Knowledge Center

Soundproofing Your Apartment

By RadPad
Posted November 5, 2019

Apartment living has a lot to offer – high-end luxuries, financial flexibility, a built-in community – but the urban lifestyle does sometimes come with a bit more background noise. Thankfully, there are several ways to reduce the ambient noise in your home and make sure your rustlings are the only ones you hear.

 

Shut the Front Door

A surprising amount of noise can enter your apartment from your hallway if there are large air gaps around your front door. If you can see light under the door or around the sides, sound will also travel through, as well. Simply adding weather-stripping will significantly reduce this noise while also keeping the temperature just how you want it on your side.

 

Bouncing Off the Walls

The simplest way to reduce noise is to minimize the hard surfaces in a room that reflect sound. A carpet or rug with a thick pad underneath can reduce overall noise level significantly. Another option is to install a faux built-in bookshelf or even a second wall – just be sure it fits snug with minimal gaps between it and the wall.

 

Functional Art

Three-dimensional acoustic panels would be a gorgeous addition to your walls, regardless of your need to mitigate noise. Long used by recording studios because of their superior sound-absorbing properties, they can be a defining element of your décor with an unlimited pattern and color palate to choose from.

 

Sound Asleep

Perhaps the room you want to keep quiet the most is your bedroom. Not only do blackout curtains block out that too-early morning sun, they also adsorb outside noise and help to moderate temperature. The heavier and thicker the material and the closer you install it flush with the wall, the better it will perform. If you don’t want to install curtains, clear acoustic window inserts can reduce noise by 50-70% and come custom-made to the size of your window – just press into place and pop out when you want to let in some fresh air.

 

Follow these quick and easy steps and don’t let traffic, pedestrians, dogs or next-door neighbors get on your last nerve!

 

Knowledge Center

Why You Should Consider Renter’s Insurance

By RadPad
Posted August 19, 2019

When renting an apartment, a property owner is responsible for repairing their building, its systems (plumbing, ducts, etc.) and any included appliances if damaged in the unfortunate event of a disaster. They are not on the hook, however, for any resulting loss of a tenant’s possessions inside the actual apartment or belongings inside your car.

There is good news in all of this, we promise. Basic renter’s insurance can be reasonably affordable. It generally runs around $25/month, depending on the specific types of belongings you would like covered. It’s definitely worth the extra buck, considering that is nothing compared to the costs to replace everything that you own.

Let’s break it down. Renter’s insurance policies do vary, of course, but most will cover loss due to fire, smoke, water damage, theft and vandalism. Some comprehensive policies also include coverage to help you through a lawsuit resulting from an injury or accident in your home. In addition to damage another tenant’s property or for items stolen from your car or damaged in storage. It also includes fraudulent credit card spending resulting from a home theft.

No matter where you rent, your home contains some of your most valuable items such as electronics, clothing, jewelry, appliances, furniture, décor, etc. A quick mental rundown might render a value of at least a few thousand dollars, if not more.

For extra peace of mind, loss-of-use coverage takes care of costs incurred from having to find another place to live if your apartment is uninhabitable. This can include a hotel room and meals.

The bottom line is that even if your budget is tight, renter’s insurance can be a valuable lifeline after a disaster. You won’t regret having this “backup plan” to help you in the worst case scenarios. As always, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Knowledge Center

Calculate Your Ideal Rent

By RadPad
Posted July 29, 2019

Moving into your first apartment? Thinking about upgrading to a larger place or moving to another neighborhood? It can be daunting to determine exactly how much you can commit to spending for the next 12 months (or maybe longer). If you’re not aware of the numbers, you could be wasting your time applying for something you’ll end up being denied for.

These free online tools are a great way to help filter through the options to find what best fits your lifestyle.

Calculate Your Ideal Rent

#1 Domu’s Rent Calculator

Domu (an apartment rental listing service in Chicago) is built on a general consensus of what the average American can afford given their annual after-tax income today. It does not take into account where in the country you want to live, other expenses, or debt.

