What is Normal Wear and Tear?

It’s important to understand the difference between normal wear and tear and damage.

No matter how careful a tenant you are, over time, your rental is going to show wear and tear.

The carpet may need cleaning. The walls may have dings and scuffs (remember when you moved in that really big bed frame?). But what about that hole in the wall where the doorknob hits? Or the broken window lock? Are those normal wear and tear?

Here’s how to recognize normal wear and tear and what you’re responsible for — your security deposit is on the line.

Understanding normal wear and tear

Everything in our homes has a lifespan. The grout in the shower, for example, might crack, peel or fall off altogether after about 15 years. If you’ve moved in near the end of your grout’s life, and it’s starting to fail, that is just normal wear and tear.

Sure, you should contact your landlord or property manager, but it isn’t your fault that the grout needs serious help. And, your landlord cannot charge you for normal wear and tear.

Normal wear and tear vs. damage

Damage is when something occurs in your rental that wouldn’t happen naturally. It’s due to unreasonable use, an accident or neglect.

That time your cat was really peeved and sprayed urine that soaked through the carpet to the subfloor? That’s going to change the equation for your landlord or property manager since it will affect the value of the property. Bad kitty!

The time your drunk friend broke the bathroom mirror? That’s not normal wear and tear. That’s damage. And you’ll have to pay the damages one way or another.

In some states, including New York, damage beyond normal wear and tear may make you liable for triple the amount it costs to remedy the situation. Check your state law.

Examples of normal wear and tear

Things that happen over time are ultimately the landlord’s responsibility, but it doesn’t hurt to attend to these things before moving out. Even if you’ve already found a new place to live, you want to remain in good standing with your landlord or property manager; you may one day need a reference.

And, it’s never a bad idea to leave the apartment really clean when you move out.

Here are some examples of normal wear and tear:

Moderate dirt or spots on the carpet

Dirty carpet being cleaned.

Stuff happens. The longer you live in an apartment, the more stuff happens. But when you leave your apartment, your goal is to get back that security deposit. Even though spotted carpet is normal wear and tear, you might want to shell out some dough to clean the carpet before you move.

For one thing, the dirt might be more than you’re imagining, and why leave room for a dispute with your landlord, who will charge you for cleaning. Doing it yourself (or having it done) gives you some measure of control over the cost. And keeps you on your landlord’s good side.

When it’s considered damage: Pet stains in the carpet.

Small nail holes in the wall

Repairing small holes in the wall with spackle.

Over the years, you’re going to decorate. If possible when you hang pictures, do so using less intrusive methods than drilling holes. But if that’s not possible, you should repair the holes before moving out. Spackle and a joint knife are pretty cheap, and the fix-it process won’t take that much time out of your day.

When it’s considered damage: Gouges in the wall needing serious repair.

Warped cabinet doors that don’t close

Repairing a cabinet door.

This is likely something you’re not going to fix with a DIY approach, and you don’t have to. But, it’s a good idea to let your landlord know this is happening as soon as you notice it. If a cabinet door is warping it may pull on the hinges and lead to damage on the wood, or the door may fall off altogether.

When it’s considered damage: Door falling off its hinges.

Bathroom mirror loses its silver

Mirror in bathroom with water damage.

Over time, especially in a moist environment like a bathroom, a mirror may desilver. You’ll notice dark or black spots along the edges of the mirror where the thin layer of tin and silver meets onto the back of it.

When this happens it might signify a larger problem — someone in the household is spending a lot of time splashing water on the mirror or your bathroom vent is not working properly and you have a significant amount of humidity in there causing the issue. Let the landlord or property manager know.

When it’s considered damage: Mirrors cracked and broken or caked with makeup.

Clothes dryer thermostat gives out

Clothes inside of a dryer.

This is totally beyond your control. What is in your control is overloading the dryer and causing it to stop moving. That’s a different story and one that might be construed as damage as opposed to normal wear and tear. Contact your landlord or property manager as soon as any appliance that’s part of your unit isn’t working properly.

When it’s considered damage: Broken shelves in the refrigerator, missing trays in the microwave.

Door handle dents wall

Door knob.

As soon as you notice this happening, spend a few bucks on a guard to keep the door from hitting the wall. You can get a rubbery guard to cover the handle itself. Or screw a door stopper into the baseboard. If you don’t attend to this, the little dent can become a larger hole that you — or your landlord — will have to deal with when you leave. Why not nip it in the bud?

When it’s considered damage: Door off its hinges.

Damage (not) done

Obviously, be careful with your apartment; after all, someone else owns it. To make sure you have the best outcome when you move out, you need to document everything before you move in.

Do a walk-through with your landlord or property manager before you move in. Document everything with notes and video. And, while you’re living there, do your part to maintain your space and contact your landlord early on to repair what needs fixing. No sense in letting a loose hinge become a broken door frame. When you move out you want to have your full security deposit returned. Your landlord cannot make deductions for normal wear and tear, but they can make deductions for damage to the property.

Source: rent.com

6 Home-Shopping Red Flags Even an Inspector Could Miss

The home inspection should catch any deal breakers, right? Not so fast.

Bill Loden, president of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), has been inspecting homes for the past 20 years. But he says some home headaches simply don’t reveal themselves during a standard inspection — and some are outside an inspector’s scope.

“There are things homeowners think we can do, but we can’t,” he explained. “And honestly, most people don’t want to pay for [a specialist].”

To get the most value from your home inspection, it’s important to know a few things even professionals might miss.

1. Partially blocked or damaged sewer lines

Some house problems don’t show up overnight, and a partially blocked or damaged sewer line often falls in this camp.

“We’ll run water through the fixtures, but we’re there for a limited time,” Loden explained. “Two to four hours might not be long enough for the problem to reveal itself.”

