Summer Jobs & Opportunities for High School Students

Many great summer jobs and employment opportunities for young workers also happen to be excellent year-round part-time jobs for high school students. While some pay little more than minimum wage, others offer surprisingly high pay and may even extend health insurance benefits to part-timers.

1. Babysitter

Good babysitters don’t grow on trees. As a parent myself, I’ve seen both sides of the coin: uber-dependable babysitters I trust to be available on short notice and more than capable of handling whatever kids throw at them, along with decidedly mediocre sitters I wouldn’t work with again. The dependable ones earn their pay, and then some.

And that pay isn’t half bad. According to data collected by Sittercity, the average U.S. babysitting wage was about $16 per hour in January 2021. In some cities, babysitters clear $20 per hour on average. (Side note: Sittercity is an excellent resource for aspiring sitters to connect with families in their area, as is Care.com.) Sitters with credentials that families find valuable, like CPR certification and driver’s licenses, can ask for more.

2. Camp Counselor

Do you enjoy spending time outdoors — camping, hiking, playing sports? Do you also enjoy supervising and mentoring kids? Then working as a camp counselor is the perfect job for you.

There are summer camps all over the country designated for almost any activity you could imagine, so you can likely find a perfect match for your interests. If you don’t mind spending weeks at a time away from home, sleepaway camps typically offer free room and board, opportunities to socialize with fellow counselors after hours, and ample outdoor recreation opportunities on days off. Otherwise, you can work during the day and sleep in your own bed every night as a day camp counselor.

Being a camp counselor is definitely an entry-level job, but employers may prefer or require candidates with safety certifications like CPR and basic first aid. Considering most camp counselors work just eight to 12 weeks out of the year, the median pay — about $20,300 annually, according to Glassdoor — is quite good.

3. Landscaping and Lawn Care Worker

Few activities shout “summer” louder than mowing the lawn on a beautiful day. If you don’t mind doing laps in your own yard every week, why not offer to cut your neighbors’ grass too? Unlike your parents, who may or may not fold compensation for household chores into your allowance, they’ll pay you a fair wage for the effort.

Lawn care isn’t the only groundskeeping-type job available to high school students. Garden beds need digging, weeding, mulching, watering, and general tending throughout the growing season. Shrubs and trees need trimming. Patios and decks need cleaning.

Plenty of high school students work as one-person shows, prospecting for lawn care clients primarily among homeowners in their neighborhoods. If you can drum up enough business to support 20 hours of weekly work at an average hourly rate of $11.25 (per Payscale), you’ll earn about $225 per week before taxes — not bad for a job that hardly feels like work at all.

Alternatively, look for groundskeeping jobs with institutional clients, like school systems or office parks. This work is likely to be steadier and might have full-time potential. The catch is that jobs that involve heavy machinery, such as riding mowers, tend to be off-limits to applicants under age 18.

4. Pool Cleaner

Pool cleaning is another outdoor summer job that can hardly feel like work at all. If you live in a neighborhood where private pools are plentiful, you shouldn’t have trouble finding business through door-to-door prospecting, word of mouth marketing and client references, or advertising on community websites like Craigslist and Nextdoor.

If you prefer a steadier paycheck and a more structured work environment, target deeper-pocketed clients, such as condo complexes and homeowners’ associations with communal pools. Or look for work with a pool cleaning company that hires under-18s. (This may depend on labor laws in your area but should be made clear in the job description.) Either way, pool cleaner pay is a bit better than groundskeeping pay: about $16 per hour nationwide, according to Payscale.

5. Career-Track Intern

Even if you haven’t yet decided what you want your “real” career to be, high school summers offer the perfect opportunity to test a job you think you’ll like and want to continue longer-term. If you do a great job and are still interested in the line of work once summer is over, you’ll have some much-needed experience that leads to more work the following summer, a part-time job while you attend school, and perhaps even a full-time job offer after you graduate.

Summer internships are often unpaid, forcing students to consider whether the opportunity is worth the cost. That’s likely to come down to the value of the experience and the connections you might make on the job — connections that could land you a higher-paying, career-track job down the road.

