11 Real Estate Exit Strategies for Low- or No-Tax Investment Gains

The single greatest predictor of wealth in the U.S. isn’t education level, ethnicity, gender, or any other demographic descriptor. It’s whether or not you own real estate.

In the most recent Survey of Consumer Finances, the Federal Reserve found the median net worth of homeowners to be 46 times greater than that of renters. While the median renter had a net worth of $5,000, the median homeowner owned $231,400 in net assets.

Homeowners benefit from appreciation, forced savings in the form of principal repayment toward mortgages, and often lower annual housing costs compared to local renters. Those advantages get compounded by a tax code that favors property owners. Beyond simple homeownership, real estate investors can reduce their taxes through myriad strategies and incentives.

Still, when it comes time to sell, many property owners face sticker shock at their prospective tax bill. So how can property owners reduce — or better yet, eliminate — their taxes when they go to sell?

Common Real Estate Exit Strategies

Try these low- and no-tax real estate exit strategies to keep more of your real estate profits in your pocket and out of Uncle Sam’s grasping paws.

1. The Homeowner Exclusion

To begin, homeowners get an inherent tax break when they sell their home — with certain requirements and restrictions, of course. If you’re a homeowner selling your primary residence, chances are you won’t have to pay taxes on your profits from the appreciation of the home’s value since you bought it.

Single homeowners can exclude the first $250,000 in profits from their taxable income, and the number doubles for married couples filing jointly. Sometimes called a Section 121 Exclusion, it prevents most middle-class Americans from having to pay any taxes on home sale profits.

Any profits over $250,000 ($500,000 for married couples) get taxed at the long-term capital gains tax rate. More on that shortly.

To qualify for the exclusion, however, homeowners must have owned and lived in the property for at least two out of the last five years. They don’t have to be consecutive; if you lived in the property for one year, moved out for three years, then moved back in for one more year before selling, you qualify.

If you want to sell a property you don’t currently occupy as your primary residence, and want to avoid taxes through a Section 121 Exclusion, consider moving into it for the next two years before selling.

2. Opt for Long-Term Capital Gains Over Short-Term

If you own a property — or any asset for that matter — for less than a year and sell it for a profit, you typically pay short-term capital gains tax. Short-term capital gains mirror your regular income tax level.

However, if you keep an asset for at least one year before selling, you qualify for the lower long-term capital gains tax rate. In tax year 2020, single filers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) under $40,000 pay no long-term capital gains taxes at all — the same goes for married filers with an AGI under $80,000. Single filers with incomes between $40,001 and $441,450 and married filers between $80,001 and $496,600 pay long-term capital gains at a 15% tax rate, and high earners above those thresholds pay 20%.

Keep your investment properties and vacation rentals for at least one year if you can. It can save you substantial money on taxes.

3. Increase Your Cost Basis by Documenting Improvements

If you slept through Accounting 101 in college, your cost basis is what you spent to buy an asset. For example, if you buy a property for $100,000, that makes up your cost basis, plus most of your closing costs count toward it as well. Let’s call it $105,000.

Say you live in the property for 20 months, making some home improvements while there. For the sake of this example, say you spent $15,000 on new windows and a new roof.

Then you sell the property for $160,000. Because you lived there for less than two years, you don’t qualify for the homeowner exclusion. After paying your real estate agent and other seller closing costs, you walk away from the table with $150,000.

How much do you own in capital gains taxes?

Assuming you earn enough income to have to pay them at all, you would owe the IRS for $30,000 in capital gains: $150,000 minus your $105,000 cost basis minus the additional $15,000 in capital improvements. If you can document those improvements, that is — you need to keep your receipts and invoices in case you get audited.

In this example, your capital gains tax bill would come to $4,500 (15% of $30,000) if you document the capital improvements, rather than $6,750 (15% of $45,000) if you don’t.

4. Do a 1031 Exchange

Section 1031 of the U.S. tax code allows investors to roll their profits from the sale of one property into buying a new property, deferring their capital gains tax until they sell the new property.

Known as a “like-kind exchange” or 1031 exchange, you used to be able to do this with assets other than real estate, but the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 excluded most other assets. However, it remains an excellent way to avoid capital gains taxes on real estate — or at least to postpone them.

Real estate investors typically use 1031 exchanges to leapfrog properties, stocking their portfolio with ever-larger properties with better cash flow. All without ever paying capital gains taxes when they sell in order to trade up.

Imagine you buy your first rental property for $100,000. After expenses, you earn around $100 per month in cash flow, which is nice but you certainly won’t be retiring early on it.

You then spend the next year or two saving up more money to invest with, and set your sights on a three-unit rental property that costs $200,000. To raise money for the down payment, you sell your previous rental property, and net $20,000 in profit at settlement. Ordinarily you’d have to pay capital gains taxes on that $20,000, but because you put it toward a new rental property, you defer owing them.

Instead of $100 per month, you net $500 per month on the new property.

After another year or two of saving, you find a six-unit property for $400,000. You then sell your three-unit to raise money for it, and again use a 1031 exchange to roll your profits into the new six-unit property, again deferring your tax bill on the proceeds.

The new property yields you $1,000 per month in cash flow.

In this way, you can keep scaling your real estate portfolio to build ever-more cash flow, all the while deferring your capital gains taxes from the properties you sell. If you ever sell off these properties without a 1031 exchange, you will owe capital gains tax on the profits you’ve deferred along the way. But until then, you need not pay Uncle Sam a cent in capital gains.

5. Harvest Losses

Invest in enough assets, and you’ll end up with some poor performers. You can sit on them, hoping they’ll turn around. Or you can sell them, eat the loss, and reinvest the money elsewhere for higher returns.

It turns out that there’s a particularly good time to accept investment losses: in the same year when you sell a property for hefty capital gains. Known as harvesting losses, you can offset your gains from one asset by taking losses on another.

Say you sell a rental property and earn a tidy profit of $50,000. Slightly nauseated by the notion of paying capital gains tax on it, you turn to your stock portfolio and decide you’ve had enough of a few stocks or mutual funds that have been underperforming for years now. You sell them for a net loss of $10,000, and reinvest the money in (hopefully) better performing assets.

Instead of owing capital gains taxes on $50,000, you now owe it on $40,000, because you offset your gain with the losses realized elsewhere in your portfolio.

6. Invest Through a Self-Directed Roth IRA

Want more control over your IRA investments? You can always set up a self-directed IRA, through which you can invest in real estate if you like.

Like any other IRA, you can open it as a Roth IRA account, meaning you put in post-tax money and don’t owe taxes on returns. Your investments — in this case, a real estate portfolio — appreciate and generate rental income tax-free, which you can keep reinvesting in your self-directed Roth IRA until you reach age 59 1/2. After that, you can start pulling out rent checks and selling properties, all without owing taxes on your profits.

Just beware that setting up a self-directed IRA does involve some labor and expense on your part. I only recommend it for professional real estate investors with the experience to earn stronger returns on real estate investments than elsewhere.

Pro tip: In addition to owning physical properties through a self-directed IRA, you can also use your self-directed IRA to invest in real estate through platforms like Fundrise or Groundfloor.


