17 Affordable Luxuries For Your Apartment Bathroom

You don’t have to be a homeowner to pamper yourself with spa-like bathroom features.

There’s no denying it: Sometimes it’s hard to turn off the water and step out of a hot, soothing shower. But your shower doesn’t have to be the only relaxing moment of your day. You may think the 10-foot-by-10-foot bathroom in your studio apartment in Washington, DC, is hopeless when it comes to Zen design potential, but it is possible to turn even the tiniest space into an oasis. Tackle these 17 bathroom DIY projects and be well on your way to enjoying a luxurious bathroom every day.

1. Dim the lights

Add a dimmer to ease into your morning or set the tone after a long day. The process is relatively easy, and with your landlord’s approval, your security deposit should be safe. Once you’re able to customize the lighting every morning, you’ll wonder how you survived without it!

2. Set a cozy mood

Creating a cozy, relaxing space can be as easy as leaving a few candles out in your bathroom. They’ll give the place a pleasant smell even unlit, and who doesn’t enjoy lighting a few candles before stepping into the shower or bath after a long day? Just remember to blow them out before you leave!

3. Add shower tunes

Catch up on your favorite podcasts or jam out to your favorite tunes while getting ready in the morning with a Bluetooth shower speaker. You can purchase a waterproof speaker for less than $20.

4. Warm your towels

You know that feeling of throwing on a sweatshirt right out of the dryer? Enjoy that luxury every day by hanging your towels on an electric towel rack that heats them up while you shower. Ahhh.

5. Keep your toes cozy

Don’t wait until you’re a homeowner to enjoy the luxury of a heated floor while getting ready in the morning. Throw a foot warmer mat by your bathroom sink on chilly mornings and enjoy getting ready without shivering on the tile.

6. Heat up the room

If toasty towels and toes aren’t enough, heat the entire space with a space heater — seek out a unit that’s small, sleek, and equipped with emergency shut-offs in case it overheats. Save money on energy bills by keeping the central heat on low and heat only your bathroom while you get ready in the morning.

7. Create the perfect pressure

Replace your rental showerhead with an adjustable rain-can version. If you’re tall, you can even add an extension to avoid the bent-over, crooked-neck shampooing experience. Pro tip: Especially if your rental has low-flow showerheads in place, you’ll probably have to get approval from your landlord before you break out the toolbox. Make sure you hold on to the original showerhead to reinstall at the end of your lease.

8. Sit pretty — and hygienic

Swap out your rental’s toilet seat with the seat of your choice, as long as you have approval from your landlord. Most are more than happy for renters to make this upgrade, and some will even cover the cost.

9. Add some art

Adorn your apartment’s bathroom walls with paintings or photography to add a bit of character. Kylee Trunck, senior staff designer at Havenly, recommends incorporating light-blue and green hues, which are known to be soothing — that’s why you see these colors at the spa! “Steer clear of fabric wall hangings that could also be potentially damaged by steam, and instead select prints that can be framed with a protective glass insert,” says Trunck.

10. Pull on pretty hardware

Replace drawer pulls and cabinet knobs with some prettier options. “Replacing drawer knobs and pulls is an easy and inexpensive way to change the look of a bathroom,” says Trunck. Look for options that are “the same size that can easily be screwed in and out” of the existing hole. You’ll also want to hold on to the old knobs, to screw back in place at the end of your lease.

11. Get a better look

Add a magnified mirror with a light to perfect your hair and makeup before heading out the door. You can opt for a free-standing version for your sink or one that screws into the wall.

12. Take in the full view

And don’t forget to check your entire reflection before heading out the door. Over-the-door full-length mirrors are a great option to save space (and your walls!), or pick a wall-mounted option with storage space inside.

13. Create a unique entry

Start by bumping the tension rod for your shower curtain close to the ceiling and invest in a longer shower curtain and liner for a taller, more luxe look. The added height will make your shower feel more spacious from the inside too. For an extra boost of design goodness, use two shower curtains instead of one to lend a symmetric, window-curtain effect.

