8 Amenities Every Decent Apartment Should Have: How Many Are in Your Place?

Whether you are looking for a studio or a three-bedroom apartment, finding the right amenities may make the difference between loving or hating your new pad.

Apartment amenities come in various forms, ranging from an in-unit washer and dryer or state-of-the-art alarm system to biannual pest control or a private parking spot. If you’re lucky, you may find an apartment with all of the above! More likely, however, you’ll have to prioritize depending on what’s important to you.

So what amenities should you put on the top of your list? Here are a few that will make a big difference and are worth having before you sign your next lease.

1. Dishwasher

Once you’ve had a dishwasher, it’s hard to go back to washing dishes by hand. But you already knew that, right?

“A dishwasher has to be arguably the most underrated invention of all time,” says Rostislav Shetman, founder of 9Kilo Moving.

“Washing dishes by hand after a long day at work is the last thing anybody wants to do. Having a dishwasher not only enables you to keep your utensils, and by extension the rest of your kitchen, clean, but since a dishwasher does not need as much water as washing dishes by hand, it also helps you lower your water bill,” says Shetman.

2. Alarm system

Having an alarm system can give you greater peace of mind, but professional installations of new systems can cost hundreds of dollars. To save money, look for an apartment that comes with an alarm system already built in. And don’t forget to ask the landlord who pays for the monthly monitoring. Some landlords offer the system but ask tenants to pay the monthly fees.

And there are other safety amenities to check for.

“Check the dwelling for deadbolts and window locks,” says Karen Condor, a home insurance and real estate specialist. “Also check for safety devices such as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Whatever is lacking, request they be installed. This will not only make your apartment much safer, but it will also give you cheaper renters insurance rates.”

3. Pest control

Between wasp nests on your balcony and roaches invading your kitchen, pest control can be a time-consuming, unpleasant, and expensive chore. Some commercial pest control products can also be difficult, or even dangerous, to use. Save yourself the hassle, and look for apartments offering regular professional pest control.

4. Air conditioning—or ceiling fans

If you live in an area where summer temperatures become unbearable, having air conditioning is a no-brainer. Many newer apartments come with central AC, but if not, make sure window units can be installed.

Just keep in mind that AC eats up a lot of electricity, and can raise your monthly bill. To save on these costs, check if the apartment has ceiling fans. In the summer, a ceiling fan set to rotate counterclockwise at a higher speed will circulate air throughout the room, allowing you to feel cooler without running AC.

In the winter, set the ceiling fan to run clockwise at a low speed to force warm air trapped at the ceiling back into the room. You will still have to use the heater on the coldest days, but a simple flip of a switch can reduce some of your heating needs.

5. Washer and dryer

No matter how great an apartment is, lugging your laundry to the laundromat and back each week gets old awfully fast. Ideally, an in-unit washer and dryer combo is the best.

“After you’re out of college, you want your days of lugging your clothes to the laundromat to be over,” says Condor. “As well as saving you time, this will also save you money.”

If you can’t find an apartment with the appliances in the unit, at least try to find a place that has washers and dryers in the building.

6. Private parking

While the apartment complex probably has a parking lot, it could get full on weekends, when tenants are likely to have guests. To make sure you always have a spot, look for a complex that offers reserved parking spaces.

“There is nothing worse than making a large grocery run and having to park a mile away from your place,” says Condor. “Ask about the amount of dedicated space, as well as the amount of overflow parking available.”

7. An outdoor courtyard area

Sometimes you need some fresh air! Look for a complex that offers a courtyard area or, better yet, a swimming pool, so you can spend time outside without having to leave your apartment complex and driving to the nearest park or community pool.

8. On-site maintenance

A busted pipe, an overflowing toilet, or a leaking water heater can cause serious damage to your apartment (and your stuff). Having an on-site emergency maintenance crew can lessen the damage and get your life back to normal quickly.

Source: realtor.com

‘How I Landed a Townhouse During COVID-19’: Advice for Renters on the Move During a Pandemic

Our family had long planned to move in the summer of 2020, never dreaming that COVID-19 would bring everything in the country to a screeching halt. And yet even amid stay-at-home orders, we still wanted to move. Our son was graduating from high school and preparing for university in the fall, and, after living in Los Angeles for 20 years, we were ready for a change of scenery.

We were able to kick off our official search for a new place earlier than expected, in April. With our kids participating in virtual classes, we knew they didn’t physically need to be near their school.

Still, we were anxious about the move because touring properties and moving locations increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19. We were undeterred, but wanted to do the home search in a way to minimize our exposure risk.

Relocating during a pandemic meant we had to plan more carefully and strategically. A laptop and smartphone, always valuable tools, became indispensable. Finding a new home in a new city wasn’t easy, but we made it happen. Here’s how.

Reach out to local real estate agents

The area we wanted to relocate to was over 120 miles away in the San Diego area. I knew the general area but had to rely on several local real estate agents who helped me narrow down potential areas based on our top criteria, including a good school district; safety; affordability; and proximity to entertainment, shopping, and leisure activities. They also told me the average rent for each neighborhood.

There are ways to test-drive a neighborhood without setting foot in it, but it’s always smart to reach out to local agents who know the area.

Comb through the listings

Real estate agents can help steer you in the right direction, but it’s on you to do the heavy lifting of searching for rental listings. To my surprise, quite a few properties were available in the area we wanted. All the listings used pictures, videos, and virtual tours, and their written details were descriptive. I would then follow up with the person showing the property with more questions and to request an in-person showing.

But viewing the property was a whole ‘nother thing. Many listings came with an online questionnaire designed to limit viewings to only serious inquiries.

In at least two instances, after completing the online questionnaire, I was immediately called by the owners. Although we had not yet toured the properties, they each grilled me about my job and my husband’s employment, our credit scores, and a few other things. That alone ended my interest in both of those properties, to their sellers’ surprise.

Visit the property in person, if possible

Heading to San Diego to do some house hunting
Heading to San Diego to do some house hunting

Ana Durrani

Photos and videos can get you only so far, which is why I wanted to see the properties in person. Some properties used lockboxes, allowing you to view them at your convenience. The property managers advised us to wear masks and gloves when entering. We always went in alone, with the agent or owner of the property waiting outside, also wearing a mask.

One red flag to look for is a mandatory payment to see a home. For the first property we saw, we were told to “apply” and pay $45 per person to tour it. I really loved the place on video but when I saw it in person, it was a huge disappointment. It was tiny, dark, depressing, and completely different from what was portrayed online. I immediately asked for a refund, and my money was returned quickly.

Lesson learned? Despite COVID-19, seeing a unit in person, or having an agent do a live walk-through, is still very important.

Landing a property

After a month of searching, we found a townhome we really liked that had been listed for only a few hours. We quickly made an appointment to see it. The video and photos did not do the place justice. After I walked through it, I knew we had finally found the one.

The application was done online, and we uploaded all the required documents. Once we were approved, we paid a deposit and signed our lease online. We printed a walk-through checklist, did the walk-through, and emailed back the completed checklist.

Everything was surprisingly easy. The property management company was very helpful and responded quickly to our questions. Fact: I never met our property manager in person.

