Categories
Apartment Living

Which NYC Neighborhoods Received the Most PPP Loan Money?

Which NYC Neighborhoods Received the Most PPP Loan Money?

Yesterday, the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) released detailed loan-level data regarding the loans made under the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”). This disclosure covers each of the 4.9 million PPP loans that have been made under the program.

Digesting this massive data set, we’ve analyzed the PPP loan data by NYC zip code and compared the disclosure with U.S. Census data to assess which neighborhoods received the highest and lowest percentage of PPP loans as compared to the number of qualified businesses in that zip code. As detailed below, PPP funds did not assist all neighborhoods equally, with neighborhoods such as Greenpoint, the Financial District, and Carnegie Hill receiving a disproportionate number of loans relative to the number of qualified businesses.

In this study, we also break down the business sectors and NYC neighborhoods receiving the highest number of loans and retaining the highest number of jobs as a result of this sweeping federal program.

Top and Bottom 5 NYC Zip Codes By Percentage of PPP Loans to Businesses

Comparing the disclosure provided by the SBA with available U.S. Census data, we found large disparities in the proportion of PPP loans received by certain NYC zip codes relative to the number of qualified businesses (less than 500 employees) located in those zip codes.

For instance, Greenpoint (Zip Code 11222) received 1,394 PPP loans for its 1,782 qualified businesses – a rate of 78.2%. By contrast, Flushing (Zip Code 11355) only received 913 PPP loans for its 2,381 qualified businesses – a rate of 38.3%. In effect, Greenpoint’s PPP loan / qualified business ratio was double that of Flushing*.

Below is a chart highlighting the top and bottom 5 NYC zip codes ranked by percentage of PPP loans to qualified businesses:

Jobs Retained By Zip Code

Based on the SBA’s disclosure, a staggering 1,390,686 jobs were “retained” in NYC as a result of the PPP loans. We’ve taken this data and created an interactive map showing the number of jobs retained in each zip code.

As one might expect, the top 5 zip codes ranked by jobs retained all fell in the Midtown Manhattan area.

 

Number of PPP Loans By Zip Code

According to the SBA, 147,371 PPP loans were granted to qualified NYC businesses. Below is an interactive map showing the number of loans granted in each zip code.

Similar to the jobs retained ranking above, the top 5 zip codes ranked by PPP loans received all fell in the Midtown Manhattan area, while Long Island City (11101) and Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights (11201) being some of the outerborough zip codes receiving the most PPP loans.

 

Top Business Sectors Receiving PPP Loans in NYC

The SBA disclosure includes information concerning the business sector of each PPP loan recipient. With this data, we ranked each NYC industry by the number of PPP loans received.

Below is a chart ranking each NYC industry by the number of PPP loans they’ve received through the program:

 

PPP Loan Data by Loan Range

The interactive table below summarizes the PPP loan data by loan range. You can sort the table by clicking on the column header, or search for a specific zip code using the search bar.

Not surprisingly, zip code 10001, which includes part of Midtown and specifically Hudson Yards, one of the largest commercial real estate developments in New York City, received the most number of PPP loans, and 31% of the loans approved in zip code 10001 were above $150K. Meanwhile, while there were only 1,133 approved PPP loans in Bowling Green (zip code 10004), over 40% of the loans were above $150K.
 

Methodology

This report examines the Paycheck Protection Program Loan data released by the U.S. Department of Treasury, which includes two datasets, PPP Loans of $150,000 and above, as well as PPP Loans under $150,000. For loans above $150,000, the release consists of loan-level data, including business names, addresses, NAICS codes, zip codes, business type, demographic data, non-profit information, lender, jobs supported, and loan amount ranges as follows. For all loans below $150,000, SBA released all of the above information except for business names and addresses.

We grouped the loan data by zip code and loan range and further analyzed the business sectors using the NAICS Code structure and titles released by the U.S. Census Bureau. For the number of business establishments, we utilized ZIP Codes Business Patterns (ZBP) data released by Census on an annual basis. We filtered the data by employment size, and so any establishments with more than 500 employees were excluded from this report.

 
*For this analysis, we compared the top 50 NYC zip codes as ranked by the number of qualified businesses located therein as reported in the most recent Census ZBP data.

Published at Tue, 07 Jul 2020 12:30:44 +0000

RentHop 2020 Subway Rent Map: Rents Are Dropping at Major MTA Stops

New York’s MTA subway system is an integral part of most New Yorkers’ lives. With as many as 5.5 million riders each weekday, it truly is the backbone of the city. It should be no surprise that it is one of the first things that people consider when looking to rent an apartment. Proximity to the right trains means shorter commutes and more time spent doing what you love. RentHop’s data scientists love maps and rental data, and so we’ve mapped out rental prices by subway stop to assist in your apartment hunting endeavors.

Our key findings this year include:
  • Rents remained the same around 28 MTA stops, increased at 257 stops, and fell at 159, or 36%, stops. This number is 10% higher than in 2019.
  • As landlords were pushed to offer more concessions in response to the lackluster market performance caused by the pandemic, more stops in Manhattan this year experienced price cuts, including 28 St ($3,635, -11.3%), 34 St – Herald Sq($3,600, -7.6%) , 86 St ($2,978, -6.7%) , and Times Square ($3,299, -5.1%).
  • Even with a significant YoY decrease, Union Square continued to be the most expensive stop in the NYC metro area. Median 1BR rent at this stop currently sits at $4,750, 6.8% lower than the same period in 2019.
  • New developments continue to be a key driver of rental rates. In Brooklyn, median 1BR went up at several stops, including 36 St ($3,050, +9.1%) , Hewes St ($3,050, +9.1%), and Marcy Av ($3,150, +5.0%).

The Interactive Map Below Shows All Rents, Stops, and YoY Price Fluctuations

 

Find our map useful? Check out the static map at the bottom for a quick snapshot of the data and for easy sharing.

Major subway hubs like Union Square, Fulton Street, and Atlantic Ave/Barclay’s Center give nearby residents flexibility and convenience when traveling or commuting to different places. They also make it easy to convene and get home from anywhere after a long day of work. It’s no wonder these subway stops ranked among the most expensive stops on the RentHop subway rent map.

Median 1BR Rents at Major NYC Subway Hubs
  • Union Square 14 St (4/5/6/L/N/Q/R/W) – $4,750, YoY -6.8%
  • Times Square 42 St (1/2/3/7/N/Q/R/S/W) – $3,173, -2.4%
  • Grand Central (4/5/6/7/S) – $3,500, -2.8%
  • West 4 St (A/B/C/D/E/F/M) – $3,556, +7.9%
  • Herald Square 34 St (B/D/F/M/N/Q/R/W) – $3,600, -7.6%
  • Fulton St (2/3) – $3,824, +2.9%
  • Fulton St (4/5) – $3,800, +2.8%
  • Fulton St (A/C/J/Z) – $3,805, +3.0%
  • Jay St – Metro Tech (A/C/F/N/R/W) – $3,523, +0.4%
  • Atlantic Ave – Barclay’s Center (2/3/4/5/B/Q) – $3,364, -2.4%
  • Atlantic Ave – Barclay’s Center (D/N/R) – $3,452, +0.1%
  • Broadway Junction (A/C/J/L/Z) – $2,000, +6.7%
  • Jackson Heights – Roosevelt Av / 74 St – Broadway (7/E/F/M/R) – $1,950, +2.6%

36% of MTA Stops Experienced Rent Drops, 10% More than Previous Year

2020 has been a rough year for New York. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate in the city skyrocketed 18.3% as of May, according to City Comptroller Scott Stringer. This inevitably had a severe impact on real estate, pushing down rental rates across the city. As people relocate to other metro areas and suburbs, landlords across the boroughs are having trouble filling up the vacant apartments, especially those who own and operate luxury rental buildings.

Compared to only 115 stops in 2019, this year, 159 stops, or 36%, saw price reductions, some of which are in the wealthier neighborhoods in the city. Median 1BR rent dipped 11.3% at 28 St (6 Train), as luxury rental buildings offered more concessions to attract new tenants, including Prism at 50 East 28 Street (YoY -5.2%) and Instrata Gramercy at 290 3rd Ave (YoY -9.3%), which doubled the concessions from one month’s free to two months. Similarly, buildings around 34 St – Herald Square also increased incentives, including EOS at 100 West 31 Street and Epic at 125 West 31 Street, which in turn drove down the rents by 7.6%. Stops in the Upper East Side also experienced notable price fluctuations, with median 1BR rent decreased 8.4% around 96 St (Q) and 6.7% at 86 St (4/5/6).

Gentrification remains a key driver of NYC rental rates. Median 1BR rent jumped 10.1% at 36 St stop (D/N/R Trains), from $1,998 to $2,200. This fluctuation is likely due to the Hyland, a new development launched early this year located at 194 21 St in Brooklyn that features bike storage, gym, parking, and a modern roof deck. Meanwhile, median 1BR rent rose 9.1% at Hewes St (J/M) and 5.0% at Marcy Ave (J/M/Z) respectively, mostly driven by the DIME, a 23-story, 177-unit high-end rental building located at 275 South 5 Street, Brooklyn.