14. Shower in a rainforest

Hang plants from your shower curtain rod or showerhead. Aloe vera thrives in hot, humid environments, and the leaf’s juice is filled with vitamins and minerals. If you have a sunny window in your bathroom, plant ivy for a natural air purifier: The plant helps keep spaces hygienic by removing mold, dust, and other icky particles from the surrounding air. Pro tip: Place the plant on a high shelf and let the stems grow long enough to elegantly trail down.

15. Add eucalyptus

Hang a bundle of eucalyptus from your showerhead to ward off colds. The plant emits a soothing smell, and its essential oils can help ease congestion. Bundles of eucalyptus can be found at flower shops and craft stores and can last up to a month in the shower.

16. Make an au naturel bathmat

Forget soggy bathmats: opt for a natural, wood mat made from IKEA outdoor decking. This “bathmat” is relatively easy to make — just click the pieces together and remove the edges once your mat is the desired size.

17. Sit back in some bubbles

Create your own bathtub shelf out of some reclaimed wood or two-by-fours and a bit of wood stain. Being able to eat, drink, and read a book in your tub? Completely unnecessary but totally worth it.

Posted by Nicole Esplin on Trulia

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7 Clutter Problem Areas And How To Tame Them

Bins with lids, cabinets that are oddly-shaped, and beneath the bed are some of the best places to hide items and clear your clutter.

Little apartments tend to come with big responsibility. Here’s how to maintain a clutter-free home without purging all your stuff.

So you’ve found The One: a space to call your own. It’s got a great location (you actually landed a Mission-area apartment in San Francisco, CA!), the rent fits your monthly budget, and it even has a little architectural charm. The only downside? Its size. And while you knew things would be tight, there’s still a moment of surprise when you realize that an amount of clutter that wouldn’t make an impact in a larger place makes your apartment look as though it should be on Hoarders.

Short of doing a major purge, you can focus on smaller, easier-to-manage problem areas. “Apartments, or small-space homes, tend to have two main areas that get easily cluttered: the entryway, and the kitchen counter or table,” says Clea Shearer, co-founder of the stylish organizing service The Home Edit.

Here are a few expert solutions to tame those areas — and others — that collect the most clutter in your small space.

1. Empty the sink

If you let dirty dishes take over the sink (or, perhaps, have temporarily hidden them in an unused oven when guests drop by), you know how to solve this clutter area: Wash them. Divide the task into two parts to make it seem like less of a time commitment: Once you rinse dishes, stack them on a drying rack — just be sure to tackle the rest of the chore later. “Dirty dishes should never pile up,” Shearer says. “But once they are clean, they can go right onto a drying rack if you don’t have time to put them away immediately.”

2. Rethink recycling bins

If you have an open bin for recycling, you’re going about it wrong — all it takes is an empty milk jug (even flattened) and a few catalogs to create an overflow. The better alternative is a receptacle with a lid (like this IKEA Sortera recycling bin). You can also stack another bin on top, to further sort paper from plastic, doubling your bin space in the same amount of floor space. Thinking vertical also comes in handy for cleaning supplies, which can be sorted in stacking bins (like in the above image from The Home Edit) or in rolling drawers.

3. Manage mail

The answer to stressful heaps of old bills and junk mail: Know thyself. “If you walk into your apartment and always set the mail down in the same spot, put a basket down to keep everything contained and neat,” Shearer says. You could even use a slim magazine file to separate must-read mail from the inevitable catalogs if you’re the type to lose things in a pile.

