4 Reasons Paying for College With a Credit Card Is a Terrible Idea

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Credit card offers and promotions are everywhere. All those rewards are tempting and can get you thinking of ways to get the most out of your credit card.

With the high cost of college tuition, you might be wondering if you can use a credit card to pay for school and get rewards. But before handing over your card, you should know there are significant risks involved.

4 Issues to Consider Before Using a Credit Card to Pay for College

It seems like a great idea: If you earn 1% cash back on all purchases and use your card to pay a $10,000 tuition bill, you’ll get $100 in rewards. However, the reality isn’t that simple.

Dr. Robert Johnson, president and CEO of the American College of Financial Services, believes there’s few, if any, advantages to using a credit card for your education.

“I think it’s dangerous for students to use credit cards for routine expenses,” he said.

That’s because credit cards are significantly different from other forms of debt, such as student loans. Relying on a credit card to pay for your tuition and fees can cause problems later on. Watch out for these four issues.

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1. Sky-High Interest Rates

Some student loans have an interest rate as low as 4.45%. In late 2017, credit cards had an average interest rate of 13.16%, according to the Federal Reserve. If you have poor credit or don’t have an established credit history, you could face interest rates as high as 25.00% for a credit card. That difference in interest rate is significant.

“Credit cards are riskier because the interest rates are substantially higher and because they’re so easy to use,” said Dr. Johnson. “One must make a deliberate and purposeful decision to take out a student loan. It’s so easy for someone to simply take out a credit card and incur high-interest-rate debt without thinking through the ramifications.”

Over time, your credit-card balance can balloon. You could end up paying far more than you originally borrowed.

“Credit-card debt is the highest-interest-rate debt and is very difficult to extinguish if the balances get large,” said Dr. Johnson.

If you think you can avoid paying high interest fees by paying off the debt quickly, make sure you have a concrete repayment plan. The average cardholder has a balance of over $4,000. With college costs added on top of that, you could end up paying thousands more. Once you get into credit-card debt, it can be tough digging yourself out.

2. Fees Might Negate the Rewards

You might be able to earn rewards for charging your tuition, but you could end up paying more than the reward is worth in fees.

Schools charge an average 2.62% processing fee, according to a 2016 CreditCards.com survey. That means a $10,000 charge to pay for school would add $262 to your bill. That’s more than double what you’d earn in cash-back rewards and would make college even more expensive.

3. Fewer Repayment Options

Beyond high interest rates, credit cards have more limited repayment options compared to federal and private student loans.

With student loans, you typically have a grace period. You don’t have to make payments on your loans until six months after graduation. If you experience financial hardship and have federal student loans, you can postpone payments or even qualify for a reduced payment with an income-driven repayment plan. With a credit card, you don’t have those benefits.

If you use a credit card to pay for college, you’ll have to start making payments right away, even while you’re still in school. If you lose your job or face an unexpected emergency, you still have to keep up with your payments or risk wrecking your credit history. You can quickly end up over your head.

“Credit-card debt limits their flexibility once they graduate, as their earnings go toward trying to extinguish debt,” said Dr. Johnson.

4. Effect on Your Credit Score

Your credit history can have a significant impact on your life. A poor credit score can impact you in many ways, from applying for an apartment to job hunting.

Your FICO credit score is determined by a range of factors. One of the most important is your credit utilization. Accounting for 30% of your score, your credit utilization is how much of your available credit you use. The more you use, the more it hurts your credit report. For example, if you have a $10,000 limit, charging $2,000 will leave you with a better score than charging $9,000.

The problem with using a credit card to pay for college is that it raises your credit utilization. A single semester can cost thousands, eating up a huge chunk of your available credit. If you can’t afford to pay off the card right away and carry a balance, it can take years to get rid of it, lowering your credit score.

If you need to buy a car or want to purchase a home, a poor credit score can cause you to pay higher interest rates or not be approved at all.

Be Smart About Paying for School

If you’re going to school but don’t qualify for federal loans, or if you’ve exhausted all of the financial aid the government offers, there are safer options than using a credit card to pay for tuition.

Private student loans are more expensive than federal loans. But both have much lower rates than credit cards. Many loan servicers also offer important benefits, such as a grace period after graduation and alternative payment options. Student loans can be a much better tool for paying for school compared to your Visa.

If you’re concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get a free credit score updated every 14 days.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.

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Source: credit.com

Investing in a College Town Rental Market: Ann Arbor, Michigan

College towns are attractive markets for investors in rental properties for several reasons. Students and faculty create large and dependable markets of tenants. Local economies dominated by academic institutions are remarkably stable compared to those based on manufacturing or agriculture. Larger universities create hundreds of non-academic jobs in research centers, medical facilities, and new companies spun off by technologies developed locally.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, home to the main campus of the University of Michigan, is an excellent example of a campus-based economy that is much larger than its facility and student body. One out of three local jobs are in educational service, and an additional one out of ten are in technical, professional and scientific services. At $39,235, Ann Arbor’s average per capita income and its median family income of $102,615 are 20% to 30% higher than national averages.

WalletHub ranked Ann Arbor, the nation’s fifth-best college town and the best small city college town in 2020 based on academic, social, and economic opportunities for students. It also ranked Ann Arbor, the nation’s “most educated city in 2020,” outranking San Jose, California, and Washington, D.C. It also placed first in educational attainment and quality of education and attainment gap.