These stops saw some of the largest rent drops on one-bedroom apartments
  • 28 St – 6 Train – $3,635, YoY -11.3%
  • 62 St – D/N – $1,550, YoY -8.8%
  • 96 St – Q – $2,839, YoY -8.4%
  • Fort Hamilton Parkway – D – $1,800, YoY -7.7%
  • 34 St – Herald Sq – B/D/F/M/N/Q/R/W – $3,600, YoY -7.6%
These subway stops saw some of the most drastic rent jumps
  • 36 St – D/N/R Trains – $2,200, YoY +10.1%
  • Hewes St – J/M – $3,050, YoY +9.1%
  • West 4 St – A/B/C/D/E/F/M – $3,556, YoY +7.9%
  • 161 St – Yankee Stadium – 4/B/D – $1,995, YoY +7.8%
  • Beverly Rd – Q – $2,041, YoY +7.4%

Methodology

To calculate the median net effective rents for the map above, we used RentHop’s rental data for one-bedroom apartments from March 16 through June 15, 2019 & 2020, MTA Lines and Stops data, and GIS data for subway stops compiled by CUNY – Baruch College. To get accurate prices near the subway stops, we looked at least 50 non-duplicated rental listings within half a mile of a subway stop and then calculated the median rents. If there were less than 50 non-duplicated listings, we expanded the distance to 1 mile of a subway stop.

Condensed Map for Easy Sharing – Click on the image for the full map!

Click on the Map For High-Resolution Map

Published at Tue, 23 Jun 2020 16:30:25 +0000

Categories
Apartment Living

How to Clean a Shower

How to Clean a Shower

Showers can get gross quickly. They easily gather grime, not to mention mold, which can make them feel exactly the opposite of hygienic. Worse yet, achieving a clean shower can often feel like one of the most challenging parts of cleaning your bathroom. That said, with just a few simple bathroom cleaning tools and solutions you can find at most supermarkets, you can quickly get the job done. Here’s how to thoroughly, easily clean your shower.

clean shower

How to clean your showerhead

Fill a plastic grocery bag or large resealable plastic bag with white vinegar. Wrap and seal this bag around the showerhead overnight. Remove the bag the next morning and run the showerhead to remove any deposits that have obstructed water flow.

How to clean your door or curtains

For a dirty shower door, a paste of one cup baking soda and just a few drops of distilled white vinegar can make a potent scrubbing agent. After generously applying this thick paste to your shower door for an hour, return with a microfiber cloth to remove the paste. Then, with a separate microfiber cloth, rinse and buff the door dry.

For shower curtains and liners, a typical cycle in a washing machine should do the trick. If you need to scrub soap residue or mold from your curtains and liners, add a few towels to the wash. These towels will naturally abrade the mold and soap residue off your curtains and liners. Additionally, curtains and liners should be air-dried instead of machine-dried.

How to clean your shower tub

If your shower isn’t a standing shower but instead a tub, you may find cleaning significantly easier. A simple scrub-down with your cleaning product and rag of choice should be enough to remove grime and stains from your tub. However, for especially dirty tubs, you may want to completely fill your tub with scalding hot water, then drain the tub and scrub it down with bathroom cleaner. Wait 15 minutes before rinsing and cleaning.

How to clean shower tiling

Perhaps the most challenging part of achieving a clean bathroom is removing buildup from the tile in your shower. Find an all-purpose cleaner and spray it on any areas of your tile that need to be cleaned. Then, run your shower at the hottest temperature possible for five minutes. Turn off your shower, then exit your bathroom and close the door to trap the steam (make sure your exhaust fan is off). After 20 minutes, return to wipe down all your tile. Use a microfiber cloth, and work your way down from the highest surfaces.

How to clean shower grout

Shower grout easily accumulates dirt and grime, but these substances don’t always come off easily. You’ll need a grout brush, rather than just ordinary rags and microfiber cloths, for proper grout care. Dip your brush in undiluted bleach, then aggressively scrub your discolored, dirty grout. For moldy grout, you may want to use hydrogen peroxide or vinegar in addition to bleach. After you scrub your grout, rinse well with water. If possible, ventilate the bathroom, as bleach can be harmful to inhale.

Do you have any special tips on how to clean a shower? Sound off in the comments!

Published at Thu, 09 Jul 2020 13:09:26 +0000

Three Small Apartment Clothing Storage Hacks

If you’ve lived in a small studio or one-bedroom apartment, you know how tough it can be to make space for all your clothes. Small apartments can be limited on closet space, not to mention floor space for additional items such as coat racks, shoe racks, and dressers. With these three small apartment clothing storage hacks, though, chances are you’ll find yourself fitting all your clothes in your small apartment with ease.

small apartment clothing storage

1. Under-bed storage

In small apartments, you only have so much floor space available. That’s why thinking vertically helps when it comes to small apartment clothing storage. Take a look around your apartment at the objects occupying the most floor space – is there any way you can fit other objects under them?

When it comes to your bed, chances are the answer will be yes. The space between your bed frame and your floor can provide more than enough room for storage bins (especially if you elevate your bed frame using bed risers). These under-bed storage bins make great homes for clothes, especially clothes you’re not wearing at the moment – a bin full of neatly folded and organized winter sweaters, for example, fits nicely under your bed and can stay there until the next time winter rolls around.

2. Top shelf storage

Many apartment closets come with a top shelf that provides plenty of storage space. That said, anyone who’s attempted to stack clothes on these top shelves knows that doing so can get messy and unorganized sooner than later. Perhaps more annoyingly, piles of clothes stacked too high on these shelves can easily come tumbling down, ruining all the careful organization work you’ve put in and making it difficult to use all the shelf space available.

Just as with under-bed storage, you can use storage bins to keep your top shelf organized and neat. If the same large, plastic tubs that can fit under your bed also fit your top shelf, you can easily use the same bins, but other options such as foot-by-foot storage cubes with lids may be better suited for turning your top shelf into a well-organized, easily stackable small apartment clothing storage space for socks, underwear, and other modestly sized garments. With proper top-shelf storage items, you can effectively add an extra shelf or two to your closet.

3. Benches, trunks, and ottomans

The best apartment storage hacks simultaneously expand the space you have available for stashing away items while adding decorative flair to your apartment. Benches, trunks, and especially ottomans can easily pull off this pair of needs while helping you maximize your small apartment clothing storage.

A bench at the foot of your bed that both looks nice and is tall enough to gently disguise storage boxes under it can help to streamline your small apartment clothing storage. A trunk that at first appears to be just a pretty decoration can likewise include ample space for coats, linens, and more. A large storage ottoman may be best of all for small apartment clothing storage, as not only do ottomans look especially natural at the foot of a bed and provide additional seating, but they also tend to mask their double use as storage far better than benches and trunks do.

How do you make space for your small apartment clothing storage? Sound off in the comments!

Published at Mon, 06 Jul 2020 13:06:40 +0000

Categories
Apartment Living

FINDING AN APARTMENT DURING COVID-19

FINDING AN APARTMENT DURING COVID-19

FINDING AN APARTMENT DURING COVID-19

It looks as though social distancing will no longer be the new norm, but the way that we will now be living our lives. It was only 2 months ago that we had never heard of PPE, unless we worked in healthcare or unless you were a scientist, flattening the curve was about weigh loss. Mostly about flattening our stomachs. So here we are all settled at home wondering how to move forward. (Source: NAA)

But what about the folks who were thinking about moving or who were in the middle of a relocation? Any sort of housing transition is stressful enough without having to deal with a national health crisis. But during social distancing it could be additionally stressful.  Take heart, there are many technologies that can help us lease an apartment while keeping you and your apartment community staff safe.

There are many digital advertising sources that you can access from the safety of your living room or kitchen. You can search by typing the word “apartments” into any browser. This will give you a very broad search. After you feel comfortable with user experience with an Internet Listing Service provider, narrow your search by location, price, floorplan size, schools and amenities. Or you use a “long tail search”. For example, a “two-bedroom apartment in Richmond, Virginia with a pool”. This may be more time efficient than a more generic search such as “apartments”. It will provide a short and more refined list of apartment communities that fir those criteria.

Another new aspect to think about during physical and social distancing, is the systems that the community uses to communicate with their residents after you move in. Can you pay your rent on-line? How do they let you know about any community events or repairs? Many communities use Call Assist 24/7. It’s a way that you can send a video or photo of your emergency service request to the on-call maintenance technician.  This will keep you informed via text throughout every step of the process. You will even get a photo of the technician coming out late at night. How cool is that!

Most listings have virtual tours of generic units or their furnished model. Seeing a furnished apartment is always a good way to get a feel for what the space may look like with your own furnishings. (Source: Realtor.com) Many leasing agents are happy to use zoom, skype and Facetime to show you the actual unit that is available if it is currently vacant. Ask the agent to walk through the community as well so you may see the location of your apartment home. Is it close to the pool or does it have a view that you like? Google maps is a great resource for information on shopping, parks and interstates. If you are moving locally, go drive through the apartment community at different times of day to see where the sun sets or where the bark park is located. So there a lot of great resources to help you navigate through finding the perfect new apartment home during Covid-19. Be safe and have fun!