4. Relocate laundry supplies

If you’re living without a laundry room, detergent and dryer sheets can end up anywhere — sometimes out in the open or cluttering up spaces that don’t make sense, like your pantry. Look to odd-sized cabinets instead. “Use that brilliant little cabinet in the kitchen, there’s almost always one, that’s oddly positioned and wouldn’t be used for china or dishes,” says Nicole Krinick, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in New York, NY. “This is always a go-to, or under the sink in the bathroom if there are cabinets there.” If you just laughed at the idea of cabinets, you might have to store supplies in the open. But you can make detergent pods a little prettier by stowing them in a nice jar, decanting liquid detergent into bottles (just make sure to label!), or throwing everything into a stylish bin like in the above example from The Home Edit.

5. Stop shoe piles

Corners of any room can collect shoes, and when tossed absent-mindedly on the floor, shoes are at best hard to find and at worst, a tripping hazard. Organizing expert Felice Cohen (you might remember her from the viral video on living in a 90-square-foot apartment) stresses first cutting down on how many pairs you own, then solving the issue at hand. “Once you’ve culled down a little, under the bed is a good place for shoes,” she says. “Or a multifunctional bench with shoe storage in the entrance. I like shoe cubby storage that has slots for several shoes. You can also fit one on the bottom of a closet, where the space is usually wasted.”

6. Get creative with sports gear

Sports gear often is tossed just about anywhere. To better organize it, hide it in plain sight. “Yoga mats, rolled up, fit nicely in an umbrella stand outside my door. They also fit nicely into shoe cubbies, or you can roll them up and place behind an angled piece of furniture,” Cohen says. “For bikes, I have found they take up the least amount of room hung up by the top wheel on a hook. They’re easy to install and can fit up high.”

7. Give your closet a breather

Small spaces often come with small closets and small spaces for dressers, which is why it’s important to prioritize what you need and store things based on use. When it comes to next season’s clothes, a somewhat-inaccessible location is totally fine. “High, hard-to-reach cabinets or under the bed are great for storing things you use less often, like decorations or off-season clothing,” Cohen says. Subdividing smaller items, like ornaments, into smaller bins minimizes headaches when it comes time to use them.

Bonus tip: Declutter in phases

Of course, even the cleverest solutions won’t help if you’re still holding on to things like your high-school T-shirt collection. If this sounds like you, it’s time for a purge. “That can be easier said than done, which is why I encourage clients to break the clutter down into manageable, bite-sized tasks,” Cohen says. “Can you get rid of five things a day? Or put away just five things a day? Now imagine if you did that every night. Soon, most would be put away.”

Posted by Brie Dyas on Trulia

Save Money, Get Healthy: How To Grow Your Own Food In An Apartment

Grow a salad without a yard? Challenge accepted.

Follow these tips to grow your own food in no time, with or without outdoor space.

Growing your own food is appealing for many reasons: You know exactly where it came from, you can control your chemical use, and it’s a cheap source of healthy food. But without an expanse of land, gardening can seem impossible. But it’s easier than you might think to grow produce in an apartment setting, even if all you have to work with is a windowsill on the 20th floor of your New York, NY, apartment building. The first step is to figure out your Plant Hardiness Zone, which determines what plants “will be most successful based on where you live,” says Jenny Prince, brand manager at American Meadows, a gardening retail site. Then read on for tips on how to pick the right types of plants and get them to grow. Happy harvesting!

Consider an herb garden

Chives, oregano, parsley, lemongrass, and basil are easy to grow indoors. Try to keep them near a window and use a breathable pot, such as one made of terra cotta, with drainage holes — the bigger and deeper the pot the better, says Rebecca Lee, founder of RemediesForMe.com, a resource on holistic healing. And don’t overwater them! “Herbs only need to be watered once a week,” says Lee. “Make sure the soil is completely dry, bring the plant to the sink, and run the water until the soil is completely wet. Let the water drain, repeat, and then bring the pot back to its saucer to let it completely drain.” If you’re just starting out, skip the seeds and buy baby plants, or seedlings, from a nursery. Just be sure they’ve been raised indoors because you don’t want to drastically change their environment.

