5 Simple Ways to Green Your Apartment

Electronic thermostat on leaves

Renters, it’s time to green up your act!

We can all take steps to protect our planet, but apartment dwellers often don’t go beyond recycling. Perhaps you feel you don’t have a long-term stake in your home or a homeowner’s budget for sustainability features.

But there are some easy tricks you can use to help save resources—including money! Check these out.

1. Practice better climate control

Heating and cooling typically amounts to 50% or more of your energy bill. Even if utilities are included in your rent, do the right thing and moderate the thermostat whenever possible. Andrea K. George, director of the Sustainability and Environmental Management Office at Vanderbilt University, suggests a setting of 76 to 78 degrees in warm weather and 68 degrees in cold weather.

Also, ask your landlord if you can change out a traditional thermostat with a programmable type that you can manage remotely.

2. Don’t forget those other two R’s

If you’re like most apartment dwellers, storage space is always an issue—especially when you’re always tempted to buy even more stuff! (C’mon, you know who you are.) But one of the quickest ways to be environmentally conscious is to follow the hierarchy:reduce, reuse, recycle.

“So many people just skip right to recycle and think if they are recycling, then they are doing all they can for the environment, but that is so not true,” George says. “The first thought should always be to reduce. Do I really need whatever it is I am considering buying or eating?”

Also, think about what you can reuse. Reusable coffee cups and water bottles make a huge difference in garbage volume. On a larger scale, get your furnishings at resale stores or through Craigslist or freecycle.org (a network for people giving and getting good stuff for free to keep it out of the landfills).

“Any time you reuse something, it saves enormous resources in production, shipping/transportation, et cetera,” George says.

3. Watch the waterworks

According to the United States Geological Survey Water Science School, 4,000 drips from a leaky faucet equals about 1 liter of wasted water. You can calculate your personal “drip” potential here.

Fortunately, there is an easy fix—changing the washers on your faucet(s). Talk to your superintendent about doing it, or check out this how-to video.

Another wise way to save water? Replace your showerheads with low-flow alternatives. By installing an EPA-approved WaterSense showerhead, the average family can save 2,900 gallons of water annually, not to mention saving on energy by heating less water.

Or you could try taking shorter showers. George suggests setting a timer and gradually reducing your shower time. Also, turn off the sink while you shave or brush your teeth.

After all, every little drop counts.

4. Get rid of the energy vampires

Are you ready to see the light … with energy conservation? You should be, because 25% of your home utility bill is usually related to lighting, George says.

So pay attention to your lightbulbs! Renters can quickly lessen their energy usage just by choosing the right illumination.

Energy Star–rated compact fluorescent lights use 75% less energy than incandescent and last six t0 10 times longer—8,000 hours versus 1,200 hours, George says. Light-emitting diodes are even better, lasting 25% longer than the incandescent bulbs we are all used to—25,000 hours versus 1,200 hours—and use 80% less energy.

While these bulbs cost more upfront, they’ll save you money in the long run. Also, try to use natural light whenever possible.

Another massive drain? Leaving your electronics charging after they’re fully juiced. “Vampire” loads can account for up to 10% of your energy usage, George says. To reduce this, just unplug your computers, cellphone chargers, game systems, and other electronics when they’re not being used.

Keeping an empty charger plugged in is also not optimal. Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, indicate that cellphone chargers in this state consume an estimated$4 billion in energy annually.

5. Create a green team

One of the best ways to put green practices into play is to make it a group effort, saysMyria Allen, professor of communication at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and author of “Strategic Communications for Sustainable Organizations.”

Allen—who works with companies to help them become more environmentally aware—suggests the first place to start is in your own apartment. That means recruiting family members and/or roommates to jump on the bandwagon.

“Perhaps start a jar where if someone in your home sees that you leave your cellphone charged all night you are fined a quarter. … Same thing applies for leaving lights on in an empty room and so on,” Allen says.

At the end of the month, the funds collected can be used to invest in even more ecologically sound items for your apartment—like power strips or LED lightbulbs.

Another idea? See if you can start a “Green Team” within your apartment complex—try posting in the laundry room or chatting with neighbors. Then you can approach management as a united front about making your building more sustainable—which will pay off for them, too.

“Use a business case for sustainability arguments,” Allen says. “More effective energy/water use can be used as a selling point to new tenants, or new tenants are attracted to buildings where residents share a concern for the environment.”

With a little creativity and awareness, you, too, can find yourself thinking green and saving green!