Read: 5 Reasons Why You Should Still Buy an Investment Property

college university student leaving librarycollege university student leaving library

Affordability is Under Fire

Popularity can have a downside, and Ann Arbor is experiencing the price of success in rising housing costs and decreasing affordability, especially in Washtenaw County as a whole.

As of February 2020, the average monthly rent in Ann Arbor was $1,580 for an 882-square-foot apartment, a 3% increase over 2019, higher than the national median for a comparable apartment ($1,468) and considerably higher than nearby Detroit ($1,069) or East Lansing ($1,294), home of Michigan State University. Half of Ann Arbor tenants spend 30% or more of their household income on rent. HUD defines cost-burdened families as those “who pay more than 30% of their income for housing” and “may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, and medical care.”

“Ann Arbor – and its central driver, the University of Michigan – is a magnet for highly educated households with upward mobility and significant disposable income. With some exceptions, Ypsilanti (City and Township) and their challenge of being overloaded by a disproportionate number of at-risk households and homes with negative equity – is where the most affordable options exist,” stated a 2015 Washtenaw County housing study.

“Ann Arbor will become more costly, and less affordable, especially to non-student renters in the short run and eventually, to aspiring buyers as well. The driver for higher costs is a combination of high livability and quality of life, great public schools, resulting in sustained demand by households with discretionary income, and resulting expectations of stable and continually rising property values,” the study concluded.

Read: Investing in a College Town Rental Property: Charlottesville, VA

The Ann Arbor Rental Market is Vast and Profitable

In many ways, Ann Arbor is a great rental market. The massive student body drives demand. About 70% of the University of Michigan’s 46,000 students live off-campus and the current cap rate for Washtenaw County apartment buildings is a respectable 7.6%. (The capitalization rate is the ratio of rentals’ net operating income to property value. Low cap rates imply lower risk, and higher CAP rates indicate higher risk.)

Living off-campus is so popular; the university maintains web pages listing rentals and providing advice and information for off-campus renters. This summer initiated a “virtual housing fair” to help students find rentals for the 2020-2021 school year.

group of young college students hanging out at homegroup of young college students hanging out at home

Homes.com lists 1,235 properties in Ann Arbor, with a median home value of $355,600, about 17% above the national median of $304,100 in July. Of the total homes in Ann Arbor listed on Homes.com, 60% are for sale, and 34% are rentals.

Read: What to Know Before You Rent to College Students

Though several new high-rise apartment buildings recently opened and more are under construction, single-family rentals still dominate the market. Homes.com lists more than 200 single family homes for rent in Ann Arbor. Smaller rental households are a result of the above-average presence of single-family rentals relative to apartments. The average household size for Ann Arbor rentals is 2.2 people, compared to 2.3 for Michigan and 2.5 for the nation as a whole.

COVID-19 and Ann Arbor, Michigan

COVID-19 delayed the University of Michigan’s plans for the fall semester but did not cancel fall apartment rentals. The university’s plans include both in-person and remote classes, a new academic calendar, and the elimination of breaks and changes centered around preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Despite the pandemic, Ann Arbor is still one of the best college town markets in the nation. As in most markets, acquisition is a challenge. Property prices in Ann Arbor are rising, and the smaller, less expensive homes that make ideal single-family rentals are few and far between.  Otherwise, conditions are good for single-family rental owners and will improve as the nation returns to health.


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report and provides public relations consulting services to leading companies and non-profits in residential real estate and housing finance. He has been vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors, senior vice president of Edelman Worldwide and press secretary to two members of Congress.

Source: homes.com

How To Save Money On Textbooks + Campus Book Rentals Review

How To Save Money On Textbooks + Campus Book Rentals Review

How To Save Money On Textbooks + Campus Book Rentals ReviewIf you are looking for tips on how to save money as a college student, then one of the top things you need to learn is how to save money on textbooks such as through cheap textbook rentals. In this post, I will be including a Campus Book Rentals review because I used this textbook rental company throughout college and was able to save a great amount of money with cheap textbook rentals.

P.S. I also have a Campus Book Rentals coupon code at the end of the post, so do not miss out on this valuable Campus Book Rentals coupon for the best textbook rental company out there!

When I was in college, I always made sure to save as much money as I could. College is expensive, and everyone knows that. The costs can quickly add up. Between the tuition, lab fees, parking fees, textbook costs, and more, college costs can quickly get out of hand.

I know and understand this. I graduated with around $38,000 worth of student loan debt, and that was even with me carefully managing my costs. Thankfully I paid off my student loans (read about how I paid off my student loans within 7 months), but I do like to help others in as many ways as I can.

According to the National Association of College Stores, the average college student spends around $700 per year on the cost of textbooks.

That could be a total of a little less than $3,000 for a 4 year degree just for the cost of textbooks, and as everyone knows, the cost can actually be much higher than that.

I actually think this number that is estimated is wrong, because I don’t really know anyone who bought their college textbooks and only spent $350 or less from their college bookstore on the cost of textbooks. That wouldn’t have even covered two college textbooks for me from my college bookstore.