Hold Properties to Pass to Your Children

“Exit strategy” doesn’t always mean “sell.” The exit could happen in the form of your estate plan.

Or, for that matter, through methods of passing ownership of properties to your children while you still draw breath. There are several ways to go about this, but consider the following options as the simplest.

7. Leave the Property in Your Will

In 2020, the first $11.58 million in assets you leave behind are exempt from estate taxes. That leaves plenty of room for you to leave real estate to your children without them getting hit with a tax bill from Uncle Sam.

And, hey, rental properties can prove an excellent source of passive income for retirement. They generate ongoing income with no sale of assets required, which means you don’t have to worry about safe withdrawal rates or sequence of returns risk with your rental properties. They also adjust for inflation, as you raise rents each year. You can delegate the labor by hiring a property manager, and once your tenants eventually pay off your mortgage, your cash flow really explodes.

Plus, you can let your kids hassle with hiring a real estate agent and selling the property after you depart this mortal plane. In the meantime, you get to enjoy the cash flow.

8. Take Out a Home Equity Loan

Imagine you buy a rental property while working, and in retirement, you finally pay off the mortgage. You can enjoy the higher cash flow of course, but you can also pull money out through a home equity loan.

In this way, you pull out almost as much money as you’d earn by selling. Except you don’t have to give up the property — you can keep earning cash flow on it as a rental. You let your tenants pay down your mortgage for you once, all while earning some cash flow. Why not let them do it a second time?

You pull out all the equity, you get to keep the asset, and you don’t owe any capital gains taxes. Win, win, win.

You can follow the same strategy with your primary residence, but in that case you incur more personal debt and living expenses. Not ideal, but you have another option when it comes to your home.

9. Take Out a Reverse Mortgage

Along similar lines, you could take out a reverse mortgage on your primary residence if you have equity you want to tap into. These vary in structure, but they either pay you a lump sum now, or ongoing monthly payments, or a combination of both, all without requiring monthly payments from you. The mortgage provider gets their money back when you sell or kick the bucket, whichever comes first.

For retirees, a reverse mortgage helps them avoid higher living expenses while pulling out home equity as an extra source of income. And, of course, you don’t pay capital gains taxes on the property, because you don’t sell it.

10. Refinance & Add Your Child to the Deed

My business partner recently went to sell a rental property to her son for him to move into with his new wife. But the plan derailed when the mortgage lender declined the son’s loan application.

So they took a more creative approach. My business partner and her husband refinanced the property to pull out as much cash as they could, and they had the title company add their son and his wife to the deed and the mortgage note. The son and daughter-in-law moved into the property, taking over the mortgage payments. My partner and her husband took the cash, and while they remain on the deed, their ownership interest will pass to the younger generation upon their death.

In this way, they also streamline the inheritance, as the property won’t need to pass through probate.

This strategy comes with two downsides for my partner and her husband, however. First, they remain liable for the mortgage — if their son defaults, they remain legally obligated to make payments. Second, mortgage lenders don’t lend the entire value of the property when they issue a refinance loan, so my partner didn’t receive as much cash as she might have if she’d sold the property retail.

Of course, she also didn’t have to pay a real estate agent to market it. And any small shortfall in cash from refinancing rather than selling outright could be collected as a “down payment” from your child, or you could just shrug and think of it as a gift.


Other Exit Strategies

11. Donate the Property to Charity

Finally, you can always avoid taxes by giving the property to your charity of choice.

No clever maneuvers or tax loopholes. Just an act of generosity to help those who need the money more than you or Uncle Sam do.

By donating real estate you not only avoid paying taxes on its gains, you also get to deduct the value — in this case the equity — from your tax return. But bear in mind that the IRS looks closely at charitable deductions, especially house-sized ones, and you may hear from them demanding more information.


Final Word

Property owners have plenty of exit strategies at their disposal to minimize capital gains taxes. But don’t assume all of these options will last forever — with an ever-widening federal budget deficit, expect tax rates to rise and investment-friendly tax rules to suffer. Your taxes may go up in retirement, not down.

Whether you own a real estate empire or simply your own home, choose the strategy that fits your needs best, and aim to keep more of your proceeds in your own pocket.

What are your exit strategies for your properties? How do you plan to minimize your tax burden?

Source: moneycrashers.com

Amazon Subscribe & Save – 9 Ways to Save the Most Money on Deals

If you’re trying to save money on a tight budget, signing up for subscription services is probably the last thing on your mind. After all, things like cutting your cable subscription or canceling underused subscriptions are quick ways to lower your monthly bills.

But subscription services aren’t necessarily bad for your wallet. While subscription boxes aren’t always worth it, e-commerce giants like Amazon have created a new way to save time and money when ordering everyday essentials.

With Amazon Subscribe & Save, you can simplify your life and save up to 15% on thousands of Amazon products. If you’re tired of overpaying for daily necessities and want to spend less time shopping in stores, Subscribe & Save is definitely worth trying.

How Amazon Subscribe & Save Works

It’s already easy to save money by shopping on Amazon. Between competitive prices and free shipping on thousands of products through Amazon Prime, it’s clear why Amazon dominates e-commerce sales in the United States and much of the world.

Amazon Subscribe & Save is simply another program in Amazon’s money-saving toolkit, albeit an incredibly powerful one. With Subscribe & Save, you save money by subscribing to regular Amazon deliveries for thousands of different products. Household items, grocery store products, cleaning supplies, pet food, and personal care products are popular categories, and getting started with the program takes only four steps:

  1. Select Products. Shop for eligible Subscribe & Save products from the subscriptions page. Eligible items also have a Subscribe & Save option on their product detail page that you can select when browsing Amazon.
  2. Choose Quantity and Schedule. Select the product quantity and shipping schedule for every product you add to your subscription. Your auto-delivery options range from two weeks to six months.
  3. Create Subscription. Confirm your subscription and delivery address. Each product indicates its delivery date so you know when to expect your first order.
  4. Manage Existing Subscriptions. Amazon sends a reminder email in advance of their next delivery. This email outlines the products you’re subscribing to, their current prices, and any price changes since your last order. You can change delivery frequency, remove products, skip deliveries, and change delivery location as long as you make changes before your next order ships.

Almost every Subscribe & Save product saves at least 5% for creating a subscription. Plus, shipping is always free for Prime members, though non-Prime customers may pay shipping costs for their first delivery (but not subsequent deliveries). Whether you’re a Prime member or not, there aren’t any cancellation fees for ending your subscription.

However, Subscribe & Save truly shines when you get serious and add more products. If you add at least five products to an order for a single address, you save 15% on everything. When you consider how affordable Amazon is alongside these savings, Subscribe & Save is an effective way to save money on household products and other essentials.

As with other Amazon products, prices fluctuate. If you check your subscription reminder email and don’t think the extra savings are worth it, you can always swap products or skip your upcoming subscription.


How to Save Even More Money With Subscribe & Save

Adding at least five products to save 15% is the best feature of Subscribe & Save. However, truly frugal shoppers can also make use of other strategies to cut costs.