Rising to the challenge during COVID-19

Finding a rental during a pandemic presented us with more challenges than normal and required us to plan ahead even more. For example, the area we wanted to move to was over two hours away. Since we’d be out for a large part of the day, we always had to think about where we could use the restroom, since nearly everything was closed. Home Depot was open, though, and was a favorite spot.

After a long day of searching for properties, sometimes we had to go out of our comfort zone and order takeout from local restaurants and eat in the car. Before that, we had been too scared to eat out for fear of being exposed to the coronavirus.

And, of course, we had hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in the car at all times.

On the positive side, each time we made the long drive to look at properties, the highway was wide open because people were still sheltering in place. In Southern California, an absence of traffic is something to celebrate.

Once our search for a place was finally over, we turned our sights to the next giant task at hand: moving.

Source: realtor.com

How To Fight an Eviction During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Eviction may soon become a reality for millions of American renters.

In March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act prohibited landlords from evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent in homes with federally backed mortgages. But this program ended on July 24.

As a result, an estimated 20% of the 110 million Americans who rent their homes are at risk for eviction by Sept. 30, according to a report by the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, a group of economic researchers and legal experts working to better understand the housing, homeless, and community recovery during the pandemic.

“We anticipate a flood of evictions because many tenants won’t be able to pay the back rent, and it will be due,” says Deborah Thrope, deputy director at the National Housing Law Project, a housing and legal advocacy nonprofit.

“The eviction moratorium is simply a pause. It’s not rent cancelation,” Thrope says.

But even if you’re struggling to pay rent, this doesn’t mean an eviction is your only choice. Here’s an overview of some of the steps you can take to fight an eviction.

Talk to your landlord ASAP

“The best advice I can give tenants when their financial situation starts to deteriorate is to communicate with your landlord,” says Marina Vaamonde, a real estate investor in Houston and founder of HouseCashin. “Their willingness to have a discussion is the only way tenants can come to a resolution without going to court.”

According to a recent survey of landlords by the American Apartment Owners Association, 67% said they would be willing to offer tenants a rent deferment if they needed it.

So if you know you can’t make your next rent payment, reach out to your landlord as soon as possible. Waiting until after you get an eviction notice may be too late, and your landlord may be less likely to work with you. Your landlord could also already be in the process of filing the eviction with the court, and have paid fees to do so, which may make him more likely to follow through.

“There are a number of things you can negotiate with your landlord,” Thrope says. Some options to consider include a rent repayment agreement, shortening the terms of your lease, or possibly getting out of your lease altogether.

Learn how COVID-19 moratoriums apply to you

Eviction laws vary drastically across the country at the state and even city level, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it all even more complicated. Along with the CARES Act eviction moratorium, states and municipalities issued their own mandates to pause evictions. So make sure to read up on the eviction laws in your area specifically to better understand what your landlord is legally allowed and not allowed to do.

“Once you understand your legal rights, you’ll know your options,” Thrope says. “We have this patchwork of policy all across the country right now, so it’s important to know the local law and tenant protections.”

One resource for finding out the statutes of local eviction laws is the Eviction Lab at Princeton University, which created a nationwide database. The group has also developed a state-by-state COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard, tracking states’ responses to evictions and during the pandemic.

NHLP also has local and national online resources for renters and homeowners during the pandemic.

Make sure your landlord gives you adequate notice

Landlords usually have the legal right to evict tenants for not paying rent, violating a lease, causing damage to the property, or engaging in illegal activity at the home.

Most states require landlords to give an adequate notice of eviction with a deadline to pay rent or move out and the amount owed. If you don’t meet the deadline, the landlord can file a lawsuit to evict you.

But if landlords don’t provide adequate notice of eviction, Vaamonde says a judge will often throw out the case.

In Texas, for example, landlords must provide an official three-day notice to vacate the property with the reason for the eviction, and can file an eviction hearing with the court if the tenant doesn’t respond or move out.

Landlords are also prohibited from taking extreme actions during the eviction process, like changing the locks or cutting off utilities.

Attend your eviction hearing

After being closed because of the pandemic, eviction courts are beginning to reopen across the country, and are moving cases through quickly to clear up the backlog of evictions.

If your landlord files for an eviction in court, you will receive a notice to appear for the hearing. It’s important to show up, especially if you hope to fight the case. You have the right to examine and present evidence and bring witnesses, Thrope says.

“Showing up to the eviction hearing at the courthouse is the only way to receive some form of leniency,” Vaamonde says. “If the landlord wants you out of his property, the judge is the only one with the authority to defer your eviction.”

Since the pandemic has made showing up to court more difficult and dangerous, many proceedings are being held virtually, with tenants expected to appear by phone or videoconference. This may be easier for some tenants, but Thrope says in other cases, it can interfere with due process for some tenants who may not have access to the technology. It also makes it more difficult to look over evidence or converse with attorneys. Make sure you know when, where, and how you’re supposed to show up in court to make sure you do what you can to present your case.

“We hope that courts understand that this is a public health crisis, and that people sheltering in their homes is one of the remedies,” Thrope says. “To put people on the street right now is only going to exacerbate this crisis, so we hope courts will do the right thing.”

Consult an attorney

Fighting an eviction alone is overwhelming for many tenants since the process is so complex. Thrope urges tenants facing eviction to hire an attorney or contact local legal aid organizations.

“Reach out for legal assistance,” she says. “That’s really important because you need to understand what protections you can avail yourself locally.”

A lawyer can help explain whether you’re protected by the CARES Act or other local mandate, as well as how regular eviction laws apply in your situation and what exactly you need to do to fight an eviction.

A lawyer will also help you gather documentation to use as evidence, such as proof of past rent payments or that you lost your job, and any communication that you had with your landlord.

“Most tenants are not represented,” she says. “Some tenants may be savvy enough to [represent themselves], but it’s a legal process. We have the right to counsel, and it’s really critical here.”

Source: realtor.com

6 Situations When Breaking Your Lease Makes Sense

While breaking a lease is generally a big no-no, sometimes there’s no way around it. Life happens, and certain circumstances might warrant getting out of your rental situation.

Breaking a lease can be complicated, and it can be costly,” says Dylan Lenz, CEO of Naborly, a modern-day property management software for landlords. “The lease agreement from your landlord and local regulations will have specific details around how to break your lease, what penalties you’ll be tied to, and which situations allow for it.”

Each state and city has its own set of regulations for terminating a lease, so do some research before moving forward. You should also read your rental agreement to see what it says about breaking your lease. Doing so will help you avoid a slew of issues, including a lawsuit by your landlord to recover outstanding rent, debt collectors, damaged credit, and problems finding new housing.

Is it really time to break your lease? Here are six situations where it may make sense to do so.

1. New job

Yes, relocating for a job is a fully legit reason to break a lease. But tenants should be well-prepared before they talk to their landlord.

Since you’re still legally on the hook for rent payments lasting the duration of your lease, broker Bill Kowalczuk of Warburg Realty in New York says to minimize the chance of losing too much money,  tenants should try to find a new tenant on their own. And they should do so before telling their landlord they need to break the lease.