  • A conservative estimate for how much you might budget for rent is 15% of your income, allowing for other additional expenses and leaving more available for travel and entertainment
  • A middle of the road estimate reserves 25% of your income for an apartment that might be a little larger or nicer while still leaving enough for debt and expenses
  • At the high end of the spectrum is a 35% rent commitment for those that have a stable income or additional sources of cash flow and for whom housing is of prime importance

Calculate Your Ideal Rent

#2 Zillow’s Rent Affordability Calculator

Zillow’s calculator takes into account your monthly net income, debt expenses and how much you want to set aside for savings or retirement as well as where you live. There is also a sliding button that allows you to set how much you want to allocate for housing (from 10% to 40%) and will then tell you how much under or over budget you are given all of your parameters. The tool assumes a tax bracket of 25%.

Calculate Your Ideal Rent

#3 RentLingo’s Rent Affordability Calculator

This tool also uses annual, pre-tax income to determine what you can afford on rent. The tool assumes a tax rate of 23%. You are then offered three levels of rent:

  • A Suggested Minimum which might not provide all that you want or need in a living option
  • A “Sweet Spot” which suggests what you can comfortably spend on rent while still having enough to spend on other common living expenses and set aside something for savings
  • A Suggested Maximum which tells you what might be at the top of your limit without going over, but definitely requiring a very strict budget and introducing the risk of not having anything left over for emergency situations

Calculate Your Ideal Rent

#4 First Apartment Guide’s Rent Calculator

This calculator asks for your weekly or monthly after-tax income as well as roommate status. Only one rent estimate is offered based on guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which suggests a 30%-of-income limit, plus an additional 10% for their assertion that 40% is still likely reasonable for most people. It also offers as a baseline of what Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937 offers low-income households in rent vouchers (up to $2,200) and the statistic that in 2013, the typical American spent $60/week/person in groceries. 

All of these tools return slightly different results so it is a good idea to test out several to get a good feel for your situation. Be sure to also check out our tips on budgeting expenses.

 

Knowledge Center

What to Ask When Apartment Hunting

By RadPad
Posted July 15, 2019

Let’s face it, when rental markets are hot, apartment hunting can be stressful as places can get snapped up quickly. To help you maximize your time, we’ve compiled a list of important questions to keep in mind while you’re on the hunt.

What to ask when apartment hunting

TO ASK AT THE SHOWING

  • What is your screening process?
  • What is the length of the lease?
  • How much is the base monthly rent?
  • Are you currently offering any lease signing specials?
  • How much is the security deposit?
  • Are there any other up-front payments?
  • What options are offered for paying rent?
  • What, if any, utilities are included in the rent?
  • What utilities is the tenant responsible for?
  • What were the rent increases (if any) over the last few years?
  • How much advance notice is required before moving out? 
  • Under what circumstances will a security deposit not be refunded?
  • What is the policy on subletting?
  • Are there any customization options available?
  • What is the turnover rate in the building?
  • Will the unit be painted and cleaned prior to move-in?
  • What appliances are included with the unit? How old are they?
  • Is there central air conditioning?
  • Can the tenant adjust the heat or A/C temperature?
  • Who is responsible for changing the filters in the air conditioning unit and light bulbs in provided equipment? 
  • Where are the laundry facilities?
  • Is there storage available? 
  • Is there bike storage?
  • Is there dedicated parking?
  • Are there quiet hours?
  • Can you hear other tenants easily through floors or walls?
  • What are the rules for non-tenant access?
  • How do guests enter the building?
  • If there’s a balcony, are there community rules regarding items on it? 
  • What notice is the landlord required to give before entering the apartment? 
  • How are maintenance requests handled?
  • How are complaints handled? 
  • Is there any construction planned?
  • What is the pet policy?
  • Is there an alarm? 
  • Are there sprinklers?
  • What is cell phone service like?
  • Would you live here?

Now that you’re armed with good questions to ask, don’t forget to bring along anything you could need to apply. A good general list is: your most recent month’s worth of pay stubs and/or a bank statement, driver’s license or other ID, previous landlord information, proof of employment or an offer letter, and a way to pay any application fees. Make the most of your full day of apartment touring, a little preparation can go a long way to increase your chances of landing that dream apartment.

what to ask when apartment hunting

 

Knowledge Center

How To Make Friends with your Landlord

By RadPad
Posted June 17, 2019

You and your landlord are going to be part of each other’s lives for a while so fostering a good relationship from the get-go is a smart move. For one, a good reference for your next apartment might make you the more attractive candidate. For another, staying on your landlord’s good side can encourage an environment in which maintenance requests are addressed promptly and rent increases are infrequent.