Inspectors will likely determine the type of drain pipe used and estimate its age. They may also look for trees or stumps near the sewer pipe that could cause damage. However, sewer-pipe scoping (sending a camera down the line) isn’t typically included in a standard inspection.

2. Failing HVAC equipment

Similar to damaged sewer lines, HVAC equipment can be fine one day and stop working the next.

“If I check an air conditioner when temperatures are moderate, it can seem fine,” Loden explained. “But under stress, when temperatures shoot up, it can fail.”

Loden says inspectors can bring an HVAC contractor with them for the inspection, but typically it’s not worth the investment when you compare the cost of buying a new unit.

“It will cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 [to hire a contractor] and could take two to three days to complete,” he said.

3. Cracked heat exchanger

An area where you may want to pay for an HVAC contractor: an old furnace.

“In my area in Alabama, we have a lot of package units [furnace/air conditioner combined] that sit outside. It’s not part of the standard inspection to examine the heat exchanger, but a lot of them develop cracks that can allow the indoor air to mix with combustion air that has carbon monoxide,” he explained. “You don’t want that in the house.”

Loden recommends having an HVAC contractor examine the heat exchanger if a furnace is more than 10 years old.

“If the HVAC contractor does find such a crack, by law they have to replace it before the furnace can be used again,” he said.

4. Electrical problems

Loden says the best way to think about a standard home inspection is a “visual inspection,” because when it comes to electrical issues, inspectors can’t always determine the problem’s source.

“If I find a receptacle that doesn’t have ground, I know it’s disconnected somewhere, but I don’t know where,” he said. “You’re going to have to have an electrician find the disconnect in the system.”

5. Structural issues

Is the roof sagging, or is it part of your new home’s architectural style? Luckily, a home inspector should be able to tell.

“All roofs — at least wood roofs — have some inconsistencies. A home inspector knows what’s normal and what’s not,” Loden said.

However, when it comes to identifying how bad a problem is or how much it’s going to cost to repair, an inspector isn’t the right person to ask.

“Because we’re not licensed structural engineers, we’ll refer homeowners to one,” Loden said.

6. Leaks

Leaks may not be there one day and show up the next. For this reason, inspectors might not initially detect them.

“A lot of times we go into vacated homes,” Loden explained. “With the plumbing system not being used on a daily basis, any leaks may have dried up. And it may take a couple days after the water is turned on for the leaks to make themselves visible.”

Loden recalls his own home inspection when it was pouring rain. “The roof was not leaking when I moved in, but six weeks later it was,” he said. “A home inspection is not a guarantee that the house won’t have problems in the future.”

He says that the best thing you can do is carefully check the drains in cabinets before and during your move.

“A lot of times homeowners place belongings under there. Sometimes they’ll pack them up after the inspection and bump the drain traps, causing them to start leaking. The same thing can happen when you move in.”

At the end of the day, the key is to take precautions and make sure you find a certified inspector who has been inspecting in your area for a long time.

“They learn where failures are likely to occur,” Loden said.

Top featured image from Shutterstock.

Related:

Originally published September 5, 2014.

Source: zillow.com

How to Take Care of Your High-Quality Pots and Pans

Back in the days when you first moved out, you probably had cheap pots and pans that you gave little thought. After all, they were just part of some kitchen set, and taking care of them wouldn’t have helped them last much longer. But now that you’ve been on your own for a while and have built a collection of high-quality cookware, you want to make sure you protect your investment– some of this stuff could serve you the rest of your cooking days!

With that in mind, here’s how to take care of your quality pots and pans:

The material your pots and pans are made of affects how you clean and maintain them. For this reason, you should not only know and follow the materials used in your cookware’s construction, but also the ideal conditions for those materials. Here’s a look at common materials used to build high-end cookware:

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel cookware is often built with several metals. If your pots and pans are tri-ply, that means they have three layers. Often, the outermost layers are made of stainless steel and sandwich another metal, usually aluminum.

How to Take Care of Your High-Quality Pots and Pans - Consider Material Stainless SteelHow to Take Care of Your High-Quality Pots and Pans - Consider Material Stainless Steel

Multi-ply pots are considered high-quality because they have the features of several metals all wrapped into one tool. For instance, stainless steel reaches high temperatures and is great for searing and browning food. Aluminum distributes heat evenly to prevent hot spots and burning.

Coated

Enamel, ceramic– or porcelain-coated stainless steel pans are the Rolls Royce of nonstick cookware. Teflon pans can be dangerous when used at high heat, but ceramic-coated stainless steel is safe to use at high heat.

How to Take Care of Your High-Quality Pots and Pans - Consider Material CoatedHow to Take Care of Your High-Quality Pots and Pans - Consider Material Coated

In fact, you can use the pans at high temperatures and they’ll be totally safe for your food. More importantly, the construction is effective at preventing food from sticking.

Cast Iron

Naturally stick-resistant, cast iron has a heavy-duty construction that lasts a lifetime. Cast iron can also impart extra flavor on your food.

How to Take Care of Your High-Quality Pots and Pans - Consider Material Cast IronHow to Take Care of Your High-Quality Pots and Pans - Consider Material Cast Iron

Cleaning

High-quality pots and pans, no matter their construction and material, are fairly safe to use in whatever normal way you intend. You can saute on low to high heat without worrying about melting the coating. Where you really need to pay attention to your cookware is when cleaning. Using the wrong cleaning method for the material can do some real damage.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is prone to discoloration and burn marks, which is a shame given they’re so shiny when you first buy them. However, if after repeated use, your pans have marks, you can get them to look like new. Of course, preventing marks in the first place is best.

How to Take Care of Your High-Quality Pots and Pans - Cleaning Stainless SteelHow to Take Care of Your High-Quality Pots and Pans - Cleaning Stainless Steel

Avoid soaking if possible, as the iron in some tap water can cause rust. Use a scrubbing pad and regular dish soap after using your pot.