To find an internship that’s a good fit for your skills and interests, set up a meeting with your high school guidance counselor, ask your parents and friends’ parents for leads, and check out websites like Internships.com (a Chegg subsidiary that focuses solely on internships).

6. Tutor

Many middle and high school students use summer break to continue or enhance their education. If you’re adept at any particular subject, such as calculus or physics, or you’ve already taken and done well on standardized tests like the SAT or ACT, you can help these students and earn decent pay as a tutor.

Tutor pay varies by specialty, experience, and educational attainment. Tutors who themselves are high school students or recent graduates aren’t likely to earn much more than the national average rate (per Payscale) of $18 per hour. But that’s not a bad wage for a job that requires no physical labor and can be done in the comfort of an air-conditioned home office or coffee shop.

Tutors also have some freedom to set their own hours. The biggest downside for student-tutors is that marketplaces like Tutor.com tend to have strict teaching experience and educational attainment requirements — often mandating college degrees — that effectively rule out high schoolers. To find success as a tutor, you’ll need to advertise locally — such as on Craigslist, Facebook, and other social media platforms or on Nextdoor — and work your connections in the community.

7. Barista or Restaurant Server

Food and beverage service jobs are plentiful and easy for young people to get without prior experience. Although average base pay is poor, sometimes below minimum wage, workers who earn tips can do well for themselves. And some national chains have the resources and inclination to pay more: Starbucks baristas earn about $12 per hour on average, according to Glassdoor, and may qualify for a benefits package that includes health insurance.

8. Grocery Store Worker

Grocery store and supermarket jobs are also relatively plentiful in heavily populated areas. Although most grocery employees don’t earn tips, base pay is generally a few ticks above the federal minimum wage — about $12 per hour, according to Payscale. Specialized positions like meat cutting pay the most, although jobs that require workers to operate heavy machinery are typically off-limits to workers under age 18.

Grocery store employees typically work in shifts, with part-timers pulling four to eight hours at a stretch. Peak shopping hours tend to fall on weekends and early evenings, too, so this isn’t the best gig for students who want to keep social conflicts to a minimum come summer. On the bright side, many grocery store employees belong to labor unions, which negotiate pay and benefits while providing some protection against bad managers.

9. Golf Course Caddy

The base pay isn’t great, typically working out to near local minimum wage. The opportunities aren’t super plentiful either, unless you’re fortunate enough to live in an area with more country clubs than grocery stores. But golf caddies do OK for themselves thanks to generous tips that, per the PGA, range up to 50% of the green fee — which can exceed $100 per group on summer weekends. Add in the sunshine and the free exercise, and caddying can be an enjoyable, decent-paying gig.

Caddying is physically demanding, even for able-bodied young people — you’ll need to walk the entire course at least once per day, jog for wayward balls, and carry your clients’ bags. Caddying also requires familiarity with the game of golf, including club selection, although new caddies generally receive basic training before they’re cleared to work the course. On the plus side, where local labor laws permit, caddying is open to applicants as young as 14.

10. Lifeguard

If you’re a strong swimmer and can remain attentive for long periods at a stretch, lifeguarding at your neighborhood beach or pool can provide a solid summer income. Indeed, for people who like to work outside without exerting themselves unless or until an emergency arises, being a lifeguard might be the perfect summer job.

Lifeguarding requires more training and credentialing than the typical high school summer job. No matter where you work, expect to complete CPR certification, basic first aid training, bloodborne pathogens training, and a basic water rescue course. Open-water lifeguards — those supervising ocean beaches, for example — may need additional training. Whether the relatively low pay — about $10 per hour, according to Payscale — justifies the effort comes down to how appealing you find sitting by the pool or on the beach all day.

11. Handyperson or Painter

Summer is high time for home improvement projects, which makes it the perfect time of year to offer a helping hand or two.

Don’t bother with jobs that require extensive training or licensing like plumbing and electrical work, because few homeowners are so set on saving a few bucks that they’ll hire inexperienced high schools for such high-stakes work. Instead, focus on relatively low-skill work that many people don’t have the time, patience, or stamina to do themselves: painting fences or interior rooms (house exteriors have a higher degree of difficulty), laying or edging walkways, installing or patching drywall, installing laminate flooring, or moving furniture.