“I just had this happen with a property I represent,” says Kowalczuk. “The existing tenant found someone new to move in, who would pay $150 less than what they were paying. So the tenant who was leaving made up the difference for the amount of time left on her lease. Everyone was happy.”

2. Financial hardship

A significant change in your financial situation is reason enough to break a lease. The hope is that your landlord will take your circumstances into account and won’t charge you a penalty for breaking the lease—so documenting evidence of your hardship is important.

“The pandemic has rocked our economy, and we’re seeing a surge of layoffs and furloughs,” says Lenz. “People are in difficult financial situations right now and are making big decisions because of it, like moving back home or opting for a small, cheaper apartment.”

If you’ve experienced financial difficulties from unexpected job loss, you can always try to negotiate a deferred rent payment plan with your landlord instead of breaking your lease.

3. Bad landlord or unit

Several states have constructive eviction laws that allow renters to move out without penalty when a landlord does not provide habitable housing.

One example: “A tenant is entitled to break a lease where a unit is unwarranted (illegal) and does not have a certificate of occupancy on file with the city,” says Joseph Tobener, a tenant rights lawyer at Tobener Ravenscroft in San Jose, CA.

Tobener says another justified reason to break a lease is the landlord hasn’t provided repairs and the broken amenities are substantially interfering with the tenancy.

“To break a lease for substantial interference, the issues have to be serious, like no heat, sewage overflows, constant late-night noise issues, or cockroaches and rodents,” says Tobener.

4. Buying a new house

You’ve dreamed of owning a house since forever, but you’re stuck in a lease. Still, the promise of homeownership may be too good to pass up (hello, low interest mortgage rates!) and you have to break your lease. So what penalties would you face?

If you are thinking of buying a home, keep the lines of communication open with your landlord. You may be able to work out a cash payment to buy your way out of a lease. Some leases have “home-buying” clauses, which allow tenants to jump ship early for a small fee.

5. Divorce

Divorce can get sticky, especially when it comes to working out all the details, including living arrangements.

If living together to ride out the lease isn’t an option, experts suggest working with a legal representative to draft and sign a lease transfer agreement that places all the tenant obligations, such as full payment of outstanding rent, to the spouse still residing in the unit.

6. Military assignment

You just moved into a sweet pad, but three weeks later you receive orders for a new military assignment. Fortunately, a federal law called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is on your side and allows active-duty members to break their lease for official military orders.

Active-duty members must provide their landlord with a written notice of their plans to vacate and a copy of their official military orders for a change of station for more than 90 days. They will typically have to continue to pay rent for the remainder of the month and the next month.

“The most important steps to take are to be aware of what’s in your lease agreement and spark an open line of communication with your landlord early to get the best result for both parties,” says Lenz.

Source: realtor.com

Rent Increase Laws: What Landlords Can (and Cannot) Do

Rent increases are never, ever fun. Every year, I hold my breath when it’s time to renew my lease, in the hopes that the hike is still within my housing budget. Sure, it may be easier than ever to find homes for rent online, but I love where I live, and would like to stay there as long as I can.

Fortunately, my landlords have always played fair. But let’s be frank—some don’t. And when that happens, it leaves many tenants wondering: What are the rules on raising rent, anyway?

Read on for answers to the questions that keep renters up at night.

How often can landlords raise rent?

Landlords can’t just raise your rent whenever they feel like it; they have to wait until whatever contract you’ve signed with them expires, says Robert Pellegrini, president of PK Boston, a real estate and collections law firm with offices in the Greater Boston area. That means that if you have a lease, they can’t raise it until the lease term expires.

For example, if you’ve signed a one-year contract, it’ll be a year before rent can go up, or two years if you’ve signed a two-year lease (which is why signing a lease for two years or longer is wise, to keep the rent down).

Meanwhile, if you’re renting month-to-month, your rent can’t increase until the end of any given month. Simple rules. But real rules.

How much notice should renters receive of rent increases?

In most states, renters must be granted at least 30 days’ notice before a rent increase is enforced, although that can vary based on how much the rent will actually go up. In California, for instance, that advance notice expands to 60 days if the increase is more than 10% of the rent.

These rules are also typically true for a “tenant at will” (i.e., you do not have a lease) and, more surprisingly, a tenant in a rooming house, where you are likely to pay rent weekly.

“In this case, one would assume that seven days’ notice would suffice. Not the case!” says Pellegrini. “Tenants in rooming houses still require 30 days’ notice for a rent increase.”

No matter how strange your leasing terms may seem, or how unorthodox your housing situation, you may be surprised when it comes to your rights concerning rent increases.

How much can landlords legally increase what renters pay?

As unfortunate as it may be, rent increases are common, and many tenants expect some kind of increase every time their lease comes up. Still, some renters might find it hard to believe just how much the price of their housing goes up every year.

“When it comes to how much a landlord can raise rent, anything flies,” says Pellegrini. “There are no rules, and it’s totally at their discretion.” Except, of course, if you’re living in a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartment, in which case there are strict government provisions in place governing how much rent can be raised (or if it can be increased at all).

Finding one of these rent-controlled apartments is something like locating the holy grail. So, if you don’t know if you have a rent-controlled apartment, the chances are you do not.

If that’s the case, you, your lease, and your wallet are mostly at the mercy of your landlord and the rental market in your area. However, there are some exceptions to what your landlord can do, for example: raise the rent to punish a renter.

“If it looked to a judge like the landlord was raising rent punitively—say, for example, to get ‘payback’ for the tenant contacting the Board of Health for a health code violation—then this is not OK, and the landlord could be found guilty and made to pay as much as triple damages and court costs,” says Pellegrini.

In this case, it’s not about your rental agreement, the length of your lease, or even a housing market increase in your area. It’s about what is legal and illegal. If you think you may be a victim of a punitive rent increase, contact a lawyer.

Can a landlord raise rent retroactively?

The short answer is no. In most cases, if a landlord has slapped a tenant with a retroactive rent increase, he was negligent in letting the tenant know about the increase at the appropriate time. The renter can’t be held responsible for a rent increase he or she genuinely didn’t know about.

“Often, a landlord provides notice of the increased rent retroactively together, to try to bully renters out, knowing that the tenant might be overwhelmed due to the ‘back rent’ and would be more likely to vacate,” says Pellegrini.

If this is the case for you, be aware that a tenant can file suit against a landlord, or simply counterclaim if an eviction has already been initiated by the landlord.

What should renters do if they think their landlord illegally raised the rent?

So, now that you know a bit more about rent increases: What if you’re realizing that your rent may have been increased illegally?

Maybe your rent was increased illegally on a rent-controlled apartment. Or, perhaps you’re looking through your rental agreement and realizing that you weren’t due for an increase.

There are things you can do to protect yourself from an illegal rent increase.

“A tenant should keep track of every correspondence they receive,” says Pellegrini. “They should also take notes when communication is verbal, and keep track of the dates of each communication.” This is especially important when trying to prove harassment (to pay rent or otherwise).

But don’t assume that your landlord is automatically the bad guy.

“In my opinion, the vast majority of landlords do the right thing, and, out of the slim percentage that do not, they aren’t even aware that they did something incorrectly,” says Pellegrini.