You can stick stainless steel in the dishwasher. But if you want to get rid of stains, you’ll have to do so by hand. Remove marks by cleaning your pots and pans with a stainless steel cleaning product, like Bar Keepers Friend.

Coated

You have to be gentler with ceramic-coated pots and pans, as their coating can scratch and chip. Avoid using steel wool to clean them– soaking them in soapy water to help release food is better than scrubbing with a harsh pad.

How to Take Care of Your High-Quality Pots and Pans - Cleaning CoatedHow to Take Care of Your High-Quality Pots and Pans - Cleaning Coated

Also, clean your pans right away. The coating can soak up some flavor, and if the food is left too long, everything else you cook on it will taste like that one potent spice.

Cast Iron

Cast iron is a unique product, which means cleaning will be a little different. Clean it immediately after using and do not let it soak, as cast iron can rust. Also, do not use soap. The metal is porous, meaning it will absorb the flavor of the soap, making all your food taste like a Dove bar.

How to Take Care of Your High-Quality Pots and Pans - Cleaning Cast IronHow to Take Care of Your High-Quality Pots and Pans - Cleaning Cast Iron

Instead, scrub off food and rinse. Then, dry it completely and rub oil inside the pan, a step called “seasoning.”

Maintenance Tips

In addition to employing proper cleaning techniques, you should use best practices when cooking with your high-quality pots and pans.

How to Take Care of Your High-Quality Pots and Pans - Maintenance TipsHow to Take Care of Your High-Quality Pots and Pans - Maintenance Tips

Here are some tips that will help your cookware last longer and maintain its look:

  • Avoid using metal kitchen tools, as they can scratch cookware. Instead, use wood or silicone.
  • Don’t cook acidic foods (like tomato) in cast-iron cookware. The acid can eat through the metal.
  • Be gentle with coated cookware to avoid chipping the porcelain.
  • Don’t stack coated pots and pans on top of each other. Storing them in another way (hanging on hooks, laid on their sides) can prevent scratching and chipping

High-quality pots and pans are an investment, and taking good care of them can ensure they last you a long time.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Too Many Toys! How to Declutter

While having a child can add so much joy to a parent’s life, these little loved ones also bring certain challenges – including the spatial needs for a family. Living in a rental with a child can feel cramped and cluttered. If you have a child who loves playing with toys, but you don’t have a lot of space in your home, there are some simple solutions you can employ to keep your kids’ favorite toys organized and accessible. Want to know more about the best toy storage solutions? We’ve compiled a list of 4 helpful tips to keep your kids’ toys easy to access and out of the way.

1. Bookshelves and Baskets

If you have a child who likes to run around your rental, or have play space that is combined with living space, you’ll want to get the toys off the floor when playtime is over. One of the best solutions for storing toys is a bookshelf with baskets. Use a bookshelf that already holds books or purchase a smaller bookcase that is solely dedicated to toys, storing them on the bottom shelves so your child can easily reach them. Then, purchase some attractive baskets made from wicker, plastic, or wood to store the toys. Toys can be removed when it’s time to play and easily gathered into the baskets, then slipped onto a shelf when it’s time to clean up.

2. Under-Bed Storage

Does your child primarily play in his or her room? Consider investing in long, flat bins that can fit under a bed for toy storage. This is a great way to keep toys out of sight and reduce visible clutter. Long, flat bins also work for storing toys under a couch or futon. Under-bed or couch bins are great for storing toys that don’t need to be accessed everyday, but are easy to get to when needed – like puzzles, board games, or stuffed animals.

3. Behind-the-Door Organizers

You’ve probably seen those hanging over-the-door organizers intended for shoes, but these organizers can also be an excellent tool for keeping toys organized and off the floor. Fill the shoe pouches with art and craft supplies, action figures, or even building blocks. Toys will be accessible to the kids when they want them, but can be hidden away when you have guests.

4. Coat Hooks and Tote Bags

Another attractive way to store kids’ toys in a playroom or bedroom is with a set of wall-mounted coat hooks and labeled tote bags, which you can find at most craft stores. Use a permanent marker to note what kind of toys each tote will hold. You can even make this into an art project with the kids. Have them help decorate canvas tote bags that will hold all of their toys. Then, mount the coat hooks to the wall and hang the bags on the hooks. This is a neat and organized way to store toys, and it still allows your little ones easy access to their favorite belongings. You can also swap out labeled totes with clear, plastic bags or pouches so that children can see the contents inside.

Do you live with children in a rental? If so, how do you keep toys organized? Share your toy storage ideas with us (or send a picture!) on Facebook or tweet @AptGuide.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Green Tips for A Naturally Clean Kitchen

Employ these natural cleaning methods on your kitchen cleaning checklist, and you’ll not only cut down on dreaded clean-up time, you’ll keep harsh chemicals out of the kitchen and away from your food.

The sauce-spattered microwave

We all know how easy it is to forget cleaning out the microwave. This addictive kitchen appliance typically gets quite a bit of daily use, so what happens when you forget those stains and splatters in the microwave? The splatters congeal and stick, becoming tough to clean.

Try this: Fill a microwave-safe bowl about 75% full with water and add half a lemon, cut into slices. Place this bowl in the microwave for 4-5 minutes on high. Put on your oven mitts and remove the bowl after a few minutes of “steaming.” The stains will be much easier to wipe away, not to mention the fresh smell that lingers in your microwave.

The food-encrusted cast iron skillet

Cast-iron skillets are kitchen treasures. You can use them for cooking on the stovetop or baking cornbread or a frittata in the oven, so it’s common to find some gunk left behind. You should never use soap or chemicals on your cast iron, and water that’s not completely dried will cause rust.  