Published at Thu, 23 Apr 2020 12:40:08 +0000

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Apartment Living

EVERYDAY PEOPLE WITH SUPERPOWERS!

EVERYDAY PEOPLE WITH SUPERPOWERS!

EVERYDAY PEOPLE WITH SUPERPOWERS!

Have you ever met a real live hero? When we were children, our heroes were larger than life. Take Superman for instance a fictional character created in 1938 with Action Comics. He had the following powers: superhuman strength, agility, heat vision, X-ray vision, superhuman breath that could freeze things or blow like the wind. Best of all he was “the man of steel” who could fly! We have been idolizing heroes in movies, books and folklore for centuries. We could sure use one now to swoop in and solve all our problems.

But now due to Covid-19, we are seeing a new brand of hero. Or are we seeing everyday people doing random acts of heroism? We have been studying heroism for years. What happens during a dangerous event that causes that one person to risk his own life for someone he has never met? In a crowd the “herd mentality” where most people do not want to get involved as it none of their business, makes anyone who steps up to help a hero. Mr. Rodgers said “Always look for the helpers” when in trouble.

Cardinal Property Management carefully navigated through the uncharted waters of the pandemic by creating transparency between their corporate office and their on-site management teams. Through discussion and surveying their employees about concerns and fears, Cardinal Group created a benevolence fund called “Cardinal Heroes”. Their people can nominate a coworker that they believe has acted as a hero. These are leasing and maintenance teams on the front lines in apartment communities without any superpowers doing extraordinary acts of heroism. This has given their teams a sense of pride and a feeling of community in a time when it is too easy to go down the rabbit hole into despair.

Nurses, doctors and emergency first responders unlike Superman did not even have enough personal protective equipment to handle the onslaught of sick overwhelming their hospitals. Then heroes from all over the country began to sew masks and create makeshift PPE out of what seemed like thin air. People trained in any related medical industry went to help on the front lines at great personal risk. First responders were working double shifts even with the very real fear of their own health and safety. But like Superman they had the power of their convictions and the courage to see them through.

From the people who are employed by grocery and pharmacy stores, to our on-site property management teams helping to keep our apartment communities open, these people are unsung heroes. Seemingly normal people who under the most extraordinary of times provide vital services so we may have a roof over our heads and food on our bellies. Churches and food banks and their parishioners are providing food to their communities. Celebrities and young children are donating time, PPE and funds to help the close to 15% of unemployed workers due to social distancing mandates and business closers. So, you see we all have the superpowers of love, creativity, compassion, bravery, strength of conviction and valor. Superman would be proud of us! He knows that there is a little bit of him in all of us. Will you be  a superhero to someone?

Published at Thu, 14 May 2020 12:30:48 +0000

LOOKING FOR HAPPINESS DURING COVID-19

LOOKING FOR HAPPINESS DURING COVID-19

Is there a bright side to the global Covid-19 pandemic? Should we even think about looking for a bright side? The answer is absolutely “yes”. The downside of this situation can feel overwhelming and desperately sad. There is no shortage of bad news, but there are many reasons and benefits to remaining hopeful now and moving forward.

All over the world people found ways to connect during social distancing. From the Italians who sang arias from their balconies to neighborhoods in the US who met on their streets for dance offs.  We learned to use new technology such as Zoom or Facetime for virtual happy hours and dinners. From a safe 6 feet apart, you can go for walks with friends and family.  Have balcony fun and get to know your neighbors that live in your apartment building. My daughter has befriended a senior lady on the second floor of her apartment building. This daily interaction reduces isolation especially for her and creates smiles.

Do you feel the silence?  During snowstorms when plane traffic is halted, silence feels like a warm blanket. Now the birds are in their element with less cars and planes in the air. With more time in our lives to explore new interests, bird watching as a hobby is on the increase. They are much easier to hear and spot when we do not need to filter through all the man-made noise. We can rediscover nature.

We can see clearly now and breath better in many cities all over the world. The media shows us photography of blue skies in Los Angeles. NASA says that the atmosphere is significantly cleaner. With the reduction of non-essential travel, the drop in pollution has been significant worldwide.  Cleaner air promotes better health for people suffering from asthma and other respiratory related illnesses. This year with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we are seeing many places with the best air quality in decades.

Did you catch up on all the projects that you thought that you never had time to do before?  I have cleaned and organized everything from my attic to the linen closets and the food pantry. I thought that I had plenty of canned goods only to find that a can of green beans expired in 2018. My hurricane provisions from 2019 had expired too. Knowing exactly where I stood with non-perishables will help me be ready for hurricane season 2020. Catching up on my “to do list” had given me a feeling of accomplishment and control during a time when we have no control over a global pandemic. It was a more positive way to spend my time than binge watching news and obsessing about the pandemic. Trust me I spent too much time going from streaming news to local news providers. (Source: Bright Side)

To find the bright side of the any bad situation, it is best to try to have a positive attitude. It will not be an easy thing to do. Even if it is only for a few minutes a day, looking for the bright side can help you not to go down into a rabbit hole of despair. There are so many health benefits with a positive outlook. Can you chat with a senior shut in? Could you donate to a non-profit or support local shops and restaurants? Can we find ways to sustain clean air and continue to commit to a healthier global environment? That remains to be seen. I know that some good will result from Covid-19 pandemic. But it will be up to each of us as we find the new norm to be positive. I’m betting on us to win!

Published at Thu, 07 May 2020 12:21:47 +0000

Categories
Apartment Living

How to Disinfect Your Home in the Time of Coronavirus

How to Disinfect Your Home in the Time of Coronavirus

There’s
everyday clean, guest clean, and then there’s COVID-19 clean.

To get down the absolute nitty gritty on how to disinfect your home, you’ll want your big guns: bleach, rubbing alcohol, and hot water.

The
Best Disinfectants

For your high-touch surfaces, the Centers for Disease Control recommends a bleach solution diluted with water, or a 70% alcohol solution.

Follow
this bleach recipe: 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water, or 4
teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.

Make sure to properly ventilate when disinfecting with bleach.

And check to see if your bleach has expired. Who knew it could? After
about 9 months to a year, and if it smells less bleachy, it’s lost its disinfecting
power. Time for a new jug.

Tip: Don’t mix bleach with anything other than water; otherwise, it could set off a dangerous chemical reaction. For instance, bleach + alcohol is a deadly combo.

How to disinfect your home if you don’t have bleach? Regular old rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol) works, so long as it’s at least 70% alcohol, according to the CDC. The alcohol concentration will be listed on the bottle. Rubbing alcohol you buy should already be diluted, unlike bleach.

Is There a Such a Thing as Too Much Disinfectant?

According to an EPA fact sheet, studies have found that using some disinfectant products can cause germs to become resistant.

The EPA has issued a list of disinfectants on the market that it believes are effective in killing COVID-19. Look for the EPA registration number on the product and check it against this list to ensure you have a match.

Erica Marie Hartman, an environmental microbiologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., whose research focuses on resistance, confirms soap, bleach, and alcohol are your best bets.

What about the various disinfecting wipes on the market (at least if you can find them)? Hartman says the active ingredient in many of those is an ammonium compound, which could become resistant to viruses over time.

Surfaces That Need Your Attention

With your preferred disinfectant, wipe down high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, tables, remotes, banisters, toilets, sinks, and faucets daily or more often, if someone in your home is sick.

Contact time is another key aspect of surface sanitizing. “Disinfection isn’t instantaneous,” says Hartman. [For a bleach solution], you want to leave it on the surface for 10 minutes before wiping it off. ” 

By the way, new research from scientists at the National Institutes of Health, among other agencies, shows that at least some coronavirus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

But a report in “The Washington Post” notes that the most likely period for infection from the virus on surfaces is in the first 10 minutes to one or two hours.

Not All Floors Can Handle Bleach

For your nonporous floors, like those in the bathroom, the CDC recommends mopping with the bleach solution. 

Avoid bleach on hardwood and other porous floors because of staining. Instead, use a disinfecting wet mop cloth without bleach.

Cleaning Isn’t Disinfecting

From the you-might-be-surprised files: Disinfecting with bleach isn’t actually cleaning. If you also need to clean your countertops of dirt and grime, do that first with soap and water. Then use the bleach solution or rubbing alcohol to combat the virus.

Killing Microbes on Clothes

Most washing machines today do a bang-up job on dirty clothes with cold water, which is best for energy savings. But, and especially if you have a sick person in your house, the hot-water setting followed by a high-heat dry for about a ½ hour to 45 minutes is best for virus eradication.

Don’t forget about your laundry hamper. Wipe it down like you
would other surfaces. You can also use a reusable liner bag, which you can
launder with the clothes.

What If I’m Selling My House, and Inviting More Germs In?

How to disinfect your home when it’s for sale? Virtual showings and tours are the ideal, and your agent can set those up.

