Monthly Archives: May 2014

Tips for Finding NYC Apartments

When it comes to renting NYC apartments, speed, smarts, and preparedness are of the utmost importance. NYC may very well be one of the most expensive rental markets in the world, but thousands upon thousands of apartments are rented here every year. Among some people in this city, renting apartments is practically a hobby! There’s no reason that you shouldn’t get the New York apartment of your dreams, as long as you keep a few key tips in mind.

1. Prepare your financial package

When hunting for NYC apartments, one of the first things you need to do is to make sure that your financial details are in order. While this is true in most cities, it’s particularly true in NYC. Most NYC landlords will require that prospective renters earn at least 40 times the monthly rent on the apartment per year. In addition to that, they will run a credit check and will usually require that renters have at least a 700 credit score to qualify. Get a letter from your employer, W-2s, and anything else that will help verify your income. For many people new to the city, especially young people with jobs, these financial requirements may be a bit difficult to meet on their own. In these situations, they may be able to have guarantors cosign on the apartments with them. Guarantors could be anyone from parents to special companies whose sole business is to guarantee apartments. If your parents or friends sign on as guarantors, the financial hoops they’ll have to jump through to vouch for you are even tougher and more strict than the ones you had to go through, but they’re set up to help ensure that the rent will be paid.

2. Research neighborhoods thoroughly

NYC apartments run the gamut from doorman studios in Chelsea to prewar elevator one-bedrooms in Midtown West. Thoroughly research the neighborhoods you’re thinking of living in, because each neighborhood has its own distinct vibe and personality. For example, if you’re someone who prefers peace and quiet on the weekends, you may want to think twice about moving to the West Village, one of the most popular and busy areas of town. But if you really do your homework, you’ll find there are specific streets in the area that are quiet and tucked away far from the madding crowd. Armed with enough knowledge, you could end up ahead. Do your research and check with your broker about any area of town you’re thinking of renting in. Walk the streets during different times of day to see if the vibe suits you — a street at 9 am could look very different at 9 pm.

3. Strike while the iron’s hot

In New York, every renter learns that it’s best to move quickly. People show up to apartments with checkbooks at the ready, so don’t get beat out by the competition. If there’s even the slightest possibility that you’re interested in a place, walk in prepared to seal the deal. You don’t want to lose out on the apartment of your dreams simply because you weren’t prepared.

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Exploring the Avenue of the Arts: Philadelphia’s Broad Street

New York has Broadway, London has the West End, and Philadelphia has the Avenue of the Arts. A stretch of Broad Street that runs from the southern part of the city to the north, the Avenue was conceived of in 1993 as a way of revitalizing the city. The street is overseen by a nonprofit organization, which has played a key role in creating theaters and other venues on the Avenue. Whether you’re looking to move to the city or just coming by for a visit, check out what Broad Street has to offer you.

Where to See Live Theater

If you enjoy the performing arts, Broad Street won’t disappoint. It’s home to venues both modern and venerable.

On the historic side of things is the beautiful Academy of Music, the current home of the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Opera Company of Philadelphia. It’s also where touring productions of Broadway shows stop when they come to the city. Built in the mid-1800s, the Academy was modeled after an opera house in Milan.

People who prefer more contemporary fare can check out either the Wilma Theater or the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, which is where the Philadelphia Theatre Company presents its shows. The Wilma tends to go for edgier productions, while the Philadelphia Theatre Company focuses on contemporary American plays.

Broad Street is also home to a number of art schools and galleries. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is both a school and a museum with a permanent collection that features many well-known American artists. Located above City Hall on the Avenue, the museum is open six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday. The University of the Arts also has a number of galleries and exhibition halls along Broad Street.

Where to Eat

One place you definitely need to check out on the Avenue of the Arts is Nineteen (XIX). Located on the 19th floor of the Hyatt at the Bellevue, the restaurant features large windows and balcony seating, so you can enjoy a lovely view of the city. The restaurant is open for dinner, as well as afternoon tea. You can also enjoy drinks and appetizers in its bar.

If you want a sweet treat or snack, head to Capogiro, located just a block from the Avenue of the Arts. Capogiro makes gelato from scratch and offers a range of different flavors every day. The café also features coffee drinks, baked goods, and sandwiches.

Where to Live

If you want to call the Avenue home, you’ll find a number of residential options on Broad Street — whether it’s high-rise condos or pet-friendly apartments with large picture windows. As you might expect, the swank housing here comes with such top-of-the-line amenities as swimming pools, gyms, parking, roof-deck hot tubs, and bike-share programs.

The organization behind the Avenue of the Arts has worked hard over the past 20 years to make this area a shining example of what Philly has to offer. Whether you want to catch a show, visit an art gallery, enjoy a great meal, or live in urban luxury, Broad Street is a destination worth exploring.

Image Source: Flickr/Paul Sableman

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Cat-Friendly Furniture for Your Home

Cat-friendly furniture is important to any Dallas-Fort Worth home with feline residents. Smart furniture choices can help keep your upholstery clean and fur-free, but you’ll also want to provide alternatives to your new sofa if your cat likes to scratch.