How to Make Friends With Your Landlord

It Pays to Pay

First and foremost, you’ve signed a contract to pay your rent in full and on time. In return, you are provided an apartment that is in good working condition. Break your end of the deal and you risk losing it all. If you know you’ll be late, a heads up with a date your rent will be settled might be enough to avoid problems. Paying a few days or even a few weeks in advance is sure to impress.

Be the Tenant You’d Want

In kind, you’ve agreed to maintain your landlord’s property in the same condition (if not better) than you received it. Show you care about the building you live in. This means keeping the exterior and interior clean, keeping the noise down and generally being mindful of your neighbors. Neglecting these simple tenets could, at best, cause your landlord to be less than enthusiastic in responding to your needs and, at worse, lead you to lose your deposit or fail to get your lease renewed.

DIY

Remember, not everything requires a landlord assist. Some smaller things such as light bulbs, smoke alarm batteries, and air filters can be easily replaced on your own. Major emergencies, such as a broken appliance or plumbing issue, should be reported and you should expect your landlord to repair them right away.

Making friends with your landlord

(Don’t) Ask for the Moon

Above all, be reasonable. Don’t expect upgrades that didn’t exist when you signed your lease. (If you want to upgrade your pad, check out our Pro Tip: Temporary Finishes for High Style Apartment Living.) Also, keep in mind that everyone is busy – smaller properties might be owned by someone with a full-time job and a family; larger property-owners likely have dozens or hundreds of to-dos every day. A little understanding regarding timing on your end will go a long way with your landlord.

Honey Makes the World Go ‘Round

In the end, your apartment is owned by a human being and kindness is everything. A thank you for timely repairs, a nice note with your rent check about the new landscaping, homemade cookies at Christmas – these small acts of appreciation will surely pave the way for better attention and a long-term beneficial relationship.

Giving just a little thought to your tenant-landlord relationship can make a world of difference in the enjoyment of your apartment for as long as you wish to make it your home.

How to make friends with your landlord

 

Knowledge Center

Pro Tip: Temporary Finishes for High Style Apartment Living

By RadPad
Posted May 20, 2019

We know it can feel limiting to be unable to make major changes to your apartment like knocking down walls, replacing kitchen cabinets or refinishing your floors. However, we know a few hacks to make your rental feel more like yours without breaking the boundaries of your lease.

We Have This Thing with Floors

Not only does an area rug help you define a space, it’s also a big piece of real estate for self-expression. If your apartment feels a little plain, a rug is the perfect vehicle for introducing a punch of color – the more distinctive, the better! An area rug can really cozy up a place if you’ve got concrete or wood floors. When it’s time to move, roll it up and you’re ready to go. If you like the traditional carpet look, carpet tiles are easy to install (you can stick them together, not to the floor).

If you’re working with a room that is prone to spills and moisture like a kitchen or bathroom, a simple sheet of vinyl flooring can be rolled out and strategically anchored with furniture. Another option to consider are interlocking tiles which come in plenty of contemporary styles and offer some extra cushion for long periods of standing. Click-and-lock laminate flooring can now be installed without nails or adhesives and easily mimics wood and stone for a more polished modern look.

Let’s See If It Sticks

You don’t have to settle for those monotonous white walls (or, even worse, pink?!). While artwork is an excellent way to add a personal touch to your apartment and liven up those walls <Art on A Budget>, sometimes you just want to go bolder. Wallpaper is no longer the flowery option from your grandparents’ era that was messy to put up and even more of a pain to remove.

Removable wallpaper has quickly gained popularity in the last few years for its appeal to those in more transient living situations that still want to make a statement. Many major retailers as well as renowned designers offer gorgeous self-adhesive pieces that can cover all four walls or an accent wall and decals that offer a fun alternative to traditional artwork. They all are easily removable  and leave your walls fresh and clean as if they were never there.

Now, go explore your inner decorator and make that apartment your own!

 

Knowledge Center

Live Your Best, Green Life (part II)

By RadPad
Posted May 6, 2019

Wondering how to live greener in an apartment? Even when you might not have control over building-related decisions, there is still plenty you can do to green up your pad. In honor of Earth Day, we’ve rounded up our favorite ways to live your best life while also reducing your impact on the environment.