However, if there’s a need to have someone come in, talk to your agent who will work with you to establish a hygienic protocol, including requiring visitors to wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer when they arrive, and to remove shoes or wear booties before entering. Removing shoes not only reduces dirt coming in, but potentially germs.

In addition, many agents are eliminating open houses.

After any showings, practice your surface wipe-down routine.

Finally, when you work with disinfectants, practice some self care. “Alcohol and bleach can be very aggressive on your skin, so wearing rubber gloves can help protect your hands,” Hartman says. 

Related: 9 Cleaning Tasks That Homeowners Tend to Overlook


Published at Tue, 17 Mar 2020 14:46:32 +0000

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Apartment Living

6 Little Ways Home Stagers Make Your House Look Brighter

6 Little Ways Home Stagers Make Your House Look Brighter

For city dwellers, brick walls are an all-too-familiar view outside windows. My own Boston apartment virtually has no natural light. The kitchen has a petite window that looks out to bricks (bricks in need of a pressure clean, I might add), while my bedroom windows peer into the neighboring building. Needless to say, natural light is on the list of must-haves for my next apartment.

Whether it’s a windowless nook or a room in the back of the house, the absence of natural light can be drab—especially during stay-at-home orders. Every room deserves to be brightened up, even if it takes some extra TLC. Here, home stagers share tips to make your home look brighter. 

For walls and floors, the lighter the better

The first step to making your space brighter is—you guessed it—light paint. Melissa Morrissey of Boston Modern Staging + Design recommends Benjamin Moore’s Simply White or Gray Owl if you’re not ready to make the leap to plain white walls. If you’re more of a pop-of-color person, you don’t have to stick to neutrals. Anne Kenney, president and CEO of home staging company, Anne Kenney Associates, says any pale color could work with an eggshell finish. And make sure to keep the ceiling white.

To complement the walls, white or light tiling in the bathroom and light wood throughout the rest of the house will suffice. Kenney says area rugs can do the trick in a home with darker floors. 

Let there be (artificial) light!

Kenney says placing floor lamps and table lamps—with white lamp shades—in two or three corners of the room is essential. “You’re going to want to be able to increase or decrease the amount of light depending on the day. So [use] a three way light or a dimmer that goes up to 150 watts,” she says. The higher the wattage the better, but make sure your bulbs are warm and uniform.

Decorate furniture with colorful accents

For furniture, keep it simple with white or neutral colors. Donna Dazzo, president of Designed to Appeal, says, to make room for fun with accents. “If you’re going to use a monochromatic color scheme, vary the textures of everything so that it adds some interest to the room,” she says. One way to do this is by layering textured pillows on the couch. Reflective surfaces like mirrored coffee tables or metallic/glass pieces also increase the amount of light in any room, Dazzo says. 

Add another item to your cleaning list during the pandemic: windows. Kenney says this does the trick to really brighten up any space. “People should take out their screens when they’re showing their homes—you don’t realize how much the screen is blocking light,” she says.

And in the battle of blinds versus curtains, both win if you use them properly. If you require less privacy, Morrissey recommends sheer curtains. Otherwise, any type of blinds will do, including sheer accordion shades that allow for light to pour in. 

Hang a mirror, mirror on the wall

Mirrors. Mirrors. Mirrors. Hanging these is the age-old trick to help reflect whatever natural light there is in a darker room. Whether it’s a series of vertical mirrors or one large horizontal one, Kenney says to keep them thin and “the bigger the better!”

Use wall hangings to let your personality shine through with fun patterns or tasselled, textured pieces. “You don’t need to go crazy with a bunch of them,” Morrissey says. One very large canvas over your bed or a piece in the living room will brighten and dazzle.

It’s always a good decision to decorate with plants. “Any apartment is going to be feeling a little—particularly during these times—lifeless, so anything natural you can bring in is fantastic,” Kenney says. Be it a large succulent or tropical floor plant, any live beauty will lighten your home.

Published at Tue, 23 Jun 2020 15:00:00 +0000

How to Paint a Tile Floor for a Budget-Friendly, Colorful Upgrade

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

You already know that painting walls can totally change a room on a shoestring budget. But paint can be used to create budget transformation on other surfaces, as well. Painting floor tile has become a creative way to add some personality to bathrooms, kitchens, mudrooms, or any other space with tile flooring. Truly, some of the before-and-afters of painted tile floors are unrecognizable (in a good way).

If you take your time and do it correctly, painting your tile floor is a great money-saving DIY project—but, speaking as someone who has painted their kitchen tile floor before, trust me when I say it’s imperative that you don’t skip out on the prep work. Know that it’s going to take a hot minute to complete this project—so if you’re working in a high-traffic area of your home, perhaps consider relocating for the amount of time it takes you to complete the project.

“The beauty about painting is you can change the perspective of any room, and it’s economical,” says Jonathan Rios, professional painter and owner of Rios Interiors in New York City. “It’ll bring something different, because if you have to renovate, the cost will be 10 times more than if you do it yourself.”

But the key question: Does it matter whether you’re working with laminate, ceramic, or vinyl tiling? “The good thing is, now with the products that are on the market, you can basically paint almost anything,” says Rios. The key is to pick and apply a good, strong binding primer.(more on that below). Here’s what you’ll need to paint a tile floor, and how to do it.

What you’ll need to paint a tile floor

How to paint a tile floor

If you’ve been living in your space for a while, you’ll want to do a good cleaning of the area before you even begin. We’re talking a full-on mop-in-the-bucket floor clean to remove any scum or grime that has built up over time.

Using 220 grit sandpaper, give a light sanding to the tile. That helps remove any grease or anything stuck onto the tile you weren’t able to get with a mop. It also helps the primer grip onto the tile. You can sand by hand, but if you’re working with a good amount of flooring then a handheld sand orbiter will make your life much easier. 

3. Thoroughly clean and prep the area

Time to clean again. Wipe away any sand grit you’ve created, and really take a second look at where any dirt could be hiding—like in the grout. If you don’t clean it away now, it’ll get mixed in when you start painting and then it will be a part of your life forever (speaking from experience here!).

If you want an extra barrier of protection, tape off the wall so that if your roller or brush taps the wall, you won’t accidentally paint the wall with your floor color.

4. Be strategic about where you start

You definitely don’t want to paint yourself into a corner, so be strategic about where you start. “Don’t start painting near the entrance,” advises Rios. If the furthest thing from the door is the tub or shower, start there, and then paint by backing your way out of the bathroom.

“If you are painting tiles in the bathroom in the shower area or a place with a lot of humidity, in the end, it won’t last 100%,” warns Rios. But the key to it lasting as long as possible is to use the correct primer. He recommends a strong-bonding primer that will adhere to otherwise hard-to-paint surfaces such as INSL-X Stix, KILZ, or Fresh Start from Benjamin Moore.

After the first coat of primer has dried, apply a second.

“An epoxy paint will last longer than a water-based paint..or you could use a Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore Floor & Patio paint,” says Rios. “It will hold better than a regular wall or ceiling paint.”

Once your top coat of paint dries, if you want to go back and add stenciling or designs, this is the time. Otherwise, enjoy! While painting your tile is not a forever-fix—especially in high-traffic areas—it’s still a project worth doing. And it’s much cheaper than replacing your current tile with different colored or patterned tile! “Don’t be afraid to explore,” says Rios. “At the end of the day, it’ll be something that’s worth it.”

Published at Tue, 23 Jun 2020 15:00:00 +0000

Categories
Apartment Living

The Time is Now

The Time is Now

antiracism on apartment34

This site was started to celebrate what could be called life’s frivolities. Design, fashion, food, travel. Some would argue, and I am certainly among them, that these aspects of life and culture are, in fact, incredibly important components of self expression, mental health and wellbeing, connection, and community building. They are crucial parts of life’s joys.

But I have never explicitly acknowledged on this platform that my ability to focus on such frivolous things is in large part due to my privilege as a white person with means, who lives in a major city. I am housing and food secure. I have a higher education. I benefit from access, resources and status that is unearned. My privilege is made available to me simply because I am white.

In the two weeks since the murder of George Floyd, there has been a collective reckoning with the systemic and institutionalized racism that has terrorized Black communities in the United States for 400 years.

I have spent the last two weeks listening, reading, and recognizing my contribution to the system that continuously oppresses Black people and People of Color (POC) on a daily basis. My inaction is a failing.

But here I am. A white woman with this blog. This platform. With followers on social media. From this point forward, I will be taking conscious action to combat racism in all aspects. A part of this conscious action is embracing my responsibility to share my views publicly. It is my duty to engage in difficult and uncomfortable conversations with you because staying silent is complicity. Remaining silent does no good, only harm.

I suspect I will get feedback that politics should stay personal. You came to Apartment 34 for inspiration on what color to paint your living room, not to discuss politics. But the personal is always political. I’ve certainly never shied away from sharing my personal views here, but saying that a lifestyle blog “isn’t the place to discuss racism” is a luxury of white privilege. We, as white people, are able to compartmentalize different parts of ourselves because our existence is not questioned. It is not threatened on a daily basis. We can choose to not think about these issues. Black people enjoy no such luxury.

I am hopeful you will stay to have these challenging conversations with me.