“So, in all but a few cases, I’d highly recommend that the tenant communicate with the landlord first if something doesn’t seem right. If the tenant ends up in court, or starts things off in a threatening way, they should remember that the landlord owns the property. And, if the landlord finds the tenant to be difficult to work with, the landlord is entitled to allow the tenancy to expire and find a new tenant.”

So, you should yourself (and your money) from an unfair increase, but don’t go so far as to threaten your landlord and put your housing situation at risk. Remember that your landlord could have made an honest mistake.

It’s also possible that you could have miscalculated an increase along the way. If you come on too strong to correct the situation, you could potentially end up facing eviction.

—————

Watch: Is It Smarter to Rent or Buy?

Source: realtor.com

‘Why I Renewed My New York City Lease—Pandemic, Unemployment, and All’

According to recent headlines, people have been fleeing New York City. I, however, recently renewed a yearlong lease on my Manhattan apartment, which means I’m stuck here—for better or for worse—until August 2021.

Why did I go against the grain in the wake of all the challenges New York is facing in the coronavirus pandemic? The decision caused me a lot of anxiety, but ultimately, I didn’t feel like I was ready or able to bail on the city I’ve called home for over 20 years. Here’s why.

Reason to renew: Staying costs money, as does moving

In March when the coronavirus pandemic first hit, I’d actually pulled my own version of an escape by hightailing it to Annapolis, MD, to stay with my mom in her big house. I thought maybe I’d be there a few weeks, but instead didn’t find myself contemplating a return to NYC before mid-July.

Even then, I worried I was returning too soon.

“Just how bad is it?” I asked a friend who remained in New York. The friend described the shuttered stores and restaurants, the empty streets, the uptick in crime.

My lease was set to expire at the end of July. This meant that if I were to renew it, I’d have to do so by June 30, or lose my apartment.

I knew that moving has its own costs associated with it, but I also estimated it would cost about $750 to move my things into storage—not including the cost of the storage unit itself. I calculated that moving out of New York would have cost about the same as staying put, at least upfront.

Reason to go: I’m unemployed

Still, in the long term, there was no argument that I could save more money by moving out of the city—particularly given some recent changes to my career and income.

Pre-COVID-19, I was a successful Broadway actor; but starting in March, all productions closed down, leaving me out of work. My “backup” careers of teaching dance and fitness were also moot, with gyms and studios closed as well.

Broadway will be back, but for now, it's empty houses.
Broadway will be back, but for now, it’s empty houses.

Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Unemployment insurance provided a little security, but the extra Pandemic Unemployment Assistance ($600 a week) was the true godsend for me and many others in hard-hit industries.

But the extra PUA expired at the end of July, and as I write this, no extensions have been federally approved. Without it, could I even afford to stay in New York City?

I had some savings, but there was a possibility I might not work again for a year, or longer. Unless a vaccine or treatment is found for COVID-19, theatrical productions may be among the last jobs to return—the risk is just too great to the performers and the audiences. Live performances will return, but it’s going to be a long road.

One of the reasons I lived in the city was to work in theater, and enjoy all the amazing performances this city has to offer. Without that, I wasn’t sure if it made sense to shell out rent here. Would it be smarter to give up my apartment and just wait it out holed up with my mom?

Reason to renew: They say you should never give up a rent-stabilized apartment

I have a really good deal: a rent-stabilized, one-bedroom apartment for less than $1,500 a month in a nice area. Three years ago, I’d fought really hard to get it through a housing lottery. If I gave it up, odds are I’d never be able to pull that off again.

In a pre-COVID-19 world at least, one of the cardinal rules of NYC real estate was that you never, ever gave up a rent-stabilized lease if you somehow managed to get one.

Kitchen in author's Manhattan apartment
Kitchen in author’s Manhattan apartment

Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Plus, if I did leave, where would I go? Would it be healthy to live at home with my mom? What about my independence, my career, my social life?

Granted, right now no one has much of a social life. But at some point, a vaccine will arrive, which will mean people mingling with a vengeance. When that day comes, I wagered I’d regret having given up my apartment so soon.

Roof deck of the author's apartment building in Manhattan
Roof deck of the author’s apartment building in Manhattan

Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Reason to renew: If I left, there’s no coming back

The bottom line came down to this: I wasn’t ready to give up my life in New York City. For better or for worse, the city has my heart. Even though it’s no longer the city I once loved, I decided that renewing my lease was a risk I had to take.

A couple of weeks after renewing my lease remotely from my mother’s house, I returned in person to my Manhattan apartment. I was nervous. And my friend was right, things did feel different. I was shocked by the number of stores that were still boarded up or closed for good. The only people wandering the streets seemed to be homeless people who’d been placed in hotels in my area. The streets near my home now had drug activity and other dangers.

In my 20-plus years in the city, I’d never felt wary walking around alone after dark, but now I did.

A Cosmopolitan at a sidewalk cafe in New York City in August
A Cosmopolitan at a sidewalk cafe in New York City in August

Kimberly Dawn Neumann

For the first week back, I wondered if returning was a mistake. But then I enjoyed my first socially distanced dinner at a sidewalk cafe with a friend. I witnessed a glorious sunset sitting on a bench by the Hudson River. And when I went to a couple of neighborhood stores, I was surprised when cashiers and store clerks greeted me with “Where have you been? We missed you!”

Watching the sunset with friends
Watching the sunset with friends

Kimberly Dawn Neumann

I realized I was very happy to be back. I knew I’d made the right choice for now.

New York City is unique, and it will stage a comeback somehow. And if you love it, you love it—even when it’s having a rough year. But then again, who isn’t?

Source: realtor.com

6 Things Landlords Want You To Know About Renting Right Now

Touring, leasing, and moving into an apartment looks a little different nowadays. The COVID-19 pandemic has made venturing outside our homes riskier than ever, but despite the health hazards, many renters have found themselves at the tail end of their lease and in need of a new place to live.

So landlords are doing their best to keep the rental process moving along, despite the challenges.

“As property managers, we are still adjusting to all of these sudden changes,” says Fernando Avila, a property manager, broker-salesman and Realtor® for Atlas Group LC in Las Vegas, NV.

Some of those common changes include offering comprehensive virtual apartment tours and closing common-area amenities, like fitness centers, pools, and business centers. What else would landlords and property managers like renters to know? Read on for insight into how they are trying to make the renting process a little less precarious in this uncertain time.

1. Safety is a priority

While relocating during this period may seem scary, property managers want to reassure current and future tenants that they take the safety of apartment communities very seriously.

“There are tens of thousands of property management professionals across the country—including leasing staff, maintenance workers, concierges, and parking and security teams—that have shown up to work every day through this pandemic to keep apartment communities functioning and to ensure residents’ safety,” says Najam Syed, ​head of asset management for Brightline Trains and Parkline Communities in Miami, FL.

He says some of the precautionary measures they are taking include installing automatic door openers to allow secure, touchless entry and putting antimicrobial coatings on high-traffic surfaces.

2. Keep the lines of communication open

In times like these, there is no such thing as over-communication. Landlords and property managers want future tenants to know they’re listening and that they understand renters may have some concerns when considering a new property.