1. Join Amazon Prime

An Amazon Prime membership is already a worthwhile investment for avid Amazon shoppers since it provides free shipping on thousands of products and exclusive deals. Additionally, your Prime membership can help you save money on baby expenses through the Amazon Family program.

Prime members who order at least five products are eligible for 20% off diapers, baby food, and a range of vitamins and supplements. Having a baby is expensive, so a 20% discount on child care essentials certainly lessens the financial strain.

You don’t have to order five baby products to get 20% off. As long as your total Subscribe & Save order has five products, products eligible for 20% off get that discount. If you don’t need enough available baby products, you can subscribe to filler items you’d buy anyway, like paper towels or toothpaste, or grocery products you might normally buy in the store to maximize your discount.

2. Clip Coupons

If you’re a fan of coupon apps or extreme couponing, you can get similar savings by clipping Subscribe & Save coupons directly on Amazon.

Subscribe & Save coupons provide discounts on your order that go beyond regular savings. Many Amazon coupons offer 20% to 40% off your first order or $5 to $10 off regular pricing the first time you order a product. Plus, coupons are available for a range of products, including:

  • Batteries
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Supplements
  • Beauty products
  • Detergent
  • Pet supplies
  • Food and kitchen products

Once you select “clip coupon,” your discount automatically applies when you add the product to your Subscribe & Save order and check out. Coupons stack with existing Subscribe & Save deals, meaning you can save an impressive amount.

3. Use the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa

Another way to make the most of Subscribe & Save is to shop with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card. This cash-back credit card has various Amazon-specific perks, making it a must-have for any regular Amazon shopper. Cardholder benefits include:

  • 3% cash back at Amazon and Whole Foods
  • 2% cash back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores
  • 1% cash back on utilities, rideshares, and all other purchases
  • A $50 Amazon gift card sign-up bonus

There’s no annual fee, although you must be an Amazon Prime member to become a cardholder. However, the $50 free Amazon gift card already covers a significant portion of your annual Prime membership, and it’s a strong cash-back credit card overall for anyone who regularly shops on Amazon.

4. Get Creative for 5 Products

If you don’t add five products to your Subscribe & Save order, you’re missing out on a lot of savings. However, you can get creative to reach five products and get the most benefit from the program.

Start by reviewing your weekly shopping list and then check Subscribe & Save for those products. Toilet paper, grocery items, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and garbage bags are examples of eligible products, so adding these products to your subscription is a straightforward way to reach five products.

You can also add things you need to replace on a specific schedule, like air conditioner filters or toothbrushes. Putting them on Subscribe & Save acts as a reminder to change them out.

Subscribe & Save has thousands of eligible products, so reaching five products isn’t a challenge for most. In fact, surpassing five products in your subscription is likely once you get used to ordering online since Amazon is both affordable and convenient.

If you’re still at a loss, you can create an order for yourself and a family member, close friend, or neighbor. Subscribe & Save orders must ship to the same address to get the full discount. But if you regularly see the other person, you can simply hand off their products and have them transfer money to you.

Finally, if you’re a business owner or plan to start your own business, check out eligible office products to reach your five items. That’s a simple way to cut costs for your business and maximize Subscribe & Save’s potential.

5. Always Read Subscribe & Save Emails

Amazon emails you before every upcoming delivery, listing the products in your order and their prices. It’s crucial to read the email to confirm you need to replenish the products in your order. Additionally, Amazon prices are dynamic, and the last thing you want is to overpay because you skipped an email. That also means it pays to keep track of what your local brick-and-mortars charge for the products on your list.

It’s free to skip or modify your order if you’re fully stocked or dissatisfied with the price. Keep stock of essentials you’re running low on, and regularly check Subscribe & Save to see if there are more affordable alternatives. It takes an order or two to get your delivery frequency right, but the savings are worth it.

6. Compare Different Quantities

You can select a two-week delivery window for Subscribe & Save. But it’s often cost-effective to buy in bulk and have less frequent deliveries.

For example, categories like pet food, toilet paper, and batteries often become cheaper the more you buy. While spending more upfront is unpleasant, if you know you’re going to use the products and they won’t go to waste, bulk shopping can save more money. Plus, you can always update your delivery dates and quantities if you start running low on something or decide bulk shopping isn’t for you. Just make sure you have the space to store everything you buy.

7. Don’t Stop Deal Shopping

One risk of subscription services is that you end up paying for something you don’t use. Subscribe & Save is different in this regard since it focuses on everyday essentials. But that doesn’t mean you should become complacent.

Amazon prices are generally competitive, but there are other ways to save money on everyday purchases. For example, shopping in bulk at warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club might rival some of your Subscribe & Save products in price and quality. Alternatively, for some essentials, local or online dollar stores might be a cheaper option.

There are also plenty of shopping sites with free shipping and perks that can rival Amazon. For example, both Walmart and Target offer fast and free shipping on orders over $35. Walmart also offers Walmart+, a membership program that grants free delivery, free shipping, and faster in-store checkout. And customers who use the Target REDcard also receive free two-day shipping. (Though neither has a subscription program if that’s what you’re looking for.)

Ultimately, think of Subscribe & Save as one of many platforms to help cut down on spending, not your only shopping option.

8. Use Shopping Browser Extensions

There’s no excuse for not using a shopping browser extension to find deals and save money if you shop online.

That’s also true for Subscribe & Save, and there are several browser extensions you can use to maximize savings:

  • Honey. Honey automatically adds coupon codes when you check out at thousands of online stores. On Amazon, Honey also compares prices between products you’re considering to ensure you find the best deal. You can also create price-drop alerts to receive an email when Amazon products you’re interested in drop in price. Read our Honey review.
  • Capital One Shopping: Like Honey, Capital One Shopping also automatically applies coupon codes to save time and money when shopping online. You can also shop at Capital One partners to earn credits, which are redeemable for various free gift cards. If you have a specific product in mind, the product search feature finds the best online price, so you can check whether Amazon is the most affordable option. Read our Capital One Shopping review.
  • CamelCamelCamel: If you want to time your shopping trip to buy products when they’re at historically low prices, CamelCamelCamel is a powerful research tool you need to try. This Amazon price tracker displays price history charts for millions of Amazon products and lets you create price-drop alerts. While it’s difficult to time your shopping for Subscribe & Save orders, CamelCamelCamel is an effective way to reference price history to avoid scheduling at historically peak price windows.

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the browser extension using the links provided.

9. Try Cash-Back Rewards Websites

Another simple way to save more with Subscribe & Save is to earn cash-back rewards for your online shopping. Websites like Rakuten and TopCashback partner with thousands of online retailers and pay you cash back for shopping. Both platforms are free, and you can also earn a $10 sign-up bonus for joining Rakuten to kickstart your savings.

Amazon discounts aren’t always available on these platforms. However, if you can time a Subscribe & Save order with a cash-back bonus, you’re looking at even more savings. Plus, Rakuten and TopCashback work with thousands of other online retailers, so they’re worth trying even if Amazon savings aren’t currently available.