How I Found an Amazing Out-of-State Apartment in 3 Days (Without Crying)

plane-to-apt

We hadn’t planned on everything happening so fast. Moving from New York City toDenver was on our to-do list, though not at the top. It was something we thought we’d get around to—maybe later this fall or early winter.

But life likes to throw you curves and so, of course, everything occurred at once: My boyfriend got a job offer, and they wanted him to start in early October.

Suddenly we’re moving. Across the country. And we have exactly one month to figure it all out.

We weren’t naive—we knew finding an apartment from out of state would be a terrifying process. But we thought we could hack it. We’d arm ourselves with intel, fly out to Denver for time-crunched initial search, hit the ground running. What could go wrong?

The reality of it all came crashing down during our first warp-speed, three-day trip to the city.

We found an apartment. But was it easy? Not so much.

Learn from us. Here are some tips to make your own apartment-hunting trips smoother.

Have a (weighted) wish list

My boyfriend and I wrote down our rental must-haves and desires on a piece of paper, rating them all from 1 (least important) to 10 (most). Since I was the one doing the majority of the apartment hunting, it fell on me to suss out what was really for us both.

For instance, he strongly preferred having laundry in the building, while hardwood flooring was nice to have but not mandatory (just a 3!). Having nonnegotiable criteria—combined with a more fanciful wish list—makes sifting through daily piles of listings much easier.

The criteria we decided on and ranked before leaving NYC for our hunt.

Jamie Wiebe

The criteria we decided on and ranked before leaving NYC for our hunt.

It’s about the research, stupid

I’ve never lived in Denver, but through a frenzied (and compressed) period of research, I got up to speed fast.

Yes, the city is still strange to me. But my hours of Internet scouring paid off. I was able to quickly home in on the microneighborhoods that worked for me and my lifestyle: One- or two-bedroom apartments that accept cats, ideally in a house or small apartment complex, near areas I know I like, with room for an office. Within those specific bounds, I could tell if a listing was too good to be true—or just overpriced.

Don’t expect it to be your forever home

Because I know well how easy it is to feel overwhelmed by this seemingly life-altering decision, repeat this mantra: This apartment will not be your forever home.

Moving to a new city means you’re promising yourself a new life, and you never know where that might unfold. But it’s best to think of it mainly as a base for exploration. This will make it easier to compromise on the small things.

Mentally commit to a year at your first place, and plan to move at the lease’s end. And who knows? Maybe this is your forever home.

Don’t let fear cloud your judgment

Anxiety about change is common and can manifest itself at a moment’s notice. Don’t let a “We’re moving?!” panic attack push you into a desperately wrong place just because you’re scared you’ll be homeless. (Spoiler alert: You won’t be. Probably.)

Find the border between compromise and settling. Unless it is truly down to the wire, don’t sacrifice more than a few things from your wish list and stick to your must-haves.

Our first day of hunting dispirited us: We went back to our crappy La Quinta hotel room, and I buried myself under the covers with my laptop. I skimmed through page after page ofrealtor.com®, Craigslist, and PadMapper listings, looking for something.

Everything we’d seen had been wrong one way or another: One had sacrificed a dining room to create a ginormous walk-in closet (Um, why?!). Another looked quaint and historic in photos but its “authenticity” meant no one had ever updated the kitchen—basically a stove and fridge in opposite corners of a small room with no counter space.

With two more days of apartment searching left, we were ready to give up.

I’m glad we didn’t, because soon, our apartment found us.

Our new apartment has a kitchen—double the size of our current one—a dozen windows, and even a backyard.

Jamie Wiebe

Our new apartment has a kitchen—double the size of our current one—a dozen windows, and even a backyard.

Go on a big dig

Reality check: Sifting through endless listings can be a serious pain (oh look, another ad for a generic downtown loft!), but there are sparkly diamonds hidden in the rough. The longer you dig and keep an eye on the market, using a wide variety of search tools, the better able you are to spot the winners—and to jump on them quickly. And you catch on quickly to any tricks or scams—imperative when you need to work at warp speed in a tight rental market.

Try property managers

I bookmarked the pages of property managers all over Denver. (Find them yourself by searching “property manager” + “your city” or “dream neighborhood.”)

Property management sites don’t always update as often as professional rental sites, but keep an eye on them—they can be great places to score a deal, especially if you’re looking for a single-family home.

Take to the streets

Despite all my planning, I found my apartment through a stroke of luck. With an hour to kill between showings, my boyfriend and I began driving up and down the streets of the hood we wanted, seeking out “For Rent” signs. We found a few; I jumped out of the car to read the tiny text on the sign.

Often it would say “three bedrooms” or suggest a rent way above our budget. But we found a few contenders, and I dutifully called them. No one answered. I left messages. Still nothing.