I apologize to my Black followers and to the BIPOC community at large, as I have not publicly used this platform to do the work of an ally. That stops today. I am still working to unpack my own implicit biases and identify where I fail as an antiracism ally. But because I have this platform, because I am a citizen who lives in a country built on the back of institutionalized racism, and because I am a human who cares, I have a responsibility to not only be an ally, but also be an advocate. An open, active, loud advocate for antiracism. An open, active, loud advocate for Black people. An advocate for the disenfranchised. An advocate for all POC who face daily oppression. And this work doesn’t just happen one time. It’s not a single post. It’s not attending one protest, making one donation or taking one vote. This must be a consistent, ongoing, commitment to keep sharing, showing up, protesting, voting and applying pressure from all sides until justice is done.

As a brand, public platform and individual influencer (no matter how uncomfortable I am with that term), I am putting forth the following:

  • At Apartment 34, we stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter to bring justice, healing, and freedom to Black people across the globe.
  • Apartment 34 is an actively antiracist platform. To that end, we will not tolerate any racist comments or interactions in Apartment 34 owned spaces.
  • Apartment 34 will only work with partners who are also actively antiracist. Going forward, Apt34 will vet all potential partners to understand their hiring practices, their public stance on key issues and their philanthropic activities to actively lift up the Black community and other communities of color.
  • Apartment 34 will serve as a platform to amplify the work of Black designers, makers, artists and creatives not just now, not just occasionally, but on a regular and continual basis.
  • Apartment 34 will actively work to support Black-owned businesses through our purchasing power, links and work with freelancers.
  • Apartment 34 will work to keep the Creative industries accountable, to ensure that Black people have multiple seats at the table, that they are put in positions of leadership, that they are offered to share their expertise at conferences and on panels, and that their work is viewed within its own context, not only within the context of the white-dominant views of design work.

Finally, I still have a lot more personal work to do to examine how implicit racial bias shows up in my own life – a journey I am happy to share with you on the blog and on social media if you are interested (you can see all the resources I’ve shared to do saved on my Instagram Stories and this Google Doc is a list of incredible antiracism resources – I highly recommend you check it out) – but I’ve thought a lot about how Apartment 34 can make a tangible contribution in this moment, right now.

Here is what I’ve come up with:

If you’ve been following Black people on social media this week, or perhaps even had conversations with your own Black friends, you may have heard them say “do not ask me what you can do.” Or “stop asking me what you can do.” As a white person that can feel confusing as you’re just asking how to help, right? But in fact, by you asking, you’re putting all the onus back on the POC to educate you. You’re putting the work on them to dig up past traumas and explain them to you, when in fact, so many Black people have already so graciously, bravely and beautifully done that for all of us, in the form of amazing books about Black life in America.

So below I have compiled a nowhere-near-exhaustive list of Black literature, both fiction and non-fiction, that illuminate the Black experience. To qualify, I have read many, but not all of these titles so I cannot personally speak about each individual one. But I have added them all to my reading list – even the ones I’ve read many years ago. Because I need to have these stories etched into my mind and across my heart. I, as a white person, will never truly appreciate the Black experience because I cannot myself embody it, but I can do my utmost to be fully educated about it, to know Black stories so I can  empathize with the Black struggle to the best of my ability, and understand the history so I can be a better ally and advocate. We all can do this.

So you do not need to DM a black advocate on Instagram or text your Black friend. Simply pick up the work of these amazing Black authors (I have prioritized mostly women but there men too) who have given us an amazing gift with their words and stories.

While I encourage you to seek out Black-owned bookstores to purchase these books (here is a link to 124 Black-owned bookstores), all the links below are Amazon affiliate links. Amazon does offer access to those who cannot access a Black-owned bookstore in this moment in time. I will be donating 100% of any commission made from the purchase of a book listed below to The Conscious Kid, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing bias and promoting positive identity development in youth. As The Conscious Kid explains,

“To counter racist socialization, structural racism, and racial bias, experts recommend acknowledging and naming race and racism with children as early and as often as possible (Baron & Banaji; Derman-Sparks). Children’s books are one of the most effective and practical tools for initiating these critical conversations with children, and can also be used to model what it means to resist and disrupt oppression.”

All donations made to The Conscious Kid go to a dedicated fund for the organization to get children’s books from their list of “41 Children’s Books to Support Conversations on Race, Racism, and Resistance” into classrooms across the country.

A key step in ending institutionalized racism in our nation is teaching anti-racism to our children. It’s one of many many things we will need to do individually, and collectively, to begin to dismantle systemic racism once and for all.

100% commissions earned from the purchase of these books will go to The Conscious Kid.

image courtesy of ThirdLove

Published at Mon, 08 Jun 2020 22:58:23 +0000

Daydream Destinations – Villa Kuro

For years, our Gotta Getaway series has been a staple on this blog. Travel is one of my main forms of therapy. I use it to clear my head, get perspective and be re-inspired. Even during the times when I didn’t travel much, like when I’d just had a baby, I was constantly thinking about travel, planning it, wishing for it. While we might all watch our 2020 travel plans slip away and wonder when we might get to enjoy safe travel again, I do think it’s important to continue to dream, wish and plan – even if it’s for an unknown future.

So at the risk of torturing you (and myself!) I’m starting a new series – Daydream Destinations, basically as a way to bank a list of all the places that will be atop my travel wishlist once the world comes out the other side of this pandemic.

And I’m starting with a relatively attainable option – a stunning Airbnb tucked away in Joshua Tree – Villa Kuro.

Villa Kuro on apartment 34Villa Kuro on apartment 34

Set in the beautifully remote hills of Joshua Tree National Park, Villa Kuro is a much needed reprieve from your typical Palm Springs vacation rental. No swinging 60’s decor, no bright colors, no manicured lawns. Instead, this space is subdued. It is serene. It feels like you’ve been completely transported. Oh what I wouldn’t give to be transported right about now.

This stunning, tranquil space was actually on my radar before this all started. I’m kicking myself for not getting there when I had the opportunity last fall.

I love the white appliances in this kitchen – I think they’re making a comeback! The built-in niches also offer a laid-back, yet architectural storage solution. Wood beams in the ceiling warm up all of the hard surfaces.

Villa Kuro on apartment 34

Renovated with a nod to wabi-sabi, what was a 60’s ranch style house now features natural materials and textures, highlighted by oodles of natural light flooding through the oversized doors that connect you directly the desert landscape beyond.

Villa Kuro on apartment 34

I spy foraged branches! You see – the trend really does work no matter where you are.

Villa Kuro on apartment 34 Villa Kuro on apartment 34

A perfect mix of both custom, collected and vintage furniture add to the highly curated vibe of the home (the TV also comes pre-packaged with all your Netflix binging needs – but we may have watched everything that’s ever existed by the time we get here).

Villa Kuro on apartment 34Villa Kuro on apartment 34

But the piece de resistance of this vacation rental has to be the tea room – seen in the first image in this post. The designers realized the original garage had the property’s best views so they converted it into a tea room / meditation space, complete with a low slung table, woven mats for sitting and a desert zen garden. What I wouldn’t give for a little more zen right now.

I love the mix of woven elements  used throughout this house – lampshades, baskets, rugs – they juxtapose with the smooth plaster walls so beautifully. Also is anyone else noticing that backlight mirror in this bathroom? Genius move.

Being home is showing us how little we truly need to survive – food, family, a comforting environment – but I do think stepping outside the confines of our world offers points of view you really can’t acquire from your couch.

And I love Villa Kuro’s point of view.

While I’m certainly no medical expert, I’m beginning to consider staying in a vacation rental sometime over the summer. Vacation rentals in California are starting to become available again now. Maybe we won’t have to leave Villa Kuro in the day-dream category for too long.

images courtesy of villa kuro

Published at Wed, 27 May 2020 05:44:43 +0000

Categories
Apartment Living

Home Buying and Selling During the Pandemic: What You Need to Know

Home Buying and Selling During the Pandemic: What You Need to Know

Technology and good-old-fashioned creativity are helping agents, buyers, and sellers abide by COVID-19 health and safety practices while getting deals done.

Some buyers are touring houses virtually. Others visit in person while remaining at least six feet from their agent. Sellers are hosting open houses on Facebook Live. Appraisers are doing drive-by valuations. Buyers are watching inspections via video call. Masked and gloved notaries are getting signatures on doorsteps.

“We have had to make some adjustments, for sure,” says Brian K. Henson, a REALTOR® with Atlanta Fine Homes / Sotheby’s International Realty in Alpharetta, Ga. “Everyone is trying to minimize face-to-face interactions. There have been some delays, but mostly, deals are getting done, just with tweaks.”

Here’s what home buying and selling during the pandemic looks like.

Showings Go Virtual

The rules around in-person showings vary by city, county, and state. Some allow them and some ban them. Check with your state, county, and local government to get the latest on business closures and shut-down rules.

Agents have conducted home tours via FaceTime and other similar tools for years. But these platforms have proven invaluable for home buying and selling during the pandemic. Real estate sites report a surge in the creation of 3D home tours. Redfin, a real estate brokerage, saw a 494% increase in requests for video home tours in March.

