Your Hot Boston Apartment Listings for the Week of June 13!

Each of the apartments below was featured in one of our Boston newsletters for the week of June 13. If you’re interested, follow up with the contact person in the listing; we have not confirmed since the time the newsletter was sent out that the apartments are available.

3 bedrooms, E. 5th St., City Point, $3,750 (posted 6/10)

2 bedrooms, 1723 Washington St., Shawmut, $3,600 (posted 6/10)

Studio, St. Alphonsus, Mission Hill, $2,200 (posted 6/10)

1 bedroom, Adams St., Dorchester, $2,000 (posted 6/13)

1 bedroom, Pond Avenue, Brookline, $2,100 (posted 6/13)

2 bedrooms, Summit Avenue, Brighton, $1,900 (posted 6/13)

Your Hot New York Apartment Listings for the Week of June 13!

Each of the apartments below was featured in one of our New York newsletters for the week of June 13. If you’re interested, follow up with the contact person in the listing; we have not confirmed since the time the newsletter was sent out that the apartments are available. Things move fast in New York!

2 bedrooms, Center Blvd, Long Island City (Queens), $5,520 (posted 6/10)

3 bedrooms, W. 54th St., Hell’s Kitchen, $6,650 (posted 6/10)

1 bedroom, E. 6th St., East Village, $2,100 (posted 6/10)

2 bedrooms,Center Blvd., Long Island City (Queens), $4,060 (posted 6/13)

2 bedrooms, Duane St., Tribeca, $7,795 (posted 6/13)

2 bedrooms, Huron St., Greenpoint (Brooklyn), $3,495 (posted 6/13)

9 Things to Know About Working With Movers

(Note: this piece appeared in abridged form at boston.com on May 27)

It’s summer, which means many people are moving. Doing it yourself is physically tough and can be expensive. Using movers often makes a lot of sense. But how do you make sure you’re using a good one?

Now *this* is a moving van!
Now *this* is a moving van!

Photo credit: Mike Mozart/CC BY 2.0

We’ve helped thousands of renter find new apartments in cities across the country. Along the way we’ve learned a lot about the moving process. With that in mind, here are our 9 things to know about choosing and working with movers.

NOTE: This post does not provide and is not intended to provide legal advice and it may not be used as such. We’re just trying to help!

(1) Look at publicly-available information. All interstate movers are required to be both licensed and registered with the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. That site will also have complaint reports for registered movers. If you don’t find your mover on that site, investigate. If the mover only does intrastate moves, it may not appear on the FMCSA website but it almost certainly will be regulated at the state level. Either way, confirm that the mover is licensed and registered somewhere.

Check out MovingScam.com and the DOT website. They’ll have good info on identifying scams and helpful suggestions for working with movers. Also, check with your local Better Business Bureau. If complaints appear, move on.

(2) Get an estimate. You need an estimate based on a walk-through. If the mover refuses to do so, or insists that you sign a contract (or make a deposit) before doing so, find someone else.

Why does this matter? Lots of reasons, but here’s an important one: interstate movers cannot require you to pay more than 110 percent of the price given in a non-binding estimate in order to get your property from them. This is called the 110 Percent Rule, and it prevents movers from holding your property for ransom. (Most states have a similar rule for intrastate movers). Expenses you incur over 110 percent of the non-binding estimate usually must be paid within 30 days. Note that there’s an exception from the federal 110 Percent Rule for services incurred after the estimate is signed.

(3) Pay attention to insurance. Check first that your mover is insured. Don’t work with one that isn’t. Second, federal law requires interstate movers to offer liability coverage for damage to your property. The baseline coverage for interstate movers is 60 cents per pound per item regardless of the value of the item. (This may be less for intrastate moves – for example, it’s 30 cents per pound in New York City.) The mover has to offer this at no cost. Movers must also offer additional coverage for a fee; this should protect you better, but make sure you understand its terms. Think before declining additional coverage – 60 cents per pound may not be enough to make you whole if something unexpected happens.

Also, some apartment buildings will require a certificate of insurance from your mover to cover damage to the building during the move. If you use a mover that can’t or won’t give that certificate you’ll need to deposit security with the building.