“Communication continues to be key. When applying, a simple conversation with us will give the applicant a better understanding of what can be expected and if the property is the right fit,” says Avila.

3. Essential jobs are a plus

With each week, more states are opening up and sending more people back to work to join essential personnel. But in tough economic times, landlord and property managers want to be sure that potential renters have the income and employment to make their monthly rent.

“Unlike before, applicants with an essential job are easier to qualify, since we know income for them is more feasible,” says Avila.

He says his company still screens and processes applications as it did before, wanting to see reasonable proof of income, a good rental history, and an acceptable credit score.

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Watch: The Rent Is Too High? Here’s How to Haggle It Down

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4. Move-ins are safe

Many renters may initially have some trepidation about the entire moving process—and chiefly whether or not they can still hire a moving company. Moving companies are considered essential services.

“If you are considering relocating to an apartment community, housing moves can be completed in a responsible manner, now that social distancing is an accepted and promoted practice,” says Syed.

Many moving companies are following such procedures as disinfecting their vehicles daily; requiring movers to wear face masks and shoe coverings; washing their hands for 20 seconds upon entering your home; and immediately putting on single-use gloves.

Syed says his property has implemented move-in policies that observe social distancing.

5. Landlords want to better serve you

Finding an apartment in the age of COVID-19 may require some extra leg work on the tenant’s part, but property managers want us to know that they are making a lot of changes to ensure the health and happiness of tenants during the new normal.

“We have redesigned leasing tours, optimized office layouts, and socially distanced communal and co-working areas,” says Syed.

He says that for new developments, property managers are seeking to maximize outdoor green space, and are considering upgrades to HVAC systems, installation of antimicrobial finishes, and reviewing common space usage and furnishing.

“Before you choose to call a community your home for the next 12 to 14 months, it would be prudent to review its COVID-19 response to see if the service level matches your expectations,” he says.

6. Wanted: New tenants

Nothing drops rent prices quite like a global pandemic, or so it seems in many markets throughout the country. Landlords want to fill vacancies, which means they can be willing to price down their units or offer incentives, such as a month of free rent or waiving a deposit.

“In response to employment declines in most major cities, some communities are offering meaningful discounts on immediate move-ins,” says Syed.

“Just like cars, furniture, and publicly traded stocks, apartments are also on sale.”

That might be the silver lining if you have to move right now.

Source: realtor.com

5 Times Landlords Are Willing To Renovate Your Apartment—and Even Pay for It

Renters often bemoan the fact that they’re not allowed to renovate their space. They assume their landlord would never splurge on fancy upgrades like a new sink or washer and dryer—or if they do, they’d wait until the current tenant moves out.

But is this true? Based on the landlords and real estate experts we talked to, we found that under certain circumstances, landlords are actually happy to renovate—and to foot the bill.

Timing is everything! So whether you’re pining for an updated kitchen or new flooring, don’t assume it’s hopeless until you’ve pinpointed these choice times when landlords might be ready and willing to hear you out.

1. Something’s broken, and needs to be repaired or replaced

If something in your unit is broken, such as the kitchen sink, you have grounds to propose not just a repair, but a replacement or even an upgrade.

“In my experience, the best opportunity for upgrades will occur when there’s a repair or problem to be fixed,” says Brad Creger, a financial adviser with landlords as clients. “The landlord will need to spend the money anyway, so often it makes sense to fully improve the situation, versus patch up the problem only to have it resurface later.”

Keep in mind that while an apartment serves as your home, it’s a business to the landlord, which means keeping expenses down is always the goal. Think back to the broken kitchen sink—upgrading to a brand-new one will set your landlord back a few hundred dollars. Factor in labor costs, and the total bill may be anywhere between $500 to $1,000. However, if the original sink instead requires fixes every two to three months at $100 to $200 every visit, it may be wiser for your landlord to pay more now to save money later.

“Appeal to the real estate investor in your landlord,” says Brian Davis, a career landlord and co-founder of SparkRental.com. “You think of the unit as your home, but they think of it as an investment that costs them a massive amount of money and must produce a healthy return to be worth the headache.”

2. Your lease is almost up—and you’re thinking of moving

If you haven’t told your landlord whether or not you will renew your lease, now is the time to negotiate in the form of a few upgrades. It’s likely a few improvements would have happened after you moved out anyway, in preparation for a new tenant.

“Tell the landlord you’d be willing to renew, perhaps for a longer-term lease, if he is willing to upgrade a couple of components of the apartment,” says Davis. “Since turnovers are the most expensive and the most labor-intensive periods for landlords, many are happy to put a certain amount of money into upgrading the unit simply to avoid the cost and hassle of a turnover.”

“Stability in vacancy does more for the bottom line than the cost of renovations,” says James Watson, who owns and oversees a 100-unit rental portfolio in Nebraska. “I know we have plans to renovate all of our rental units as they become vacant. Chances are, plans for renovations are in place once the tenant’s current lease is up anyway, so it doesn’t hurt to ask in exchange for locking in another lease.”

3. The upgrade will add long-term value to your landlord’s investment

Certain upgrades can offer landlords a decent return on investment—particularly if they will survive the existing tenant, enhance the property value, and justify higher rents down the line. Suggest these types of improvements.

“Temporary improvements that will only last the duration of your tenancy, such as repainting, are generally not worth it to landlords,” explains Davis. “The landlord will probably have to do that anyway after you move out, so they have no incentive whatsoever to make them while you continue living there. However, new kitchen and bathroom components tend to offer a high return on investment, and make a great starting point to your proposal.”

Before you approach your landlord, try to get as much information as possible regarding your desired upgrade, including total costs, expected time to complete, and the return on investment.

Plus, if you’re handy, “offer to do some of the work yourself,” Davis adds. “Showcase the savings that the landlord would see by hiring you, in exchange for free or reduced rent, versus a typical contractor.”

4. The upgrade will save on your landlord’s insurance

Another way to sweet-talk a landlord into renovating is to highlight how certain upgrades might help save money on his home insurance.

“We rented an old and drafty four-story home in suburban Boston, and when we grew frustrated with the rattling windows and the overused furnace, we signed up for a free in-home energy assessment,” says Lydia Auchtung, a longtime renter. “We did it out of curiosity, expecting thousands of dollars worth of upgrades would be needed. But their price tag only came to a bit over a thousand dollars for insulating the entire attic and some pipes, as well as taking care of sealing the windows.”

As a result, “we pitched our landlord on the fact that the improvements would help him steer clear of home insurance claims on frozen broken pipes and water damage nightmares, resulting in the additional possibility of paying more for his insurance,” Auchtung says. “That spin brought him in, and he ended up saving 15% on his insurance premium.”

5. You’re willing to pay more in rent

If all else fails, there’s always one option that may work: Offer to pay more in rent, if your budget allows.

“If the landlord sees the renovation as something that adds long-term value, they’ll likely go for it, but they’ll typically expect you to pay a bit more in rent,” says Andrew Weinberger, CEO of PropertyClub, a real estate startup based in New York City.

The one caveat? “Just make sure it makes sense for you costwise,” Weinberger says. “For example, one of the most common requests tenants have is for a washer and dryer. While paying an extra $100 per month might make sense if you’re only going to live there for a year, it makes no sense if you plan on living there long-term. You’d simply be better off buying your own.”