Get your greens on

Lettuce, spinach, arugula, and chard tolerate low-light conditions, so they’re easy to grow indoors or on a shady balcony garden, says Prince. Greens also grow well in window boxes because of their shallow roots, which is ideal for apartment dwellers.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match plant types

“Thrillers, spillers, and fillers is a common design technique for container gardening,” says Prince. Container gardening is the idea of planting a variety of plants in one large pot — or container. “The idea is to choose plants that behave really differently but complement each other visually.” For example, you could plant eggplant or mini bell peppers (thrillers because of their dramatic texture and color) with romaine lettuce, spinach, chives, or oregano (fillers because they are bushier, medium-height plants) and finish the pot with cascading cherry tomatoes or sweet potato vines (you guessed it; these are spillers because they fall over the sides of the container).

DIY an ideal growing environment

Too much sun on your balcony or roof? Use an awning to create shade or place sun-loving plants like tomatoes in front of or next to shade lovers to block the light. Too little sun? Paint a pallet white and lean it against the wall to redirect what little sunlight you do get. For hot, dry climates, Prince says to make sure your pots are resting in drip trays that you keep filled with water, or invest in self-watering planters.

Be choosy about where you buy your plants

You’re selective about the produce you buy, so employ the same caution when buying seedlings, advises Prince. “Try to buy from a nursery rather than a big box store,” she says. “Often the plants you buy at big box stores aren’t well cared for. (Think pesticides and synthetic plant food.)”

Eat what you grow

Once your garden is producing veggies, fruits, and herbs, reap what you sow. This is especially true for herbs, because the more you pick them, the more they’ll grow. One tip? A pair of herb scissors can make harvesting a cinch. “When harvesting, avoid tugging at the leaves,” says Lee. “This can strain the entire plant and dislodge its roots.”

Posted by Michelle Hainer on Trulia

6 Ways To Achieve Apartment Parking Bliss

Here are the expert-approved strategies for getting the best spot in the lot.

Few victories are sweeter than finding the perfect parking spot. But such victories can be fleeting, which is something that car-owning renters know all too well. No matter if you rent a suburban apartment in Cary, NC, or a midtown apartment in New York, NY, space is at a premium — and not just living space either.

“If curb parking spaces are scarce and valuable but free, competition for the free parking leads to many disputes,” says Donald Shoup, a professor in UCLA’s Department of Urban Planning and author of the book The High Cost of Free Parking. Just think of the (many) Seinfeld episodes that revolved around the quest for a good parking spot, including George’s philosophy of why pay for something that you can get for free?

But whether you do pay for it (indirectly through rent, or through monthly fees) or have daily Hunger Games-esque battles to find parking, we’ve asked the experts how to handle the many ins and outs of apartment parking.

The challenge: A prime yet vulnerable spot

Even after you nab a great spot, it might leave you uncomfortable that your car is a little too open to damage (especially in a city). If so, your best bet is to beef up your insurance. “Most insurance plans do not include parking damage as part of their language,” says Matthew Kreitzer, a managing attorney for Booth & McCarthy in Winchester, VA. “If your car is damaged from a passing car, and you have proof of identity for the person who caused the damage, you may be able to submit a claim to their insurance company.” But as Kreitzer points out, state laws vary, and you should ask local attorneys for more information before assuming your case is airtight. You should also ask your insurance adjuster for more information on how best to add parking to your policy.

The challenge: Big car, tiny spot

You can fit anything in your big truck or SUV, but it’s no match for a teeny spot that you may or may not have been assigned. Whatever you do, don’t even think about squeezing in. “It may open you up to a lawsuit down the line if, because of your attempt to fit your car in there, some damage results or it prevents another tenant from accessing their spot,” Kreitzer says. Since it’s unlikely that your landlord will widen spots, your options are limited to finding an alternative lot in the area or finding a new apartment nearby.