Rakuten pays out cash back quarterly through PayPal or check as long as you have more than $5 in your account. TopCashback lets you withdraw any time through PayPal or free gift cards. You can also install the Rakuten extension and TopCashback extension to receive notifications when the website you’re shopping on is eligible for cash-back rewards.


Final Word

When you consider how affordable and convenient shopping on Amazon is, it’s easy to understand why this e-commerce giant is so popular.

Subscribe & Save is yet another Amazon feature that rewards you for your loyalty. At the very least, you can save 5% on products you use regularly and cut down on gas costs by shopping in person less frequently. At best, you can save 20% or more on everyday essentials and simplify your life without committing to expensive subscription terms or locking yourself into a contract.

The only caution is to avoid buying products you don’t need or overstocking on perishable goods. It might take time to get your delivery frequency and products right, and you have to be diligent with reading order emails. But once you get into a rhythm, there’s no reason to pay full price for most of your daily necessities thanks to Amazon.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Ready to Work Remote? Here Are the Home Office Essentials You Need

As work-from-home jobs become more ubiquitous, so do requirements for home offices.

We’ve noticed some trends in home-office requirements — some very reasonable and others… not so much. For example, some employers give thousands of dollars in stipends to deck out your home office while others require specific 17-inch dual-screen monitors without providing reimbursement.

Most remote jobs are somewhere in the middle, but it’s likely that you’ll need to invest a little in your home office before it’s work-from-home ready.

This list of home office essentials is based on common remote job requirements and advice from remote employees. It will give you an idea of what items your home office might need and how much it will cost to transition into a work-from-home career, particularly in the sales, customer service or IT fields.

Typical Office Requirements for Work-From-Home Jobs

Computer Setup

Portability is a large consideration for remote jobs. After all, half the fun of working at home is curling up in bed with your laptop on those lazy days. If that’s the case, a light laptop is your best option. But computer prices may make you feel a little queasy.

Work-from-home reporter James Duren agreed.

“Spending more than $1,000 on a MacBook, for example, isn’t always feasible, even if we write them off [on taxes],” Duren said.

He uses a $170 Chromebook.

“The most beneficial aspect of it is that everything is stored in the cloud,” Duren said. “So I’m never at risk of losing documents in the event my laptop dies.”

This is a double-edged feature, however. The biggest adjustment may be the availability of apps and programs. The Chromebook is its own operating system, which means some popular applications aren’t available to download.

For jobs that require specific sales or IT software, an inexpensive PC with the latest Windows operating system may be the best choice.

High-Speed Internet

Besides a computer, the most common requirement for a work-from-home job is a steady, hard-wired internet connection. That means your laptop or computer must directly connect to your modem with an ethernet cable — not through Wi-Fi.

Typically, employers will require minimum upload and download speeds. The sweet spot seems to be 10 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload. Try Ookla’s internet speed test to see if your current connection meets that standard.

To find the best deal, there are many websites that compare internet providers based on speed, price and area of availability. According to an estimate by internet and phone service search engine WhistleOut, you will likely pay $30 to $50 a month to meet the minimum internet speed requirement for most work-from-home jobs. (WhistleOut is owned by Clearlink, which also owns The Penny Hoarder.)

But be sure to do some comparisons on your own to get a more accurate number, as your location may affect prices.

Landline and Phone

In the customer service and sales industries especially, a solid home-office phone is a godsend. You’ll typically need call forwarding, holding, conferencing and voicemail features in your day-to-day, which is pretty standard for most office phones. Amazon has a slew of models between $50 and $80. It’s probably overkill to spend more than that.

If you were hoping to skirt landline costs by using a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) service like Google Voice or your own cell phone, most employers in phone-reliant industries forbid it. They typically want a dedicated landline.

Landlines are becoming antiquated as VoIP services are taking over, but some large companies like AT&T provide plans for less than $25 a month when bundled with internet services. If you already have a landline service, adding an additional line or bundling it with your current internet or cable provider may save you some cash, too.

A woman takes a work from home call while wearing a headset at her home office.
Getty Images

Headset and Microphone

Headsets are frequently required, but even if the job listing doesn’t specify them, a noise-canceling headset can do wonders for productivity. And during meetings or phone calls, you’ll probably need your hands free for note taking.

“For telecommuting, the most important tool is a good headset that allows me to comfortably attend meetings without the noises of my neighborhood intruding,” remote content writer Arwen Brenneman said.

Several remote workers recommended their favorite pair of headphones and headsets to The Penny Hoarder. If you have the funds, software developer Austin Grandt recommends Bose QuietComfort headphones.

“The headphones are perfect for working at home or in a shared setting like a co-working space, as the noise-cancelling puts me into my own zone,” Grandt said. “The built-in microphone on the cable of the headphones also works great for when you have to have video chats or phone calls.”

The Bose headset can range anywhere from $200 to $400 on Amazon, depending on the model.

If you’re looking for a cheaper setup, Srhythm has a highly rated noise-reduction headset with a built-in microphone for around $50.

Desk

It would be pretty rare for a job listing to specifically require a desk. It’s kind of a given.

But desks are sometimes overlooked. Realistically, the standard cubicle-sized desk doesn’t work for apartments or home offices.

So it’s good to consider your size and storage limitations when shopping around.

“I believe the best purchase I ever made was a stand-up desk,” said Matt Schmidt, a remote insurance adviser. “Being able to go from a sitting desk to standing desk throughout the day was a lifesaver.”

Schmidt recommended the xec-FIT desk, which runs for around $300, but you can find adjustable desks for half that price on Amazon.

What about portability?

“A $15 IKEA bed-tray is my go-to for working from the cozy comfort of my couch,” Brenneman said.

An office desk and chair are shown in this photo. Both a desk and office chair are essential items to purchase when working from home.
Getty Images

Office chair

If there is one home office essential to splurge on, it’s the office chair. Being uncomfortable is really distracting, and bad posture leads to a host of other long-term issues. Creature comforts are important when it comes to sitting for hours at a time.

“One of the most important items for me personally is a comfortable and posture-support chair,” said Nicholas Kinports, a remote business development executive.

His go-to chair is from Aeron. The model he suggested will cost you up to $500, but Kinports said it’s worth every penny.

For a more budget-friendly option, try the Alera Elusion Series Mesh Chair. According to ReviewGeek, it’s the best chair if you’re trying not to sell an arm and a leg to support your back.

“It’s the little things that can cause distractions and discomfort,” Kinports said. “Make sure you invest in exactly what you need to achieve your best focus everyday.”

Dual Monitors

Monitor specs are usually contained to the IT, sales or customer service industries. But as a writer, I find dual monitors extremely beneficial. They help me stay organized by separating tabs and tasks to certain screens.

“As a [software] developer, an extra screen is also a must,” said Grandt. “Something that is larger than the 13-inch laptop… keeps me productive.”

PC Magazine rated the best monitors of 2021, and Lenovo’s ThinkVision M14 received a great review. Its screen brightness and portability make it ideal for home-office use. And in most home offices, desk space is a luxury. Consider adding a monitor mount for an extra $30 or so.