Source: realtor.com

The Best Cities for Working Students in 2017

The Best Cities for Working Students in 2017 – SmartAsset

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Not all students can cover the cost of their college education with the grants or scholarships in their financial aid packages. Some begin their college careers by taking out student loans, while others look for part-time jobs and work-study positions. Students who are trying to avoid taking on too much debt may wonder what their job prospects look like outside of their college campuses. To help them out, we ranked the best cities in the country for working students.

This is the second annual study of the best cities for working students. Read the 2016 study here.

Study Specifics

For the second year, SmartAsset took a look at the best cities for working students. Our analysis focuses on the employment opportunities for college students attending the top-ranking four-year university in 232 different cities.

To complete our study, we created two different scores: a college value score (based on findings from our study of the best value colleges in America) and a jobs score (based on three factors, including the local minimum wage, the median rent and the unemployment rate for adults with some college education). It is important to note that we changed our methodology slightly this year, so this year’s study is not directly comparable to last year’s. For a full explanation of how we conducted our analysis, read the methodology and data sections below.

See how long it’ll take to pay off your student loans.

Key Findings

  • Minimum wages are rising. Nineteen states and dozens of cities saw their minimum wages increase at the start of 2017. Any boost in pay is sure to benefit working students and other low-wage workers around the country.
  • Check out the Midwest. Four of the best cities for working students are located in this region, thanks in part to their low unemployment rates. In places like Lincoln, Nebraska and Fargo, North Dakota, the unemployment rate among adults with some college education is below 2%.
  • New England ranks well. Four other cities in the top 10 are part of this region, where minimum wages are relatively high. In Portland, Maine and New Britain, Connecticut, for example, the minimum wage is above $10.

1. Springfield, Massachusetts

Springfield is about 91 miles from Boston by car. One reason why it’s on our list of the best cities for working college students is its high minimum wage. On Jan. 1, Massachusetts’ minimum wage rose from $10 to $11. Massachusetts, Washington state and Washington, D.C. currently have the highest minimum wages in the nation. That’ll change eventually since cities and states like California are planning for their minimum wages to hit $15.

2. Lincoln, Nebraska

Thanks to its strong job market conditions, Lincoln ranks as the second-best city for working students in 2017. The unemployment rate for workers with either an associate’s degree or some college education is just 1.5%, according to one-year estimates from the 2015 American Community Survey. Among all workers ages 16 and over, the city’s unemployment rate is about 3.1%

In addition to having access to a lot of job opportunities, students who attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln can get plenty of bang for their buck. Our analysis of the best value colleges found that UNL was the top-ranking university in the Cornhusker State in 2015 and 2016.

3. New Britain, Connecticut

New Britain has a few different colleges. Central Connecticut State University is the oldest public university in the state of Connecticut. Finding a job in New Britain shouldn’t be too difficult for students trying to pay their way through school. The unemployment rate for workers with some college education is just 3%.

4. Omaha, Nebraska

This is the second time that Omaha has appeared on our list of the best cities for working students. Last year, the “Gateway to the West” took the 10th spot on our list. Since we published the 2016 edition of our study, the city’s unemployment rate for workers with some college education has fallen to 2.7%.

Working students in Omaha face a diverse economy. Key industries include health services, education, transportation and utilities, meaning that there are a variety of options for students looking for part-time gigs and internships.

5. Portland, Maine

Finding part-time work may not be difficult for students in Portland, Maine. In this city, the unemployment rate among adults with an associate’s degree or some college education is just 3%.

Students who live off campus may have to pay a pretty penny for rent. The median rent in Portland is $923. Fortunately, the city’s minimum wage is relatively high at $10.68.

Related Article: The Best College Towns to Live In – 2016 Edition

6. Tempe, Arizona

Arizona is another state that saw its minimum wage increase on New Year’s Day. In fact, it went up by almost $2. Thanks to the approval of Proposition 206, part-time and full-time workers will now earn $10 per hour. By 2020, the minimum wage will be $12. That’s good news for working students attending one of the many colleges and universities in Tempe, such as Arizona State University.

7. Tacoma, Washington

Tacoma is a mid-sized city in southwest Washington. The unemployment rate for workers in the city with some college education is 5.6%. According to the Census Bureau, that’s lower than the unemployment rate among all adults in Tacoma ages 16 and over (6.5%).

The state of Washington has one of the highest minimum wages in the country and Tacoma’s minimum wage is a bit higher. In 2017, working students in Tacoma will get paid $11.15 per hour.

8. Fargo, North Dakota

Fargo has the lowest unemployment rate in our study among workers with some college education: 0.6%. And thanks to the state’s low income tax rates, working students don’t have to worry about taxes taking a big bite out of their paychecks. Best of all, many students attending colleges in Fargo have access to a quality, yet affordable education. For the 2016-2017 school year, base tuition at the North Dakota State University – the top-ranking college in the state according to our best value colleges list – will be less than $7,000.

9. Lowell, Massachusetts

Since we released the 2016 edition of our analysis, the median rent in Lowell has increased by about 9%. But the state’s minimum wage has risen as well. College students who need to find part-time jobs can expect to be paid at least $11 per hour in 2017.

10. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota and has a population of roughly 171,530. The unemployment rate for workers with some college education is only 2.4%. So students have a good chance of finding a job, particularly if they’re looking for positions in one of the city’s top industries, such as the banking, food processing or bio-medical fields.

Methodology

To find the best cities for working students in 2017, SmartAsset found the unemployment rate (for workers with some college education or an associate’s degree) and the median rent for 232 U.S. cities with at least one four-year college or university. We also pulled the minimum wage for each of these places.

We took each of our three factors (the median rent, unemployment rate and the local minimum wage) and found the number of standard deviations each city rated above or below the mean. Then we totaled those values and created a single job score reflecting the strength of the job markets in all 232 major cities.

We also developed a score using the index from our study of the U.S. colleges offering the best bang for your buck (based on several factors including average starting salaries and the cost of college tuition). Whenever we had a city with multiple schools on our list of best value colleges, we looked at data for the local top-ranking school (based on our analysis).

Finally, we combined our job score with our college value score, giving the job score triple weight and the college value score full weight. We created our ranking by assigning each city a score between 0 and 100. The highest-ranking city for working students received a 100 while the lowest-ranking city for working students received a 0.

Note that in the 2016 edition of our analysis, we created our ranking by averaging our two scores. This year, we changed our methodology slightly to give more weight to our job-related factors.

Data Sources

Rent and unemployment data are based on one-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey. Minimum wage data is based on the appropriate city, state or federal minimum wage.

In some states, the minimum wage for large companies is higher. In these instances, we used the state’s lowest minimum wage (i.e. the minimum wage for small businesses). In states with a different minimum wage for small business employees with benefits, we used the minimum wage for employees without benefits. In the states with a minimum wage that’s below the federal threshold, we used the federal minimum wage.