Try this: Pour one tablespoon of olive oil into your cast iron skillet, then add about one tablespoon of sea salt. With this mixture and a clean cloth, scrub the skillet clean and wipe out all of the remaining salt for a clean, “seasoned” skillet.

Sticky floors and messy countertops

It doesn’t take much time to end up with a sticky floor or messy countertop from your kitchen adventures.  How to clean kitchen countertops?  Finding a multi-purpose kitchen spray that’s strong enough for counters, stovetops, ovens, and floors can be a lifesaver for various kitchen messes.

Try this: Make your own multi-purpose kitchen spray without chemicals. (This could potentially be used on your floors, but do some experimenting if you have wood or special laminates). This all-natural spray could also double as a bathroom cleaning aid.

  • Start saving all of your citrus peels (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit) in a large glass jar. Depending on how much fruit you consume, this could take a little while.
  • Once you’ve filled your jar at least halfway, pour in enough white vinegar to cover your peels and fill the jar. Place the lid on the jar and store it in a dark area for at least two weeks.  (Even longer is better). 
  • After the infusion period, strain the peels from your citrus mixture using a strainer, colander or strong cheesecloth. Throw away the peels: you no longer need them.
  • Use a funnel to pour your remaining citrus mixture into a spray bottle and there’s the answer to “how to clean kitchen countertops.”  

These are just a few ways to clean your kitchen without chemicals. Let us know what your favorites are, in the comments!

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Source: apartmentguide.com

How to Remove Permanent Markers: 8 Easy Tips to Try

Permanent marker stains don’t need to be permanent if you know the proper ways to remove them.

We’ve all used permanent markers for one reason or another — art projects, labeling our belongings, decorating Easter eggs, giving ourselves (or others) fake tattoos… And while it usually ends up where we put it, there are those few instances that it ends up somewhere we don’t want it, whether we dropped the Sharpie and it got on our favorite shirt or a toddler takes it upon themselves to decorate the walls with their very own mural.

Whatever the case, no need to panic! You can actually remove permanent markers from almost anything — and it doesn’t take long, either. Here’s how to remove Sharpie from just about everything.

Wood

Cleaning wood.

Whether you’ve found a permanent marker stain on your wooden furniture or your wood floors, you can use either rubbing alcohol, toothpaste (without gel in it) or peanut butter (yes, the kind you eat!) to remove it.

  1. Apply one of these items to the markings and let it sit for five minutes or so.
  2. Use a damp cloth to lightly scrub away the treatment and the stain should come off with it!
  3. Repeat this process if necessary to get it all off.

Laminate

Most places you’ll find laminates are countertops or floors — which are also places that young children enjoy drawing on with permanent marker. Use a magic eraser or toothpaste mixed with baking soda to get the Sharpie off.

For the magic eraser, simply get it wet and scrub the marker off. For the toothpaste and baking soda, mix them together, put the mixture onto the marker and use a damp rag to scrub it into the stain. Rinse the excess toothpaste off with some water and a clean rag.

Plastic, metal, glass, whiteboard and tile

For surfaces made of plastic, metal, glass, whiteboard or tile, you can typically use either a dry erase marker or some rubbing alcohol to remove the permanent marker.

If you’re using a dry erase marker, simply color over the permanent marker with the dry erase marker and wipe it away with a clean, dry paper towel. Repeat as necessary until the entire permanent mark is gone.

For the rubbing alcohol method, grab a cotton ball and dampen it with rubbing alcohol. Then use it to rub off the stain. Clean the area again with water and a rag to soak up anything left over.

Painted surfaces

Little girl drawing on the wall with markers.

From painted walls to kitchen cabinets to furniture, there are plenty of large, painted surfaces in our homes that make a canvas for permanent marker.

To eliminate stains from these surfaces, use a toothpaste that doesn’t contain gel and apply it to the marker. Let it sit for at least five minutes, then use a damp cloth to gently scrub the stain off the painted surface. Wipe away the excess toothpaste with a clean rag and water.

Clothing, fabric, upholstery and carpet

Sharpie can sometimes show up on the fabric items we use daily — clothes, pillows, furniture, etc. Luckily, there are many household items that can take permanent marker off of these items: rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, hairspray, nail polish remover or non-gel toothpaste.

  1. To get Sharpie out of clothing and fabric, start by putting an old rag or some paper towels on the underside of the fabric with the stain, if possible. This will prevent the marker from transferring onto other parts of the piece you’re cleaning.
  2. Soak the stain with your choice of removal product and use a cloth rag to firmly dab away the marker. Only use a dabbing motion and avoid rubbing back and forth or in circles as this can further push the stain into the fabric and make it absolutely permanent.
  3. Once the marker is no longer visible, wash it as you normally would (if possible) and it’s good as new! If you can’t put the object into the washing machine, you can use a clean, damp cloth to get any residue out of the fabric.

This method should work for most fabric types and carpets or rugs, including cotton, microfiber and polyester.

Leather

Up close leather chair.

The most important part of removing sharpie from leather is to do it as soon as possible so it doesn’t have time to set and cling to the leather permanently.

Hairspray is an effective way to get it off — spray it onto the affected area and blot it away with a damp rag. Repeat if needed, just remember to blot it gently and not to scrub too hard or it may ruin the finish of the leather.

Books and paper

Sometimes, we end up writing on paper with a permanent marker when we don’t mean to and we jump to the conclusion that it’s irreversible. Nail polish remover can actually erase or at least lighten permanent marker from paper.

Dampen a cotton swab with nail polish remover and lightly dab the stain to extract the ink. Be extra gentle, as paper is delicate and can tear very easily, especially when wet. Again, you may not completely get the marker off, but it will be a noticeably lighter marking than before!

Take note that with colored paper and books, use caution. Any liquid, including nail polish remover, may also remove the color from the paper along with the marker.

