Renting & Buying with the “Walk Score” in Mind

1The “Walk Score” is a procedurally generated number assigned to addresses to determine their specific walkability.  The true value in this number is that the higher it is, the less likely you will need a car to comfortably live.  The “Walk Score” calculates the distances to certain amenities that most renters and buyers look for; grocery stores, public transit, nightlife, etc..  Whether you are in the market for a temporary rental or your next home, this score provides a wealth of information.

Walk Score,” an automated efficiency model, has adapted its information gathering to provide scores not only on walkability, but also transit, biking, and crime.  Taking into account all of these different metrics, walk scores range from 0 to 100.  Scores ranging from 0 – 24 dictate a car as an absolute necessity while scores 70 and above suggest that you can accomplish all errands on foot.  

The most obvious money saving benefit of the “Walk Score” is  removing most, if not all, driving from your daily routine.  Save on gas, upkeep, and maintenance, and take public transit to work.  

walkConvenience is the other major selling point of the “Walk Score.”  Easy access to amenities and recreation can make or break a neighborhood.  Higher walk scores typically translate into higher quality neighborhoods.  Pedestrian Friendliness is determined too, by analyzing population density, block length, and intersection density.

On the other side of the argument, a high “Walk Score” often results in higher prices.  In a study done by Redfin, one point of “Walk Score” was worth up to $3000.

Most websites, including RentalBeast.com, feature the score on their listings.  So before you make your next move, make sure to check the “Walk Score.”  

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Rental Scams: What you need to know

We have all been on a rental hunt before; plowing through dozens of listings with little to no luck, when suddenly we find one that seems to too good to be true. Well in the fast paced, competitive, and murky waters of rental housing…it usually is.

Rental scams are found all too often on rental search sites and, with each passing season, scammers and their devious plots become more advanced and increasingly difficult to detect. Here a few notes to look for when search sites for rentals:

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  1. Funds Up Front: Never send money or provide your credit card information before seeing the property, even if the landlord or agent says its just a holding fee or sends you to sight that seems legitimate. Take your time and make sure to see properties or have someone you trust go see properties for you.

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  2. Holy Grail:  If it seems to good to be true, it most likely is. If the rent is well below market value or the lease terms are very flexible, these are probably not due to an overly generous property owner. Run your own search for the property and make sure it does not come up for a different price or as a for sale property. Often scammers take one listing and replicate it as their own.

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  3. Grammar and Gotcha: Emails, text messages, and other communication that includes broken English, excessive punctuation, and other grammar mistakes are often signs of scams. The use of “God bless,” “reverend,” or “doctor” can be signs of a scam as well hoping to build trust.

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  4. Outlook is Out: Email addresses from Outlook are 19 times more likely to be a scam than those from Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail — and those from non-United States accounts for properties in the U.S. are almost always scams.

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  5. Cash is Not King: If all checks out – you see the property, love it, and the price is right – never deal in cash. Always have a paper trail and pay in a way that is traceable and trackable – if you’re being pressured to give a cash deposit, it’s a red flag.

Rental Beast is helping agents, renters, and landlords alike better identify and remove scams and fake rental listings with a team of database ninjas working across the United States. Their sole job is to monitor, measure, and manager all listings the enter and are loaded into the Rental Beast database to confirm contact information, financial requirements, unit information, and showing instructions.

Agents and renters alike can be certain that active properties they find on our site are listed by actual agents and landlords with direct contact information provided. By cleaning up and managing our listings from the start, we are able to help agents and renters find their perfect rental faster and more conveniently –  as we say at Rental Beast ‘less hunt; more find.’

Millennials: Buying or Renting…and why?

There is no shortage of opinions or statistics about where and how the Millennial generation is choosing to live. We hear tropes all the time about how the young generation is flocking to urban areas, but at the same time there’s a constant drone about how they’re staying in mom and dad’s basement.

Articles abound, discussing how Millennials cannot afford to buy (or even rent in a lot of cities!) because they are saddled with debts from college. Housing costs are skyrocketing, while news stories tell us all about how Millennials are lazy, entitled, and always glued to a screen.