The Little Extras

Although they may not be considered “essential,” making your home office comfortable enough to work in every day may require a few more touches of comfort. You may not need any of the following items to get started, but you’ll likely want to incorporate some of these extras into your home office eventually:

  • Office supplies. Think notepads, pens and paper clips.
  • Power strip. The more electronics you accumulate, the more you’ll appreciate extra outlets.
  • Good task lighting. Your eyes will thank you for it.
  • Shelving or an organizational system. Yes, you can be totally digital. But you still may want a place to store professional reference books or your coffee mug collection.

If you land a work-from-home gig that doesn’t cover home-office costs, be prepared to dish out $700 as a one-time investment to ensure your workspace is up to snuff. For the costlier options on the list, it could run you up to $2,500 — not including monthly internet, phone payments or pajamas.

And freelancers, be sure to write these expenses off as itemized deductions on your taxes.

Adam Hardy is former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. 

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

9 Energy-Efficient Home Improvements Worth Your Money

How would you like to invest $30 and be paid a $45 dividend on your investment every year after that?

That’s essentially what you do when you make certain energy-efficient home improvements to lower your expenses.

If you pay for powering your home, you know that the dollars can really add up. The average monthly electricity bill in the U.S. was $115.49 in 2019, but your bill can vary widely depending on where you live — and whether you also rely on alternative energy sources like gas or solar power.

If you take the steps suggested below — especially if you do the work yourself — you could save a bundle. And if you think of the improvements as an investment, you can enjoy a healthy annual rate of return and won’t pay income taxes like you would with regular investment returns.

9 Energy-Efficient Home Improvement Tips That Will Also Save You Money

When you invest in your home to lower your bills, every penny saved is yours to keep.

Ready to get started? Here are nine ways to save money by improving your house.

1. Insulate Your Water Heater

An insulating jacket for your hot water heater will cost $30 or so, and you can install it yourself in about an hour.

According to the experts at the Department of Energy, insulating a hot water tank saves 7% to 16% annually.

In other words, assuming the average hot water costs $438 to operate annually, you’ll have $30 to $70 more in your pocket each year.

If you’re able to make a bigger up-front investment, you may consider replacing your traditional electric water heater with a heat pump water heater.

Instead of generating heat directly, heat pump water heaters act more like refrigerators in reverse — they pull heat into the device instead of pushing it out.

The bigger your family is, the more you’ll save by using heat pump water heaters, according to the DOE. Two people would save $170 every year while a family of four would save $350 a year. The DOE estimates the cost to switch is approximately $800, so that family of four would start seeing savings after a little over two years.

The Energy Star site has a questionnaire to help you decide if heat pump water heaters are a good fit for your home.

A woman adjusts the thermostat.
Getty Images

2. Install a Programmable Thermostat

You don’t need as much heat when you’re in bed at night, and you don’t need as much heating or air conditioning when you are out of the house. But you don’t want to climb out of bed on a cold winter morning or come home to a hot house in the summer.

A programmable thermostat solves these problems by automatically adjusting the temperature settings for you.

Ten minutes before you get up in winter, the heat turns on. Ten minutes before you get home after a hot summer day at work, the air conditioning adjusts to cool the house. You use the heating and cooling only when you actually need them.

A programmable thermostat can save you $50 on heating and cooling costs each year, according to the government’s Energy Star program. Starting around $60, many models are simple enough to install on your own.

3. Switch Out Your Light Bulbs

Another bright idea for savings? Replacing your light bulbs.

Light emitting diode (LED) light bulbs are 90% more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs and can last up to 20 years.

LEDs used to be expensive for a single bulb, but today, you can get a two-pack of LED bulbs for under $5.

Pro Tip

Before starting a home improvement project, check out the DOE’s Energy Star site to find out if the product you need is eligible for a tax credit or rebate.

By using the LEDs, you can save $4.10 per bulb per year on energy usage compared to an incandescent. The average American household has 50 light bulb sockets, according to the EPA’s Energy Star program, which means a potential annual savings of $205 if you replaced every bulb in your house.

4. Bundle Up Those Water Lines

Bare water lines leak heat, so you have to set the temperature of the hot water heater higher to still get a hot shower at the other end of the house.

Solve this problem with a little pipe insulation: an inexpensive foam tube with a slit down the side. Just cut it to the required length with scissors and push it onto the pipes.

This project will take you about three hours for a small home and cost $10 to $15 total, according to the Department of Energy. Each year, you’ll save 3% to 4% heating your water.

5. Replace Your Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans in general can help you save on heating and cooling costs.

In the summer, run the fan blades counterclockwise to generate a cool breeze — thus reducing the need to run the more expensive air conditioning. Running the blades clockwise helps circulate warm air that rises back down into the room, helping cut heating costs in the winter.

You can realize even more savings by replacing your old, inefficient fans with Energy Star certified fans, which are 60% more energy efficient than older models, according to the DOE. (And be sure to use your energy efficient light bulbs in the fixtures.)

A woman opens up the fridge in her home.
Getty Images

6. Buy a New Refrigerator

If your refrigerator is working fine, there’s normally no good reason to replace it, even if the new one is a bit more efficient. But if you have a fridge that’s more than 15 years old, it might be time to replace that one.

A new fridge uses about $80 less in electricity each year compared to one from 2005.

7. Insulate Your Attic

If you run your heater or air conditioner most days, you might save some serious money by adding new insulation to your attic.

Upgrading attic insulation from R-11 to R-49 is something you can do by yourself in a day or two for about $750, according to HouseLogic.com. (The cost is about double if you want professionals to install it.)

You’ll save about $600 per year on heating and cooling costs, depending on where you live and the type of heat you have. It also adds value to your home if you decide to sell in the future.

8. Seal Those Air Leaks

Check for cracks or spaces around door frames, windows and entry points for pipes and cables. You lose heat from these gaps during the winter and cool air in the summer, adding to your heating and cooling costs.

It takes about $20 in caulking and peel-and-paste insulating strips to seal these up all over the house.

Pro Tip

If you’re looking to replace an exterior door, a steel or fiberglass door is a more energy efficient option than wood. Some steel doors even have insulated cores, so no need for weatherstripping.

The experts at Energy Star say doing this will cut your heating and cooling costs by an average of 15%, depending where you live. That’s potentially hundreds of dollars saved for an investment of an afternoon and $20. Not bad, right?

9. Replace That Toilet Flapper

If you hear your toilet running when it isn’t being used, you probably have a leaky flapper.

It’s not just an annoyance — a leaky flapper can waste up to 200 gallons of water every day.

Since a new flapper valve can be bought for under $10 and can save you $50 per month, this little investment might have the highest rate of return of any on our list.

Steve Gillman is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Staff writer/editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors also contributed to this post.. 



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Renting an Older Home: 5 Red Flags to Look Out For

Often, the oldest homes are in some of the most desirable neighborhoods and are more affordable than something brand new in the same location.

It’s tough to beat the charm and character you’ll find when renting an older home or apartment.

However, it is important to remember that older buildings come with their own unique set of quirks.