Material Matters

Several cat owners on say that microsuede is the way to go with sofas and chairs, as the tight weave of the fabric will deter your cats from scratching it. (Alternately, if you don’t like the look or feel of microsuede, you can try a high-quality velvet — one poster claimed his cats won’t touch it.)

Although microsuede is a popular material for cat-friendly furniture, it does have a drawback: Some cat owners report that, depending on the quality of the fabric, hair may be difficult to remove from it. Some people use a damp cloth, but another tip is to scoop the hair up with your hands while wearing rubber kitchen gloves. Most cat owners also keep lint rollers around their home to help with hair cleanup.

Leather also is a cat-friendly furniture choice, although some cats will still scratch it. Leather sofas and chairs are popular in the Metroplex because leather works well with a wide variety of décor styles and is comfortable during the hot summer months.

Provide Kitty Alternatives

To keep cats from clawing your furniture, they need alternatives. It’s a natural instinct for cats to sharpen their claws, but you can provide them scratching posts and other diversions.

According to Cat Connection, a Dallas cat-care company, the key is getting to know what type of scratcher your cat prefers. Some cats like rope-covered scratching posts, but others do just fine with a cardboard scratcher. Add catnip to the scratcher periodically for extra enticement.

Train Your Cat Before You Buy

After you’ve provided your cat with an alternative scratching spot, one cat expert says to start training your cat to stay away from your new furniture while you still have your old pieces. As a deterrent, Cat Connection suggests spraying products that contain Bitter Apple or eucalyptus on their favorite furniture-scratching spots. (Pepper works, too.) Double-sided tape or specially designed products for cats can also break the scratching habit.

Cat-Proof Window Coverings

Cats love looking out the window, and window coverings can become a toy for a bored kitten. Cat Connection recommends that feline lovers use vertical blinds to keep inquisitive kitties from climbing drapes or tearing up mini blinds. If you want curtains or drapes in your home, Cat Connection suggests hanging them with tension rods: If the cat pulls on the draperies, they’ll simply fall down on top of the cat. After a few times of pulling them down, the cat will likely look for something else to do.

Make Your Home a Cat-Safe Haven

Although cat-friendly furniture can keep your home looking great, be mindful of your kitty’s safety. No matter what window coverings you choose, make sure to keep the pull cords away from your cats to avoid accidental strangulation. Be aware of plants that are toxic to cats and avoid owning them. This way, you’ll both enjoy a safe, cat-friendly home.

Image Source: Flickr/Barbara Müller-Walter

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Upper West Side Story: 5 Tips for Renting on the UWS

The Upper West Side is a very popular neighborhood with families and singles alike. From top schools to great nightlife, the area has something to offer everyone. If you’re planning on renting here, these tips can help ensure that you start out your Upper West Side rental life on the right foot.

1. Study up on the local schools

The Upper West Side is big with families, and education is a top priority here. Parents looking to go the public school route should look into schools like P.S. 87 or P.S. 344. P.S. 344, also known as The Anderson School, is a citywide gifted and talented school — which means that interested parties should make sure to get their wee ones prepped for the G&T tests since the top students from around the city will all be vying for a seat here. You’ll also find no shortage of private school options, with schools like the Collegiate School, Trinity School, and Bank Street heading up many wish lists.

2. Figure out what type of rental you want

The Upper West Side is like a dessert sampler of architectural styles. From prewar tenement-style buildings to 19th-century brownstones to towering contemporary high-rises, you’ve got many options to choose from. Do you yearn for the convenience and amenities that come with a doorman building? Do you prefer to work out in your own apartment building’s gym instead of having to hoof it over to the nearest fitness club? Do you love the nooks, crannies, moldings and other classic details that come with brownstone living? Make a checklist of what features appeal to you most, and go from there.

3. Get your financials in order

When you’re ready to pull the trigger on an apartment, make sure that you’ve got the financial requirements ready to go. Generally speaking, landlords want tenants who earn at least 40 times the monthly rent of the apartment. This means that if you find a two-bedroom apartment for $3,500 a month, multiply that number by 40, and that’s what you’ll need to earn on a yearly basis to qualify. Some landlords will allow guarantors, which could include anyone from the Bank of Ma and Pa to an insurer — essentially, anyone who will guarantee that they’ll pay the rent on the apartment if you default.

4. Get to know your neighborhood merchants

One of the best things about the Upper West Side is the sheer number of places that pick up and/or deliver. Whether you want someone to collect your dirty laundry and return it fresh and clean within hours, or deliver steaming bowls of spicy Vietnamese pho to your door on a cold winter night, your heart’s desire is likely a mere cell phone call or website visit away. Familiarize yourself with the merchants in your neighborhood and what their hours are.

5. Estimate your cost of living

Creating a financial breakdown of things like how often you eat out, how many times a week you take a cab, how much you pay in school tuition, and what your entertainment budget looks like can help you get a realistic view of how much it will cost you to rent in the area. Calculate your budget accordingly to help make sure that your Upper West Side story is a great one.