Advertise your services on Craigslist, Nextdoor, and the like, and draw upon neighborhood and community networks to find clients who need work done. Just know what the market is willing to pay for your services. Payscale’s average handyman pay approaches $24 per hour, but that figure includes seasoned professionals capable of much more than the typical high schooler.

12. Dog Walker or Pet Sitter

Much as they love them, many summer travelers don’t bring their pets along for the journey. That’s where you, a budding dog walker or pet sitter (or both) come in. It’s your job to care for your clients’ pets as if they were your own — feeding, exercising, and loving them while their pet parents are out of town.

Pet sitting, in particular, is a potentially lucrative gig for intrepid high schoolers willing to do the difficult and sometimes tedious work of prospecting for new clients and building referrals to make prospects feel more comfortable entrusting their pets to your care. Platforms like Rover take some of the legwork out of this task in exchange for a modest cut of the proceeds. Even so, pet sitters and dog walkers do fairly well, clearing $25 to $30 per visit on average, according to Thumbtack, and double or triple that for overnight stays.


Final Word

Working during summer break has long been a rite of passage for high school students — a time when students whose studies or extracurricular activities prevent them from holding part-time jobs during the school year can gain valuable workplace experience.

Make the most of the opportunity. When summer rolls around, focus on your interests and life goals and try to find a job that matches closely with those activities. In other words, find a job that you actually want to spend your summer doing. Hopefully, you’ll look back on it fondly, as a formative experience that sets you up for success in whatever career you ultimately choose to pursue.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Top Safety Tips for Your Apartment Pool

Summer has rolled around again and everyone’s minds are on having fun in the sun — particularly if your apartment community has a pool. Though it’s easy to forget, keeping basic safety in mind can ensure that you, your family and your guests have a great time. Check out these tips and get ready to get wet!

Know Before You Go

  • Learn CPR. Being prepared is important, especially if you’ll be taking kids to the pool.
  • Review the rules. Your apartment community will more than likely have rules they will expect you to adhere to when using the pool. Make sure you’re aware of them and let your guests or children know.
  • Discuss pool safety with your kids. If you have kids they’re going to want to spend a lot of time at the pool. Ensure they know how to use the pool safely, and discuss potential dangers.

What To Pack

  • Plenty of drinks. Summertime heat and sunshine can easily cause dehydration. Be sure to have plenty of cold, non-alcoholic drinks on hand.
  • Sunscreen. Keep an appropriate level of sunscreen on-hand and top-up throughout the day — particularly if you’ve been swimming.
  • Lifejackets or floatation devices. If you’re not a strong swimmer, or your kids are just learning, these can provide some extra safety.

At The Pool

  • Stay close to children at all times. Even if they have floatation devices or are “good” swimmers.
  • Don’t run. Pool decks can be slick and falls happen easily.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. Summer storms come up quickly. If you hear thunder or see lightning, seek cover immediately.
  • Obey No Diving signs. If there are No Diving signs, you need to adhere to them for your own safety.

Having fun at your apartment pool is one of the great things about summer. By keeping safety top-of-mind, you can ensure everyone has a wonderful season in the sun. What are some of your pool tips? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Homeownership 101: Are You Ready?

Owning your own home is part of the American dream. But it takes more than just dreaming to buy and maintain 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 not 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

Source: zillow.com

Are People and Situations Frustrating You at Work? Let's Fix That

If you find yourself banging your head against a wall because the same frustrations repeat on an endless loop in your professional life, it could be time to check in with yourself. Some frustrations are life lessons in disguise!

By

Rachel Cooke
March 15, 2021

and probably incorrectly) attributed to George Bernard Shaw:

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

A leader will often say something like “I’ve been telling them for months this change is coming. Why are they surprised?” Or “I’ve explained how I want my team to engage with customers. Why are they still doing it wrong?” When you’re looking for the reason people around you seem to be denying or ignoring what you’ve said, you may need to look for that answer in the mirror.

I know what you think you’ve said. But have you checked on what is being heard?