Skin

Pouring hand sanitizer into a hand to remove permanent markers

You may have been writing with Sharpie and accidentally gotten some on your hands or maybe you were giving yourself a marker tattoo and ended up wanting to get the ink off of your skin. Whatever happened, hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol will solve the problem.

To remove the Sharpie marker from your skin, just put some hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol onto the stain and rub away the marker using a cotton ball.

No need to worry about how to remove permanent markers

In almost any case, you can figure out how to remove permanent markers. Really, it’s just a bit more difficult to remove than other markers that are washable, so there’s no need to feel distraught if you’ve found Sharpie on a surface.

Using the above tips, you’ll be able to take care of it in no time!

Source: rent.com

How to Measure the Square Footage of a House or Apartment

It’s important to understand just how big your space is.

When you find the perfect place to rent in your chosen neighborhood that’s also within your budget, you probably aren’t wondering whether the square footage in the listing is accurate. However, that calculation is one of the most important factors when evaluating a property’s value. After all, if your rent is based on 1,200 square feet, you have the right to get what you’re paying for, right?

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provides guidelines for measuring and calculating residential square footage. Many builders and real estate agents follow these, but because compliance with these standards is voluntary, what’s advertised isn’t always accurate.

Also, square footage guidelines can vary depending on where you live: Some states disclose this information, and others don’t. Here’s how to measure the square footage of a house or apartment.

Gather a few supplies for the task

Tape measurer on wood.

Calculating square footage is pretty easy. First, you will need a couple of things on hand that will help you measure the space:

  • A large piece of paper
  • A pencil
  • A calculator
  • A laser measuring tool or a measuring tape

Sketch out your space

If you’re planning to rent a one-story condo that’s rectangular, that’s an easy calculation: Measure the width and length, in feet, and then multiply those two numbers.

Since most properties aren’t perfectly shaped, however, you’ll probably need to complete a few steps to get the full picture. Begin by drawing a diagram of all rooms and hallways, and be sure to label each one so you can keep track of the measurements.

If you’re looking at a new rental unit, ask the landlord if you can see the builder plans of your apartment’s floor plan because the square footage is usually already calculated.

Measure each room

Going room by room, measure the length and width, rounding off to the nearest half-foot.

Real estate agents often use an electronic laser distance measuring tool. If you have one, place it on a wall, aiming it directly at the wall opposite it. You will then see the square footage displayed on the device’s screen. A tape measure works well if you don’t have a laser tool.

Multiply those numbers, rounding off to the nearest square foot, then write down your measurement on your sketch. For instance, if the kitchen is 10 feet by 16 feet, the total square footage is 160 square feet.

If a room has an alcove, such as a living room with an area for a home office, measure that space separately and add it to the overall square footage of the room. The same is true for rooms with closets: measure each one by multiplying the length by width.

Sketching out square footage of an apartment space.

Leave out these spaces, because they don’t count

Generally, ANSI standards suggest counting only finished spaces — any lived-in area that has walls, a ceiling height of seven feet or more and a floor. So, if you can’t walk on or live in a certain spot, that is a non-usable space, not part of the gross living area. For example, if you’re renting a house, patios, porches and garages — don’t count towards your unit’s square footage. If the garage is converted into a living space though, it will count in the overall square footage.

Pool houses, storage areas or guest houses are also excluded, and in some states, so basements.

Calculator.

Add up all your measurements

Once you’ve measured each space, you can add up all your numbers to find out the rental unit’s total square footage.

How to calculate square footage if you can’t visit the unit

If you’re apartment hunting from another location and can’t physically measure the rooms, there are other ways to find out a house’s total square footage.

You can look up the city or county’s property records. Some towns make detailed property records — including square footage — available online. If not, and you’re working with a real estate agent, he or she can pull this information for you.

Or, you can hire an appraiser to measure the property for you.

Square footage is an important factor when renting

Measuring an apartment or house’s square footage helps determine its value. While knowing this information can help you decide if a property is worth the rent being charged, remember that calculating square footage is subjective.

Some landlords and real estate agents may use ANSI guidelines and some not. Certain states require square footage in every listing description while others do not. That’s why it’s up to you to figure it out yourself or hire a professional to do it for you.

Source: rent.com

8 Clever Tips to Selling Used Goods Online

My obsession with selling my old junk online started with a bit of spring cleaning.

I needed to get rid of some larger items — namely, a few sheds and some old appliances — and I didn’t want to pay for that service. My laziness always wins out, so I decided I would list them on Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace on a lark. If they didn’t sell, well, I hadn’t lost anything but time.

My concern was unfounded. Not only did the items I posted sell, but they sold quickly and for a higher listing price than my posting. The experience proved to be a gateway to my affinity for selling old items on Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor. In six months of selling, I made almost $600. As an added bonus, each of the items I sold were required to be picked up from the buyer, meaning that I didn’t have to move a single thing.

8 Tips for Selling Your Stuff Online

What did I do right? And what lessons did I learn along the way? The following tips will help you make money off some of the oldest and seemingly useless things around the house.

Window screens lay on the side of a house in this screen shot. They were eventually sold on Facebook Marketplace.
Elizabeth Djinis recommends a bare bones approach when naming items to sell on social media. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Djinis

Name Your Item Simply

Do not make your listing title overly detailed. It is better to be bare bones and minimal: think “bed” or “table” for furniture items. Many people who bought my items scoured Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace every day for specific objects. I suspect some might have had an alert set up on their phone for certain products. That’s why you want to be as simple as possible — your listing may get lost in the shuffle if the name has too many details.

Anticipate Buyers’ Questions

This is largely a common sense tip but it’s smart to give as much information as you can in the listing. If you’re selling furniture or any object, post multiple photos and be upfront about damage. Always — and I can’t stress this enough — post the dimensions in your listing. People will probably still message you asking for the dimensions, but anytime I’ve written “dimensions available upon request” in my listing, I get bombarded. It’s much better to answer buyers’ questions upfront.

