6 Clever Hacks for Making Your Apartment Look Larger

Posted in Apartment Hunting, New York Living on May 26th, 2014 by Rob – Comments Off

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!

Posted in Apartment Hunting, Market Trends, Rent Hop News on May 24th, 2014 by Rob – Comments Off

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!

Posted in Apartment Hunting, Featured Listings and Buildings, New York Living on May 23rd, 2014 by Rob – Comments Off

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!

Posted in Apartment Hunting, Featured Listings and Buildings, New York Living on May 16th, 2014 by Rob – Comments Off

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)

Your Hot New Apartment Listings for the Week of May 9!

Posted in Apartment Hunting, Featured Listings and Buildings, New York Living on May 9th, 2014 by Rob – Comments Off

Each of the apartments below was featured in one of our weekly newsletters for the week of May 9. 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, 455 E. 86th St., Upper East Side (Manhattan), $10,500 (posted 5/6)

1 bedroom, Hell’s Kitchen (Manhattan), $3,610 (posted 5/6)

2 bedrooms, Post Road, Riverdale (The Bronx), $2,800 (posted 5/6)

2 bedrooms, 20 E. 62nd St. (Upper East Side), $4,350 (posted 5/9)

1 bedroom, Washington Street, DUMBO (Brooklyn), $3,800 (posted 5/9)

3 bedrooms, Lexington Avenue, Rose Hill/Kips Bay (Manhattan), $4,900 (posted 5/9)

5 Must-Have Pieces of Exercise Equipment for an Apartment

Posted in New York Living on May 6th, 2014 by Rob – Comments Off

Unless you’re a trainer or professional athlete, you probably have difficulty finding time to work out in the course of a day. This goes double if the home or apartment building in which you live doesn’t have an attached gym – you’ll need to travel to a gym to work out. Even if your building has a gym, you may find that it’s a better call to use a gym outside of your building; some amenities aren’t worth paying extra for!

The dog is *not* part of the exercise regimen.

The dog is *not* part of the exercise regimen.

Fortunately, you can get a good workout, or even just a good stretch, in your apartment. There are many different exercises you can do with no equipment whatsoever (here and here are especially good – but challenging! – lists). With a little bit of equipment you can do a full regime of stretching, training and cool-down. We’ve put together a short list of relatively inexpensive items that will help you make the most of your time and your small space.

NOTE: Check with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen. We don’t want you to get hurt!

(1) Foamroller – a foamroller is a rigid foam cylinder about six inches in diameter and one to three feet long. Foamrollers come in varying colors and rigidity levels.

Standard-issue, run of the mill foamroller.

There are three main things for which you can use foamrollers: muscle release, stability training and strength training. In our opinion, though, the best use is to give yourself a fantastic self-massage. It’ll work out knots and tame muscle pain like no other. There are lots of videos on how to use them. If you haven’t tried one out, do so – it’s magical.

(2) Yoga mat (or other exercise mat) – if you have hardwood floors, you’ll definitely want something soft on which to lie while you’re stretching or doing floor-based exercises. Even if you have carpeted floors, you’ll want the grip that a yoga mat provides. Of course, if you’re planning to do yoga, this kind of settles itself.

(3) A way to stream on-demand videos to your television – if you don’t have an exercise regimen the Internet will have one (or a gazillion), likely for free or very cheap. A Roku, Chromecast or other device will let you view those videos (or your shows that you DVR’d) without requiring you to awkwardly prop your computer or tablet up on a table.

Simple but sweet.

Simple but sweet.

(4) Resistance bands – great for stretching and for resistance training, these bands come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and resistance levels. You can even put together a pretty intense workout just using these bands. But they’re also really useful for stretching muscles, in particular your lats, which can become extremely tense after sitting in a desk chair at your office.

(5) Exercise ball – obviously useful for yoga, but also really good for stretching and for different kinds of strength training exercises. Try doing a pushup with your hands on the inflated ball – you’ll see what we mean. Not only that, but you can use a yoga ball in lieu of a chair when you’re working or reading. It’ll force you to maintain core stability and sit up straight.