(4) Ask questions up front. What is the hourly rate? Is it per-person or for the whole team? If it’s per-person, how many people will be present? What other costs (e.g., fuel, waiting time, packing materials) will you incur, and at what rates? Make sure you know and get multiple quotes.

Consider whether you want to pack yourself or have the movers pack you up. If you can afford it you should have the movers pack; they’ll do a much better and faster job of it than you will.

(5) Look at the paperwork. In particular, look at the bill of lading, which details everything being moved, the origin and destination and the costs. It’s your receipt for the transaction – review it closely (including the fine print) and make sure it’s correct. And keep your copy on file!

Movers are required to provide you a copy of a pamphlet titled “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move”. Make sure you get it and read it.

(6) Supervise. Make sure you or someone you trust is there to watch the whole process.

(7) Storage. If you can’t move directly from your old place to your new place, or if some of your stuff won’t fit into your new place, you’ll need somewhere to put it during the transition. Many movers will offer to store your stuff temporarily. Check how much the space will cost, as well as the costs for moving into and out of the storage space. Also confirm that your property is insured while in storage, and check whether there have been any bedbug or vermin reports for that storage space.

When you’re moving out of storage into your new place, check the bill of lading for the move into your new place against the bill of lading for the move out of your old place. Make sure all your things arrive!

(8) Gratuity. It’s nice to tip for good service, but you’re not obligated to do so. Kindnesses like cold drinks on a hot day will go a long way. That said, don’t offer alcoholic beverages. It’s illegal as a matter of federal law for the movers to have alcohol in a commercial vehicle, and many moving companies will fire employees for having alcoholic beverages in the moving truck or van.

(9) What to do if you have a problem. Don’t panic. Try to work it out with your movers first. If you can’t, MoveRescue (800-832-1773) is a good place to start.

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Wondering how you’re going to cook in your small kitchen? We’ve got some ideas for you.

Or maybe you’re thinking of subletting? Here’s our six tips on how to do it best.

Your Hot New Apartment Listings for the Week of June 6!

Each of the apartments below was featured in one of our New York newsletters for the week of June 6. If you’re interested, follow up with the contact person in the listing; we have not confirmed since the time the newsletter was sent out that the apartments are available. Things move fast in New York!

2 bedrooms, W. 74th and Columbus, Upper West Side, $3,650 (posted 6/3)

1 bedroom, W. 83rd St., Upper West Side, $2,995 (posted 6/3)

Studio, E. 46th St, Midtown East, $2,500 (posted 6/3)

1 bedroom with private terrace, West Village, $4,395 (posted 6/6)

1 bedroom, Wall St., FiDi, $2,950 (posted 6/6)

1 bedroom loft, Lorimer St., Greenpoint (Brooklyn), $2,795 (posted 6/6)

Using RentHop to Find Your Next Place: A First-Hand Account

We believe RentHop is a great tool for finding and renting your next apartment. When the time came for me to find a new apartment in New York, it was obvious that I should use RentHop to find it. This is my first-hand account of my experience using our site to find an apartment. Spoiler: it worked!

Step 1: What do I need, and what do I want?

I needed a studio or one bedroom. My priorities were: finding an apartment with a rent concession (where the owner pays an inducement to the renter); completing the search quickly; keeping my rent low (no more than two-thirds of my previous rent); and keeping my commute under 30 minutes by mass transit. I also had some nice-to-haves – I wanted to remain on the east side of Manhattan if possible, to have a super on-site (or a doorman), and to have a dishwasher, gas range and full-size refrigerator. When I started I was still working out my move-in date.

2014-05-29 10.00.12
My life in boxes

Given my tight timeline I was willing to pay for a manager to guide my search. It was important, though, to offset that with a rent concession.

Step 2: Picking out apartments – and neighborhoods – that fit

I first used our Rental Heatmaps to find neighborhoods with a decent selection of studios and one-bedrooms in my price range. I looked for neighborhoods where the median rents for studios and one bedrooms were at or around my target. Neighborhoods where my target rent was at or near the 25th percentile for rent would have too few choices (sorry, SoHo and TriBeCa), while neighborhoods where my target rent was at or above the 75th percentile for rent were either too far (East Harlem, Fort Greene) or just not what I wanted (no offense intended, Upper East Side).