If there are any other specific details relevant to your item or pick-up, post them in the description. Think of this as what you would want to know if you were buying your item. People want to deal with someone who is thoughtful so it’s better to offer all of that information at the outset.

Don’t Set Prices Too High

I learned this lesson the hard way. You may think your grandmother’s dark wood bedroom set is worth $600 to $1,000, but Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor won’t see it that way. If you price your item too high, you will get largely ignored by buyers. And much like selling a house, the first few days on these apps are pivotal.

It’s much better to price your item low and get noticed by many. This can drive a bidding war and may even get you the higher price you wanted in the beginning. I recommend no more than $200 for most furniture, unless it’s an item that has incredible and specific demand.

Be Responsive

Unfortunately, this is a job. When selling an item, try to monitor your messages on the apps you are selling on, whether that’s Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor or Letgo.

People are more likely to buy when someone responds to them quickly. If you wait one or two days to respond, they may no longer be interested. You’ll also often have to answer some follow-up questions.

Let People Look in Advance

Depending on the size and type of item, potential buyers often want to see it in advance before investing. This takes time because you’ll have to schedule an appointment with them. But it’s often worth it. Once people make their way to your house to view the item, they’ll probably be emotionally invested enough to buy it. For safety sake, you might ask a friend to join you if you live alone or if your housemates can’t be there when the prospective buyer stops by.

An aluminum fence is sold on Facebook Marketplace.
The writer sold this fence on Facebook Marketplace, which caters to a bigger geographic region so it’s a good place to see an item you’re not sure will sell. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Djinis

Know Your Audience

Each app has a different audience. I’ve had the best luck on Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor. Marketplace is a great place to sell an item that you’re not sure will go, because it caters to a much broader geographic region than a neighborhood-based app like Nextdoor. If you want your item to go fast, particularly within a few hours, and you think it has significant demand, Nextdoor is the way to go. You’re usually dealing with people in a much smaller radius, ideally within your neighborhood or the next one over, so they are able to get to your door quickly.

Know the Value of Your Item

Part of this comes with experience on the apps. Know what items sell well — sheds, for example, are incredibly in demand, and appliances usually go quickly if fairly priced. Objects that are more taste-based, like art and furniture, are harder to gauge. It’s about getting the right buyer. For those, I would suggest taking appealing photos and lowering the price.

After a Week, Give It Up

I’ve been lucky on Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace. Someone bought an old trash can, window screens and a used shower mat, all items I thought would never sell.  But in general, if you don’t get any or many responses within the first week, you’re probably not going to sell your item. The problem with selling on social media is that the seller has little control over what items are prioritized on a potential buyer’s feed. Sometimes, you have to accept your losses and call the trash collector. City or county sanitation services will often dispose of bigger items if you need something gone in a flash.

And if you really don’t care about the item and want it gone, there’s always the tried-and-true strategy: put it out in the alley or driveway. Usually, by day’s end, it will have disappeared.

Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

8 Unique Ways to Display Fine Art in Your Home | Apartminty

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Having art on the walls of your home can help you feel settled, whether it’s a temporary rental or your forever home. There are many different methods to displaying fine art in your home. The traditional way of a hammer and a nail will get you pretty far, but you can elevate your design by incorporating some of the following ideas. 

Buying fine art is just the beginning of the process. How you display your new art can make or break the impact it can have on your space.

Every person has a different taste in art, and it doesn’t matter if you are interested in impressionists or contemporary abstracts; there is a place for your art in your home. Artwork is meant to be enjoyed daily. It can bring together the theme of a cozy beach house or give a nursery an adorable feature for your baby to look at. 

Here are eight unique and fun ways to display fine art in your home:

Gallery Walls up the Staircase:

If you have a set of stairs in your home, you likely trudge up and down them multiple times per day. It can be a fun reminder of good memories every time you march up to bed or come down for coffee first thing in the morning. Stairs are an excellent place to hang small prints that would look out of place in other rooms. Gather them together to make a feature wall.

Often, a gallery wall on the stairs contains family portraits that continue to grow as your family does. You can choose this method for a more conservative look or make it more interesting by using brightly colored frames and cataloging your vacations and everyday memories. 

Hang Art From the Ceiling:

These days, nearly everyone hangs a frame from a nail in a wall or with sticky strips that don’t damage the walls. Add interest to your space by putting a hook in the ceiling and dangling your artwork from above. This can add depth to your room and draw attention to a unique ceiling feature, such as a reclaimed wood ceiling or a decorative chandelier. 

Be sure to hand these frames close to a wall so they do not become a hazard when walking by, and use a strong string to prevent your art from being damaged. If you can’t drill holes in the ceiling, consider a gallery rod or a piece of picture rail molding to dangle your artwork. 

Use Three Dimensions:

Framed art is often two dimensional, and while it adds interest to the space, you can make your display stand out even more by adding three-dimensional objects to your collection. You can combine these two to create a one of a kind art feature in your home. 

Relate these objects to the painting or print to not distract from the original piece. A photo of a beach or the ocean can be combined with shells or sea glass mosaics to bring more life to the artwork. 

Use a Bookshelf:

display-fine-art-on-a-bookshelf
https://www.pexels.com/photo/turned-off-flat-screen-tv-276724/

If your walls are full or you just don’t have any space to hang a frame on the wall, use your bookshelves to incorporate a few frames. These can be standard freestanding bookshelves, floating shelves, or you can lean the frame on top of your desk or dresser. Set your beautifully painted image of a garden next to your vintage copy of The Secret Garden.

Using frames, books, and objects will create interest and allow you to view your collections simultaneously. This method is also easily changed if you are the type of person that likes to mix up your decor now and then. 

