Allergens: The Unwanted House Guests

It's that time of year again when the sun comes out of hiding, the breeze is (finally) warm, and the trees are about to bud. Spring is here! If you're an allergy sufferer, Spring may be bittersweet. We can't control the air outside, but we can control the atmosphere in our homes. Let's talk about how to remove and prevent allergens from invading your space.


1. Banish Dust. It goes without saying that dust will aggrivate allergies. The first obvious step is to sweep, vacuum and dust every surface thoroughly. After that, it's time to look at unsuspecting dust magnets. One of the worst offenders are fans and window binds. Solution: Take apart any standing fans and clean all of the pieces thoroughly - there is no sense in blowing that dust around the room! If you can, replacing your typical blinds with roller shades will cut down dust accumulation immensely. If you cannot, take your blinds down and soak them in the bathtub to remove any buildup.

2. Fight Mold. Your bathroom and kitchen will likely be the worst offenders when it comes to mold. Solution: Take down your shower curtain and liner and replace them periodically. If it's not time to replace them yet, wash them in hot water with a touch of bleach before hanging back up. Next, mix a solution of bleach water and spray it on kitchen and bathroom plumbing before wiping clean. 

3. Soft Surfaces. Cleaning hard surfaces is simple, but it's the soft surfaces in your home (think curtains, furniture, rugs, bedding...) that really trap allergens. Solution: Wash any fabrics that you can in very hot water. Rent a steam cleaner to deep clean furniture and rugs - not only will the cleaner suck allergens out of the fabric, but the steam will kill any that may be left behind. 

4. Purify. Now that your home is allergen free, you need to keep it that way! Solution: Invest in an air purifier to rid the air of allergens before they have a chance to settle in and make themselves at home. Check out this list of the best air purifiers on the market.


Rental Payments Could Soon Affect Credit Scores

Renters who have never been late with a rent payment will find that their stellar record wont do anything to lift their credit scores when it comes time to shop for a mortgage. But that may soon change: Two of the main credit reporting agencies, Experian and TransUnion, reportedly are starting to incorporate verified rental payment data into credit files and using it to compute the consumers' credit scores when they apply for a mortgage.

"At a time when record numbers of first-time buyers are missing in action in the home-purchase market -- many of them in part because their credit scores don't make the grade -- the non-reporting of key credit records is costly to them and the economy as a whole," The Columbus Dispatch reports.

Some companies also are stepping in to ensure renters get their on-time payment histories included when applying for a mortgage. ECredable, an alternative credit data company, says it will verify renters' payment histories that haven't been reported to the major credit bureaus, and then generate a credit report and score. Potential home buyers are then urged to present the report to mortgage loan officers and ask that the information be considered in their application for a mortgage (which the lender is required to do under federal credit regulations).

{Source: "Credit Scores Might Soon Reflect Rental Payments," The Columbus Dispatch (June 29, 2014)}

Renters Insurance: Why You Need It and What To Look For

Many times renters mistakenly believe that the contents of their apartment will be covered by their landlord's insurance policy in case of theft or damage. In fact that is rarely the case. In order to protect your belongings it is very important to invest the $15-$30 per month on renters insurance -- a small price to pay considering the replacement costs of your valuables.

If you're in need of renters insurance, make sure you fully understand the policy options. The following are must have clauses in a good rental policy:

1. Coverage of Personal Property. The policy you choose needs to include coverage of all contents of the rental that you own. It is advised that you make a written and photographic inventory of your belongings to go over with your insurance agent so that together you can assign values to each item. Typically, insurers will assign an "Actual Cash Value" to your items which corresponds to a used replacement rather than a brand new market value price.

2. On Site versus Off Site Coverage. Check to find out whether the policy covers belongings only while they are in the rental unit or if it covers items indiscriminately. For example, if your bike is stolen while parked at another location, would it be covered?

3. Housing Expenses Reimbursement. Will your policy pay for your temporary living expenses if damage were to occur to your unit that required you to vacate? If so, find out how much the policy covers and for how long.

4. Liability. Will the policy protect you if a guest damages the rental? What if a guest is hurt and seeks medical reimbursement? Also check to see if guests belongings are covered in addition to your own.

5. Pets. Does the policy protect you if your pet is injured at the rental? If so, find out how much of the veterinary expenses would be covered. What if your pet injures a neighbor or guest -- are you held liable or not?

6. Flood Damage. Many policies will not cover water damage. However, extra insurance can be purchased specifically for this event. If your rental is in a high risk area you should definitely consider carrying the extra coverage.

Roommate Roulette: A Guide to Peaceful Co-Habitation



At some point or another, nearly everyone rents a home or apartment. Often times, renters find it financially easier to take on a roommate than go-it alone. Easier said than done. Before signing a lease with someone new, do yourself a favor and follow these steps:

1. Be Thorough In Your Search: Posting an ad to Craigslist is a great way to get a large number of responses. Your ad is the time to be clear about exactly what you're looking for: describe yourself, your lifestyle and habits and make it understood that you are looking for a roommate with compatible traits. Make sure to include the price range you can afford, the area you are interested and, if you already have an apartment, any policies (no pets, no smoking etc.) that must be adhered to. Being up front from the beginning will hopefully help qualify your responses.