The challenge: You’re plowed in

When that pile of snow is actually serving as an igloo around your car, what happens next depends on who did it. If you witness a neighbor purposefully burying your car, you might be able to bring suit against the other person. “However, the vast majority of times, it is a city who is doing the plowing,” Kreitzer says. “Cities have immunity from these kinds of suits, generally speaking.” You can consult an attorney if you’re looking for common practices to change, but sadly, it might just be easier to get out the shovel and start digging.

The challenge: It’s a long walk

In the case of assigned parking, the luck of the draw might have landed you far from your front door. If this is your headache, it might be time to negotiate with your landlord. “Always ask for what you want in writing,” says April Masini, an expert in relationship advice and etiquette. While you’ll probably want to vent your frustrations, your odds of a favorable response will skyrocket if you stay calm and polite. “If you get a response you don’t like, ask if there’s a chance of a better spot in six months. There may be a tenant moving out by then, and his or her parking spot may become available for reassignment to you,” Masini says.

Option B is to find a neighbor who will agree to swap spaces. However, a verbal agreement won’t be enough, and you’ll need your landlord’s blessing on the agreed-upon written terms. “At the end of the day, your parking agreement is not with the other tenant — it’s with your landlord,” Masini says.

The challenge: Shared spaces

Limited space means you might have to share your spot with a neighbor. Usually, this won’t lead to drama. But if they’re a space hog, don’t escalate the issue with a confrontation. “Getting into a back and forth with a neighbor can easily be avoided by asking the landlord to clarify any necessary solutions,” Masini says.

The challenge: You’re blocked in

It’s happened to all of us: You’re ready to conquer a list of errands, only to find that another car is making it impossible to leave your spot. If you know the owner, a friendly (emphasis on “friendly”) knock on the door is usually enough to get things moving. No such luck? What happens next depends on whether you’re blocked in on public or private property, Masini says. The former means you’ll be calling the police for help, while the latter makes it a landlord matter. Can’t get your landlord? Snap a photo of your blocked-in car and call a cab. “Worst-case scenario, take a cab or Uber and get a receipt,” she says. “Ask for reimbursement, in writing, from your landlord if your blockage is on private property and from your neighbor if it’s on public property.”

When to move on

When parking has become the deal breaker — and you can’t get rid of your car — it might be time to start hunting for a better place. Car owners who move on to better-paved pastures could have a lasting positive effect on the entire neighborhood, Donald Shoup says. If certain apartment buildings offer only on-street parking, rent could decrease because the price of parking would be eliminated. “As a result, more apartments could become available at lower rents to people without cars,” he says.

Posted by Brie Dyas on Trulia

Small-Space Style: 9 Inspiring Apartment Designs

Just because you’re living in a modest-sized apartment doesn’t mean your decor needs to be modest as well.

Apartment design gone to the dogs? Check out these high style apartments for some small space style inspiration.

Gone are the days when describing someone’s crib as “cozy” was code for “unbearably small.” Luckily for lots of us, cozy and compact living is in style, and beyond the know-how to pare down your stuff, a good small-apartment decorating trick or two will make it look as though you’re living a lot larger than you are.

From apartments for rent in Washington, DC, to Dallas, TX, we’ve picked nine diminutive dwellings that prove that you certainly don’t need an expansive floor plan to show off your style savvy.

Not everything is bigger in Texas: $1,304 to $2,970, Arpeggio at Victory Park Apartments

A sprinkling of crisp white plates create an unexpected diversion in this Dallas kitchen, drawing the eyes up. The aptly placed visual cluster directs attention to the 9-foot ceilings, and an otherwise average-sized kitchen appears a lot larger.

Working lunch: $308 to $4,975, The Residences at CityWay

Getting the most out of unused space can make a big difference in your home’s layout, and the office-tucked-into-a-kitchen move fits the bill. Where a less-resourceful designer might have thrown in a few feet of extra counter space or, worse, left the corner for dead, a small but efficient desk serves good purpose, whether for planning dinner menus or bringing work home to this Indianapolis apartment.

