Three Tips For Choosing Student Housing

Packing and leaving for college can be an exciting yet daunting task. For anyone who has not planned ahead, it can also be very stressful, since student housing can be difficult to come by when not secured months before arriving. Fortunately, there may still be some options available.

Special Accommodations For Graduate Students

Staying on campus is a very convenient option, especially for those who enjoy meeting new people. Undergraduates tend to have access to two-person rooms or multi-person room suites that are shared. However, for those who are in a masters or PhD program, there may be options that include special accommodations for more mature individuals who are working toward an advanced degree. This is something to consider when searching for student housing.

Sharing An Apartment Or House

Getting an apartment or house is another option to think about, but it should be considered carefully. First, research the rent cycle of the city by asking those who currently rent in the area. Some areas have high turnover, which can make it easier to get a place. Smaller areas can be more difficult.

Once an apartment or house has been secured, make sure to have roommates who understand the leasing process and are willing and able to pay rent, deposits, and utilities in full and on time each month so not to jeopardize the living situation.

In addition, pay attention to the terms of the lease. Leases are not typically based on semesters. For example, anyone who intends on graduating in December should not sign a lease that lasts until June or July of the following year, as that will leave the rest of the housemates with having to find a new tenant. Conversely, the student who leaves may be responsible for paying the remainder of the lease until it is up if the others on the lease cannot find a roommate.

Research Cost Of Living In Advance

For those moving into an area for the first time, it would be advisable to do some research to see what the cost of living will be. Different areas of the country can be vastly different with regard to student housing costs, utility expenses, and even groceries. When looking at advertisements, check for not only the rent each month, but also how many utilities are included and the remaining cost. Think about whether or not that is affordable.

Moving to college can be a fun and exciting time, but it is important to consider everything that comes along with it. Think about where the best place to live would be based on the budget available. For those interested in on-campus student housing, it is important to research that option, at least one semester in advance, to ensure there is a place available. For off-campus living, be sure to carefully consider cost of living expenses. Also, be sure to choose roommates wisely. Not enjoying the other housemates can lead to a very stressful year.

Landlords: How to Determine the Rental Amount for Your Property

I want to introduce several resources where a real estate investor or property owner can determine what rent you can charge for your investment property. The three most popular websites available for this purpose are Zillow.com, Rentometer.com, and Craig’s List.

Zillow is the most popular and respected so we will start there. Go to Zillow.com and put in the address of your property and then click “search”. Click on the word “rent” or “Zestimate”, both will give you rent estimates. The word Zestimate (rent estimate by Zillow) should pop up with the rental amount and the range Zillow thinks the property may rent for.

We know Zillow is not perfect. Zillow uses computer models and they are basing their rent Zestimate upon averages in the area that have similar characteristics of your property, i.e. square footage, similar number of beds, bathrooms, etc. Again, no computer model will be perfect but generally Zillow is accurate. You will need to be realistic about the property and observe its characteristics. If your house is a multi-unit building or if your house is somehow different than every other property in the neighborhood, the Zestimate may not be accurate.

The second site is rentometer.com. Once on the site you enter the property address. In this site they ask for how many bedrooms are in the property. You can also provide other information that could make the rent estimate more accurate. Once you have entered all information click “submit”. The site will give you a similar analysis to Zillow and a range they think the rent may fall in.

Another good way to get rent comparable is Craig’s List. Craig’s List has had issues in the past involving scammers and fraud. But as far as determining rental amounts it is fairly accurate. On this site, you would perform a slightly different search. You would go on Craig’s List for your area and go to “Apt/Houses” section and type in your town. Or, if it’s a development, you might type in the development name. You then enter the number of bedrooms and/or bathrooms. At that point many house or apartments will appear in your search for rent. You then need to review them and see if any of them are similar and look like your property so that you are comparing apples to apples.

Keep in mind these are estimates and you will have to test the market to really know what your property can rent for per month. We do not recommend that you try to “go high” and figure you can negotiate down. This rarely works to in today environment. Generally, if you over price your property hoping to get more rent it will just get ignored and you will not get any traffic or potential renters.

I better strategy is to use the above resources to get a close estimate of your property will rent for and then price your property slightly lower. This should attract a lot more tariff and may be result in a quick move in versus over pricing and the property sitting vacant for weeks or months.