2. Meet and Interview: Before you agree to a roommate--get to know them first! You wouldn't marry someone without dating, so why jump into a long term living situation? Granted, roommates are only semi-permanent, but for daily purposes have similar ramifications. Be sure to talk about your habits, schedule and lifestyle and be sure to ask the same of them. Do you, or they, have a boyfriend or girlfriend that will be around often? Are they neat or messy? If you have a gut feeling that it may not be a good fit--listen and walk away! *Safety Tip* Meet in a neutral, public place. Remember, if you don't know this person, do not bring them over to your apartment right away, it's best to get a feel for the situation and decide if the partnership is likely to work first.

3. Credit Check: Do your potential roommate applicants have steady, reliable jobs? Find out immediately and be sure they can really afford their share of the rent. Be clear on when rent is due and expectations that it be paid on time. Ask them if they wouldn't mind running a credit check to see what their past history is like. It may sound pushy, but it's better to protect yourself, and your credit rather than be left to foot the bill every month.

4. Big Decisions: Once you've found a suitable roommate it's time to decide on the details. Where will your furniture be coming from? How will you split cable/phone/internet service/utilities? Talk about your expectations for common spaces. Are you going to share food, or keep things separate? Set ground rules now--these little issues are often overlooked but have the biggest impact on day to day life. Be up front from the beginning and you'll both feel better moving on. *Tip* consider making a roommate contract with everything you have agreed on.

5. Moving Out: Probably the last thing on your mind when you move into an apartment is moving back out. You should talk with your new roommate about their plans and expectations for the length of this arrangement. Set a minimum "notice" time if one of you is planning to move so the other won't be left wondering what to do. Will they be responsible for finding a replacement, or will you? The more you can organize at the beginning, the better.

Tips for Renters: The Perfect Apartment Experience



Nearly everyone rents at some point in their lives. Whether you are looking for your first apartment or searching for a new place, these tips will prepare you and make you feel at home in your new space.

1. Avoid Scams: When you begin your search make sure you are using reputable sources and ALWAYS make an appointment to meet with the landlord before agreeing to anything. See: Buyer Beware: Avoiding Rental Scams for more detailed information.

2. Pick The Right Neighborhood: You want to feel at home and safe in your new environment. Make sure to scout out the area of potential apartments before committing to any. A nice neighborhood will go a long way toward your well being and overall satisfaction.

3. Be Prepared: So you've found an apartment that fits your needs and have set up a meeting with the landlord--that's great! Now it's time to prepare. Think of your first meeting with the landlord as a job interview-you will want to make a good impression. Dress nicely and bring with you your rental application, list of references with contact information and a current copy of your credit report (or the information necessary for the landlord to run one). Your future landlord will be impressed with your responsibility which goes a long way in selecting a tenant.

4. Don't Forget Extra Costs: Remember that the cost of your rent should be no more than 28% of your gross monthly income. Don't forget the other costs associated with your new apartment though: heating, hot water, tv, internet, phone service etc. These all add up. Make yourself a monthly budget to be sure you can afford the apartment you are interested in before fully committing.

5. Review The Lease: Once your credit report comes back and the owner feels you are a good match for the apartment, you will sit down to review and sign the lease. It is important to read through the agreement carefully and ask questions on anything that isn't perfectly clear. Remember your landlord will be happy to explain the rules and regulations now but will not be as pleased to find out of any violations later. Remember to keep a signed copy of your lease for your reference.

6. Be Honest: If at anytime your living situation changes (new roommates, pets, accidents, etc.) make sure to contact your landlord immediately. It is always best to be direct and honest about changes than to have the owner find out through the grapevine of unsavory changes. Your landlord will appreciate the communication and be more likely to work with you. You risk violating your lease and facing possible eviction if you keep secrets--it's best to be honest from the beginning.

7. Keep Track of Issues: Be sure to notify your landlord of any problems you are experiencing with your apartment. Remember that this property is his investment as well as your home; a leaking sink is not only a nuisance to you but harmful to the property as well. This applies to neighbors as well--if you are having problems with another tenant that you cannot work out alone, let your landlord know.

8. Insure Your Property: The apartment building and property you live in is covered by your landlord's homeowners insurance. However, that insurance will not cover any personal property inside the residence. It is highly recommended that you invest in renters insurance to protect your belongings.

9. Protect Your Security Deposit: No one wants to think about moving out when they have just unpacked, but you need to take note of the conditions of the apartment. Make a list of anything you notice isn't perfect and give it to your landlord upon moving in. Then do your best to minimize wear and tear while you live in the apartment. Remember that you are liable for any damage that occurs while you occupy the apartment so fill any nail holes, offer to re-paint if necessary and thoroughly clean the apartment before moving out.

10. Treat Your Rental As Your Home: Even though this may be a temporary living situation, it is important you feel at home in your space. Transform the apartment as much as you can (abiding by the lease of course) to make the apartment your own. Why wait until you own a home to invest in art and furniture you love? Treat yourself now and make the most of your living situation.



  1. Brandie Knowles on

    5. Not asking about utilities — or forgetting to turn them onOn occasion, eating takeout by candlelight may be romantic. But doing it every night, storing your garbage on your balcony and taking cold showers every morning is just plain sad. So before you move in, make sure you ask your landlord specifically what utilities you're responsible for paying — and for turning on. Some apartment buildings, for example, will provide the garbage and water service as part of your rent but leave you to arrange your own gas and electric service. Others may require you to handle everything. And don't forget the extras, such as a phone line, Internet service and cable TV.
    • Jarah LaRock on

      Good point Brandie, thank you! Utility information should be one of the first questions after rent and location. To view available Signature Properties rentals, be sure to visit our Facebook Page for photos and information!

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