Enhanced features – now with Facebook login

Posted: March 28th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Site Update | View Comments

Hey there apartment renters!

We recently rolled out a bunch of enhanced features to our site.  Here’s an overview:

  • Login with your Facebook account
  • Improved filtering interface (not having to click on “search”)
  • New and improved design on the front page

As more people login with their Facebook accounts, we’re going to be able to provide fantastic recommendations of where to live, based upon where your friends have lived.  If you have any suggestions or things you’d like to see, please send them our way: feedback@rentmaps.com

Thanks for reading!


Do your research, find the perfect apartment

Posted: January 16th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Finding Apartments, Vetting Apartments | View Comments

A leaking Pipe

This guest post was written by Jess, who managed to do well in her med school interview in spite of the leaky pipes.

The night before my top-choice medical school interview, Dan’s pipes started leaking.  It was a hot, dirty water that ran in brown rivulets down his exposed pipes onto his cluttered desk.  This probably wasn’t the first time the pipes had leaked in the history of this apartment, the pipes were stained with a sticky substance that i chose to ignore when he was moving in.  I wanted to be supportive, but the apartment needed touch-ups in many places, and I felt he and his roommates had chosen an apartment instead of researching the management company and the building.  Almost a year into our relationship, it was one of the first disagreements we had, and it was focused on something that Dan really couldn’t help: where was he supposed to go to do this research?  How could he change the power balance of realtors pressuring him and his roommates to sign a lease quickly and without thought?  And so, I like to think, the idea for rentmaps.com was born.  Other websites had many features that centralized the apartment search, but none had a library or a history of the apartment, the building or the area.  Instead, the information remained private, concealed by the landlord and realtors to the detriment of the renter.

Fast forward several months; Dan and I have decided to move in together.  We have scoped out the perfect neighborhood, but we can’t seem to get our foot in the door and rentals in the neighborhood seem to fly off the market.  Stressed, we expand our search across the Charles, finding apartments that are a bit out of our price range and which feel like a compromise.  Out of the blue, a realtor emails us with the first view of an apartment in our original neighborhood; there were no photos, no stats, and no information.  The apartment turned out to be our dream come true–everything we could possibly ask for.  The management company is prompt, attentive and efficient.  This autumn, they sent a team of workers to clear leaves from our private backyard, and this winter, they plowed our driveway right after a heavy snow.  We fell into this apartment by pure chance, but now we never want to move.  Rentmaps.com takes some of the luck and serendipity out of the apartment search, allowing renters to find their perfect apartment.

I like rentmaps.com because it allows me to do all the research I want in order to feel comfortable with a big decision.  Before every meal out, I like to hear others’ opinions, get suggestions on the best meals and feel comfortable with the price of the meal.  There are websites that are available for me to complete this kind of research on restaurants.  But, until now, nothing similar existed for an apartment, a much bigger expense with a long term commitment involved.  Rentmaps.com is an opportunity to help others avoid rental mistakes and to help you find the apartment of your dreams.  With the collective memory of rentmaps.com, you will be able to make the best decision for your lifestyle and management companies and landlords will be held responsible for making your living situation great.

Thanks to ThirteenOfClubs for the photo.

Are you paying too much for your apartment?

Posted: November 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Finding Apartments, Vetting Apartments | View Comments

My first apartment was a fantastic apartment at Tufts University.  I lucked out in many ways:

  • The landlord was a genuinely nice guy.
  • The landlord was very responsive when it came to any issues with the apartment.
  • It is a great location for Tufts students.

It was reasonably priced, but I didn’t know that at the time.  After having lived in another apartment around Tufts and in a number of apartments in Boston, I understand that overall it was a good deal.  I wasn’t an expert in apartments then, I simply got lucky.  Even if I had been dead set on learning about apartments around Tufts, it would have been very difficult to understand what was available and where the best deal was.  Without access to the previous tenants and going door to door in the neighborhood, it would have been impossible to gather that kind of information.