Of the several neighborhoods that fit on the Heatmaps I did some research and came up with four – Lower East Side, Gramercy, Murray Hill and Kips Bay. I then did two searches on RentHop for a studio or one bedroom in those four neighborhoods with my maximum rent, one with “reduced fee” and one with “no fee” checked in the filters. Sticking solely with apartments whose HopScores were above 85, I found several apartments that worked.

I read each of the apartment descriptions closely to confirm that it made sense. I then reached out to five managers with the same message – my name, contact info, expected move date and a request to be contacted back. (I didn’t tell any manager at this stage that I work with RentHop.

Step 3: Contacting managers

I got quick responses from three of the five managers whom I emailed. Of those three, one asked me to reconnect when I’d set my move-in date. Another agreed to meet me at the apartment about which I’d emailed – a studio in Gramercy – the following day. He also asked some questions so that he could pick out more apartments for me. He noted that landlords offering concessions often charge higher rents to make back the cost of the concession. (Apparently there’s no free lunch.)

The third asked that we meet at her offices. The goal was to pick several apartments that we could see quickly. She also gave me a list of documents I’d need to have so I could apply quickly.

Step 4: Seeing the places

I met the manager showing the Gramercy space on the afternoon of the third day, a Tuesday. We met on the steps to the building, where we spoke briefly and I completed the agency agreement (so that if I rented an apartment he showed me I’d pay his broker’s fee). We then looked at the apartment. I realized immediately that my priorities had to change – the apartment was way too small for me. It turned out that I hadn’t really understood what I needed in my new space until I saw some spaces. The manager had one other apartment in the Lower East Side that fit, but it had no concession, it was quite small and he couldn’t show it that day.

I met with the third manager and her partner at her offices on the morning of the fourth day, Wednesday. My original requirements weren’t right, so we widened the search. The managers felt strongly that there were apartments in Midtown East with good landlords that would fit my needs. I agreed to see some of those apartments along with some further south. The managers put together a list of six apartments for me to see, and we went to work. (We had only a few hours to see everything. There’s a lot going on at RentHop!)

We started in Midtown East and worked south. While we viewed apartments, she and her partner texted back and forth to answer my questions. Turned out that the Midtown East apartments were a great fit – the bus and subway were convenient and the apartments themselves were spacious, especially compared to what I’d already seen.

We saw all six apartments in short order, and I settled quickly on a second-floor studio in Midtown East in a doorman/elevator building with a concession. It didn’t have a dishwasher or full-size fridge, but I didn’t want to be too choosy. I gave my documents (which I’d already assembled thanks to her helpful list) to the manager, who prepared and sent the application that day.

My new home!
My new home!

Step 5: Negotiations

With the application submitted, the only things left to do were to wait – and negotiate the broker’s fee. The standard broker’s fee in New York is 15% of the first year’s annual rent. With the concession covering broker’s fee equal to 8.33% of the first year’s annual rent, we were left negotiating over the remaining 6.67%. With some skillful back and forth we ended up with a broker’s fee of 11%, which meant that I was only paying 2.67% of the first year’s annual rent out-of-pocket to the broker. Score!

While the manager and I negotiated the fee, the manager negotiated with the landlord. I was a solid candidate for the apartment. However, this landlord usually requires new tenants to move in within ten days of lease signing; I wouldn’t move in for over three weeks. The manager got the landlord to accept my application and agree to end-of-month move-in, a win that saved me over $1,000 in rent.

Step 6: Lease signing

On the morning of the sixth day I went with the third manager to the landlord’s offices to sign the lease. She patiently sat with me while I reviewed the entire lease in detail and worked through my questions with the leasing agent. The process took over an hour, but the lease was signed and I had a new apartment.

There you have it. In six days’ time I identified the apartments I wanted to work with, found several good managers, saw a bunch of apartments, found a great one and rented it. RentHop was an important part of the solution – along with being prepared, listening to the broker’s advice, and being decisive. It works!

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There are some important questions to ask when you’re looking at apartments. I’m glad I had this list!

Recently we wrote a blog post detailing how RentHop deals with “ghost listings”. Worth a read if you’re searching for a place.

Your Hot New Apartment Listings for the Week of May 30!