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Millennials, like all Americans, understand the value of homeownership, but our goals and our realities may not always make owning a home a possibility, and cities, governments, and responsible developers have a role to play in helping us (and all us 99%) figure out ways to make our living choices possible, whether we rent or buy.

The signs that Millennials are ready to buy are out there:  According to a Trulia analysis of Census Bureau data, in the first quarter of 2017, more new households were formed as a purchase rather than a lease, the first time that happened in 11 years.

Other data shows that in 65% of the country, an average mortgage is less than the average rent!

Regardless of generation, one can see the value in that. Some developers are taking the path of trying to get more starter homes on the market after many years flooding the market with luxury units and McMansions.

There was a 27% increase (up to 31% of the market total) in speculative new homes under 2,250 square feet from January to March in 2017 versus the same period in 2016. And with the trend of more dense urban living, some developers are also buying and reselling homes in and around city centers where there is less land for redevelopment.

But, there are still plenty of factors pointing to a love (or need) for renting. Many Millennials are simply not ready to take the plunge into ownership, knowing that a lease can offer attractive features that a mortgage just cannot.

Others are suffering from the 8% unemployment rate for their generation and spending their money on their portion of the $1 trillion in student debt loan instead of the often 10% down payment required to purchase a home – not to mention the convenience of avoiding ongoing maintenance and repairs, insurance, etc that are not typically required with a lease.

1Consider too that many apartments today offer gyms, pools, connectivity, possibly a concierge – things not available to a homeowner. And while the tides may be changing, many apartments are still located in more community-oriented areas of town than an affordable home, with easier access to culture, nightlife, and public transit among other perks. Unlike with a purchase, a lease is temporary, so it’s very easy to pack up and leave when or if the desire strikes.

In sum, while it’s as easy to point out facts, figures, and opinions about Millennials as it has been and still is for Boomers, Gen X, and all those who preceded and will follow them, the takeaway is that each generation is made up of multi-faceted individuals with a huge variety of tastes, goals, and means. Markets shift over time and there will always be innumerable different combinations of needs, wants, and abilities when it comes to where we choose to live.

 

 

 

Why use a Real Estate Agent when renting an apartment?

1I only had one day in Philadelphia to find and lease an apartment that I would be living in for the next year. I’d be moving there in two months. The stress of finding the perfect place and submitting an application, all in less than 12 hours, was almost debilitating. I had been searching the usual rental sites but was having immense difficulties conversing with the listed landlords when trying to get more info about the apartment. Actually scheduling showings? Almost impossible.

This is a nightmare that thousands of apartment hunters face every day. Finding, visiting, and submitting an application is extremely time-consuming and stressful when you don’t have a trained professional helping you. Thankfully, one of the dozens of prospective units I emailed that day was listed by a real estate agent. The agent took me under his wing and helped me sign a lease on a rental unit during that limited 12 hour window I was in Philadelphia.

In most cities, it is not commonplace for apartment hunters to enlist the help of a Real Estate Agent when finding a unit to rent, however it is something consumers should absolutely take advantage of. Real Estate agents are experts in the exact field many apartment hunters have little no experience in: real estate. So, why wouldn’t a prospective tenant use this service?

 

As Yahoo Finance explains, “ By enlisting the help of an agent, you get all the benefits available to a homebuyer: professional experience, local knowledge and an understanding of your budgetary constraints.” In addition, the tedious and often difficult legwork of sourcing and scheduling showings is done for you. It allows for apartment hunters to rest easy and rely on the agent to find the perfect property for them.

 

Depending on the city you’re looking to live in, you might not even need to pay for the agents services. In many cities the agent fee will be paid for by the landlord or property management company, in others, this is less prevalent and the agent compensation will be paid by the tenant. Regardless of the compensation structure, the agent’s service when renting an apartment are well worth the small fees.

 

Without connecting with an agent on first trip down to Philadelphia, there is a great chance I would have signed a lease on an apartment I had not seen in person, or spent more money and time scheduling a trip back down.

 

Thankfully, Rental Beast makes it possible to find the perfect agent right from the get go. RentalBeast.com has partnerships with the best and biggest Real Estate Firms in the country, who employ top tier agents in their respective areas.

 

Don’t think twice when renting an apartment, use an agent.