When I was in college, many of my college textbooks were around the $200 price for just one textbook, and I often took 7 or 8 classes a semester. This means if I paid full price for each book (whether I bought them online or from my college book store), I would have sometimes paid around $1,600 each SEMESTER!

Or $3,200 a YEAR!

That is just insane.

Below are my tips on the best ways to save money on college textbooks:

Rent your college textbooks through cheap textbook rental websites such as Campus Book Rentals.

When I was in college, I saved a great deal of money by renting my college textbooks. As I said above, college textbooks for me were expensive if I were to not shop around and just stick with the expensive books at the college bookstore. Who wants to waste a ton of money on the cost of textbooks by buying them at full price?

NOT ME! You can save a lot of money on the cost of textbooks by renting them instead.

I often rented my college textbooks that were $200 at my college bookstore for less than $50 for the semester. There are definitely some cheap textbook rentals out there!

I often found cheap textbook rentals for $25 as well That is a STEAL! I always used coupon codes as well, as they can be found everywhere. Lucky you, if you keep reading I have a CampusBook Rentals coupon code as well! 🙂

It was easy to rent textbooks online. Here is the step by step process of renting textbooks online and my Campus Book Rentals review:

  • I just had to find my college textbooks online such as on CampusBookRentals. Campus Book Rentals is the best textbook rental I used when I was in college. They made it easy and have a large college textbook selection for students to choose from so that you find the exact textbook you need.
  • I would then order the textbook for whatever time frame I needed. You can usually rent them for 45 days, two months, a full semester, or even longer. The longer the time frame, the more expensive they are, of course.
  • I would use the textbook for a class. Of course, this is not a surprise!
  • Once you are done with the textbook, all you have to do is return it. You will be provided a return label, so the return shipping is absolutely free. You don’t have to worry about the textbook being outdated, a new edition being published, losing money, etc.

I also have a Campus Book Rentals coupon code for 5% off your total purchase plus FREE SHIPPING if you need one as well. I genuinely believe they are the best textbook rental company out there right now, or else I wouldn’t be writing this whale of a Campus Book Rentals review post. The Campus Book Rentals coupon code is snowfall5. All you have to do is click on my affiliate link (the Campus Book Rentals coupon code only works with the affiliate link) and once you are ready to check out, enter snowfall5 as the Campus Book Rentals promotional code.

Skip the college bookstore for cheap textbook rentals or buy textbooks used.

The college bookstore can be a big rip off. Sorry to everyone who has ever worked at one.

I have three college degrees, and have visited the college bookstore many times to compare prices, and I do not think there was a single occurrence where the price at the college bookstore was cheaper than the price I found somewhere else, such as through CampusBookRentals.

Sell your college textbooks.

Some of you might be saying, well why didn’t you just buy your textbooks used and then sell them back, instead of renting college textbooks? Well, this is because it often turned out that whenever I bought a textbook, the very next semester they would be considered “old” because a new edition would be published. No one really buys old editions of finance books as they are considered “outdated” by many professors.

However, there are many instances where selling your college textbooks can be a great idea, and you can make some money as well.  If you are looking to save money in college, then you should learn how to sell your college textbooks back so that they aren’t just hanging out in your house collecting dust.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this Campus Book Rentals review and that you learned how to save money on textbooks and a new way on how to save money as a college student.

How do you save money on your college textbooks?

Campus Book Rentals coupon code for the best textbook rental company!

P.S. Here is the Campus Book Rentals coupon again as well since you took your time to read my Campus Book Rentals review. I have a Campus Book Rentals coupon code if you need one for even cheaper cheap textbook rentals. The discount will give you 5% off your total textbook purchase rental plus FREE SHIPPING. The Campus Book Rentals coupon code is snowfall5. All you have to do is click on my affiliate link (the Campus Book Rentals coupon code only works with the affiliate link) and once you are ready to check out, enter snowfall5 as the Campus Book Rentals promotional code. This coupon code is good until April 30, 2015, so you have plenty of time to use it for this semester’s classes.

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

6 Ways I Saved Money On College Costs

Check out this list of ways to save money on college costs. This is a great list!

Check out this list of ways to save money on college costs. This is a great list!How much does college cost? This is a question many wonder. There’s rarely a week that goes by where I don’t receive an email from a student or parents of a student who are looking for ways to cut college costs. That’s why today I want to talk about college costs and how you can create a college budget that works so that you can save money in college.

College is very expensive – there is no doubt about that.

However, I want you to know that it IS possible to get a valuable college degree on a budget!

The average public university is over $20,000 per year and the average private university totals over $45,000 once you account for tuition, room and board, fees, textbooks, living expenses and more.

Even with how expensive college can possibly be, there are many ways to cut college expenses and create a college budget so that you can control rising college costs.

Continue reading below to read about the many different ways I cut college costs. While I was not perfect and still racked up student loan debt, I did earn three college degrees on a reasonable budget.

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1. Take classes at a community college to cut college costs.

Whether you are in college already or you haven’t started yet, taking classes at a community college can be a great way to save money.

Earning credits at a community college usually costs just a small fraction of what it would cost at a 4-year college, so you may find yourself being able to save thousands of dollars each semester.