While some characteristics commonly found in older homes are easy to upgrade or simply based on personal preference, there are a few red flags to keep in mind that might make or break your decision when considering signing a lease.

1. Potential utility costs

Ask your new landlord if they are willing to share a previous month’s utility bill so you can get a sense of how much you’ll be spending on utilities. Efficiency wasn’t necessarily a priority in the past, and things like electricity, heating and water can add up quickly.

Many older homes run on gas heat (or oil!), often a new expense for many.

Ask if any previous tenants have experienced any electrical issues, and take note of outlet placement as this is something you can’t really change once you’ve moved in.

Interior of older home.

2. Check out the windows

Older homes and older windows can often mean cold drafts in the winter months.

Ask your potential landlord if the windows are single or double pane windows — this will be critical when it comes to outside noise and maintaining the temperature you want inside the home.

3. Test appliances and fixtures

Older buildings have their quirks, and it’s likely you’ll deal with one or two if you decide to move forward with renting.

Make sure you know what you’re signing up for by giving things a quick test when you view the unit – flush the toilets, turn on the sink, turn on the stovetop, see if you are familiar with the heating system, etc. For example, if you notice things like slow-flowing drains or a toilet taking forever to flush, it might be a sign of larger plumbing issues down the line.

4. Ask about maintenance and repairs

There’s no way around it – older homes and apartments are generally going to require more maintenance and repair than brand new buildings. Ask the landlord about any major projects or upgrades they have planned for the near future.

Plans to replace kitchen appliances may entice you to stick around. Plans to replace the roof could deter you depending on your situation. As things age, they start to wear out, so be aware that you’re more likely to deal with regular maintenance issues.

Older home, kitchen interior.

5. Watch out for lead paint

Lead paint was banned in the U.S. in the late 70s, so if the building you’re considering existed before then, watch out for lead-based paint in the home or apartment.

Federal law requires landlords to warn tenants of the presence of lead paint at a rental property, which many do through a Lead Warning Statement built into the rental agreement. Additionally, landlords must provide renters with EPA-approved information on lead-based paints and potential hazards — it’s required.

Don’t hesitate to approach this topic before you get to the lease signing process, and keep an eye out for any noticeable peeling paint that may exacerbate the issue.

Renting an older home

Older rental properties might not have all of the luxury amenities of a brand new building, but you are more likely to find a one-of-a-kind space to call home.

Keep these considerations in mind when renting an older apartment or home. Make sure it’s the right fit for you.

Source: rent.com

How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out

Moving out of your apartment can be bittersweet. You pack up all of your things, begin moving furniture, start taking down wall art– and, find yourself face to face with that golf ball-sized hole in the wall you accidentally made one night, then covered with art.

After living in an apartment for at least a year, there’s bound to be some small damage here and there. While some wear and tear is normal and should be built into your lease, fixing minor damage before moving out will ensure you get your full security deposit back. Plus, you’ll stay on good terms with your landlord, who you may need for references down the road.

To make sure you leave your apartment in good condition before moving out, take a look at these normal damage issues and their fixes:

Small holes

After taking down the photos from your gallery wall, you probably noticed the many small holes left by nails that were used to hang the frames. Patching small holes left by nails, tacks and screws is simple and will leave the walls looking great again.

You’ll need some spackling paste, a putty knife and some sandpaper. Squeeze a small glob of the spackle into each hole, then use the putty knife to spread and blend it over the hole and wall. Once the spackle is dry, use the sandpaper to lightly sand the area, especially around the edges, to leave a smooth, flat wall.

In a real pinch, you can use some materials around the apartment to fill the hole. Plain white toothpaste or baking soda mixed with white glue can also work to fill nail holes, but aren’t recommended unless you absolutely have no time to get the right materials.

Large holes

Now it’s time to tackle that large hole you hid under your favorite painting. Mending large holes in drywall isn’t as easy as some of the other fixes, but it will most likely cost you less than if you were to let your landlord handle it and deduct it from your deposit .

Pick up a mesh repair patch at the hardware store to use with your spackle. Then, cut the patch so that it fits over the hole and the surrounding wall. Cover the patch with spackle, and after it dries, sand down the edges so they blend into the wall completely.

Scuff marks

Though scuff marks likely aren’t going to cost you any of your security deposit, they make the apartment appear dirtier than it is and make more work for whoever has to clean thee apartment.

Since I seem to make an inordinate amount of scuffs on the walls of my apartments, I typically don’t try to tackle them all– just really noticeable and large ones. A magic eraser works wonders to get rid of them, so pick up a couple and your walls will be white again in no time.

Broken blinds

Another common damage issue I’m guilty of is bending or even breaking some of my window blinds. Before moving out, dust your windows and blinds, and make sure none are bent or cracked. If bent, do your best to straighten them out as much as possible. If you can’t straighten them, or if one of the blinds is broken, start by looking at the bottom – there’s often a spare slat in any set of blinds. If not, look for blinds of the same size and color at your hardware store. Replace the broken slat with the new one, and your landlord won’t ever know the difference!

Carpet stains

If you’re a red-wine drinker living in a carpeted apartment, you probably know a thing or two about removing carpet stains. Tackling stains before they get a chance to set will help your carpet look better overall, but before moving out, peruse the carpet for any stains you might have missed.  Try using baking soda or carpet cleaner first. If that’s not strong enough to remove the stains, consider renting a carpet cleaner from your hardware or grocery store. They’re easy to use, and your carpets will be unrecognizably clean when you’re done.

Fix damage to the carpet

Now that you’ve fixed the stains on the carpet, is it still intact? If there are damaged patches, or if it’s started to come loose around the edges, or any other damage, you’ll want to get it fixed. Even if you have to hire someone, it’s likely going to be cheaper than having your landlord take it out of your deposit.

Scratches on hardwood

Renters love apartments with hardwood floors because they’re much easier to clean than carpet, but they do have one common problem: Hardwood is easy to scratch. There are a couple of quick fixes for the shallower scrapes, though. Many people swear by the walnut method, which involves rubbing a raw walnut along the scrape until the scratch blends into the rest of the floor. This method works well, just not on deep scratches and darker woods.

For deeper scratches, look for a wood-colored marker or pencil at the hardware store. These products are specifically made for filling in and disguising the scrapes.

Replace light bulbs

If any light bulbs burned out in places that you can easily access, now is the time to take care of them. If there are some that are difficult to reach, such as in high up or complicated fixtures, you might need help or for your landlord to handle them. Even so, replacing any easily accessible ones that burned out will give your landlord less to repair and take out of your deposit.

General dirtiness

Deep cleaning your apartment is recommended to ensure you get your full deposit back, and to give your landlord less of a headache when he or she is trying to ready the unit for the next renter.

Give everything a good wiping, sweeping and dusting, but spend extra time in the kitchen and bathroom. The refrigerator, microwave, oven and stove should all be thoroughly cleaned, along with the toilet, shower, tub and sink.