RentMaps looks to make it a lot easier to understand an apartment in relation to the other apartments around it.  It’s normal and expected for variation to exist in a neighborhood, but prospective tenants should understand what the benefits / downsides are for an apartment and how that impacts rent.  If you are paying a certain amount and there are better deals in your neighborhood, shouldn’t you know that?  Tenants will find this out eventually, why not let them know in advance so that tenants are happier about their living accommodations?

How much are your neighbors paying for rent?  You can easily find that out by searching for reviews of apartments in your area.  Go check it out by searching RentMaps!

Questions you should ask before signing a lease

Posted: November 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Finding Apartments, Vetting Apartments | View Comments

Does this sound familiar?  You brainstorm a list of questions for a landlord / broker, but you forget to ask many/ all of them when you’re looking at an apartment.  We recommend printing out this list so you don’t forget:

  • Money Questions
    • When is it due?
      • Does it need to be in 1 check?
      • Are there any late penalties? (for example, $10 per day past the due date)
    • Is there a security deposit?
    • What is required up front?  For example, is first month + last month + security deposit required to sign the lease?
      • What prevents someone from getting back their security deposit in full?
    • Are there any other fees associated with the apartment / signing of the lease?
    • What utilities (if any) are included in the rent?  (Hot water, heat, internet, parking, etc)
      • If there are laundry services, are they free?  Does it cost to use the facilities?
    • Is renters insurance required?
    • Usually, regular wear and tear is allowed and should not be charged for in the security deposit. Ask the landlord if that’s the case, what they consider normal wear and tear, and if / how they charged previous tenants in the past.
  • Maintenance
    • Is there a maintenance company?
    • What happens if there’s a serious problem after hours (in the middle of the night, etc)
    • Am I allowed to paint the walls?
    • Am I allowed to hang up photos, picture frames, shelves?
    • Who is responsible for shoveling / taking out the garbage / cleaning entryways?
    • If improvements will be made before I move in, can I have that added to the lease as an addendum?
  • Rules
    • Is sub-leasing allowed?
    • If for whatever reason I need to break the lease, what are the penalties?
    • Are there any rules about noise / social gatherings?
    • Are pets allowed?
    • What are the local parking rules?
  • General Questions
    • Who were the last tenants?  Why did they move out?
      • This gives you an idea for the type of people living there before.  If they’ve only been there for a short while, this may raise additional questions.  Usually people who love their apartments stay for awhile.
    • Is the apartment wired for phone / internet access / TV?
    • Are guests allowed?  Some places do not allow overnight guests.
  • Moving in / Moving Out
    • Do you plan on making any changes after the old tenants have moved out and before I move in?
      • If they promise anything, ask to have it added to the lease!
    • When are the current tenants scheduled to move out?
    • When will I be able to move in?
    • Will the apartment be cleaned by a cleaning crew before I move in?
  • Safety
    • Where are the smoke detectors?  Is there a carbon monoxide alarm?
    • Where are the fire extinguishers?
    • Is there an emergency exit?

What other questions would you recommend?  Add them in the comments section.

Article in the Tufts Daily

Posted: November 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Press | View Comments

RentMaps was covered by the Tufts Daily, the on campus newspaper at my Alma mater.  They wrote up a great piece about what we’re trying to do, and some of the hurdles we face.  It’s a great article, go check it out!

Here’s the link: http://www.tuftsdaily.com/news/independent-website-to-provide-off-campus-housing-information-1.2412168

Thanks to Amelie Hecht for writing the article!

Moving day is a nightmare

Posted: November 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Moving | View Comments

Not your average moving truckAfter you’ve found a new apartment and signed the lease, you think the hard part is over.  You’re excited about your new living space, and you think everything will be great when you move in.  I made this mistake for years, but after many difficult experiences I have learned that moving day is usually the worst part.  See this nightmare about moving day taken from the Boston Globe:

Often, new tenants are moving in as the previous ones are moving out. Or worse, students are awakened on Sept. 1 by new residents holding boxes, a situation that has occurred more than once, according to Ross.