Have any other suggestions? Let us know! We’ll share the good ones on our Facebook page.

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Celebrate your workout by going to one of NYC’s amazing food fairs.

Or maybe you just want to have an awesome donut. We’ve got New York’s best right here.

Your Hot New Apartment Listings for the Week of May 2!

Posted in Apartment Hunting, Featured Listings and Buildings, New York Living on May 2nd, 2014 by Rob – Comments Off

Each of the apartments below was featured in one of our weekly newsletters for the week of May 2. 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 bedrooom, Chambers St. (Tribeca), $3,650 (posted 4/29)

1 bedroom triplex, East 64th St. (Upper East Side), $3,800 (posted 4/29)

1 bedroom duplex with private terrace, Sullivan St. (SoHo), $4,200 (posted 4/29)

1 bedroom, Center Blvd, Long Island City (Queens), $2,995 (posted 5/2)

3 bedroom duplex, East 96th Street, Upper East Side, $5,895 (posted 5/2)

1 bedroom, East 78th Street, Upper East Side, $3,500 (posted 5/2)

Four Tips for Cooking in Your Small Kitchen

Posted in New York Living on April 28th, 2014 by Rob – Comments Off

Wherever you live in New York, chances are good that there are great places to eat out nearby, and that your kitchen is really small. We know Manhattanites eat out an awful lot – based on data we put together for our post on the hidden costs of living in New York, Manhattanites spend over $800 per month dining out – but with a kitchen barely big enough to turn around in, much less cook easily, what choice do you have?

We’ve got some ideas to help you use that small kitchen. (And we don’t mean storing clothes in the oven or plates in the dishwasher.) It’ll help you save money, and in the bargain you’ll get to make your apartment into more of a home. Plus, you’ll have tasty leftovers!

(1) You need many fewer tools than you think. You have limited storage space. Tools that can handle lots of different tasks are the order of the day. Which ones? You’ll figure out over time what you really need. To start, though, you need a cutting board, a sharp chef’s knife (don’t skimp on this), a saucepot and a skillet. You should also have a wet measuring cup (an 8-cup Pyrex does double duty as a handy mixing bowl) and ideally a group of dry measuring cups.

Now *this* is a knife.

Now *this* is a knife.

(Photo: Dinner Series/CC 2.0)

What other tools do you need? Here’s a handy trick: take all of your other kitchen stuff and put it somewhere far from the kitchen. If you find yourself going back to it regularly to get certain things, take those pieces and add them back. This is iterative – you might find that some things you thought were essential aren’t, and vice versa. Over time you may find that your tastes shape your essentials (or the other way around!).

Pro tip: you’ll be amazed at the number of devices you can replace with one good immersion blender. Immersion blenders are easy to clean, too.

(2) Keep your counter space clean and clear. You need counter space on which to prep, cook and plate your masterpieces. If you’re storing your take-out menus and plastic forks on your counter you’ll have to move them before you start cooking, which is just another obstacle to doing it. (It’ll also remind you how easy it is to get delivery!) Also, resist the urge to store appliances on your counter, even ones that you use fairly regularly.

We'll admit, this is pretty impressive. Not for beginners though!

We’ll admit, this is pretty impressive. Not for beginners though!

(Photo: Maggie Hoffman/CC 2.0)

If you have the space to have one, a free-standing kitchen island (even if it’s just a few square feet) can give you both counter space and storage space.

(3) Keep your cooking simple. Enjoy exotic food and five-star French cuisine? Sounds great, but it’ll be tough in your small space. The trick here is using few ingredients (and only as much as you need), and using spices to help add flavor. Here it’s worth a few moments of research – there are lots of websites that specialize in recipes with few ingredients – try here, here and here.

It’s worth it to keep some of your favorite dry spices and seasonings on hand, as well as the basics (salt, sugar, pepper, olive oil). You can always supplement your spices with fresh ones as you need, but don’t overbuy the stored stuff – you don’t have enough space!