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Roof Repair or a New Roof? A Guide for Dallas Homeowners

Roof repair is a frequent necessity in the Dallas area. Regular spring hailstorms and high winds can do a lot of damage to asphalt roofs (sometimes without the homeowner even being aware of it). It’s often a close call whether you should repair your roof or replace it entirely. Here’s a guide to help you choose.

Review Your Homeowners Insurance

Most Metroplex homeowners decide whether to spring for a new roof or roof repair based on their homeowners insurance policy. Most policies at least partially cover the cost of a new roof, so depending on the amount of damage, you may choose to replace it. But if you have only one or two trouble spots, it may be worth your while to get the roof repaired.

No matter what, be sure to shop around. Most roofing companies will try to talk you into getting a new roof instead of roof repair. Ask friends and family members to recommend quality roofers.

Roof Damage Signs

Dean Caldwell, owner of Fort Worth–based J.D. Caldwell Construction Roofing Contractors, says it’s pretty easy to spot roof damage if you know what you’re looking for.

“Look for bruising on asphalt shingles,” he said. “A hailstone will make a circular-shaped spot that knocks the colored granules off the shingle. You’ll see the back of the shingle, which is black.” Broken tiles are also a telltale sign that roof repairs are needed, he said.

You can also tell a roof needs repairs by inspecting the ceilings, he said. Leaks create stains. Sometimes you’ll see bulges or tape coming off the Sheetrock on the ceiling as well.

Roof Maintenance

Take steps to make sure you don’t inherit someone else’s bad roof. Caldwell said that when homebuyers are considering buying a home that they should look for signs that the homeowner did maintenance. “Look at the roof to see if they have regularly cleaned debris off the places where the roof joins,” he said. “Gutters and drains should be free from debris, too.”

Coatings to Upgrade Your Roof

One thing to consider while you are getting roof repairs is whether you want to add a roof coating to protect and provide additional energy efficiency. Superior One Roofing in Irving says that a roof coating can help waterproof your roof. Other products add a reflective coating that will help lower energy costs during hot summer months.

Roof repairs are unavoidable in the Metroplex, but if you’re informed, you can keep your home protected with a new or repaired roof.

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Downtown Philly Living: Diverse Neighborhoods Offer Something for Everyone

Downtown Philly, also known to local residents as Center City, consists of 14 neighborhoods, each with distinct personalities and unique attributes. Whether you prefer quaint or contemporary, quiet or lively, Colonial or Art Deco, Philadelphia’s housing, culture, dining, and shopping caters to a broad range of tastes in downtown living, as demonstrated by the areas spotlighted below.

Historic Charm in Old City

Old City was one of the first established neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Today, this area is where you’ll find many of the city’s historical tourist attractions, such as Independence Mall and the recently renovated Benjamin Franklin Museum. Old City is also home to many restaurants, shops, and art galleries. Residential options include condos or apartments inside 19th-century warehouses and factories. Looking for a slightly larger living space? Townhouses are also available in this section of the city.

Revitalized Society Hill

The area south of Old City, running from Front Street along the Delaware to Seventh Street, is known as Society Hill. After the neighborhood fell into disarray in the early 20th century, it was revitalized and restored. Society Hill is a registered historic district, and owners of restored homes in this area must follow certain rules regarding appearance and maintenance.

Victorian Grandeur in Fairmount

Residents of Fairmount, the neighborhood spanning the area between the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Fairmount Park, have carefully preserved the Victorian-style houses built there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fairmount maintains the feel of a friendly, intimate neighborhood, yet it’s only a short cab ride away from the high-rise buildings surrounding City Hall. Fairmount residents often walk, bike, or run along Kelly Drive, the winding road behind Boathouse Row. This neighborhood also boasts an eclectic mix of dining choices, including Mexican, Greek, Asian, and American fare.

Chic Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse Square is an upscale Philly neighborhood centered around a park of the same name. Housing choices in Rittenhouse include luxury high-rise condos and breathtaking mansions. Fine dining abounds, along with high-end boutiques and shops along Rittenhouse Row. The highest rents in the city are found in Rittenhouse Square, and this has long been one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in downtown Philly.

Each neighborhood in the Center City district carries its own unique characteristics and energy. If you’re looking to make Philadelphia your new home, take time to wander and roam through the city to discover which area is the best the fit for you.

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Welcome Home: McIntyre Family

In addition to much aggravation, a recurring second-floor bathroom leak in the McIntyre’s Rutherford, NJ home caused a gaping hole in the kitchen ceiling. Needless to say, the McIntyre family was in desperate need of a helping hand.

After Grandma Lynn suffered a stroke, the McIntyre family invited her to come live with them. Her way of giving back to her family was to write George Oliphant of George to the Rescue and ask him to come rescue her family’s home.

George and his team, Anthony Passanante and Jeff Silverberg, set out to repair and renovate the only full bathroom in the McIntyre home. The result is a stunning transformation.

In this edition of “Welcome Home,” the McIntyre family shares what home means to them.

Watch the full episode of George to the Rescue: The McIntyre’s Big Surprise.

Welcome home, McIntyre Family!

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