Take pictures

This isn’t a repair but is crucial to getting more of your deposit back. Take pictures of the current state of everything in the apartment that you couldn’t fix yourself. Having this documentation helps as later defense, in case your landlord takes too much out of the security deposit. Having pictures will work much better than your word against theirs in case things end up in front of small claims court.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Top 5 DIY Home Skills You Should Know

One of the best parts about living in an apartment is that when something goes wrong (like the heat isn’t working or the toilet won’t stop running), you don’t really have to take care of it yourself — maintenance can help!

But there are some DIY basics you should know how to do yourself. Sometimes maintenance may not be as quick as you’d like, or it may just be something you’d rather handle on your own. From fixes to decor, here are five easy DIY projects you should know how to do:

How to unclog a drain

Small plumbing inconveniences like a clogged drain or toilet can be frustrating, but the great news is they’re pretty easy to take care of on your own. Unclogging a sink requires just the tiniest bit of plumbing know-how, but it’s relatively simple.

Top 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Unclog a DrainTop 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Unclog a Drain

First, remove the drain stopper by locating the pivot rod that’s holding it in place under your sink. The pivot rod should be stuck through the pipe and secured with a nut on the pipe near the bottom of the sink. Remove the nut and the rod, and the drain stopper should be easy to pull up and out.

Then, use a snake to clear the drain (you can buy these at any hardware store). Thread the snake as far as it will go into the drain– you want it to reach as deep into the P trap as it can go (that pipe that’s shaped like a U). Pull it out slowly, and repeat until you hook whatever’s clogging the pipes. Then, replace the drain stopper and pivot rod, and you’re finished!

Keep in mind that most landlords prohibit tenants from using products like Drano to clear clogs because they can damage pipes.

How to change a showerhead

​There’s nothing worse than a showerhead that makes taking a shower feel like you’re standing underneath a leaky faucet. But while showerheads can’t dictate water pressure, many can adjust the spray into something a little more bearable– and low-flow versions are better for the environment, too.

Top 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Change a ShowerheadTop 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Change a Showerhead

As far as easy DIY projects go, changing a showerhead is one of the simplest– just buy a new one and some Teflon tape (aka plumber’s tape).

Unscrew the old showerhead from its arm using an adjustable wrench or some pliers. You may have a fight on your hands if it’s old, but be careful not to apply too much pressure or squeeze too hard.

Once the old head is removed, clean the end of the pipe and wrap it in a new layer of Teflon tape to prevent leaks. Then, screw your new showerhead on over the tape, and voila! Good as new.

How to hang something heavy

You should know one DIY skill in particular to hang something heavy: how to find a stud. Studs are strong enough to withstand heavy items like floating shelves or mirrors, many of which could damage drywall. One easy way to find a stud is to use an electronic stud finder– just pick one up at the hardware store.

Top 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Hang Something HeavyTop 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Hang Something Heavy

You can also do it the old-fashioned way and simply knock on your walls– a hollow-sounding knock means no stud, while a solid-sounding knock means you’ve hit gold, so to speak. Remember that studs can always be found around windows, doors and in corners, and they’re located every 1.5 to 2 feet.

How to patch a hole in the wall

If you hang a bunch of stuff in your apartment, patching the holes in your walls may be necessary when you move out to ensure you get your security deposit back. All you need to patch holes is some lightweight spackle, a putty knife and some sandpaper.

Top 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Patch a Hole in the WallTop 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Patch a Hole in the Wall

Simply use one corner of the putty knife to scoop out a small amount of spackle, and use it to fill the hole. Then use the straight edge of the putty knife to smooth and even out the spackle. Let it dry for a few hours (or overnight), then sand the area lightly with your sandpaper, blending the spackle into the surrounding drywall.

How to fix your toilet

There are any number of toilet issues renters may want to learn how to fix themselves, but if there’s one you should know it’s how to fix a clog. If your toilet is clogged, it’s time to break out the plunger.

Top 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Fix Your ToiletTop 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Fix Your Toilet

First, place the plunger over the hole at the bottom of your toilet, making sure the rubber head is completely covered by water. If there isn’t enough water in the bowl, simply use a pitcher to add some more. Then, pump the handle into the head a few times and pull the plunger up sharply, breaking the seal. The power of suction should do the trick.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

8 Ways to Get Rid of Allergies

Ah, spring: The time of year when flowers bloom, the air warms and … ahh-choo! … your allergies start to drive you crazy.

You might not be able to do much about the pollen and other common sneeze-inducers outside but inside your apartment? That’s another story.

Allergens — substances that provoke the immune system, even though they’re usually harmless — are often found in the home in the forms of dust and mold.

People with allergies are part of an exclusive (sniffly) club. They’re the only people who know how it feels to be constantly at war with allergens everywhere from dust to pollen to pet hair, all in an effort to continue breathing effortlessly. People who don’t have allergies? They just don’t get it.

Get rid of allergies by following these steps

When you’re prone to sniffles and sneezes during allergy season — or at any other time of year — it’s important to keep your apartment as free of allergens as possible. Read on, fellow allergy sufferers, for eight practical tips on how to get rid of allergies.

1. Get rid of dust mites

Dust mites are the ultimate allergens. To keep them out, dust your entire apartment. Use a damp rag or a Dustbuster on every surface, including your blinds and window treatments, and make sure to clean every inch of your floors thoroughly.

Then, take extra steps to keep dust mites at bay. Use dust covers on your pillows and mattresses, get rid of any unused baskets or bins in your closets that gather dust, and wash your sheets regularly.

2. Clean up

In general, the cleaner your apartment, the less likely you’ll have to deal with allergens. Set a cleaning schedule with your roommates to make sure the place is dusted, wiped down, swept and vacuumed at least once a week.

Throw out expired food and wipe out the inside and outside to avoid mold growth. Scrub your bathtub or shower as often as needed to prevent mold and mildew growth. Vacuum couch cushions and throw pillows often.

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3. Vacuum your carpet

Many renters love carpet — after all, it’s cushiony, comfortable and it keeps your feet a bit warmer during the winter. However, carpet easily traps allergens in its fibers. Invest in a high-quality vacuum, and clean your carpet from wall to wall regularly.

4. Do the laundry

Your laundry hamper traps everything from dust mites to pet dander. Likewise, your sheets and pillowcases pick up allergens more quickly than you may think. If you’re struggling with sniffles and sneezes, you may want to amp up your laundry schedule.

Wash sheets in hot water once a week. Encase your mattress in a dust mite-proof cover. On top of doing laundry more, you can also put your hamper in the closet to keep any dust or dander better contained.

Don’t forget your favorite childhood stuffed animal we all know you still have. Wash them in the machine, if possible. If not, put the toy in a plastic bag and stick it in the freezer for 24 hours. This will kill dust mites hiding in the stuffing.

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5. Keep Fido or Felix groomed

Pet allergies are some of the most common, so if you own a cat or dog, your furry friend may be to blame for your sniffles. Cut down on Fido’s dander by keeping him groomed and clean. Use a brush or fur-grabbing tool to pick up loose fur, and take it immediately out of your apartment so it doesn’t find its way into your carpet or bedding.

Also, give Fido a bath every once in a while — the more on top of his grooming you are, the less likely his dander and fur will get all over your apartment.