The crunch causes frustration as parents and students carrying mattresses and boxes squeeze past one another on narrow staircases. Many old tenants are forced to make quick decisions based on the room in their moving vans, leaving piles of furniture on the curb. Or, says Ross, they simply toss couches and bags of trash out of windows.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Get a moving truck early, if you need one.  Seriously.
    • Find out when moving trucks (u-haul, etc) typically sell out.  In Boston, the trucks sell out by mid July if you’re renting a truck for September 1st.  They typically have a great cancellation policy – so you could easily book it early and then cancel if necessary.
  • Move in early!
    • Moving day in Boston is horrible – and I’m sure it’s not fun in other cities around the country.  Typically, there are hundreds of moving trucks around the city and parked along your street.  If you’re one of the only people moving, it makes it a lot easier.
    • Sometimes the previous tenant will leave early or have empty space in their apartment.  Inquire with your broker, landlord, or the tenant to see if you can move some of your stuff in early.
    • Be understanding of the previous tenant.  The previous tenant is probably moving into another apartment the same day as yourself, and wants to get out of the apartment as soon as possible.  This isn’t always possible, so try to communicate with them as early as possible to know when they’re moving out and if there is some arrangement you can work out.
  • Hire movers to help you.
    • If you can afford it, it’s worth it.  Trust me.
    • For my last move, I was able to get 3 strong, capable, nice guys to help me move my stuff.  I paid a total of 300 dollars and they made the process a pleasure.  There’s a great web site to find accredited movers at an affordable price: http://movinghelp.com
  • Get a parking permit for your moving truck.
    • It depends on where you live, but in Boston you’ll typically want to reserve a parking spot in front of your building on your move date.  It doesn’t take long, but you’ll want to do it well in advance so that you have it reserved for youself.  Don’t make the process more challenging for yourself by having to walk to a moving fan a block from your house.
  • Ask the landlord when he/she plans on having the apartment cleaned.
    • Due to the chaos of moving in / out, the previous tenant might not be able to leave the apartment in the state you expect upon moving in.  Coordinate early with the landlord so that there’s ample time for the previous tenant to move out, bring a cleaning crew in, and to move your stuff in.

Thanks to NeitherFanboy for the photo.

The “Uh-oh” Feeling

Posted: November 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Finding Apartments | View Comments

Have you ever had that “uh-oh” feeling after moving into an apartment?

It has happened to everyone.  The moment where you think “Uh-oh.  Will I regret living here?  Did I make the right decision?”.  Wondering if you made the right decision is never a good idea, because you’ve started to focus on negative aspects of your apartment.  You weighed the benefits of moving in and made the best decision possible with the information available.  The problem is that people don’t have all of the information they need to make an informed decision.  If all of the information is on the table, there will be a lot less “uh-oh” moments as people move into their apartments.

This has happened to me personally on multiple occasions.  In the end, the apartments have been fine, but I probably could have put more effort into the process of finding apartments (I’m sure my old roommates would agree).  I lived in an apartment that was fine on many fronts, but I wish I had looked harder.  There were a couple of issues:

  • My bedroom didn’t have a closet.
  • There was construction outside of my bedroom window for the entire year.  I was usually woken up by jackhammering outside of my window each morning.  I could have handed coffee to the workers as if my window was a drive-through.
  • The heating pipes in the apartment BANGED really loudly.  Imagine hitting a pipe with a wrench ten or fifteen times in the middle of the night.
  • People smoked outside of the apartment constantly.

Would this information have helped me in my decision to sign the lease or look for another apartment?  Absolutely.  While I could have walked over to the apartment and hounded the current tenants, I didn’t.  It really would have been helpful before I saw it with a broker.  Being able to filter out apartments before visiting them in person will help save the most time and filter out apartments with problems.  Ultimately, there will be far fewer “uh-oh” moments.

What things do you wish you had known before you moved into an apartment?