There is a myth out there that your degree is worth less if you go to a community college. That is NOT TRUE at all. When you finally earn your 4-year degree, your degree will only say where you graduated from and it won’t even mention the community college credits at all. So this myth makes no sense because your degree looks the exact same as everyone else’s’ who you went to college with. You might as well save money because it won’t make much of a difference.

I only took classes at a community college during one summer semester where I earned 12 credits, and I still regret not taking more. I probably could have saved around $20,000 by taking more classes at my local community college.

Also, you are most likely just taking general credits at the community college, so it’s not like you would be missing much by taking classes there instead of a college that has a better reputation for the major you are seeking.

If you do decide to go to a community college, always make sure that the 4-year college you plan on attending afterwards will transfer all of the credits. It’s an easy step to take so do not forget! You should do this before you sign up and pay for any classes as well as to make sure that ALL of the classes will transfer succesfully.

2. Take advantage of high school classes to lower your college budget.

Many high schools allow you to take college classes to earn both college and high school credits at the same time.

This is something I highly recommend you look into if you are still in high school, as it saves time and is one of the best ways to save money on college costs.

When I was in my senior year in high school, nearly all of my classes were dual enrollment courses where I was earning college and high school credit at the same time. I took AP classes and classes that earned me direct college credit from nearby private universities. I left high school with around 14-18 credit hours (I can’t remember the exact amount). This way I knocked out a whole semester of college. I could’ve taken more, but I decided to take early release from high school and worked 30-40 hours a week as well.

3. Take all the credits you can to stay within your college budget.

At many universities, you pay a flat fee. So whether you take 12 credit hours or 18 credit hours, you are paying nearly the exact same price.

For this reason, I always recommend that a student take as many classes as they can if they are going to a college that charges a flat fee tuition.

If you think you can still earn good grades and do whatever else you do on the side, definitely get full use of the college tuition you are paying for!

4. Apply for scholarships to lower your college costs.

Before you start your semester, you should always look into scholarships, grants, FAFSA, and more. You usually have to turn in any paperwork around spring time for the following semester, so I highly recommend doing this right now if you are going to college in the fall.

Another myth will be busted right now. Many believe that all scholarships are impossible to have or it means you have to win a contest. That is just a myth.

I received around $16,000 a year in scholarships to the private university I attended. That helped pay for a majority of my college tuition. The scholarships were easy for me to get as they were all just because I earned good grades in high school and scored well on tests. I received scholarships to all of the other colleges I applied for as well just for good grades, so I know they can be found as long as you do well in high school!

There are other ways to find scholarships as well. You can receive scholarships from private organizations, companies in your town, and more. Do a simple Google search and I am sure you will find many free websites that list out possible scholarships for you to apply to.

Tip: Many forget that you usually have to turn in a separate financial aid form directly to your college. Don’t forget to do this by the deadline each year!

5. Search for cheaper textbooks to lower your college budget.

Students usually spend anywhere from around $300 to $1,000 on textbooks each semester, depending on the amount of classes they are taking and their major.

For me, many of my classes required more than one book and each book was usually around $200 brand new. This means if I were to buy all of my college textbooks brand new, I probably would have had to spend over $1,000 each semester.

I saved a decent amount of money on college textbooks by renting them and finding them used. Renting them was nice because I just had to pay one fee and didn’t ever have to worry about what to do with the textbook after the class was done, as I only had to return them. There was no worrying about the book being worthless if a new edition came out, which was nice! Buying books used was nice occasionally as well just because sometimes I could make my money back.

I recommend Campus Book Rentals if you are looking for textbook rentals. Their rentals are affordable and they make getting the textbooks you need easy.

Read: How To Save Money On Textbooks + Campus Book Rentals Review

6. Skip the high price of living on campus to cut your college budget.

To save more money, I decided to live on my own. I didn’t have the option of living at home after high school and living on campus would have cost me a ton of money.

Instead, I found a very cheap rental house (the house was VERY small and probably could have been considered a tiny home) and was able to somewhat easily commute to work and college from it. I probably saved around $500 a month by living on my own instead of on campus, and I learned a lot by living on my own at a young age as well.

If you can live at home though and want to save money, I highly recommend it if it’s an option for you. You can save thousands of dollars a semester by doing this!

I understand that some are against this because it may impact your “college experience,” but I think most people would be fine not living on campus, especially if it’s not in the budget. You could probably save around $40,000 over the years on your degree by living at home.

How did you cut college costs and control your college budget? How much student loan debt did you have when you graduated?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

4 Ways Broke Grad Students Can Raise Their Income While Still in School

While graduate school can increase earning potential long-term, graduate students themselves tend to make very low wages while enrolled in their educational programs (if they are paid at all). As a result, grad students often experience massive financial stress and, consequently, worse mental health than the average American.

While these problems are systemic, there are steps grad students can take to try to lighten the financial burden. The options available to make money can vary widely between degrees and programs, but exploring these paths with your professors and administration can be a good start to reducing the financial strain.

Teaching

Teaching assistantships are a basic part of most grad students’ workloads. For students who enjoy teaching or see it as an ultimate career path, instructing can be a reliable way to increase pay. Most departments have summer teaching options, and you can also look to other departments around campus outside of your own that need help. Those with many undergrads but few grad students may be especially in need as well. What’s more, these opportunities are not limited to just Ph.D. students – master’s degree students can also serve as teaching assistants (TAs).