Each of the apartments below was featured in one of our New York newsletters for the week of May 30. If you’re interested, follow up with the contact person in the listing; we have not confirmed since the time the newsletter was sent out that the apartments are available. Things move fast in New York!

1 bedroom at West 13th St., Greenwich Village, $4,500 (posted 5/27)

Studio at West 39th St., Garment District (Manhattan), $3,300 (posted 5/27)

1 bedroom, luxury building, Chelsea, $3,495 (posted 5/27)

Alcove studio at E. 55th St., Midtown East (Manhattan), $2,700 (posted 5/30)

Loft at 100 S. 4th St., Williamsburg (Brooklyn), $2,950 (posted 5/30)

1 bedroom, Frederick Douglass Boulevard, Harlem, $2,100 (posted 5/30)

6 Clever Hacks for Making Your Apartment Look Larger

Miles Young is a freelance business writer and home decor enthusiast. You can follow him on Twitter at @MrMilesYoung.

By Miles Young

The true trick to having your dream apartment space isn’t to have the perfect location and an unlimited budget — it’s to make the absolute most of the space you already have. If you’re feeling cramped in your current place, it’s a lot easier on you (and your bank account!) to get smart and just a little bit sneaky about how you organize and adorn your spaces. Just because you’re renting doesn’t mean it shouldn’t feel like home! Here are a few clever hacks to make your too-small environment look and feel open and expansive without also being empty and expensive.

(1) Clear the clutter

A surefire way to make you feel claustrophobic in your space is to let the junk and random decor pile up. Examine your space for ways that you can clear useful surfaces and better organize your belongings. Make sure everything has its right place, especially trash and recyclables. Optimize your space with flexible storage like under-the-couch bins and hanging racks so random stuff doesn’t take up chairs and tables. The more usable space you open up, the more functionally large your home will seem.

Easily the best-ordered chaos we've ever seen.
Easily the best-ordered chaos we’ve ever seen.

Photo credit: Mark Wallace/CC BY 2.0

(2) Motion through change

Things can start to feel confining if nothing ever changes. Static decor is especially problematic — not only does it make a space feel stagnant, but it also often means that all of your decor is out at once. Changing the scenery with the seasons is a great way to put your stuff in rotation, so you feel like nothing’s being neglected but everything doesn’t have to fight for the same limited real estate.

Let's be clear: we're not saying that the decor itself should be moving. That would be confusing, and you might get seasick.
To clarify: we aren’t saying that the decor itself should move. That would be confusing. And you’d get seasick.

Photo credit: Milestone Management/CC BY 2.0

(3) Consider color

How open and airy a space feels often has as much to do with light and color as it does with actual floor space. Dark colors absorb light, making a room feel heavier and more confined. This can be a great effect when you want to make a larger room feel warm and cozy, but it can be a bit overbearing for smaller rooms. Aim for bright walls and economical light sources, eliminating dark patches and using reflection from windows and mirrors to amplify the existing light in the room. The more you can see, the more it seems you have.

hi-tech interior.
Not quite a forest. But close!

Photo credit: Plage Vinilos y Decoración/CC BY 2.0

(4) Make a statement

People get so preoccupied with adding decoration to conservative furniture that they don’t consider using the furniture itself as decoration. Bold colors, unique styles and unconventional arrangements make a room intriguing without having to give up wall or table space for decorative objects. A couple statement chairs that pop out of the rest of the room’s palette make the most of form and function, while artistically ambitious tables make conversation pieces out of useful furniture. Keep in mind, though, that the more furniture and decorative pieces you add to a room, the more hassle it will be when it comes time to move. Consider buying interesting but cheap furniture second-hand so you don’t get too attached when it comes time to move.

The statement? Tassels. Tassels on pillows are *in*.
The statement? Tassels. Tassels on pillows are *in*.

Photo credit: Eric Schrepel/CC BY 2.0

(5) Flex for guests

While you’ll need more seating and table space when you’re entertaining, there’s no need to keep all of that stuff out on quiet nights. Look into extra pieces that you can easily stow and store when there are no guests around, from high-quality wood folding chairs to dining tables with adjustable leaf segments. This will let you reclaim space for everyday activities and fit more people into the environment when it’s bound to feel crowded regardless.

Room enough for your entire band.
Room enough for your entire band.