“I’ve done several FaceTime showings,” says Henson. He conducted virtual showings before COVID-19, too. He recently closed a deal on a home the buyers only saw on video, he says, but hasn’t yet done so during the pandemic.

In places where in-person showings are allowed, agents wipe down door handles, spray the lockbox with disinfectant, and open up the house, closets, everything for a client. “We leave all the lights on so no one touches switches, and we don’t touch cabinets or doors during showings,” Henson says.

Safe-Showing Guidelines

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, which produces HouseLogic, recommends only one buyer enter a home at a time, with 6 feet between each guest. NAR also recommends agents have potential buyers wash their hands, or use hand sanitizer when they come in the door. They should also remove their shoes. No children should be present at showings, either.

“We’re living in extraordinary times and unusual circumstances. If you have the ability to work, you have to be creative,” Mabél Guzmán, a Chicago real estate agent, told NBC News. Guzmán, who is also vice president of association affairs for NAR, has put together a video offering tips and strategies for virtual showings during the pandemic.

Down Payment Help

Many organizations offering down payment assistance to first-time home buyers have temporarily suspended the programs or changed the rules. You can check the status of programs in your area at the Down Payment Assistance Resource site.

Desktop, Drive-By Appraisals

Appraisers are essential workers in many areas, so home valuations are continuing. But often remotely. New, temporary rules from the Federal Housing Finance Authority allow drive-by and desktop appraisals for loans backed by the federal government.

In a desktop appraisal, the appraiser comes up with a home estimate based on tax records and multiple listing service information, without an in-person visit. For a drive-by, the appraiser only looks at the home’s exterior, in combination with a desktop appraisal. The Appraisal Foundation has put out guidelines for handling appraisals during the pandemic. Here’s the FAQ.

And here are specific new appraisal guidelines by agency:

On the other hand, some private lenders still require in-person appraisals, which are allowed even in areas with shutdown orders. Private lenders hold about 35% of first-lien mortgages, according to the Urban Institute

When appraisers come to your home, they should adhere to Centers for Disease Control guidelines, including wearing gloves and a face mask, keeping at least 6 feet apart from anyone in the home, and asking if the homeowners have been sick or traveled recently to a COVID-19 hotspot.

Inspections Via Live Video

Inspectors are now often working alone, no buyers in tow, and using hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes. The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors advises inspectors to videotape their inspection so clients can watch it at home later, or to use FaceTime or other live video chat apps to take their clients along on the inspection, virtually. They can also call clients with their findings after they’re done.

The American Society of Home Inspectors has also issued guidelines for inspectors so they keep themselves and the homeowners safe while providing an accurate assessment of a home’s condition.

Mortgage Rates and Locks

With mortgage rates fluctuating quickly and closing times taking longer than usual, some lenders are extending mortgage rate lock periods. You can grab a good rate and hang on to it even if your lender takes longer than usual to process your loan.

But the protocol depends on the lender and the loan. Some lenders are offering this for all loans; others for refis. Check with your lender about its policy.

Related: How to Get Home Financing

Employment Verification

An important step in getting a mortgage is proving the borrower has a job. In pre-coronavirus days, lenders called the borrower’s employer for a verbal verification.

The Federal Housing Finance Authority, which oversees Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and federal home loan banks, has relaxed the rules for loans backed by the federal government because so many businesses are closed.

Lenders for federally backed loans now accept an email from an employer, a recent year-to-date paystub, or a bank statement showing a recent payroll deposit as proof of employment.

Walk-throughs

Home buying and selling during the pandemic means real estate agents can conduct the final walk-through via video with their clients. Or they can just open the home and have buyers walk through on their own. Henson says he still accompanies his clients, but stays six feet away and has them wash their hands when entering and exiting the house. Everyone’s wearing masks, too.

And, of course, when the buyers take possession, they should disinfect.

Remote Notarization Depends On Where You Live

About one-half of states have permanent remote online notarization (RON) policies. These allow a notary and signer in different locations to sign electronic document, usually by use of video apps like Zoom or FaceTime. Notaries will watch you sign either a paper document or do an electronic signature on an e-doc, via camera.

Some states have rolled out temporary rules allowing RON. Here’s a state-by-state list of notary law updates, and the type of remote notarizations allowed. The number of states allowing remote notarization could grow as federal and state pandemic legislation expands.

Closings Get Creative

Traditional closings, where everybody gathered around a big table to sign the final papers, are no longer possible. Title companies and banks are getting super creative in dealing with the limitations.

A Minnesota company, Legacy Title, rolled out a drive-thru closing service at one of its offices in an old bank branch building. The title company rep sits in a bank teller window and handles the closing papers while the customer sits in their car. Legacy completed 14 closings in the first week it offered drive-thru service.

Then there are drive-by closings, where the entire transaction takes place in cars. Masked and gloved notaries meet buyers in parking lots and pass documents through car windows.

“I had a closing where the buyer sat in her car the whole time. The attorney came out to her car, gave her paperwork, had her sign in her car, and my buyer never got out of her car,” Birmingham, Ala., agent Isaac McDow told WBRC television.

Says Georgia-based agent Henson, “I’ve had closings the last three weeks [that] I’ve been asked not to attend. There was one where the seller signed two days before buyer. Then the seller came back two days later and signed.”

Henson, who is also licensed in New York, has had to extend closing dates on two sales there since. Co-op boards won’t let non-residents into buildings ­­­– not even an electrician who needs to make repairs as part of an issue that came up in the inspection. He left the closing with an open-ended date.

“It’s all about being really flexible right now,” he says.

TIP: Find out if your county recording office can complete the deal online.

Student Loan Relief

Finally, if you’re also trying to swing your student loan payments, know that federal student loan borrowers get an automatic six-month break in loan payments from April 10, 2020, through Sept. 3, 2020. Thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, they also won’t be charged a dime of interest in that time.

Learn more at the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s site.

Keep in mind that payment suspension only applies to federal loans owned by the Department of Education. Some help may be available to borrowers with private student loans and other loans (like Perkins Loans and Federal Family Education Loans) that aren’t covered. But it’s not automatic. Reach out to your student loan servicer for information.

So, Should You Buy or Sell?

The real estate industry is creatively and safely responding to the situation, and mortgage rates remain low. Your agent is a great source of information about home buying and selling during the pandemic to help you feel comfortable. But, ultimately, it’s a question only you can answer.

Related: 5 Questions to Ask Your Agent When Buying a House

Published at Fri, 01 May 2020 21:31:14 +0000

Coronavirus Mortgage Relief: What You Need To Know

Mortgage lenders, and the federal agencies that regulate lenders, are putting coronavirus mortgage relief measures in place to ensure homeowners have options if they’re unable to make payments.

Your first stop in the face of financial hardship is your lender or bank.

Just keep in mind lenders are working to figure out and implement the new mortgage relief polices outlined by the regulatory agencies. So you might read one thing from the FHFA, a federal regulator, but your bank might be doing something else.

In addition, due to the number of homeowners affected by the pandemic, lenders are dealing with a crush of calls and online queries. Be patient, persistent, and prepared to spend time on hold.  

Here are the resources you need now.

Your Mortgage

Federally Backed Mortgages
If you have a mortgage backed by Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veteran’s Administration (VA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac, your loan servicer must offer you deferred or reduced mortgage payment options – called forbearance — for up to six months. This means you don’t have to pay your mortgage and you won’t be charged late fees, penalties, or interest while you can’t pay.

Loan servicers for FHA, Freddie, and Fannie must provide an additional six months of forbearance if you request it. 

Not sure who backs your own loan? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have loan look-up sites where you can find out who owns it, and how to get in touch with them.

In addition, here are direct links to some lenders and banks’ Covid-19 resources:

Mortgages Not Federally Backed
If your mortgage is one of the 5 million in the United States not backed by a federal entity, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which includes a coronavirus mortgage relief mandate, doesn’t apply. But regulators have encouraged those lenders to work with borrowers who can’t pay their mortgages, and most banks and other lenders are suspending mortgage payments or offering forbearance.

The level of relief you get will depend on who owns your loan. Contact your lender to find out what’s available.

Regardless of the type of loan you have, you must apply for coronavirus mortgage relief through their mortgage servicer. That’s the entity that collects your monthly payments and decides how long the assistance will last. When you reach your mortgage servicer, you’ll need to explain your situation and provide information about your income, expenses, and assets. 

TIP: If you’re an at-risk homeowner, this downloadable PDF will help you understand the sources you can approach for help.

Foreclosure and Evictions

Federal officials have imposed a nationwide halt to foreclosures and evictions for more than 36 million Americans with home mortgages backed by the FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.

The moratorium only affects borrowers with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA, and RHS (Rural Housing Service loans through the USDA). This doesn’t apply to the roughly 35% of mortgages held in bank portfolios and private label securities. But some individual lenders are offering relief.

Some cities, counties, and states, including Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Texas, have placed a moratorium on foreclosures. Check with your city, county, and state governments. Find state-by-state tallies online.