The ability to teach a diverse range of content, especially on complicated subjects, will increase your chances of getting extra teaching gigs that can provide even more income. Even one extra TA appointment can increase your annual compensation by about 25%. Experienced grad students who serve as primary instructors can net as much as a 50% pay increase with just one course per year.

Research Fellowships

Research is another core part of most grad students’ workloads. That said, there is considerable variability in compensation for research. The specific opportunities depend on your field of study, program and support from your faculty. Within those limits, aggressively pursue research funding. Winning a research fellowship or major grant can make your early career, and in addition to the extra money, the prestige can eventually lift you into a strong post-doctorate or junior faculty position.

Generally speaking, the best funding tends to come from nationally competitive sources, such as the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Even more localized fellowships, such as those with availability limited to people in your program, can still offer thousands of dollars.

Importantly, if you get a fellowship, be mindful of taxes. You may read that fellowships are tax-free, but that’s only true if the money goes toward qualified education expenses, such as tuition; if you pocket those funds like you would with a regular salary, they are taxable. Additionally, while most forms of compensation withhold taxes from each paycheck, fellowships typically do not. That means you’ll owe a lump sum of taxes the following April — an unwelcome surprise.

Consulting and Internships

Depending on your career path and field, consulting or internships may be encouraged and common. There is a lot of variability in how much income to expect here. Some grad students earn just a few hundred dollars a year, while others can make tens of thousands of dollars a year.

The most common gateway into consulting is through your professors, who often have an existing project and may need extra help. While the professor may be paid as much as $500 an hour, a grad student might expect to make more like $25 to $50 an hour for their first consulting gig. Over time, more experienced students may be able to get their own consulting gigs and charge over $100 an hour. On the other hand, consultants often don’t have much time for research or teaching — so choose wisely if your career is in traditional academia.

Many grad students also find paid internships, often during the summer. Again, the most straightforward path is through professors. Some programs offer regular internships through partnerships with particular companies, while in other cases, the student applies on their own. If that’s your situation, take time to run your plans by your professors and consult your school’s career development advisers on how to best navigate this process. Take advantage of all the resources available to you!

Focus on the Future

When seeking ways to raise your income, don’t lose focus on the bigger picture: graduation. Each year you stay in grad school can cost you over $50,000 in lost wages, so the best option is the one that also boosts your résumé toward the career you want. If you want to be a researcher, focus on fellowships and grants. If you want to be a consultant, start building up your client base and brand now. If you’re going into the private sector, establish those relationships early and seek as many internships and part-time opportunities as possible.

Or, if you’re like I was — with no clue about what you want — you may consider testing the waters and exploring a range of options. Sure, your résumé may look like something Dr. Frankenstein cooked up, but you’ll build some solid connections and have a much more interesting experience along the way. Just do yourself a favor and graduate a little faster than my 7½ years!

Assistant Professor of Financial Planning, The American College of Financial Services

Matt J. Goren is an Assistant Professor of Financial Planning at The American College of Financial Services who focuses on the interplay of personal finance and psychology. In addition to teaching and developing content, he provides strategic consulting on financial literacy initiatives and hosts a personal finance radio show, Nothing Funny About Money, which was named 2018’s most outstanding consumer financial information resource by the AFCPE.

Source: kiplinger.com

Trying To Find a Renter? How To Show Your Apartment and Make a Great Impression

If you’re a landlord who owns an investment property (bravo, by the way!) and are looking for a new tenant, you need to get your rental space up to snuff—and you need to know your facts. Luckily for you, we’re here to help! Here’s the lowdown.

How much notice is required?

What are the rules for showing an apartment if someone is currently living there?

Typically, you must give your existing tenant at least 24 hours’ notice for an apartment showing.

Real estate agent Mihal Gartenberg, of Warburg Realty in New York City, says that most leases just state “reasonable” notice, but 24 hours is a good rule of thumb since “reasonable” can mean different things to different people. There also might be a city or county rental law that stipulates a certain amount of time, so be sure to check that as well as the current lease (if there is one) before scheduling any showings.

Kate Ziegler and Jack Romano, real estate agents with Arborview Realty in Boston, note that doesn’t mean last-minute showings shouldn’t be considered, though. If prospective renters request showings on short notice, you can always run that request by the current tenants to see if that fits into their schedule.

Check renters laws

Nearly every municipality has its own slate of rental regulations, and provides reference materials to renters when they move into a new place. Here’s something to keep in mind: Your renters don’t have to allow showings if they don’t want to.

“Tenants have the right to quiet enjoyment of their home and do not have to collaborate with the landlord unless it is in the contract,” Gartenberg says. “Even if it is, the tenant can prevent showings, so it’s best to maintain a good relationship with them.”

Also, remember to comply with all Fair Housing rules and regulations.

Ziegler and Romano recommend reading up on Fair Housing and local regulations if you’re planning to take on your own tenant search.

Even turning down a showing, let alone a rental application, based on race, religion, voucher status, or other protected classes can be a major liability for an owner or an agent.

Should the apartment be vacant or occupied for the showing?

This depends on whom you ask. Ziegler and Romano note that if an apartment is empty, it’s easier for potential tenants to imagine themselves in the space. But, Gartenberg says, an empty apartment can sometimes look smaller than it actually is.

