Sunday, August 13, 2017

Finding a Great Rental on a Budget

The cost of living is pretty steep these days, and rent is no exception.  Stories of scarily high rent for less than ample living space—stories that used to belong only to the likes of London, Tokyo, and Manhattan—now seem to be the norm for much of North America.  While high demand in the housing market is keeping rent high, there are still some great, affordable spaces out there if you happen to be apartment hunting on a budget.  Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are looking to snag a great rental on a dime.

The first step towards securing an affordable rental is to determine what “affordable” means for you.  Generally you should look to spend about 30% of your income on rent, so look at what you are bringing in and determine exactly what your optimal rent range should be.  When you know what you are comfortable spending draw up a list of your priorities, so you can best match what you need with what you can spend.  You may want a parking space, a balcony, a fireplace, a backyard, an eat-in kitchen, on-site laundry, a dishwasher, and a ten-person hot tub . . . but, to budget you need to prioritize what you absolutely cannot live without.  Once you determine your price range and your mandatory requirements affordable apartment hunting becomes much easier.

Think Outside the Neighbourhood Box 
 One way to guarantee that you will find a more affordable rental is by looking in more “off the radar” neighbourhoods.  We all have our preferences when it comes to city living, but try to expand your horizons.  These more “up and coming” neighbourhoods offer exciting renting possibilities, and often list rentals at more affordable rates due to slightly lower demand.  Not only can you save money by thinking outside the neighbourhood box, but you also get the chance to see a whole other side of your city.  Alos, at the rate at which development takes place in most cities these days, moving into an “off the radar” neighborhood allows you get in on the next new hot spot with a lease you can afford.

Use All the Tools at Your Disposal
There are many great tools to help you in your hunt.  Rent Compass allows you to search directly by neighbourhood and price range to give you a comprehensive view of all of your options by location.  In addition to this powerful apartment hunting tool, friends, family, and coworkers are an invaluable resource in helping you locate a great rental at a great price.  The direct contacts offered through your network can allow you to connect directly to property renters, which can often save you money and time.
Rent can be costly in this day and age, but if you keep an eye on your priorities and keep an open mind in terms of where you want to live, you can find a great apartment at a great price.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Add an Entry-Way to your Apartment and Make your Rental Feel Like Home

One big advantage houses have over apartments is the wonderful sense of an entrance they tend to provide.  When you step inside a house you are generally greeted by a receptive and welcoming hall that accommodates your shoes and outerwear, and acts as a welcome decompression chamber from the outside world.  Apartments, more often than not, open directly from the outside world onto one’s living space in an abrupt and jarring manner.  However, apartment living need not do without the soothing middle ground of an entry-way.  Here are a few tips to help you set up your own grand entrance.

The challenge in adding a good entry to your apartment is to maximize the feeling of a separate area, and to minimize the space you take up in your apartment while doing so.  A good first step is to provide a space for coats.  Depending on your space you can either arrange and mount several decorative looking hooks—antique markets sell old hooks, door knobs and other interesting items you can use for this purpose—or mount a proper coat rack.  Some coat racks come with a row of hooks, as well as a series of little cubbies to store hats, gloves, and push button umbrellas—these are great.  Another option is to install and adapt a thin book case.  By removing the shelves and installing some hooks, you can create a wonderful, space-saving wardrobe, complete with room at the bottom for boots and shoes.  A place for coats and outdoor things is a wonderful way of establishing a sense of entrance into your apartment.

After building in some space for you and your guests’ outdoor wear, you will want to add a little piece of you to your entry-way.  An entrance is, in a sense, a first impression of your home, and you want that impression to clearly reflect who you are.  The addition of a few small signature items can really help pull this off.  One or two objects, like a chair, a photograph, an umbrella stand, a painting, or an end- table work wonders in conveying who you are in your entry-way.  These little furnishings transform your door way into a distinct entrance into your own space.  Furthermore, the functionality of these furnishings gives your guests a place to take off their shoes, stow their coats, or throw their keys. 

Whether it is a shoe rack, an umbrella stand, or some photographs or a painting, by adding an entry-way you can better convert your rental into a home.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

How to Pull Off the Perfect Move

There are few things in life that are as trying, aggravating, and all around grueling as moving.  We never realize just how much stuff we have until we are forced to pack, load, transport, and unload it all in one frenzied day.  However, like most things in life moving can be greatly simplified with some solid pre-planning, preparation, and organization.  Here are some guidelines to ensure that your next move is as smooth as they come.

Organization is Everything

You can greatly reduce the stress of moving by generating—well in advance—a detailed to-do list.  A good list allows you to identify everything you require, from movers, to friends, to truck rentals, to boxes, and it lets you get a handle on when things should be booked or reserved.  Planning in advance also gives you time to start acquiring the numerous boxes you will invariably need to get moving.  Once you have boxes in your place, you can get a great head start on your move by pre-packing and stacking anything and everything that you don’t absolutely require in advance of your move.