Color Coordinate:

A bright-colored chair in a room or rug can add intrigue to the room. Multiply this by creating a small gallery featuring the same color as this object. It will help bring the room together and make it seem more cohesive. Use abstracts or simple pieces to draw the color into space. 

Be sure not to overdo it and use moderation when using bright colors in a room. They can seem busy or hurtful to look at if there are too many. If the accent color in the room is blue, use different shades of blue to provide your eyes something easy to look at. 

Offset Frames:

There is no law stating that your frames must be in line with each other and never be out of place. You are free to do what speaks to you by clustering small frames together or using one larger piece to keep it simple. 

If you feel a little daring, offset your frames on the wall so they are not centered, drawing attention to a piece of furniture or a feature of your home. Eyes are drawn toward offset patterns, and it can create drama in the room. 

Don’t Use Frames:

If you are unsure about the pieces, you have or are interested in a more casual display, skip the frames altogether and go with bare images. Without frames, a print can be more fragile, so it may be recommended to attach the paper to a stiff piece of cardboard. Otherwise, your prints will be blowing in every breeze and could be harmed. 

Frames can also be expensive, and if you want to hang a large number of prints, it is cost-effective to go without them. Leaving your art without frames creates a bohemian atmosphere and can enhance your overall decor. 

Use a Gallery Light:

You can highlight a single piece or collection of works by installing a gallery light over the artwork. These lights are relatively inexpensive but will increase the drama of the art. The lighting in our homes changes throughout the day, and you might not always be able to see your artwork. 

There is a reason that artwork in museums is always adequately lit so you, the viewer, can experience it the way it was intended to be seen. If you have more than one piece, consider track lighting on the ceiling. 

No Wrong Way:

no-wrong-way-to-display-art
https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-single-gold-framed-painting-on-the-wall-2951525/

In the end, it is your decision on how you want to display the artwork you have collected over time. You can use one or all of these ideas in a single home, but be sure not to overwhelm yourself and your guests with too many things to look at. Have space where the eye can rest, such as a wall with only one piece of artwork or an open space on the floor. 

Before choosing where you want to place your artwork, ensure that it is the proper size for the wall or shelf, you are placing it on. If it is too small or too large, it can draw unwanted attention and distract from its intended purpose. 

Make your home a place where you enjoy spending time and allow yourself to enjoy the small luxuries of getting that piece of artwork you’ve meant to put out on display.

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Source: blog.apartminty.com

Fire Prevention Tips

Everyone wants to turn up the heat and stay warm in their apartment during the frigid days of winter, the early mornings of spring or the cold fall evenings. While the toasty heat feels great, it’s essential to stay safe and avoid a fire in your apartment.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, how we heat our living spaces is largely to blame for the many fires that take place each year. In 2018, there were 86,500 fires in apartment buildings alone in the United States.

Heating your small space is a must, but the right safety precautions have to be in place to avoid a potentially life-threatening catastrophe. Below, we outline a room-by-room guide stating the main causes of apartment fires and how you can prevent one from setting your humble abode ablaze. We’ll also talk about landlord and renter rights and responsibilities when it comes to fire safety.

Fire safety guide

Within minutes, a small fire can spread and grow into a deadly fire. But with a few steps, you can protect yourself, your family, your apartment and your belongings.

First, closely inspect your home to eliminate potential hazards.

Then, use these fire prevention tips and strategies to safeguard your home.

family with firefamily with fire

Overall fire safety tips

  • Protect your appliances and your home by using surge protectors
  • Don’t overload circuits or extension cords
  • Check electrical cords for appliances. Cords that are frayed or cracked are potential fire hazards. Unplug the cord immediately and replace it.
  • Don’t run cords underneath rugs or between rooms
  • Never place portable space heaters near flammable materials, such as drapery or bedding
  • Turn off space heaters when leaving the room or going to bed
  • Don’t smoke in bed or leave burning cigarettes unattended
  • Keep lighters and matches out of reach of children
  • Don’t leave candles or incense unattended, and place these items away from drapes, curtains or other flammable materials
  • Don’t store flammable materials, such as gasoline cans or a propane tank, in your apartment

Kitchen safety

Lots of cooking and baking takes place during the cold winter months when the desire for warm, home-cooked meals is at its peak. Don’t deny yourself a hearty feast, just be mindful of how you go about it.

  • Remember to never leave food unattended on a stove
  • Keep potholders and towels away from the cooking area
  • Avoid wearing loose-fitting sleeves when cooking
  • Always set a reminder to turn the stove and oven off when you’re finished cooking
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of an accidental cooking fire

Laundry room safety

If your laundry room is located in your own apartment, follow these safety guidelines. If your laundry room is a communal space, check with your landlord to ensure proper safety measures are in place.

  • If possible, have your dryer installed and serviced by a professional
  • Avoid using a dryer without a lint filter
  • Clean the lint filter before or after each load of laundry, and remove lint that has collected around the drum of your dryer
  • Check to make sure the right plug and outlet are used, and make sure the machine is connected properly
  • If you leave home or go to bed, turn the dryer off

While a fire can start in any room in your apartment, these are the most common areas for household fires to start. By following these guidelines, you’re helping to decrease the chance of starting a fire in your home.

firefighter with firefirefighter with fire

Taking additional safety measures

In addition to practicing safe habits in each room, you’ll want to ensure you have the proper safety precautions in place. These safety measures can help reduce the risk of a fire and keep everyone safe.

1. Install smoke alarms

Make sure there’s a properly functioning smoke alarm installed in your apartment. To be extra cautious, install a smoke alarm outside of each sleeping area. These alarms can be battery-operated or electrically hardwired in your home.

For renters who have hearing problems, use alarms that include flashing strobe lights and vibration. Test smoke alarms once a month, and replace batteries once a year. An easy reminder is to change the batteries when the clocks spring forward.