Housing Counselors

Another tool in your relief toolbox are housing counselors. Counselors can provide independent advice on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, and credit issues. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s look-up tool lets you can find counselors in your state.

Your Credit

The CARES Act forbids lenders from dinging your credit score for missed payments on federally backed mortgages and student loans during your forbearance period. The federal government is also encouraging private lenders to suspend reporting late payments on eligible mortgages. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has more advice about protecting your credit.

To keep close tabs on your credit, you can now obtain a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, every week for the next year through April 20, 2020. The companies ratcheted up their once-a-year allowance to help consumers “protect their financial health during the sudden and unprecedented hardship caused by COVID-19.”

Get all three reports in one spot: annualcreditreport.com.

Your Student Loan

The CARES Act includes immediate relief for those who can’t make their monthly payments on federally held loans due to coronavirus. All loan payments (both principal and interest) are suspended through Sept. 30, 2020, with no penalty. You don’t need to apply for this program or contact your lender. It’s automatic.

If you keep making payments, they’ll be applied entirely toward the principal. These suspended payments will count towards any student loan forgiveness already in effect.

Here’s a list of servicers — and their phone numbers — for loans backed by the U.S. Department of Education.

Some loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program and some Perkins Loans not owned by the Department of Education aren’t eligible for suspended payments. Nor are private student loans owned by banks, credit unions, schools, or other private entities. If you can’t make payments, contact your loan servicer to find out what options are available. Many are offering ways, like forbearance, to postpone payments.

Not sure who your servicer is? Look on your most recent statement and contact the servicer immediately.

If your student loan is already in default, the relief act immediately suspends wage garnishments or tax refund deductions. They’ll resume after the suspension ends.

Find out more about student loan relief at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Your Taxes

The IRS has pushed back the deadline for filing and payment of federal taxes to July 15, 2020. Many states are following suit. Check with your state tax agency, or see this list from the American Institute of CPAs for details on deadlines.

Related: Tips to Get Filing Ready for (Delayed) Tax Deadline

Your Real Estate Transaction

If you’re going to be buying or selling a home in the near future, find out if your county recording office can complete the deal online.

In addition, more than half of states, many under emergency state directive, allow for remote online notarization of documents. This makes it safe and easy to complete real estate transactions under social distancing orders. The number of states allowing remote notarization could grow as pandemic legislation expands.

Your Appraisal

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have provided detailed appraisal alternative guidelines, so homeowners and appraisers can practice social distancing on Freddie and Fannie loans through May 17, 2020.

FHA, VA, and RHS are also allowing variations on the usual appraisal protocol. Check with your servicer for details.

Look Out For Scams

Fear breeds scams. And scammers are out in full force during the pandemic. Beware of third parties offering mortgage assistance and other help. Seek help from your lender directly.

For information on circulating scams, and guidance on identifying them, visit the Federal Trade Commission website.  

With additional reporting by Christina Hoffmann

Published at Tue, 07 Apr 2020 13:23:42 +0000

Categories
Apartment Living

7 Little Games To Play With Your Dog In Small Spaces 

7 Little Games To Play With Your Dog In Small Spaces 

If you own a dog in an apartment, you have surely run into the difficulty of combining adequate exercise with the space restrictions that come with apartment living. Especially during poor weather or long winter evenings, it can be tricky to get your dog tired enough.  

Unfortunately, lack of mental and physical stimulation not only results in a bored dog, but can actually create behavioral issues such as reactivity towards other dogs, frequent potty accidents or separation anxiety. 

It is much easier to prevent these than to fix them — which is why these indoor dog games are the perfect way to tire out your dogs and keep them happy and healthy. Even just five minutes of playing with your canine friends every day will make a noticeable difference in their behavior and focus. 

Jump The Leg 

Sit on the floor, stretch one leg out in front of you and put your foot against a couch or wall. Now toss treats to both sides of your leg, so that your dog has to jump over it to get them. This repeated bouncing motion is very tiring for dogs — akin to humans jumping straight up in the air over and over — and even a few minutes of this will leave your dog panting. Make sure that you only play this on a surface with good traction, to prevent any accidents. 

Crate Race 

training dogs inside

Put a treat in your dog’s crate. Show him and let him run into the crate to get the treat. Repeat this a couple times. Now you put the treat into the crate and walk a couple of steps away with your dog. Formulate a call like “Ready… steady… go!” and let him run into the crate. Repeat this a couple times. 

If your dog is good at the last step, you can move further and further away from the crate. Eventually you can let him race to his crate even from another room or the hallway. Running to his crate and eating the treat will become more challenging and fun the further you move away. 

This game is not just fun for your dog, but will also strengthen the positive association with the crate and make it a happy place for your dog. Especially for apartment dogs, it is very important to be able to settle quietly and happily in their place. 

Blanket Trick

dog games with blankets

Take a blanket or beach towel and put it on your floor. Now hide some treats underneath it and let your dog figure out how to get to them. Dogs are not naturally good at understanding that they have to lift one corner to gain access to the cookies underneath. Solving this food puzzle will really work your dog’s brain. If he solves it, repeat it a couple times. Repeating brain games will teach your dog to pay attention to his thinking process and strengthen his memory. Over time you will also see a positive effect on his overall obedience skills from this, because the better he can think and remember, the better he will behave overall. 

Pillow Tower 

Take several pillows. Start out by stacking two pillows and luring your dog up on them with a cookie. If this proves to be no challenge, take a third pillow! It is tricky for your dog to jump up and keep a proper balance, as the softness of the pillows will make the little tower unstable. In competitive dog sports, exercises on unstable surfaces like this are used frequently to increase the dog’s strength and coordination. By practicing your dog’s skills in these areas, you can challenge him in novel and creative ways.  And if your dog is successful with three pillows, try four or even five! 

Treat Burrito 

Take your blanket or beach towel again and put it on the floor in front of you. Distribute treats on it. Now take one end and roll up the blanket, just like a yoga mat. When you have it all rolled up, present it to your dog. Now it is her turn to figure out how to get all the treats inside the treat burrito. Again, unrolling it usually does not come to the dog’s mind right away, so the puzzle fun will keep her entertained for quite a while. 

Sniff Box 

dog searching box for treats

Take a cardboard box and fill it with crumpled-up newspapers. Now drop treats in there and let your dog use scent to find them. This is a great activity especially for anxious dogs, as sniffing is a very calming activity. In fact, just a few minutes of sniffing can significantly lower a dog’s heart rate and reduce stress. If your dog is afraid or nervous, daily sniffing can vastly improve the overall mood and behavior.  

Cookie Bopping 

Note: this might be a game that you only play in the bathroom, as it can get messy.

Take a salad bowl and fill it with water. Now put some treats in there, or even just your dog’s regular dry food. Let her dive in to get the goodies. This game can be a real thinking challenge and also strengthen your dog’s confidence. Many dogs start out not understanding how they can get the treats and only learn over time to effectively snatch them out of the water. 

How Often Should You Play? 

little games for dogs

You can play these games with your dog every single day. Your dog will let you know when it becomes too much: If he is noticeably unmotivated or slow, you should take a day off. Different dog breeds vary a lot in how much and how often they want to play and train. While some dogs from working breeds such as German Shepherds can play all day long, others — for example a Pug — want to have their well-deserved breaks. 

Just like people, dogs have a daily rhythm of activity and rest. They usually are most awake in the mornings and evenings. Especially at night, they can be pretty pushy and needy for attention. Try out the games above during this time and see if it makes your dog calmer and easier to manage.  

If you have more than one dog, you might need to separate them for the games so that they do not interfere and show resource guarding tendencies. If the dogs enjoy the games they might become pretty protective over the treats. It is best to be safe and not let them get into any struggles over whose turn it is. 

About the author: Steffi Trott is the founder of SpiritDog Training, an online dog training program. She strives to bring positive, science-based and fun training to dog owners all over the world. She lives with her own three dogs in Albuquerque, NM. They compete in the dog sport of agility and enjoy playing games together daily. 

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Published at Thu, 28 May 2020 08:30:02 +0000

3,500+ Sq.Ft. Homes Become the Norm in Chicago

The current coronavirus pandemic has forced us to spend more time inside our homes than ever before – and having a comfortably sized home and a well-fitted kitchen that allows you to cook tasty meals certainly makes the lockdown easier to withstand. Apparently, Chicagoans are inspired when it comes to housing preferences. They have been interested in generously sized interiors and amenities such as outdoor space for a while now.

Chicago’s single family homes grew larger over the last decade

The size of single family homes in Chicago is influenced by the preferences of the buyers on one hand and by the size of the plots on the other. Most lots in the city of Chicago have a standard size of 25×125 feet, and you can find even smaller ones. The price of land lots suitable for house building varies depending on location, but they are definitely not cheap, usually in the range of tens of thousands of dollars. Under these circumstances, every square foot is precious and it’s no wonder that builders are leaning toward houses that occupy as much of the land plot as possible.