Leadership and Coordination

A good move will require leadership and coordination to keep friends and movers busy, and to ensure that all is running smoothly.  If you have movers, be sure they have all the requisite information about your new home including information about keys, parking, and unloading.  If you are relying on the kindness of friends, be sure to maximize their strengths by getting the best packers packing and the best loaders loading.  Another tip is to label your boxes clearly and simply—“upstairs bathroom” or “basement”—to keep your movers self-directed while you attend to the other details at hand.  Moving is also a wonderful opportunity to purge things you no longer need.  When under the pressure of having to load a truck, the decision as to whether or not you’d like to hang on to that oversized hand chair is greatly simplified.  

Unloading with Ease

If all goes to plan, unloading should be the more enjoyable part of your move.  Make sure that you are fully aware of any and all rules and regulations regarding moving at your new location.  Double check if parking is an issue, and whether or not you need to reserve the elevator for the afternoon.  Also, to ease your transition, make sure that everything has been cleared with your new landlord, and that your move is in full compliance with the rules of the house or building you are moving into.  Moving day is a wonderful opportunity to befriend your new neighbours, and there is no better way to do this than by observing the house rules on moving.  Finally, be sure to keep your movers happy (and productive!) by feeding them.  Moving is incredibly taxing for all involved, so when you are done be sure to kick back, feast, and congratulate your movers on a job well done.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

How to be a Great Tenant

As more and more people look to renting and leasing homes instead of owning, the need to develop strong professional working relationships between tenants and landlords becomes all the more important.  A clearly defined, respectful rental relationship is mutually beneficial.  Landlords gain from having tenants treat property with the care and respect it deserves, and tenants benefit by cultivating a clear channel of communication for any concerns they may be having with the property.  By following these guidelines, you can ensure that you are doing your utmost to be the best possible tenant you can be.

Know Your Lease
By signing your lease you are committing to conduct yourself in the manner specified, so be sure to read your lease in detail.  Make sure you understand what it is that is expected of you as a tenant, and be sure you can live up to your end of the arrangement.  Also, double check that the lease outlines anything you might expect from the landlord in the rental agreement.  If you have any questions or concerns about maintenance, parking or pets, houseguests or gardens, raise them with your landlord as you negotiate and sign the lease.  Establishing a clear and open channel of communication in the signing of your lease is a great way to commence your rental agreement.

Pay Your Rent On Time
Paying your rent on the agreed upon date is crucial to being a good tenant.  With property taxes, utilities, and mortgage payments, property owners need to be sure that they can make their payments on time.  Pre-written cheques given to your landlord in advance are a great, and hassle-free way to ensure your rent always goes through on the agreed upon date.

Treat Your Rental like a Home
Your apartment is your home, and treating it as such pays dividends.  Maintaining your property, ensuring your garbage and recycling are deposited properly and on time, and keeping your apartment clean and in order are great ways to let your landlord know that you care about where you live.  Treating your rental like a home also means being a good neighbor.  When you rent you become the face of the property, and by being cordial, friendly, and respectful you keep your landlord free from having to dissolve any squabbles, and you keep the property owner’s relationship with the community in good standing.

Ultimately both landlords and tenants want the same thing: a mutually respectful, professional relationship.  By being the best tenant possible, you do your part to make this happen, and you reap the benefits as well. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Fast and Effective Apartment Workouts

Keeping in shape can be a challenge.  After meeting our work and family commitments, our own personal health and wellbeing, which comes with exercise, tends to take a back seat.  One big hurdle to overcome in the fitness battle is the challenge of getting yourself to the gym on a regular basis.  Whether it is in your building or in your neighbourhood, hitting the gym after a long day at work takes serious commitment—a commitment that sometimes you just don’t have.  However, the demand of “going to the gym” is often the very thing that keeps us from jumping up and getting fit in the here and now.  There are several fast and effective workouts you can do in your own apartment to keep you healthy and fit.

Use Your Own Body

We tend to think of fitness as an equipment heavy enterprise that requires bikes, treadmills, weights, and machines.  Using your own body, weight, and resistance, however, can get you in great shape without all the gear.  Push-ups are a perfect example of this.  This simple—yet extremely challenging—exercise tones and works muscles in your arms, shoulders, chest, and back.  No other single exercise can do as much for you as a push-up, and starting with ten a day, and then building on that amount, they take no time at all.   Spider lunges are another fantastic way to use your own natural resistance to build muscle.  Begin in standard push-up formation, and then simply take turns bringing forward and bending each leg so that each foot rests beside each hand.  This exercise works your lower back and legs, and builds strength and flexibility. 

Get Your Heart Rate Going

Flexibility and muscle training are crucial, but so too is solid cardio-vascular work.  Jumping jacks are the perfect on the spot, gym-free cardio exercise.  Jumping jacks allow you to get your heart pounding, blood flowing, and burn fat, and they let you tone and shape your leg, arm, and back muscles.  Another great way to get some more high impact activity in your own home is by doing jumping lunges.  Place one leg forward and bend to the knee while your other leg is extended strait behind you.  From there jump as high as you can and land with your other foot forward, which you can then bend again down to a 90 degree angle in preparation for your next jump.  These lunges build strength, agility, and flexibility all while providing you with a good cardio-vascular exercise. 