Modern industry: $1,170 to $3,146, The Devon Four25 Apartments

With polished concrete floors and a stained ceiling, this apartment’s industrial vibe makes it feel expansive and airy. Throw in some edgy barstools, and you’ve got cutting-edge cool oozing from every angle in this Raleigh, NC, apartment.

Stars and stripes forever: $1,129 to $8,254, Sterling Apartment Homes

It’s a myth that small spaces must settle for ho-hum white or the same old neutral hues. Case in point: This bright little gem in Philly doesn’t shy away from bold, contrasting yellow and gray stripes, and in turn, gives the appearance of grandeur with wide, sweeping walls.

Room to reflect: $900 to $2,225, Ultris Banyan Grove Apartments

What this Virginia Beach, VA, bedroom lacks in square footage it makes up for in spirit. Through a few simple design tricks — a splashy, citrus-hued accent wall and mirrored furniture — the eye is fooled into seeing more space (and more excitement!).

So many shades of gray: $2,831 to $15,000, The Woodley Apartments

Taking on monochromatic styling with a traditional twist makes for floor-to-ceiling high fashion. Surfaces color-coordinate in rich neutrals, while classic accents such as raised-panel cabinetry and brushed-nickel fixtures enhance the level of elegance in this Washington, DC, apartment.

Clever configuration: $1,070 to $2,205, Promenade Point Apartments

Look more closely, and you’ll realize there’s a lot going on in this Norfolk, VA, kitchen, dining, and living area. Nothing feels squashed in, thanks to smart touches around the room: A banquette maximizes seating around the dining table, while a narrow console provides additional surface space to complement the coffee table.

Let there be light: $1,055 to $3,226, Berkshire Cameron Village Apartments

Even the pup agrees: The handsome black chandelier at the center of this Raleigh, NC, living room makes for an arresting focal point. Banishing the notion that statement pieces don’t belong in modest rentals, the sleek piece brings impressive size and sophistication to the space.

White on cue: $1,802 to $8,808, Apartments at CityCenter

Committing to one color can be the easiest shortcut to a look that screams harmony and high style. Take the white-on-white palette in this Washington, DC, flat, which keeps things interesting and design-rich with strategically placed pops of color. Just don’t invite over Olivia Pope and her red wine.

Posted by Kelly O’Reilly on Trulia

The Rental Resume: A Step-by-Step Guide

Looking for a new rental is a lot like applying for a job.

The Rental Resume: A Step-by-Step Guide

During a job interview you size up the supervisor and the position while the supervisor determines if you’ll be a good fit. When applying for a rental, you try to find out if it’s the right place for you as the landlord or manager sizes up whether you’ll be a good tenant.

Just as you wouldn’t want to go into a job interview without a well-polished resume, you shouldn’t go into a meeting with a landlord and walk-through unprepared. Having a rental resume to give your potential landlord will make a great first impression. Here is everything yours should include:

Objective

Most career resumes begin with a two- to three-sentence opener describing what the job seeker is looking for and what he brings to the table. Your rental resume should also start off with this information. To make your objective great, consider what you’re looking for in a rental, what your long-term plans are and why a landlord should rent to you. For example, a single male might say:

“As a young professional who works most days, I am looking to rent in a quiet neighborhood within commuting distance of my office. I am a responsible and quiet tenant with long-term plans to stay in the immediate area.”

Background

The next section of your rental resume should give your prospective landlord a brief background about you.  Landlords love to know a bit of history about their tenants and presenting all of this information upfront will help the landlord get a good picture of who you are. If you plan to live with friends, family members or pets, include a brief background for them as well. Your background section should have one or two sentences for each person who will live with you. Make sure you include:

  • Ages of everyone who will occupy the house.
  • Any college degrees earned by adults.
  • Job title and job location for any working adults.
  • Income per adult.
  • Breed, age and temperament of pets.