Photo credit: Mae Chevrette/CC BY 2.0

(6) Don’t be shy of heights

Chances are there’s a lot of empty space in your apartment above eye level. It’s amazing how much storage and decoration you can put in high places, especially tall walls. A few floating shelves, vertical racks and moveable wall lights can free up both walking paths and useable space. Consider distributing your library to several shelves around your home instead of giving over a large amount of the floor and wall to a single bookcase. Also, modify your kitchen to get things off of countertops and free some space in the bathroom with extra racks.

Look at all that counter space!
Look at all that counter space!

Photo credit: Charles & Hudson/CC BY-SA 2.0

Before you go crazy with shelving (or any other permanent installation), figure out how much time and expense will be involved. Also, look at your lease; you may need your landlord’s permission to undertake those improvements.

By being smart about how you use and fill your space, you can make even the smallest room feel more functional and inviting. Keep your eye on motion, color, light and functional space so clutter doesn’t get out of control. Also, consider how your decor and furnishings can change over time and with company.

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It’s moving season! If you’re thinking of working with a broker, check out our tips for making sure you have a great experience.

And while you’re at it, consider our 9 questions you should ask when looking at an apartment. Ask now so you’re not sorry later!

All-new Rental Heatmaps!

We’ve been hard at work building exciting new site features that will help you find a new rental home faster and more effectively than ever. One of those new features is our Rental Heatmaps. (Our friends at Curbed NY wrote about the Heatmaps last week!)

The Rental Heatmaps give access for the first time to aggregated real-time rental price data at the neighborhood level for many major metro areas in an easy-to-use map-based format. The Heatmaps show:

  • 25th percentile, 50th percentile and 75th percentile rents for different floorplans in each neighborhood;
  • For each neighborhood, a comparison of the neighborhood’s median rent to the overall metro area’s median rent; and
  • Year-over-year rent trends on a per-neighborhood basis.

Why are we so excited? Sometimes a more expensive apartment may actually be a better deal than a cheaper apartment when you look at all of the neighborhood data. The Heatmaps allow you to make ‘apples to apples’ comparisons so you can identify those great deals and have an early-mover advantage to nabbing a great apartment or rental home.

The Heatmaps are free to access and easy to use:

  • On RentHop, select “View Map”;
  • Go to the metro area in which you’re interested;
  • Click “Show Neighborhoods” on the right side of the screen; and
  • Roll your cursor over the neighborhoods you want to see.

You can easily toggle between the regular view, the Neighborhood Price Heatmap and YoY Price Heatmap and can view listings while the Rental Heatmaps are activated. No login is required to use the Rental Heatmaps.

Go have a look and let us know what you think!

Your Hot New Apartment Listings for the Week of May 23!

Each of the apartments below was featured in one of our New York newsletters for the week of May 23. If you’re interested, follow up with the contact person in the listing; we have not confirmed since the time the newsletter was sent out that the apartments are available. Things move fast in New York!

3 bedrooms, Ludlow St., Chinatown, $6,695 (posted 5/20)

1 bedroom, 395 South End Avenue, FiDi, $3,275 (posted 5/20)

1 bedroom, W. 14th St., Chelsea/West Village, $3,750 (posted 5/20)

1 bedroom, John St., FiDi, $3,504 (posted 5/23)

2 bedrooms, 550 W. 54th St., Hell’s Kitchen, $4,750 (posted 5/23)

2 bedrooms, 2353 Frederick Douglas Blvd., Harlem, $3,700 (posted 5/23)

Your Hot New Apartment Listings for the Week of May 16!

Each of the apartments below was featured in one of our New York newsletters for the week of May 16. If you’re interested, follow up with the contact person in the listing; we have not confirmed since the time the newsletter was sent out that the apartments are available. Things move fast in New York!

1 bedroom, West 38th St., Murray Hill, $3,595 (posted 5/13)

1 bedroom at 150 W. 51st St., Theater District, $3,650 (posted 5/13)

1 bedroom, W. 84th St., Upper West Side, $3,200 (posted 5/13)

2 bedrooms, E. 34th St., Murray Hill, $8,000 (posted 5/16)

1 bedroom, Morton St., West Village, $2,800 (posted 5/16)

1 bedroom, 6th Avenue, Flatiron District, $4,100 (posted 5/16)