Walk, Bike, Run

One massive benefit of dense, urban living, is that great trails, bike paths, or wonderfully scene-filled sidewalks abound, so you can leave your apartment and get moving.  If you find the process of packing, planning, and commuting to the gym to be daunting enough to keep you firmly planted on the couch, then throw on your runners and take a great city walk or jog; or grab your bike and hit the road.  Walking, biking, and running are great ways to get in shape and to explore your city and check out your community at the same time!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Roommate Etiquette

Having a roommate can be a truly rewarding experience.  Sharing your living space helps keep costs down, and gives you someone you can really share your life with.  However, if you and your roommate are not on the same page when it comes to such key things as cleanliness, noise, and houseguests, having a roommate can just as easily be a living nightmare.  To ensure you and your roommate have a solid and functional relationship here are a few things to keep in mind.

Always begin with a frank and honest conversation about how you like to live, what you need in a roommate, and what you simply cannot live with.  We often assume people are exactly like us, but it takes all kinds to make a world, and one person’s understanding of cleanliness is another’s version of total squalor.  As you approach the prospect of moving in, sit down together and really lay your cards on the table.  Remember to be totally honest—this is no time to hide your less than perfect clutter problem, or your unabashed love for ABBA.  The more honest and open you and your roommate are with each other the quicker you will come to a functioning living arrangement.

One of the biggest problems roommates have is cleaning.   A cleaning schedule is a fair and transparent way to keep roommates accountable and aware of who is doing what, and when.  Work out together what each of you expects, and feels capable of doing, and do your best to keep to it.  Beyond these larger cleaning tasks, make sure that you pick up after yourself, and that you clean as you go.  Think of what you would like to see when you come into the bathroom or living room, and try your best to maintain that same standard for your roommates.

This is especially the case in maintaining the kitchen.  After you prepare food be sure to restore a minimum amount of order to the kitchen.  You don’t always have to clean the kitchen from top to bottom immediately after eating, but it is a great idea to ensure that counters and stovetops are wiped, and that pots and pans are soaking.  It is also a good idea to have a mutual understanding about food sharing and communal cooking.  Some roommates fully shop and cook together, others write their names on food.  Whatever your arrangement is make sure it is mutually understood, and that you abide by it.

Finally, be respectful of each other’s right to the apartment.  Do not monopolize the television or the bathroom, do not play your music loudly when your roommates are sleeping or studying, and do not freely entertain guests when your roommates are not into it.  When it comes to roommate etiquette, the more you give, the more you will get back.  If you do your share of the heavy lifting, and remain respectful, and conscientious, your roommate will do the same, and you will reap the rewards of function and friendship that a great roommate provides.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Tips to Working from Your Apartment

These are strange but exciting economic times.  The traditional idea of going to work in a downtown office is fading fast, as more and more people are working remotely, or forgoing office life altogether to try their hand at running their own business.  This economic shift means that more people than ever before are working from home.  Working from your apartment or condo can be a wonderful way to feel more connected to your work and to better manage that biggest of challenges: the work/life balance.  However, there are a few important things to keep in mind as you embark on a work from home routine to ensure you remain balanced and productive.

Stay Focused
Home, as you know, is full of distractions.  Most of us can hold our own when it comes to resisting leisurely distractions, like movies, TV, books, or naps, but the more challenging distractions are the domestic ones.  Since you are already home, you had might as well get the laundry going, and, while you are at, tidy up the kitchen, pop out for cat food, groceries, get dinner started . . . and on it goes.  These kinds of domestic distractions are really had to resist because they are productive; but this is, of course, a misplaced productivity.  You have to remember that this is your time to work on your work, and not to work domestically.  

Results over Schedules
The traditional way to keep one’s self on track is by setting up and following a structured work schedule.  This works for some people, but schedules can come to seem arbitrary and stifling after a while.  Instead, a good technique is to think about the larger aims of your work and devise goals that can be broken down by session, by day, and by week.  This allows you to focus more on results and less on simply time logged.  A results-driven work process keeps you more directly connected to the larger priorities of your job, and keeps you motivated. 

Carve Out Your Work Space
We’ve come a long way from the “home office” of the 90s that tried to reproduce the “macro” office format in the “micro” home setting—complete with clunky printers, and piles of largely useless stationary.  However, the impulse behind the home office to try to draw a line between home and work is still an important thing to keep in mind.  Depending on the amount of space you have to work with, try to find a workplace in your apartment or condo that is physically or even conceptually different from your relaxation space.  Working from your kitchen table or pull-up counter, or setting yourself up in a chair instead of on the couch can help your click out of home-mode and into work-mode a little more readily.