For example, your background may look like:

“Jane Smith, 31, graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in English. She currently works at Texas Instruments as a copywriter. Her annual salary is $40,000. When not working, Jane likes to read, knit or spend weekends camping.”

Rental History

Rental history is a huge factor for landlords in deciding which tenants to approve. If you have been a good tenant in the past, show it off on your rental resume. This section should include a bulleted item or short paragraph for each previous place you have rented, with the name of its landlord, the address of the property, the length of time you lived there and the rent amount. You will also score brownie points if you state why you moved from the property.

For example:

Woodlawn Apartments—Chris Brown, property manager

  • January 2010 to January 2013
  • Rent: $650
  • Reason for leaving: To upgrade to a larger apartment.

References

Many landlords prefer to lease to renters with at least one good prior reference. While you don’t have to include a written statement from each person, having two or more references listed on your rental resume will make things much easier for your landlord. Your supervisor, your previous landlords and even co-workers can serve as references. As long as the person agrees to talk to your landlord, include them on your rental resume. Make sure to include all the information your landlord would need such as:

  • The name of the reference
  • Your relation to the reference
  • The reference’s phone number
  • An email address for your reference

 This article was originally published by Angela Colley on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

What’s Fair Rent? Find Out Your Local Market Rates

Rents across states and cities can differ wildly — even rents from one block to the next. How do you separate the good deals from the overpriced?

What’s Fair Rent- Find Out Your Local Market Rates

Here are a few savvy steps to help you quickly gain a general idea of going rates in the area where you want to rent.

Budget

Market rate doesn’t mean much if you can’t afford it. The standard rent versus salary guidelines recommend paying no more than one-third of your weekly take-home pay for rent, although that could change depending on your debt load, children, retirement savings, or other concerns. Knowing your own rate will help keep market rates in perspective.

More Math

If you earn a good salary for your area, logic would dictate that a rent you can afford will likely be available. In Houston, for example, the average median household income is just under $60,000. Average rent: around $1,300. If you earn well above the median — say, $80,000 — and a landlord or property manager wants to charge well over one-third of your income for rent — maybe $2,500 or more — he’s likely asking too much. Maybe the building has a lot of amenities or unusually large apartments, but just looking at the price should give you pause.

Check the Listings

If you’re new to an area, check the local paper, Craigslist and realtor.com®. The more listings you read, the more sense you will get of local apartment prices. We’re not talking a scientific survey or spreadsheets (though feel free to go that route if you’re so inclined). Just general scans of an area should give you an idea of the range of rental costs.

Talk to Everyone

In a new town for a job interview? Strike up a conversation with a local barista about the hot neighborhood. Ask your potential new co-workers about the area. Many people delight in sharing their knowledge. Even better, duck into a REALTOR®’s office to chat. A good REALTOR® will be honest about the area, and might even be able to direct you to some reputable landlords, rental brokers, or local listings.

HUD Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development publishes fair market rents. These official documents set prices for programs like Section 8 government-sponsored vouchers. The detail and bureaucratic language might add up to more than the average renter cares to read, but if you really want to do your homework, HUD offers another option.

Dig Deeper

If you have a specific building or block you’re interested in, talk to the neighbors to get a sense of neighborhood prices. In a large building, ask the manager about average rents, or see if you can strike up a conversation with a current tenant passing through the lobby. If you’re thinking about renting in a smaller building, or a house or condo, see if you can find other listings for that street and compare costs.

All of these options might seem time-consuming, but the hard work that saves you a few hundred dollars a month adds up to thousands of dollars a year. Understanding the market can help you negotiate a better rent, if you go that route. Plus, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that you didn’t pay too much for your new home in a great new neighborhood.

This article was originally published by Anne Miller on realtor.com. See the original article here.