The data analysis for this study was completed by Nick Wallace.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/oneinchpunch

Amanda Dixon Amanda Dixon is a personal finance writer and editor with an expertise in taxes and banking. She studied journalism and sociology at the University of Georgia. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, AOL, Bankrate, The Huffington Post, Fox Business News, Mashable and CBS News. Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Amanda currently lives in Brooklyn.
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15 Best Cheap College Textbook Rental Sites

Beyond paying for tuition and room and board, buying college textbooks can quickly become one of the most costly aspects of getting a  college education.

Required textbooks for courses can often be extremely expensive, and when you pay full price for them, it can add thousands of dollars to your total yearly cost.

This is why reducing the costs of your college textbooks is a great way to save money in college.

In this article here we’ll explore some of the best cheap college textbook rental sites that can help you to save hundreds of dollars this semester.  So let’s get started.

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Reasons To Rent Textbooks Or Buy Used

Brand new textbooks can be very costly, with some estimating that it can cost an average of $1200 a semester for new books. This is perhaps the most compelling reason to consider renting textbooks or buying used; you can save a lot of money. Even if you use a buyback service at the end of the semester, you can only expect to recoup approximately 25% of the cost. 

Another reason to consider renting your textbooks is that renting can be an easy way to get your textbooks before the start of the semester. You can choose the exact book and get a price for the entire rental period rather than walking around all the bookstores in the area to find the best deals. 

Finally, renting your textbooks means that you won’t need to relocate an entire library every time you change your dorm room or when you travel home. Of course, you’re likely to accumulate stuff while you’re at college, but do you really have room in your car for boxes and boxes of books that you may not read again.

Things To Consider When You Rent A Textbook

While renting textbooks can be a great way to save some cash, there are a few things that you will need to consider before you make any agreement. 

First, you need to think about your style of learning. If you’re the type of student who likes to refer back to textbooks to confirm a theory a few semesters after you took the initial class, you are likely to be better suited to buying your book. Additionally, if you find that information sinks in a little easier if you can highlight passages in your books, then renting might not be for you. 

You will also need to consider your long term requirements. While many courses only require a textbook for just one semester, there are some courses that need the same book for multiple semesters. If you’re unsure, it is worth speaking to your professor to determine if it is better to buy or rent. 

If you’ve decided that renting is the best option, you will also need to consider the fine print of any purchase. You should check for the shipping fees and any other costs associated with the specific book you’re looking at. Add up the costs of any late fees, damage fees, or any other costs that may be applied, so you have a realistic price of your textbook. 

Finally, consider the rental site you’re using. It is a good idea to choose a site that provides some kind of assurance of textbook quality. For example, ideally, the site should provide an option of a replacement if the book is delivered in poor condition or missing some pages.

The Best And Cheapest Textbook Rental Sites

Fortunately, there are some fantastic textbook rental sites that provide affordable options to get your hands on the books you need.

Campus Book Rentals

Campus Book Rentals has been around since 2007, and it was one of the first companies to offer textbook rentals. According to the site, Campus Book Rentals has saved students almost $117 million dollars since it was established. 

Campus Book Rentals

Campus Book Rentals offers three options; Semester (130 days), a quarter (85 days), or summer (55 days). Each of these rental periods also has a 21-day free return guarantee that provides assurance that if you’re not happy with your book or if you change classes, you’re not stuck paying for a book you can’t use. 

After the rental period, Campus Book Rentals will send a prepaid shipping label so you can return your book. There is also a 15 day grace period if you need to keep the book a little longer, or you can pay for an additional 15 or 30-day extension. 

Additionally, if you need to re-rent the book for any reason, the company offers a discounted rate. You can also receive excellent customer support via chat or phone. 

Chegg Books

Chegg is another favorite site for cheap college textbook rentals. This offers free access to e-versions of preferred books for seven days and discounts of up to 90%. If your total book rental is over $50, you can enjoy free shipping before the end of September, but this offer may be subject to change. 

Chegg Textbook Rentals

If you decide that you would like to keep the book, there is also an option to purchase the rental. You can return your books in any box using the prepaid shipping label.

One thing that Chegg discourages is excessive highlighting or writing on the books. This may attract a fee, or you may be obligated to purchase the book. 

What makes Chegg books stand apart is that there is a dedicated study tab with answers to problems posed and access to an online tutor. This is a great resource if you need a little extra help grasping a subject that has not been comprehensively covered in your class. 

Just be sure to keep a close watch of your statements, as some reviewers have been charged multiple items for returned items, so you’ll need to quickly report any such issues. 

BiggerBooks

BiggerBooks is a premier online texbook store where you can buy highly discounted books and textbooks. They advertise savings of up to 91% over list prices using their proprietary technology that searches the web for the lowest prices, and keeps theirs current. 

BiggerBooks Textbook rentals

Buy or rent textbooks, e-textbooks, or sell your textbooks when the semester is over. 

They offer free shipping on orders of $59 or more, which in most instances shouldn’t be too hard.

Vital Source Textbooks

Vital Source Textbooks is a little different, offering instant access to digital textbooks and a broad suite of study tools.

Rent textbooks at Vital Source

You can download your preferred titles and then study with complete offline access. You can use any device to read your textbooks and sync it across all of your devices, color coding any annotations, and making notes. 

Another great feature is that you can listen and follow along with the read-aloud function and use the Flashcards and Review mode for your study sessions. 

AbeBooks

AbeBooks has been an online seller of new and used textbooks, fine art, collectibles and more, since 1996. They have a long track record of helping people to find the books they need, at an affordable price. They were acquired by Amazon.com, Inc in 2008.

AbeBooks cheap college textbooks

AbeBooks has subsidiary sites in the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and elsewhere. 

They also own the book price comparison site BookFinder.com.

Textbook Rush

Textbook Rush claims its prices are as much as 90% off the retail price and there is free shipping on all orders over $35. Textbook Rush also offers a 30-day moneyback guarantee, which is over a week longer than most textbook rental sites. 

textbookrush book rental service

Textbook Rush tends to send orders out in green reusable boxes, and they recommend using this box to return your books when you’re finished. The company also pays for return shipping, further minimizing your costs. 

BetterWorldBooks

BetterWorldBooks was started in South Bend, Indiana by two college friends at Notre Dame university. They saw a need for more affordable textbooks at their university, and wanted to have the company also be used by generating revenue to fund literacy projects. They set about finding a way to make that happen. 

To date the company has raised over $28 million dollars for literacy projects and libraries, while donating over 26 million books.  Over 320 million books have been reused or recycled by BetterWorldBooks. 

BetterWorldBooks Cheap textbooks

Textbook prices on the site are pretty affordable, they claim that you can get the textbooks at up to 90% off of list price. 

You can also take advantage of their free rewards program and earn rewards, receive coupons and get exclusive savings off of your textbooks.

Knetbooks

In addition to savings of as much as 85 percent, Knetbooks also offers free shipping for orders and returns. The site is a little difficult to navigate, but there is a helpline from 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday. 

Knetbooks for cheap textbooks

Although the prices tend to be a little higher compared to some of the other sites on our list, you can tailor your rental for 60 to 130 days. There is also the option to purchase your book if you decide you would like to keep it after the rental period. 