2. Place heaters strategically

Fire-related home incidents caused by heating mechanisms largely take place during the winter. As long as you’re using extra measures to heat your apartment, you’re at risk. When using a portable space heater, keep these tips in mind.

  • Anything that can melt or burn should be at least three feet away from the heater
  • Never leave these small heaters on all day or night, even when you go to sleep
  • Children and pets should not be allowed in the same area where portable space heaters are in use
  • Follow your space heater’s directions exactly if you’re unsure of its proper operation

3. Be careful with candles

Although they’re not the most effective heating choice, candles are often used to set a soothing atmosphere. They also come in handy when power has been lost. But they’re also known to start fires, particularly when left unattended.

  • Blow out candles before going to sleep and any time you leave your apartment
  • Keep candles at least one foot away from any other objects
  • Always use candle holders and make sure that the surface is flat and away from an edge where it may tip over
  • Never use candles if an oxygen tank is in use
  • Opt for flashlights instead of candles in case of a power outage

4. Plan an escape route

Though your apartment may be prepared, accidents do occur. Plan an escape route, and if you have roommates, plan for a safe place to meet outside. Have at least two escape routes planned in case one is blocked. If you live in a high-rise or on an upper-level floor, consider purchasing an escape ladder in case the stairs and entryways are blocked.

fire escape routefire escape route

Additional fire prevention tips

In general, you should be prepared for a fire emergency at all times. It may not happen in your unit, but it could take place right next door. It’s also smart to know what responsibilities and obligations are on the landlord and the renter. We’ve outlined some general information below:

Know the landlord’s responsibilities

In most cases, the landlord should make sure the rental property is in a habitable condition (fit to live and free from hazards) and provide for the necessary maintenance and repairs. Federal and local laws mention the following landlord responsibilities:

  • Complying with federal, state and local building codes
  • Repairing structural components like the fireplace, chimney, electrical cables and the plumbing system
  • Providing defect-free heating and cooling facilities
  • Promptly responding to repair and maintenance requests
  • Conducting regular fire safety checks

Remember, landlords have the legal duty to adhere to fire safety regulations or risk being penalized by the housing authorities. Knowing the landlord’s safety obligations towards keeping your rented home safe will help protect you from fatal fire accidents.

Know your duties as a renter

Though it’s the landlord’s duty to provide for the tenant’s safety and property maintenance, you’re required to act responsibly when residing in the apartment. The landlord is not responsible for damage caused due to the negligence of you, your family, guests or pets.

If you identify any potential fire hazard, it’s your duty to inform the landlord, enabling them to take timely action. Remember, your landlord can only repair something if they know what’s broken or defective. For instance, though landlords are liable to fit smoke alarms in the apartment, it’s your duty to inspect them on a weekly basis.

The National Fire Alarm Code (NFPA 72) requires smoke alarms to be replaced at least once every 10 years. Be aware of the expiration date of the smoke alarms installed in your apartment and talk to your landlord to get the expired ones replaced. Check for missing or disconnected alarms, dead batteries or low-battery chirps and replace them immediately.

Similarly, fireplaces and chimneys require regular maintenance. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, chimney fires are life-threatening and can severely damage the building structure. Make sure your landlord gets the apartment’s chimney and fireplace cleaned and repaired on a regular basis by hiring a reputed chimney cleaning service provider. Also, installing carbon monoxide detectors is a must for rooms with a wood fire.

Finally, when the landlord sends workers to fix the issue, it’s your duty to be responsive and flexible in allowing access to the maintenance staff.

Report all issues in writing

As a tenant, it’s your responsibility to report damages and defects to the landlord in writing or through email. When requesting repairs or maintenance, it’s a good idea to include a brief summary and an image of the problem.

For instance, if your grievance is about the mounting creosote deposits in your chimney flue, include an image showing this in your email, enabling your landlord to hire a chimney cleaning service immediately.

Further, keep records of all the formal complaints you make in this regard. These include documents, such as photographs of the damage, copies of the letters and emails, receipts of repairs undertaken by you, testimonials from professionals who you have hired for repair services, bills of lodging you had to shift into due to the property being uninhabitable and the apartment’s inventory report.

The above-mentioned details will prove to be useful evidence in case of a court proceeding against your landlord.

Be prepared for the worst-case scenario

Although the Landlord and Tenant Act governs the rental agreements for residential properties, each U.S. state has its own landlord-tenant laws with many of the statutes being similar. All landlords are required to comply with federal and state landlord-tenant laws.

If your landlord refuses to make the necessary home repairs and maintenance for fire safety or the problem violates the state’s building and health codes, contact your local housing authority to learn about your state laws and report the issue.

For instance, if your landlord refuses to install a smoke alarm in the rental property, you can ask the local housing authority to take a look at your apartment’s fire safety. The authority will assess the situation and issue a notice to the landlord to install a smoke alarm. If the landlord fails to fix the problem even after receiving the notice, they’ll be penalized by the authorities. Meanwhile, you can make the necessary repairs and deduct the amount from the rent check.

You can also withhold the rent until the corrective measures are taken. Housing authorities in a few states encourage tenants to transfer the rent to an escrow account that will be released once the landlord undertakes the repair and maintenance.

Lastly, if the problem is preventing you from living comfortably in the apartment, you may move out and cancel the rental agreement. You’ll need to present evidence that the property was uninhabitable due to the landlord’s negligence and you vacated the premises in a reasonable time.

Keeping the community safe

Given the high incidences of home fires in the U.S., tenants and landlords should work hand-in-hand to reduce the risk of fire hazards in rented apartments. If you’re planning to shift into or are already living in a rented property, you should be aware of your safety rights and the landlord’s responsibilities. The information shared in this post will serve as an effective guide towards protecting you from fire accidents in your newly-rented apartment.

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Source: apartmentguide.com