“Just this weekend, I was showing an empty bedroom that has space for a king-size bed with nightstands,” Gartenberg says. “When one of the prospective tenants said the bedroom was small, I thought he was being sarcastic. It helps to show how and where furniture can fit inside a room.”

That being said, if someone lives there, you don’t have a choice in the matter. Luckily some tenants are neat and clean, and use the space well. But if they’re messy or have furnishings and decorations that overwhelm the space, it’s better to wait to show the space until they’ve moved out.

How to make an apartment look more appealing

There are a few tips to make an apartment look more appealing for showings. First and foremost, make sure it’s clean and uncluttered. That includes windowsills, baseboards, and bathrooms.

“A neat home and a clean home are not the same thing,” Gartenberg says, so make sure you’ve got both bases covered. You don’t want potential tenants to have to worry about hiring a cleaner the moment they move in.

The same goes for the exterior of the apartment or building. Clean up any trash, vacuum the entry hall, and make sure the lawn is manicured and the walkway is clear.

If you can show the apartment on a nice day, try to do that. If it’s winter and dreary outside all the time, make sure you take top-notch pictures for the listing. Open the blinds and turn off the lights, keep your reflection out of images, and capture multiple shots for each room.

“Remember that prospective tenants will first see the home on a screen,” Ziegler and Romano say. “First impressions and good images matter more than ever.”

Secure the space

If you have current tenants, make sure they’re aware of their belongings during showings. After all, you are going to have strangers poking around your home.

“Your tenants’ private things will be open to whoever comes into the home,” Gartenberg says. “Make sure they put away their valuables.”

Also, to give your current tenants peace of mind, tell them you’ll guide potential new tenants around the apartment room by room so you can keep an eye on them.

Source: realtor.com

5 Times Landlords Are Willing To Renovate Your Apartment—and Even Pay for It

Renters often bemoan the fact that they’re not allowed to renovate their space. They assume their landlord would never splurge on fancy upgrades like a new sink or washer and dryer—or if they do, they’d wait until the current tenant moves out.

But is this true? Based on the landlords and real estate experts we talked to, we found that under certain circumstances, landlords are actually happy to renovate—and to foot the bill.

Timing is everything! So whether you’re pining for an updated kitchen or new flooring, don’t assume it’s hopeless until you’ve pinpointed these choice times when landlords might be ready and willing to hear you out.

1. Something’s broken, and needs to be repaired or replaced

If something in your unit is broken, such as the kitchen sink, you have grounds to propose not just a repair, but a replacement or even an upgrade.

“In my experience, the best opportunity for upgrades will occur when there’s a repair or problem to be fixed,” says Brad Creger, a financial adviser with landlords as clients. “The landlord will need to spend the money anyway, so often it makes sense to fully improve the situation, versus patch up the problem only to have it resurface later.”

Keep in mind that while an apartment serves as your home, it’s a business to the landlord, which means keeping expenses down is always the goal. Think back to the broken kitchen sink—upgrading to a brand-new one will set your landlord back a few hundred dollars. Factor in labor costs, and the total bill may be anywhere between $500 to $1,000. However, if the original sink instead requires fixes every two to three months at $100 to $200 every visit, it may be wiser for your landlord to pay more now to save money later.

“Appeal to the real estate investor in your landlord,” says Brian Davis, a career landlord and co-founder of SparkRental.com. “You think of the unit as your home, but they think of it as an investment that costs them a massive amount of money and must produce a healthy return to be worth the headache.”

2. Your lease is almost up—and you’re thinking of moving

If you haven’t told your landlord whether or not you will renew your lease, now is the time to negotiate in the form of a few upgrades. It’s likely a few improvements would have happened after you moved out anyway, in preparation for a new tenant.

“Tell the landlord you’d be willing to renew, perhaps for a longer-term lease, if he is willing to upgrade a couple of components of the apartment,” says Davis. “Since turnovers are the most expensive and the most labor-intensive periods for landlords, many are happy to put a certain amount of money into upgrading the unit simply to avoid the cost and hassle of a turnover.”

“Stability in vacancy does more for the bottom line than the cost of renovations,” says James Watson, who owns and oversees a 100-unit rental portfolio in Nebraska. “I know we have plans to renovate all of our rental units as they become vacant. Chances are, plans for renovations are in place once the tenant’s current lease is up anyway, so it doesn’t hurt to ask in exchange for locking in another lease.”

3. The upgrade will add long-term value to your landlord’s investment

Certain upgrades can offer landlords a decent return on investment—particularly if they will survive the existing tenant, enhance the property value, and justify higher rents down the line. Suggest these types of improvements.

“Temporary improvements that will only last the duration of your tenancy, such as repainting, are generally not worth it to landlords,” explains Davis. “The landlord will probably have to do that anyway after you move out, so they have no incentive whatsoever to make them while you continue living there. However, new kitchen and bathroom components tend to offer a high return on investment, and make a great starting point to your proposal.”

Before you approach your landlord, try to get as much information as possible regarding your desired upgrade, including total costs, expected time to complete, and the return on investment.

Plus, if you’re handy, “offer to do some of the work yourself,” Davis adds. “Showcase the savings that the landlord would see by hiring you, in exchange for free or reduced rent, versus a typical contractor.”