Maybe you manage a product, and you’ve told marketing a hundred times that you’d like them to change how they’re positioning the product in their communications. But they’re still doing it the old way, and you’re frustrated!

Now’s the time to check in with marketing. What have they heard?

  • Do they understand the problem with their current positioning?
  • Have you been specific enough about the differences you want to see?
  • Have you provided an example for them to follow?

Anytime it feels like someone is ignoring a request or direction, pause to check on how clear you’ve really been.

State your boundaries so you can protect them

Your boss tends to call you most days around noon. Or you’re finding yourself in too many 7 a.m. meetings. Or you keep getting put onto committees that are doing important things, but you’re totally overwhelmed. And you’re just so frustrated.

Don’t your colleagues know you’ve got zero bandwidth for another committee? In short—no, they don’t.

Doesn’t your boss know that noon is when you’re feeding your little homeschoolers lunch? Don’t your colleagues realize that 7 a.m. is your only quiet hour, which you use to read, meditate, or exercise? Don’t they know you’ve got zero bandwidth for another committee?

In short—no, they don’t. And you’ve got to tell them. You need to state a boundary and hold people accountable.

Your boss just wants to see how you’re doing, and he figured noon was convenient because meetings aren’t happening. Your colleagues are just looking for open windows on your calendar and 7 a.m. always seems free. And those committees? Well, each committee leader is looking for your expertise, but none of them have a way of knowing how many other committees you’re already sitting on.

Always assume positive intent: No one is trying to inconvenience or overwhelm you. 

Let people know what works for you. And hold them accountable while also being flexible. Your boss needs to know noon isn’t great, but in an emergency, you’ll pick up if he calls. Block out 7-8 a.m. on your calendar. You can be flexible without yielding that hour completely. Choose a committee or two to support, and then let the rest know you’re happy to advise from afar.

It’s up to you to be clear about your boundaries so you can defend them when they’re being infringed upon.

You’re the only one who knows what you need. It’s up to you to protect your time and energy. Be clear about your boundaries so you can defend them when they’re being infringed upon.

Spot the patterns and make a plan

I once spoke at a conference for summer camp directors. I asked about their biggest challenges. One director described her frustration with counselors resigning just days before the start of the summer. Immediately everyone around her nodded in agreement.

“Is this a challenge all of you experience?” I asked. Hard nods. “Does it happen every year?” Harder nods.

“Then let’s plan for it!” 

Anticipate what’s coming and plan for it.

Whether you’re a teacher or an accountant or a retailer, all of us experience some kind of seasonality in our professional lives. There are patterns that may be frustrating, but they’re also predictable. So anticipate what’s coming and plan for it.

I led the camp directors through a discussion about hiring more staff than needed so they had reserves to help manage last-minute resignations. They discussed sharing staff across camps local to each other. And by spotting the pattern and planning for it, the camp directors were able to come to even more proactive solutions to their problem.

Now it’s your turn. What frustrating things happen like clockwork for you—in a season, at a time of day, or after each big pitch or product launch? Anticipate what’s coming and have a mitigation plan in place.

Role model the results you’re looking for

In my business I do a fair amount of outsourcing. When it comes to legal or accounting work, where I’m not the expert, I defer to my lawyer and accountant completely. But sometimes I outsource stuff that I could do myself—things like developing slides or delivering a program—because I want to make sure I’m spending my energy on the big ticket items. And I know exactly how I want those outsourced projects to be done.

In my early days, I’d do my best to give clear direction. But when something wasn’t done exactly as I wanted it, I would get so frustrated with the other person.

Channel your frustration into providing excellent examples that the people you work with can emulate.

I finally realized I needed to teach by showing, not telling. I started sharing samples of slide decks I liked. I started having facilitators sit in on a program I was delivering before I unleashed them to deliver it solo.

Sometimes even the clearest instruction won’t serve you as well as role-modeling will. So, channel your frustration into providing excellent examples that the people you work with can emulate.

And there you have some of my favorite strategies for letting my frustration teach me about changes I need to make.

Now it’s your turn. What is your frustration trying to teach you, and are you ready to become its student?