5 Tips for Buying a House Cheaply (Like an Investor)

Do you want to buy a house at 30%, 40%, or more below “fair market value”? It’s certainly possible. Investors are using these strategies every day, across the country. The same techniques that work for investors will work for you–saving you a bundle of money and resulting in “more house” than you’d thought possible.

The strategies will work for anyone, so long as you have some patience and some flexibility in timing and location.

Note: These strategies will all work on properties listed on the MLS. They work even better for properties that aren’t listed. If you find a property that isn’t listed, that’s another advantage for you: You’ll have little or no competition for the property since it isn’t being advertised for sale.

Tip #1: Vacant Houses: Look for vacant houses. Because no one’s living there, by definition that’s a house that someone else (the owner) doesn’t need. He or she is somewhere else, likely paying a mortgage or rent on another property. Still, the vacant house is costing the owner money every month. There may be a mortgage, a line of credit, utilities, maintenance, taxes, and more.

Insider’s Tip: Some localities charge a lot more tax for vacant houses. Example: Washington D.C.’s residential tax rate is $0.85 per $100 of assessed value. That’s pretty good. But if the house is vacant, the tax rate soars to $5.00. If it’s a “blighted” vacant property, the tax rate is an incredible $10.00. Owners of vacant property in D.C. and many other places are highly motivated just because of that huge tax rate. If it’s listed on the MLS and has been on the market for perhaps 30 days, make a low offer. If it’s not listed, contact the owner and begin negotiations.

Tip #2: Bad Rental Properties: Real investors stake out the courthouse–specifically the landlord-tenant cases (usually held one day a week). Whether the landlord wins or loses, he/she may just want to get rid of the property. You might also find these properties’ owners by advertising online through sites such as Craigslist. Bonus Tip: Contact property management companies. They’ll know their properties with bad tenants, and they may know whether the owner is interested in selling.

Tip #3: Inherited Houses: These can be very similar to vacant houses. Sometimes they’re vacant; sometimes not. (If not, it’s usually a relatively living temporarily there.) Often, the heirs don’t have a use for the house, and they’re not interested in becoming landlords. Meanwhile, there are those recurring monthly costs, as with vacant houses. Inherited houses often aren’t in good, updated condition, and the heirs aren’t interested in spending thousands of dollars just to fix the place up. They want to sell quickly and get whatever money they can out of the house.

Investors check records at the courthouse and contact probate attorneys. You can do the same. Plus, tax records (which you can research, or have them researched by a real estate agent or a researcher) will usually show which houses are in trusts or have been inherited.

Tip #4: Absentee Landlords: These are out-of-town owners who’ve rented their house out. This is different from “bad rental properties.” In many cases, the tenants are OK. But the out-of-town owners are ready to “move on” or cash in on the property. They have much less of an emotional attachment.

Tip: Look for properties that have been owned by the current owner for 20+ years. These owners are more likely to be interested in selling, and have little emotional attachment to the property. They’re also likely to have more equity in the house, making them able to accept your lower-priced offer. A real estate agent can quickly research the tax records and find owners who meet these criteria.

An investor-friendly real estate agent can help with any of these. (Some investors use agents; others don’t. So this isn’t a plug for agents, but there are things they can do–such as pulling comps [determining the property’s value by looking at recent comparable sales]–that the average person can’t.)

As with any offer, the lower you go, the less likely the owner is to say “yes.” On the other hand, the owners of the types of properties listed above are much more likely to accept low offers than is the typical seller. These are the classic “motivated sellers.” They want to sell. In some cases, they need to sell. You’re offering a solution.

Tip #5: Property Condition: Many of these properties won’t be in great condition. Some will be completely livable. Others will be very dated (inherited houses tend to be) or damaged in some way (bad tenants). You should get a home inspection done and can even make the purchase contingent on a satisfactory home inspection. But be willing to buy the property in as-is condition. What you’re saying is that, if you buy it, you’re not going to ask the owner to make any repairs. (What you’ll do is discounts his/her offer to account for needed repairs and maintenance.) The sellers in most of these cases isn’t eager to do all sorts of repairs, and may not even have the money to do so. Make it easy for the seller: Buy in as-is condition.

Those are 5 strategies that investors use to find and buy real bargain properties. You can do the same thing.

Tips For Evaluating Apartments For Rent

Rental units offer numerous amenities that make them attractive for living. Apartments for rent also have varying prices depending on the location and the features offered. Learn tips for exploring these living quarters to help you choose the best one for your needs and budget.