Later, we were in an Uber on our way to a drown-your-stress-in-beer-and-pizza kind of evening when I got a phone call from one of our on-the-street finds. We redirected the cab, and an hour and a half later, we had an apartment.

The place we found by driving around was 10 times better than any we’d seen online. It had everything on our checklist: washer and dryer, room for an office, patio space, hardwood floors, an updated (but not fancy) kitchen. Its few drawbacks—slightly over budget, no dogs allowed, an awkward bathroom layout—were minor enough that saying anything but “yes” would have been a foolish mistake.

Don’t forget to document

Take photos of every apartment; they’ll be invaluable when it’s decision-making time. Settled on a place? Take more photos! And if possible, a video, too (like the incredibly awkward video I made on our final walk-through of our new place).

 

I like to plan—you might be able to tell—and having a trove of videos and photos means I have visual sources to refer to when furniture shopping or drawing out our apartment’s layout in SketchUp.

Plus, the video is a time-stamped record of the apartment’s current condition. When our lease ends, we have an easy way to refer to how it should look.

The winning apartment (well, technically a carriage house)

realtor.com

The winning apartment (well, technically a carriage house)

Be aggressive, BE aggressive!

I’ve rented apartments in NYC, Chicago, Austin, and—now—Denver, and there is one common takeaway: Be a raging bull, ready to take what’s yours.

Have your financial documents in order—we printed copies of my boyfriend’s job offer letter and my bank statements (hello, freelancer!), as well as our renting histories and references.

You won’t necessarily need to sign a lease on the spot, but you will want to be armed with all your paperwork in the event a quick decision is necessary.

I can’t promise your hunt won’t be stressful: Finding an apartment in three days flat is onerous, even for the most seasoned shoppers. But it’s certainly not impossible.

All you have to do is plan ahead—and be ready to ditch every one of those plans when needed.

Apartment Rents Hit another All-time High

The greatest increases were found in the West and South. In fact, these two geographic regions accounted for the top 13 fastest growing metros in the U.S. Although still on the upswing, rental markets in several Texas cities, including Austin, Houston, andSan Antonio, have been slowed down by the recent drop in oil prices.

On the other end of the spectrum, rent increases in the Mid-Atlantic region continue to be low, with Richmond, Washington D.C.,Baltimore, and Philadelphia taking the lowest spots in the ranking.

Year-over-Year Rent Growth August 2015

Rent Spikes Closely Tied to Job Growth

Along with rent advances, the featured 30 metros also show consistent job growth through August with the Inland Empire (4.1%), Orlando (4.0%), San Francisco (3.9%), and Dallas (3.9%) at the forefront. Supported by strong demographics and a healthy job market, construction activity has picked up steam as well, especially in the high-end and mid-range apartment markets, giving renters more options when trying to locate the perfect place to call home.

What Does This Booming Rental Market Mean for the Country’s Renters?

As we’ve previously discussed in this blog post, the limited inventory levels and high demand for city living are making it harder for renters to find affordable, available units. However, recent data from Yardi Matrix points to a mid-summer slowdown in rent growth. So if you’re trying to find out when’s the best time of the year to rent an apartment, here’s your answer: now!

What Will the National Average Rent You?

To give you an idea of what type of rental apartments are available for the national average of $1,162, we’ve looked at some of the country’s top performing markets. Let’s start with Los Angeles.

Los Angeles

Want to experience downtown living at its best? The Kipling Apartments in L.A.’s Koreatown is an excellent community for those who want to live in the middle of the action. Built in the 1920’s and formerly known as Kipling Hotel, this charming historic building offers cozy studios with rents starting at $749.

Kipling Apartments in Los Angeles Renting for Less than the National Average

Atlanta

In Atlanta $1,070 will get you a 600 sq. ft. studio apartment at 935M, an upscale complex in an enviable Intown location. Units come with washers and dryers, large closets, patios or balconies, and amazing skyline views. The NAHB Green Silver-certified community features on-site retail and restaurants, a media room, a fitness center, a pool, as well as a recycling program.

935M Apartments in Atlanta Renting for Less than the National Average

Phoenix

In Phoenix the national average goes quite a bit further. Starting at just $1,085 you can move into an 865 sq. ft. 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom unit in Deer Valley Apartments. All units have central air conditioning, modern kitchens, washers and driers, and walk-in closets. The community amenities are impressive and include a 6-hole putting green, two Jacuzzi spas, two business centers, two fitness centers, and an on-site hair and nail salon.

Deer Valley Apartments in Phoenix Renting for Less than the National Average