4. The upgrade will save on your landlord’s insurance

Another way to sweet-talk a landlord into renovating is to highlight how certain upgrades might help save money on his home insurance.

“We rented an old and drafty four-story home in suburban Boston, and when we grew frustrated with the rattling windows and the overused furnace, we signed up for a free in-home energy assessment,” says Lydia Auchtung, a longtime renter. “We did it out of curiosity, expecting thousands of dollars worth of upgrades would be needed. But their price tag only came to a bit over a thousand dollars for insulating the entire attic and some pipes, as well as taking care of sealing the windows.”

As a result, “we pitched our landlord on the fact that the improvements would help him steer clear of home insurance claims on frozen broken pipes and water damage nightmares, resulting in the additional possibility of paying more for his insurance,” Auchtung says. “That spin brought him in, and he ended up saving 15% on his insurance premium.”

5. You’re willing to pay more in rent

If all else fails, there’s always one option that may work: Offer to pay more in rent, if your budget allows.

“If the landlord sees the renovation as something that adds long-term value, they’ll likely go for it, but they’ll typically expect you to pay a bit more in rent,” says Andrew Weinberger, CEO of PropertyClub, a real estate startup based in New York City.

The one caveat? “Just make sure it makes sense for you costwise,” Weinberger says. “For example, one of the most common requests tenants have is for a washer and dryer. While paying an extra $100 per month might make sense if you’re only going to live there for a year, it makes no sense if you plan on living there long-term. You’d simply be better off buying your own.”

Source: realtor.com

‘How I Landed a Townhouse During COVID-19’: Advice for Renters on the Move During a Pandemic

Our family had long planned to move in the summer of 2020, never dreaming that COVID-19 would bring everything in the country to a screeching halt. And yet even amid stay-at-home orders, we still wanted to move. Our son was graduating from high school and preparing for university in the fall, and, after living in Los Angeles for 20 years, we were ready for a change of scenery.

We were able to kick off our official search for a new place earlier than expected, in April. With our kids participating in virtual classes, we knew they didn’t physically need to be near their school.

Still, we were anxious about the move because touring properties and moving locations increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19. We were undeterred, but wanted to do the home search in a way to minimize our exposure risk.

Relocating during a pandemic meant we had to plan more carefully and strategically. A laptop and smartphone, always valuable tools, became indispensable. Finding a new home in a new city wasn’t easy, but we made it happen. Here’s how.

Reach out to local real estate agents

The area we wanted to relocate to was over 120 miles away in the San Diego area. I knew the general area but had to rely on several local real estate agents who helped me narrow down potential areas based on our top criteria, including a good school district; safety; affordability; and proximity to entertainment, shopping, and leisure activities. They also told me the average rent for each neighborhood.

There are ways to test-drive a neighborhood without setting foot in it, but it’s always smart to reach out to local agents who know the area.

Comb through the listings

Real estate agents can help steer you in the right direction, but it’s on you to do the heavy lifting of searching for rental listings. To my surprise, quite a few properties were available in the area we wanted. All the listings used pictures, videos, and virtual tours, and their written details were descriptive. I would then follow up with the person showing the property with more questions and to request an in-person showing.

But viewing the property was a whole ‘nother thing. Many listings came with an online questionnaire designed to limit viewings to only serious inquiries.

In at least two instances, after completing the online questionnaire, I was immediately called by the owners. Although we had not yet toured the properties, they each grilled me about my job and my husband’s employment, our credit scores, and a few other things. That alone ended my interest in both of those properties, to their sellers’ surprise.

Visit the property in person, if possible

Heading to San Diego to do some house hunting
Heading to San Diego to do some house hunting

Ana Durrani

Photos and videos can get you only so far, which is why I wanted to see the properties in person. Some properties used lockboxes, allowing you to view them at your convenience. The property managers advised us to wear masks and gloves when entering. We always went in alone, with the agent or owner of the property waiting outside, also wearing a mask.

One red flag to look for is a mandatory payment to see a home. For the first property we saw, we were told to “apply” and pay $45 per person to tour it. I really loved the place on video but when I saw it in person, it was a huge disappointment. It was tiny, dark, depressing, and completely different from what was portrayed online. I immediately asked for a refund, and my money was returned quickly.

Lesson learned? Despite COVID-19, seeing a unit in person, or having an agent do a live walk-through, is still very important.

Landing a property

After a month of searching, we found a townhome we really liked that had been listed for only a few hours. We quickly made an appointment to see it. The video and photos did not do the place justice. After I walked through it, I knew we had finally found the one.

The application was done online, and we uploaded all the required documents. Once we were approved, we paid a deposit and signed our lease online. We printed a walk-through checklist, did the walk-through, and emailed back the completed checklist.

Everything was surprisingly easy. The property management company was very helpful and responded quickly to our questions. Fact: I never met our property manager in person.

Rising to the challenge during COVID-19

Finding a rental during a pandemic presented us with more challenges than normal and required us to plan ahead even more. For example, the area we wanted to move to was over two hours away. Since we’d be out for a large part of the day, we always had to think about where we could use the restroom, since nearly everything was closed. Home Depot was open, though, and was a favorite spot.