 

PART II

  1. Go with the Flow

Our planet will always have the same amount of water – it’s a replenishing resource. However, only 2.5% of this water is freshwater (the rest is salt water which takes enormous energy to convert, and even this is an emerging and expensive technology). As our populations grow, available freshwater is used up faster. At the same time, a warming planet means cities in dry climates are seeing their freshwater supplies dwindle. Add an aerator to your sinks and showers to reduce water usage with no reduction in pressure.

 

  1. Greening the Throne

Many old toilets use much more water than is really needed to flush waste – up to 7 gallons! With an average of five flushes a day per person, that’s a lot of clean, fresh water literally going down the toilet. Add a pint or quart jug to your toilet’s tank to reduce the amount of water used with each flush. And, if your household is on board, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow!”

 

  1. A Bright Idea

Less than 20% of America’s energy is produced from clean, renewable resources such as the sun or wind. Energy from fossil fuels (coal and natural gas) produce harmful air pollution. New lighting standards that went into effect in 2012 increased bulb efficiency by about 25%, but there are still a couple of options that use even less energy. Compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs cost a little bit more up front but are four times more efficient. LED bulbs use a whopping 75% less energy than incandescent and last 25% longer.

 

  1. Share the Road

Emissions standards today are better than they ever have been, but vehicles are still responsible for roughly a third of harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, anything we can do to reduce their use goes a long way. Did you know that electric cars are only sustainable if they are charged with electricity from renewable sources? Until the US produces a majority of its energy from renewable sources, swap driving alone for taking the train or bus, carpool or car sharing services. Even better, get your workout in and ride your bike!

 

  1. Your Dollar Counts

Finally, remember that what you choose to spend money on shows the market what consumers want. Choose products, services and even your apartment according to their impact on the environment and help be the change.

Knowledge Center

Live Your Best, Green Life

By RadPad
Posted April 22, 2019

Wondering how to live greener in an apartment? Even when you might not have control over building-related decisions, there is still plenty you can do to green up your pad. In honor of Earth Day, we’ve rounded up our favorite ways to live your best life while also reducing your impact on the environment.

 

PART I

  1.     Do You Need It?

Because the creation of new products uses energy and resources and can also contribute to air and water pollution, reducing the need to create new things is really the first stop on the sustainable living train. Before purchasing an item, consider if it’s something you really want or need and how long it will last. Also consider how much packaging it comes with, sometimes accounting for just as much material as an item itself! Get rid of annoying and wasteful junk mail through Catalog Choice and Opt Out Prescreen.

 

  1.     Use It Through It’s Useful Life

Often, what we already have just needs a simple repair or can find a new home through selling or donating it. For everyday items, such as water bottles, to-go containers and utensils, food storage items and drinking straws, choose reusable items rather than disposable. Borrow or share items you don’t use often (and save some money, too!).

 

  1.     Then, Recycle It

Most apartment buildings and municipalities offer single-stream recycling (meaning you don’t need to separate plastic, glass, metal and paper), making it super convenient to create new items from old ones. This is the last leg of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” train, however, as recycling still uses quite a bit of energy and water and doesn’t always produce high quality products at the end.

 

  1.     Ditch Those Plastic Bags

The average American takes home almost 1,500 single-use plastic shopping bags a year – that really adds up! Invest in a set of reusable bags that stay in your car (or close at hand on your regular shopping days). If you do find yourself without your bags, ask for paper – a renewable and easily recycled material.

 

  1. Deliciously Clean

Eating organic is healthier for you and better for the environment as pesticides and herbicides aren’t being introduced into the ecosystem. Even simply eating locally and seasonally reduces the need for chemicals as these are foods that are already suited to local rainfall and temperatures and need very little extra help to thrive. Eating locally also reduces fossil fuels needed for transportation and supports the local economy. Also, grow your own!

Knowledge Center

The Top 5 Smart Home Gadgets for Your Apartment

By RadPad
Posted April 1, 2019

Ready to join the smart home craze, but live in an apartment? No problem! While the first wave of this technology was largely geared towards hard-wired applications for single-family home owners, there are now emerging portable options that don’t require you to leave them behind when you move and only require a smart phone to operate.