Builders are notorious for maximizing square footage for resale, says Jason Rowland, founder of Rowland Group in Chicago, and whatever number they can achieve through zoning rights, they will build. Rowland adds that the square footage of new builds in Chicago really started to get maxed out around the 2011-2013 timeframe, when the previous economic crisis ended. The preference toward building large homes stuck and continues today.

Buyers of single family homes start their search at the 3,000-3,500 square feet baseline

Builders maximizing plots is not the only reason why new-built homes in Chicago are growing larger and larger. In fact, buyers seem to be equally interested in purchasing generously sized houses.

Most single family home buyers use that 3,000/3,500 square footage as the baseline in their search. Depending on lot size and zoning, you can add extra square footage to the floorplan which can put you into the 4,000/5,000 range,” explained Jason Rowland, a real estate broker with more than $100 million in closed transactions.

One of the reasons why people want larger homes is the need for storage space. “Storage is a consistent ask from buyers as everyone has stuff. Storage on multiple floors is ideal if it’s possible, which will help detour the need for off-site storage,” Rowland added. However, if a home still doesn’t have enough storage space, a storage unit in Chicago costs you around $100 per month, relatively affordable for a market of its size. National rents are currently somewhere around $116, according to Yardi Matrix.

In terms of location, the most popular neighborhoods for single family homes are Andersonville/West Lakeview and North Center/Lincoln Square, according to Rowland. “These areas offer that tree-lined street, green space and neighborhood feel buyers are seeking. All these neighborhoods encompass new and exciting lifestyle options, parks and access to public transportation.

Rowland emphasized that they are seeing a heightened interest in houses located near to CTA and public transportation areas, particularly from buyers of starter homes.
Homes in Chicago

Home offices projected to be the next big thing in housing

The most sought-after amenities by Chicagoans on the market for a new home are large, well-fitted kitchens, and access to some type of outdoor space. Both features proved to be true lifesavers during the last few months, as families dealt with a lockdown and spent all of their time at home. Therefore, it’s predictable that both amenities will continue to be at the top of buyers’ lists of preferences.

The kitchen is still king and a well-thought-out floorplan that accommodates a gourmet kitchen is clutch. Outdoor space is a very close second, whether that comes as a rooftop deck or small yard in the rear it’s a must have for today’s luxury buyers,” notices Rowland.

The coronavirus pandemic is very likely to spur a new trend when it comes to new builds – the home office will most likely be seen from now on as an essential amenity. Millions of people all over the country are working from home right now. It’s not far-fetched to imagine that, even when the public health emergency ends, working from home will continue being a lot more common than it was in the past.

I think that COVID-19 is impacting the work-from-home space of many households and with that, we will see an emphasis on the home office. I believe we are at the starting gates for the home office to be a real ask for new buyers. All the amenities (low-voltage connectivity, good light, speakers, sound proofing, etc.) that are ideal for a home office will be additions going forward,” Rowland emphasized.

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Published at Thu, 28 May 2020 06:35:42 +0000

Categories
Apartment Living

How to Work From Home in an Apartment

How to Work From Home in an Apartment

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many apartment dwellers into a unique work situation. Widespread stay-at-home orders have forced everyone except for essential workers to work from home, and for people who previously worked in offices alongside their coworkers, the sudden transition to a work-from-home lifestyle may be challenging. How can you recreate an ergonomic, efficient workspace in your apartment? What can you do to make your apartment office feel like your actual office? Here are some tips that can help you work from home in an apartment.

work from home apartment

Organize and arrange your work-from-home desk

Whether you’ve repurposed a folding table into your work-from-home desk or are struggling to make proper space on a small desk you’ve long had, you can optimize any surface for minimal workflow interruptions if you organize and arrange your workspace properly. Manage your cables and wires with twist ties or cable management organizers. Invest in a filing cabinet to keep papers and other office supplies from taking up precious desktop area. Move any items not fully necessary for work to another part of your apartment.

Expand or rethink your work-from-home surface

If you find that the desk you’ve long had in your apartment is too small, there’s nothing wrong with buying another small table to give yourself more working space. Conversely, if your desk just isn’t working for you, you can consider setting aside a portion of your kitchen countertop, living room coffee table, or another apartment surface as your work-from-home space. You can even switch to a standing desk if you think you can go through a full day of work without sitting. No matter where you find that you have the most space for your work-from-home operations, your primary goal should be to create a dedicated office space.

Get high-quality work-from-home equipment

If you’re using a folding chair from your living room or a bar stool from your kitchen as your work chair, you’ll be surprised how much better your workday will flow if you invest in a proper office or computer chair. Likewise, if you’re struggling to make space for all your tasks and software platforms on your laptop screen, buying an extra monitor might help you to keep your desk organized. 

You should also buy additional lighting if you have to work from home in a part of your apartment that isn’t as well lit. Good lighting is correlated with not just increased productivity but less strain on your eyes, lower fatigue levels, and fewer headaches. It can also be vital for ensuring that you appear professional in any video calls you make for your work.

Work from home like you’re working from the office

Besides equipment concerns, one of the biggest shocks that can accompany the shift to working from home instead of the office is how much it can blur the line between work and the rest of your life. That’s why it can be important to set boundaries and routines that simulate an office working experience. 

When you wake up, go about your usual morning routine – including putting on an outfit you’d normally wear to the office – before starting your work. Set work hours and include breaks in them. Do everything you can to separate your work-from-home space from distractions, whether the snacks in your kitchen, the TV in your living room, or any roommates with whom you live. Working from home may not immediately feel comfortable, but if you treat your time on the job as though you’re actually in the office, it might feel like your usual routine soon enough.

Published at Tue, 26 May 2020 13:26:33 +0000

How To Install a Window Air Conditioner

In many parts of the country, temperatures are rising steadily as summer approaches. In apartments without central air, the race toward summer means that it’s time to install a window air conditioning unit. If you’re anxious about doing so, fret not: After reading this guide on how to install a window air conditioner, you’ll be equipped to properly mount and seal your unit and enjoy a cool apartment no matter how hot summer gets.

install window air conditioner

1. Check whether the window can accommodate an air conditioner

Not all windows will be secure enough to safely accommodate an air conditioner. A window with rot or damage in or near the frame is not safe for installing an air conditioner. Arrange for the appropriate repairs to be made before installing your air conditioner, and while you wait for these repairs to be made, learn how to stay cool without AC. You may also discover that your window air conditioner won’t be stable without a support bracket, wood slats, or other additional materials.

No matter what, never install an air conditioner in an unsafe window. Window AC units are expensive and can sustain extensive damage if they fall from your window. More importantly, a falling AC unit can also severely injure passersby. 

2. Gather the appropriate tools

To safely, securely install a window air conditioner, you’ll need the following tools:

  • A power drill and twist drill bits
  • Wood screws and sheet metal screws (often provided in proper sizes and amounts with window air conditioner purchase)
  • A screwdriver, ideally multi-bit
  • Any spare foam insulation you have on hand (often provided with your window air conditioner purchase)
  • Possibly a microfiber cloth, broom and dustpan, or vacuum for cleaning any dust that accumulates after drilling holes

Once you have these, you’re ready to install your window air conditioner.

3. Assemble, place, and secure your air conditioner

Unbox your air conditioner and assemble the side accordions according to the instruction manual provided. The instructions should detail how to secure the side accordions to the top railing of the air conditioner. Once the accordions are properly installed, you can safely mount your air conditioner.

To do so, open the bottom sash of your window as high as it will go. Then, slowly and carefully insert the air conditioner in your window while aligning the flanged bottom portion of the unit with your window sill and the top railing with the bottom of the open sash. While holding the unit in place, lower the bottom sash onto the top railing so that it firmly holds the window air conditioner in place and rests against the unit’s top railing.

4. Screw the air conditioner railing into your window sash

After completing the previous step, your air conditioner is only partially stable in your windowsill. To fully secure it, you’ll need to drill screws through the holes in your air conditioner’s top railing and into the bottom of the window sash. Be sure that you’re drilling into the plastic or wood in your window sash rather than into the glass of the window itself. If your window sash is made of wood, you may need to first drill pilot holes into the sash where you’ll later insert your screws.

5. Extend the air conditioner curtains

With your air conditioner now screwed into your window, you can extend the side curtains to cover the space between the air conditioner and the window frame. The thin plastic comprising these accordions can block insects and outside objects from entering your apartment, but they aren’t fully insulating, and window air conditioner installation tends to introduce gaps in these barriers. That’s why the next step is so important.

6. Add extra insulation

Many air conditioners come with extra insulating materials to secure the seal around your window. Most units will include a strip that goes between the top sash of your window and the elevated bottom sash, as the gap there can introduce extra air from the outside into your apartment. You may also want to add insulation above or around the side curtains to fill any gaps and enhance the plastic’s insulating properties.

What else should I know about my window air conditioner?

When installing your window air conditioner, read the instruction manual thoroughly for any directions specific to your unit. You should also locate the instruction manual section about changing your filter or, if applicable to your unit, enabling its smart technology features. Alternatively, if installing a window AC unit seems too challenging or worrisome for you but you still need better airflow in your apartment for the summer, you can always consider a portable AC unit.

Published at Fri, 22 May 2020 13:22:23 +0000