After a long day of searching for properties, sometimes we had to go out of our comfort zone and order takeout from local restaurants and eat in the car. Before that, we had been too scared to eat out for fear of being exposed to the coronavirus.

And, of course, we had hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in the car at all times.

On the positive side, each time we made the long drive to look at properties, the highway was wide open because people were still sheltering in place. In Southern California, an absence of traffic is something to celebrate.

Once our search for a place was finally over, we turned our sights to the next giant task at hand: moving.

Source: realtor.com

7 Red Flags Renters Need to Know About Apartment Shopping During the COVID-19 Pandemic

It’s not a secret that the coronavirus pandemic has made renting a home or apartment stressful for both landlords and tenants.

About 12 million renters will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities by January, according to Moody’s Analytics, and rental rates in big coastal cities have fallen year over year as renters flee to the suburbs. But rents in fast-growing cities and spillover markets like Rochester, NY, and Tacoma, WA, are on the rise, according to realtor.com’s September rent report.

But no matter where you’re renting—or how many times you’ve rented in the past—looking at and leasing a home safely during a pandemic is complicated. It requires forethought and consideration, taking into account your budget and additional safety measures so everyone involved in the process can stay safe.

With the pandemic still presenting a risk for apartment shoppers, here’s what renters should be asking about and what red flags should send you running.

1. Suspiciously low rent

Everyone wants a deal, especially in the face of economic challenges. But if you’re seeing a too-good-to-be-true deal, especially in historically high markets like New York City or San Francisco, be wary.

“These historic low prices aren’t going to last forever,” says Beatrice Genco, a real estate adviser with New York City’s Triplemint. “There are some properties giving away one, two, even three months free, but what does that mean for next year? Landlords are hurting and want to increase prices as soon as they can, so lock yourself into a longer lease or make sure you understand how much the landlord is going to increase the rent.”

2. No COVID-19 policies

Your potential new landlords should be able to share the ways in which they are keeping their community clean and healthy based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes the measures they’re taking for disinfecting high-touch areas and enforcing social distancing. If this information is not presented to you up front, ask. Landlords should have a clearly outlined policy in place to safeguard tenants, and if they don’t, you may have to walk away from the deal.

It’s also important to find out what has been done to clean the individual unit you’re interested in since the last tenant vacated.

“Have the rugs been deep-cleaned?” asks Deidre Woollard, a real estate expert for the investing service Millionacres in Alexandria, VA. “Have all walls, floors, and countertops been wiped with bleach or antibacterial cleaning products? Have they replaced HVAC filters?”

3. Pricey shared amenities

Shared amenities like gyms, roof decks, and pools are normally a draw (and a justification for above-average rent rates) for larger apartment complexes. But during the pandemic-induced era of social distancing, many of these amenities have been closed or significantly limited.

Woollard reminds would-be renters to “find out what shared amenities are open and what precautions are being used to keep those spaces safe and clean. If a gym or pool is closed, will renters be compensated with a rebate?”

4. No social media presence

It’s almost 2021. Virtually every business and individual have a presence online, and that includes apartment complexes, brokers, and landlords. Part of a prospective renter’s due diligence should include checking out potential leasers on social media.

Greg Bond, president of Greater Orlando Home Buyers, warns that if you can’t find their social media accounts, that might mean they’re using a fake identity. These untraceable individuals are the same ones, he says, who “try to reel you in quick so you don’t notice the small details that can derail their shenanigans.”

5. Neglected maintenance

Whether they’re working with an agent or not, renters should consider conducting their own pre-leasing inspection of appliances and utilities in the apartment.

“As a renter, you need to make sure that everything in the property is in working condition before signing a lease,” says Max Cohen, CEO of Sarasota’s Florida Home Buyers. “A lot of landlords are dealing with cash flow shortages and are pushing off major repairs that can end up costing you. For example, an inefficient air conditioner can raise your electric bill significantly, and a slow-leaking toilet can cost you hundreds of dollars over the course or your lease.”

So before you sign on the dotted line, go ahead and turn on the air conditioner, turn on sinks, flush the toilet and let it fill up, open and close windows, run the shower and tub, inspect the microwave and other appliances, and switch on the oven.

6. Freshly painted wood

A newly painted trim may seem like a welcome sign of diligence on the landlord’s part, but it may actually be hiding a problem.

Rotting wood can require extra effort and cost to replace, so landlords often paint over it. This hides it temporarily, but by move-in day, the problem is often visible.

Paige Nejame, a Boston-based house painter who sees this a lot, suggests pressing or poking freshly painted wood to check for soft spots, especially near the seams and edges of rooms where water can gather.

7. The landlord won’t show you the apartment

Be on the lookout for property owners or agents who won’t let you tour the space, citing fears over COVID-19 as the reason. If your city or state is on lockdown, you may be forced to delay touring the apartment. However, there are ways to tour an apartment safely; some properties are offering self-guided tours while others give the option of a socially distanced tour with face masks and gloves.

“Many owners are trying to rent out units sight unseen, saying they want to limit in-person interactions,” says Ashley Romiti, a senior associate at Vantis Capital Advisors in Irvine, CA. “But photos and virtual tours can be misleading.”

If you’re adamant about touring the apartment before leasing, say so.

“If they refuse to accommodate your requests, you have probably dodged a bullet,” Romiti says.

Source: realtor.com