6. Close your windows

When the weather starts to warm up for spring, it feels blissful to open your windows and let in the breeze. However, it’s not just a breeze you’re letting in — it’s pollen, too. Keep your windows closed if you notice yourself getting really stuffed up during the typical spring allergy season. Also, you can buy washable curtains and dust your blinds often.

air filterair filter

7. Replace your vent filters

Dust, dirt, lint and other debris often build up in vents. And you know what that means: Your heat or air conditioning then blows that debris into your apartment, filling the air with potential allergens.

If your landlord didn’t replace the vent filters before you moved in, see if he or she is willing to make that upgrade now. Most landlords will be happy to.

8. Declutter

Clutter is your worst enemy when it comes to ridding your apartment of allergens. That pile of clothes in your closet and the stack of old magazines in the basket in the living room gather tons of dust.

The moral? If you’re not using it, throw it out. Keep your apartment clear of any spots that can easily fill with dust. You’ll be free of allergens in no time — or at least freer.

Take action to get rid of allergies

Figuring out how to get rid of allergies can be hard. But you can increase your chances of eliminating your apartment of allergens by following these simple tips. Not only will they cut down on the number of tissues you’ll go through, but it will make your apartment a nice, clean oasis, as well.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Living Large in a Small Space

Squeezing your life into a tiny apartment, home, or condo can be a challenge, but you don’t have to sacrifice style or live knee-high in a sea of clutter. No matter how small, a space can be enjoyable and feel spacious with just the right touch. Here are some ways five tips on how to maximize your space, making it feel like home:

Downsize

You don’t have to get rid of everything but going through the process of downsizing can ease the clutter by getting rid of things you don’t really need. You probably did this before moving into your new space, but if you’ve had some time to accumulate more stuff, you may need to revisit it.

Brighten the atmosphere

Choose a crisp, light color scheme for things like curtains, sofa, and throw rugs to make the room feel bigger, brighter and comfy. Avoid darker tones that make a space appear uninviting and small.

Lots of natural light in a space can make it seem larger, too. Changing window treatments, if possible, or simply opening blinds and curtains during the day can make any room more pleasant.

Mirror appeal

Take a page out of restaurant strategy and try hanging up a few mirrors. It gives the illusion of feeling like you’re in a much larger and lighter space, and sometimes the illusion is all you need to feel better.

Style with function

With little space, you can’t give over space to something with just one function. A table with storage underneath or a desk that pulls out from the wall gives you effectively more space to work with. If you’re in a one-bedroom apartment, or even a studio, opting for a sofa bed can be a smart choice if you host guests from out of town. This takes away the need for an extra room and bed, while still being practical for everyday use.

Curtain call

Hang your curtains higher (the higher the better) to give the appearance of higher ceilings. You can also let in more light and make windows look wider by extending a curtain rod by four inches or more on either side of the windows. This will not only give the illusion of more square footage, but allows more light to enter too!

Shelve it

Getting clutter off of the floor can make any space seem bigger. If you’re letting items collect, trying various shelving. For a sleek, modern look, try floating shelves — this helps reduce the mess and keeps things simple. Hang them on your walls for a fashionable look that also leaves you plenty of floor real estate.

Curtain call

Getting clutter off the floor can make any space seem bigger. For a sleek, modern look, try floating shelves — this helps reduce the mess and keeps things simple. Hang them on your walls for a fashionable look that also leaves you plenty of floor real estate. If that’s enough, you might need to get more creative.

Be clever about storage

You still need places to stick your stuff, and a little creativity can get you a lot more space. If your bed frame is off the ground, you can put some boxes and other storage containers underneath it – the same goes for any other furniture with space under it. When you run out of that space, look to hooks and racks that go on the back of your doors. These are especially helpful in closets, where you can get shoe hangers to held more than just shoes, or bathrooms, where you can store what doesn’t fit in your drawers or cabinets. Still not enough space? Some cleverly placed peg boards can convert wall space to storage space, as well as keeping commonly used things in easy reach.

With these tips, take a look around your space and see how you can update! Have more tips to share based on your personal experience? Share in the comments below!

Photo by Stephen Crowley on Unsplash

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Source: apartmentguide.com

The Top 5 Renting Nightmares and How to Face Them

Renting can be a real dream — as long as you know how to tackle these common challenges.

Renting offers its fair share of perks, but with great flexibility in your living arrangement comes a unique set of challenges — most of which are out of your control.

Here are a few tips to help you face the top five renting woes.

1. Pest infestation

Pests can be an all-too-common occurrence for renters. They can hide in your drains, in your kitchen cabinets and sometimes even on your bed.

To prevent pests in the first place, experts suggest keeping your home clean and properly storing all food. There are also many DIY remedies to get rid of pests, such as boric acid for roaches or apple cider vinegar for flies.

Of course, you can always contact your landlord or apartment office to ask if they’ll hire an exterminator to do the job.

2. Noisy (or nosy) neighbors

While most neighbors will exchange pleasantries, you might have to occasionally deal with a neighbor that really pushes your buttons.

A common neighbor squabble, of course, is noise. If your noisy neighbor is really bothering you, try talking to them directly, and see if they can keep noise to a minimum. Or you could work out a “noise schedule” of sorts, with designated quiet hours.

If confrontation gives you the jitters, purchase a white noise machine, or try soundproofing your home by installing a simple weather strip underneath the front door.

When an issue with a neighbor is about the property itself (for example, trimming a tree that straddles both properties), ask your landlord to send someone to fix it. If you decide to take care of it yourself, ask your landlord to repay you for any costs incurred.

3. Plumbing disasters

Do what you can to take good care of the plumbing while you’re living at the property. To prevent a major plumbing catastrophe, avoid flushing feminine products, diapers or paper towels.

However, some plumbing problems are unavoidable — and they’re often an emergency. Contact your landlord immediately when you’re having an issue. If you don’t get a response right away, do a bit of research on your state’s landlord-tenant laws to see if plumbing is one of the things that the landlord must maintain immediately.

4. Deposit battles

Deposits are a huge expense for renters. But as painful as they are to pay, they’re for the protection of the landlord, who may need to use the money to fix any damage that occurred while you lived at their property.

However, a landlord cannot charge the tenant for excessive repairs, particularly for minor issues, like normal wear and tear on carpet, or fixing or replacing appliances that have worn out over time.

If you truly believe that you didn’t get the correct amount for your deposit back, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. Be sure to get a lawyer’s advice if you want to pursue a case.

To get your entire deposit back, sometimes the best offense is a good defense. When you move into a rental, take pictures of any pre-existing damage, or write it down on a move-in document that your landlord provides.

Leaving the property spotless when you move out is also a great way to ensure that you get every penny back.

5. Unsafe surroundings

Living somewhere temporary should never mean that you don’t feel safe. To secure your apartment, make sure the deadbolt is properly working when you move in, and lock your windows before you go to bed.

If you want a little extra security, many companies offer wireless security tools that are easy to uninstall when you move, which makes it easier to get your landlord on board.

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Originally published October 20, 2015.

Source: zillow.com