Location and Neighborhood

The location of a unit can be a deciding factor for many people. When you need to live a convenient distance from employment, school, or family, focus your search to apartments for rent within this area. It’s also helpful to further refine your search to specific neighborhoods within a geographic area. Visit neighborhoods at different times of the day and night to learn typical noise level and activity. Speak with residents to learn details about the neighborhood.

Price

Price will narrow your selection of places to live. Figure your monthly income and expenses to determine how much money you can afford to pay for housing. Experts generally recommend that people not pay more than 30 percent of their total income on housing expenses each month. So, if you earn $3,000 per month, you should not pay more than $900. Shop for apartments for rent that fall within your budget to ensure affordability.

Amenities

Explore the variety of amenities available with different units. Underground parking or an attached garage, washer and dryer in the units, pool, exercise room, clubhouse, children’s playground, high-speed Internet, dishwashers, and air conditioners are just some of the many features you may enjoy with your rental. Some apartments also feature decorator options. Hardwood flooring, granite countertops, and upscale lighting are just some of the amenities you might enjoy.

Safety

Safety can be a major consideration. Assess units carefully to ensure that all windows and doors open freely and lock securely. Every room should have a window to enable occupants to escape in the event of a fire. Look for working smoke detectors on the ceilings. Each state institutes different requirements regarding the number of smoke detectors for areas of different size, so inquire with your state for this information. Assess outdoor lighting to ensure that all common areas are well lit. Consider contacting local police to find out about crime statistics in this area.

Maintenance/Service

Staff on the premises should be friendly and accommodating. Employees should be available to handle maintenance requests in a timely fashion. If you see residents, ask about response times for maintenance and repair requests.

Pets

Some apartments for rent allow pets on the premises and others do not. If you have a pet, find out whether it’s permissible for you to keep it. Ask about limitations in pet policies, such as weight or breed restrictions. Inquire about monthly fees and an extra security deposit for keeping a pet in a unit, as well.

With careful exploration of all the different options in apartments for rent, you can narrow your search to the unit that fits your needs. You can then submit an application for rent to see whether the management will accept you as a tenant.

Tips for Renting Houses

Renting a property is a big commitment. You are signing a lease that requires you to pay every month for a property that you will not get to own. It is therefore a good idea to be as switched on as possible, to ensure you get the best value for money from your lease, as well as not end up living in something that is not suitable for your needs, or is heavily over priced. Millions of tenants each year pay more for a property than it is worth, or live somewhere that doesn’t actually service their needs. How can we avoid this? This article takes a look at some of the things you can do, as a potential tenant, to make sure you get good value for money, and find the right property for you.

– Make sure you take your time when you are viewing a property. What condition is the furniture in? Is there damp? Is the bathroom suitable? If a property is dirty and in a poor state of repair, it is not likely to have been very well looked after. Perhaps if you can arrange a very good price it will be a good property for you. However I would always be wary of properties that are not maintained well.

– Do a full inventory of what is in the property yourself. If you do this it saves you from arguing with the landlord at a later date that something is missing that was not there in the first place. E mail the inventory to the landlord, and make sure they e mail you back agreeing to what is on the list. They are more than capable to do their own inventory to match it up with yours.

– Pay for a survey. Surveyers are not just useful for buying properties. They will make sure that the rent is correct for the area, and also check the property out and make sure it is fit to live in. This will be money well spent, and can give you plenty of ammunition when discussing price.

– Negotiate well. Rental prices are not set in stone. Any money you get off your rent stays in your pocket. If there are issues with the property, yet you still wish to live there, make sure those issues are reflected in the rent. I advise offering at least 10% under the asked for amount regardless of the condition of the property. If a property is empty, the landlord will want to let it quickly. A firm offer is worth more sometimes than a possible one. Take advantage of this when you are negotiating.

– Make sure you tell your landlord, or property manager of any problems with the property, as they arise. You should log these problems, and make sure you note how long they take to be resolved. A month is plenty of time to get most things fixed and working again. Any longer than a month and you may need to apply some legal pressure to get things moving. The lease should indicate what the landlord is responsible for looking after.

– When your lease is up make sure you get your deposit back. Your landlord should put in writing any reasons why you are not getting your deposit back. You need to be honest with yourself. Have you left the property in the same way as you arrived? If you have then the deposit should be yours.

These are just a few tips to keep you from wasting money on overpriced rental properties, or living in conditions that are not acceptable. Be aware that there will always be other properties you can rent if the one you are looking at is not right for you. Don’t be pressured into making the wrong choice.