(4) A little foresight goes a long way. When you’re making your menu, pick recipes that require either limited prep or can be done in one pot all at once. While you’re at it, look for recipes that start with the same base ingredients or flavors. With one prep session you can get ready for multiple meals!

When you’re prepping for future meals, make sure you store the extra in Ziploc bags or Tupperware. If you’re extra-sophisticated you can “par cook” your meal, which means cooking it in part beforehand and then finishing it off when you’re ready to serve.

Also, when you’re planning your meals, avoid recipes that require the same tools or heat source at the same time. That helps from a timing perspective (you still need to watch everything though!).

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Don’t forget the top 9 questions you should ask when looking at apartments. Lots of things to keep in mind!

And while you’re at it, think about the 4 things to remember when picking your new neighborhood. It’s more than just where the good takeout is! (That’s important, though.)

Your Hot New Apartment Listings for the week of April 25!

Posted in Apartment Hunting, Featured Listings and Buildings, New York Living on April 25th, 2014 by Rob – Comments Off

Each of the apartments below was featured in one of our weekly newsletters for the week of April 25. 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!

Studio at W. 75th St. and West End Avenue, Upper West Side, $2,575 (posted 4/22)

One bedroom, Christopher St., West Village, $6,400 (posted 4/22)

Studio, West 40s and Eleventh Avenue, Manhattan, $2,650 (posted 4/22)

One bedroom, West 14th St., Chelsea (Manhattan), $3,495 (posted 4/25)

Alcove studio, W. 82nd St., Upper West Side (Manhattan), $2,300 (posted 4/25)

2 bedroom loft, Varick St., SoHo (Manhattan), $6,880 (posted 4/25)

A Look Back at Recent Blog Posts

Posted in Apartment Hunting, Brokers, Market Trends, New York Living, Rent Hop News on April 20th, 2014 by Rob – Comments Off

There’s a lot of things to keep in mind as you’re looking for, finding, renting and living in an apartment. We thought we’d go back through our old blog posts and pull out some especially helpful ones for your reading pleasure. Let us know if there’s anything we missed!

There is a link below to our blog post for finding an apartment with your dog. This is not solely a blatant attempt to manipulate you.

There is a link below to our tips on finding an apartment with your dog. This is not (solely) a blatant attempt to manipulate you.

Photo: TrainManDan/CC 2.0

(But first…voting is still open for the People’s Voice Webby for Best Real Estate website! We’re in the running against some great sites and we need your help. Please come vote!)

We discussed nine tips to keep in mind when viewing an apartment, six tips on subletting your place, five ways to avoid losing your security depositfour tips for getting the most out of your renter’s insurance and four questions to ask when looking for a new neighborhood. We left out the partridge in the pear tree, but we did include our top six things to know before meeting a broker. For good measure we noted how to pick a great apartment for your dog.

We also described how the HopScore makes sure that you don’t see “ghost listings” here on RentHop. We even appeared in VentureBeat, started taking Bitcoin, partnered with Citi Habitats and went nationwide!

Did you know that it’s actually possible to negotiate your rent in Manhattan? Or that there are some apartment amenities you totally shouldn’t pay for (though there are some that are worth paying for too)?

You probably knew that it’s cheaper to live in Brooklyn or Queens than in Manhattan. How much cheaper, though? We got together with Moven and Smartasset to look at the hidden costs of living in New York.

When you’re looking at an apartment building, check out the other tenants. If there are restaurants in the building, be extra-careful. Most are clean, vigilant and careful; some aren’t, though, and that can have bad results for you. While you’re at it, make sure that your new place isn’t near one of New York’s many dangerous intersections!

Why are pre-war buildings awesome? Have a look and see. We think you’ll agree! Other awesome things about New York: culture on the cheap, food fairs, subway art, public spaces, ethnic food supermarkets and gut-busting sandwiches.

Whew! It’s been a busy few months!