Here are our top 5 smart apps and products that offer convenience and ease for your home.

  1. Voice Activated Speakers
    “Google, do you know Alexa?”
    Amazon and Google are the leading players in the rapidly growing-smart speaker field. All of them allow you to simply speak the recognized “wake” alert and then request to turn on any number of smart-connected devices, such as a TV, sound system, lighting and more or answer a query (here’s a comprehensive list of commands Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant).
  2. Light Bulbs
    It’s as easy as screwing in a light bulb…
    Smart lighting allow you to turn fixtures on and off remotely, dim them to the perfect light level, set an automatic schedule when traveling or for gentle waking, connect to your voice-controlled devices and even change colors to set your mood. Some require a discrete wireless hub while others have the tech included in the bulb, itself. The top brands on the market today Philips Hue are LIFX.
  3. Light Dimming
    Let there be (less) light!
    For those without smart bulbs and for applications such as ceiling lights and want the convenience of a dimmer switch, the LightwaveRF switch plate uses existing wiring for quick and easy installation and is compatible with a wide range of dimmable LEDs. They can be controlled manually or remotely using an app or a remote control.
  4. Power
    Set it and forget it.
    The Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip offers protection from a power surge as well as app-controlled on/off switching for up to six items. The strip and plugs such as and the TP-Link Smart Plug and Belkin’s WeMo also offer scheduling for travel, holiday lighting or just creating a welcoming home after a long day of work.
  5. TV
    It’s all at your fingertips.
    If you don’t already have a smart TV, there are a host of smart devices that allow you to stream Netflix, Now TV, YouTube, Google Play, Spotify and other services. Leading the pack are the Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick or Cube, Roku Streaming Stick and Apple TV.

Apartment dwellers, welcome to the future!

Knowledge Center

The Top 5 Smart Home Gadgets For Safety and Peace Of Mind

By RadPad
Posted March 18, 2019

Ready to join the smart home craze, but live in an apartment? No problem! While the first wave of this technology was largely geared towards hard-wired applications for single-family home owners, there are now emerging portable options that don’t require you to leave them behind when you move and only require a smart phone to operate.

Here are our top 5 smart apps and products that offer automated, enhanced security for your home.

  1. Doorbell / Security Camera
    Knock, knock… who’s there?
    Just announced in January, Ring’s popular hard-wired security-camera doorbell will be available in a wire-free version that fits into an existing peephole slot, no drilling required. Below the camera is a doorbell that rings at the door and on your phone and performs the same features as the first-generation device – a camera to see and speak to visitors (or perps) while home or away, automatic recording for 30 seconds after any movement, night vision and privacy zones.
  2. Non-Door Security Camera
    A watchful eye…
    If you don’t have a door with a peephole, there are still plenty of options to set up a video camera feed wherever you need an extra set of eyes, indoors or out. Gone are the days you need to wire in a security camera. Wifi-connected digital video cameras from leaders such as Netatmo, Nest Cam IQ and Logitech provide live streaming, motion-detected recording options and even face recognition and night vision.
  3. Door Lock
    Please, come in!
    The August Smart Lock Pro replaces your door’s inside-facing deadbolt (while keeping the outside in place so your key still works). Through its app, it enables you to lock and unlock your door remotely for your dog walker, your roommate who forgot their key or neighbor who is dropping off a package. It also automatically unlocks when you arrive and locks when you leave and is compatible with Siri, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
  4. Stovetop Burners
    Did I forget to turn off the stove?
    Kitchen safety is important no matter where you live and this gadget makes stovetop safety simple. The Inirv smart knobs replace your existing pull-off knobs and are controlled by an app that lets you schedule a shutoff time, set a reminder to stir, flip or turn down the heat. Voice activation offers hands-free cooking. Worried you left the stove on? You can check the app or be assured that the motion detector will also turn off a burner if it doesn’t detect motion after a predetermined length of time.
  5. Flood Warning
    It all begins with a single drop…
    If you’ve ever had an appliance or tub leak, you know the damage that can result. The D-Link Wi-Fi Water Sensor provides peace of mind by detecting water in whichever area you think might be a concern. Cables that sense water send an alert to your phone allowing you to address the problem immediately.

Apartment dwellers, welcome to a safer and more automated future!