While the higher prices are a drawback, many users report that deliveries are always timely, and the company makes the process easy, convenient, and fast from start to finish. 

eCampus

The eCampus slogan is “Easy, Fast, Cheap!“, making it ideal for our list. The company offers free shipping both ways on any textbook order over $35, and there is an eWards reward system that provides loyal customers with a dollar credit for every three points earned. Even if you don’t meet the minimum for free shipping, you’ll pay just $3 a shipment with $0.99 per item. 

ecampus university book rentals

eCampus also provides greater flexibility for rental durations. You can choose short term, quarter, or semester. It also allows you to sort the book condition from worst to best with an option to pay via PayPal. 

What makes eCampus stand apart is that there is international shipping, and the company also has promo codes periodically to save even more. 

RedShelf

RedShelf is one of the leading edtech companies, helping colleges and publishers transition from traditional print to more affordable digital textbooks.

Buying e-textbooks can help you to save up to 80% off of the cost of traditional print textbooks. 

RedShelf electronic textbooks

Their digital titles also have additional features like the ability to take notes alongside the text, being able to define unfamiliar words while reading, creating flash cards as you read, building study guides, having the text read aloud and more. 

If you’re looking for a place to get your textbooks that is forward looking using the latest technology, RedShelf may be a good option to check out.

Amazon Textbook Rentals

Obviously, Amazon is a massive name in retail, but it also offers a great textbook rental service. Amazon Textbook Rentals has a promise to save students up to 90 percent on textbooks and access to a 30-day refund and return option if the book is not satisfactory. Additionally, Amazon Student users can enjoy free shipping. 

Amazon textbook rentals

There is also an eTextbook feature providing access to a vast repository of electronic books for rent, but you will need to have the free Kindle app installed on your device. The service is equipped with School Lists to help you to find your recommended books. You’ll just need to enter the school name or ZIP code to get the list provided by teachers with access to the service. 

There are a few rules for Amazon Textbook Rentals that may seem daunting. For example, you’ll be charged the full price for the book if it is deemed excessively highlighted. There is also no guarantee of access to supplementary materials when you rent your book. Additionally, if the book is not returned by the deadline, you’ll be charged for a 15-day extension fee, and after this time, you’ll be forced to keep the book as you’ll be billed the full price. 

Barnes and Noble Textbook Rentals

As one of the original bookselling chains, Barnes and Noble offers a superb selection of textbooks and a great textbook rental service. The company offers some of the most competitive pricing, and its selection is comparable to Amazon. However, you will be charged shipping costs, whether you rent or buy your books. 

Barnes And Noble textbooks for sale

Barnes and Noble is one of the only college textbook rental sites that provides software to access supplementary materials, which is a great add on for many classes. 

Valore Books

Valore Books takes pride in being “the student marketplace” for your college textbook rentals. It is one of the few sites that allows you to track your order or return orders via a box on the homepage. 

Valore Books textbook rentals

One of the standout features of Valore Books is that you can compare book prices from different rental providers to find the best possible deal. Although the shipping charge is $3.95 an item, you can also qualify for free rental return shipping and a 30-day money-back guarantee. 

Although the selection is limited for the newer textbooks, Valore Books does have an excellent selection of older books. 

Textbookx

Textbookx is a subsidiary of the Connecticut based online store Akademos, Inc. This company has been in business since 1999 and has a long track record of providing books online at affordable prices. The company has also made a commitment to customer service, and this is reflected in its A+ Better Business Bureau rating.

Textbookx college textbook rental

This company has a significant selection of new and used college textbooks, and there is an option to sell books through its marketplace. The company stocks its own books and has three online partners to further extend the selection. However, the shipping charges and policies vary according to who has the book in stock. If you purchase from Textbookx direct, you can enjoy free shipping if you spend more than $49. Otherwise, the shipping costs are $4.96 an item. 

Generally, Textbookx offers lower prices compared to most online resellers for buying books, but the book rental program links to other rental providers. 

Bookbyte 

This is an all-inclusive site that allows you to buy, sell, or rent college textbooks. The textbook rental aspect of the business is simple and easy to use. You just need to search the title or ISBN of the textbook and select the “rent” option. You can also choose a 30, 60, 90, or 150-day rental term. 

Bookbyte cheap textbooks

If you need to keep the book for a little longer, Bookbyte will provide a seven day grace period. Additionally, the company claims that you can save as much as 87% on textbook rental, and the average student saves $112.93 per book by using its services. 

Bookbyte also offers free shipping on orders over $49, which may be higher than some of the sites on our list, but it still represents a good deal.

Tips For Finding Your Textbooks Cheap

Textbook rental sites can be a great resource, but there are some things that you need to remember when renting your textbooks. 

  • Use the ISBN To Make Sure You Have The Right Book: There are often several editions for most textbooks, so you need to make sure that you have access to the latest edition.The best way to do this is to search by the ISBN number of the book rather than just relying on a title search. 
  • Don’t Expect Access Codes or Supplementary Materials: Textbook rentals are classified as used books, so if there is normally an access code included, or supplementary materials, the chances are the code has already been used, or the extra materials are not included in the rental. If it is important that you have the access code, you may be forced to buy the book instead of renting. If supplementary materials are necessary and the ad doesn’t explicitly say they’re included, make sure to reach out and verify that they’re included. 
  • Take Good Care Of Your Rented Books: While most textbook rental sites expect and allow highlighting, there is a fine line between acceptable and excessive. Additionally, you need to avoid staining or tearing any pages. Most sites have a clause in the terms and conditions that if the book is returned with excessive wear and tear, you’ll be forced to buy the book. 
  • Keep In Mind Total Costs: Some sites will have lower prices, but charge a higher cost for shipping, or taxes. Make sure you figure out the total cost before you purchase.

Check Multiple Textbook Rental Sites At Once Using These Aggregators

If you’re searching for all the books in your syllabus, it can still be a time-consuming process. Fortunately, there are some great aggregators to expedite your search. Below are some of the best.

BookScouter

BookScouter is a great resource to buy, sell, or rent textbooks. You can use the main website or use the BookScouter app, which provides a fast and convenient tool. It is easy to get started; you just need to provide your name and email address to register. 

CampusBooks

CampusBooks allows you to make a complete textbook rental price comparison. You can search dozens of rental sites to seek out the lowest prices, and the Campus Books SuperBot will let you know if it works out cheaper to rent or buy your textbook. 

TextbookRentals

TextbookRentals is another excellent aggregator that allows you to search for all your books, compare prices, and save money on your textbook rental. The platform also has a great blog to provide you with helpful information on college life to help you make the most of your college experience. 

CheapestTexbooks.com

CheapestTextbooks is an aggregator that searches “1000’s of college textbooks sellers” to find you the best deal on your textbook rental or purchase. They search online sellers, big bookstores, and hundreds of small online bookstores. They’ll try to find you the lowest possible price, including shipping when possible. 

Save Money On Your Education By Renting College Textbooks

Renting your textbooks is a great way to cut the cost of your college experience.

Many of the companies we’ve listed can save you up to 90% on the cost of books, which can add up to thousands of dollars in savings over the course of your university career. 

Have your own tips to save money on college textbooks? Tell us what they are in the comments!

Best Cheap College Textbook Rental Websites

Source: biblemoneymatters.com