The Numerous Neighborhoods of Tucson, Arizona

RV_tucson-poolFor a southwestern city with a rich history and stunning scenery, there’s no better place than Tucson, Arizona. Founded in 1775 and ringed by mountain ranges, the city has been the home of Native Americans, Spanish missionaries, cattle ranchers, miners, settlers, and many more. Today it is home to more than 100 companies whose primary business is related to the design and manufacture of optics and optoelectronics systems, giving it the nickname “Optics Valley”. Located in Pima County in the southern part of the state, Tucson has a population of over 525,000 and is home to more than a dozen unique neighborhoods.

Moving to Tucson? Check out Tucson apartment reviews and read about a few of the city’s neighborhoods to start deciding where you want to live in Tucson, Arizona. Continue reading

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Top 10 Vacation Spots

IMG_8260EditFrom Cape Cod to Las Vegas, the U.S. has numerous travel destinations. And if they aren’t a part of your summer travel plans or your bucket list, it’s time you added them.

Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park is known for its 2.2 million acres of mountains, canyons, unspoiled beauty ,and expansive meadows. About 3 million people visit Yellowstone every year, but unless you spend your entire trip at Old Faithful, a cone geyser that erupts every 63 minutes, you won’t see many fellow travelers. Your travel partners will be elk, buffalo, and sometimes grizzlies!

When planning your trip to Yellowstone, you can take the road less traveled (literally) and visit the hot springs of the West Thumb Geyser Basin, the Lewis River Channel, and Dogshead Loop. However, if you want to see national landmarks in person with fellow tourists, be sure to carve out a day or two to visit Yellowstone Lake and Mammoth Hot Springs. If you are the adventurous type, you can always do both.

Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. was once described as a “city of southern efficiency and northern charm,” by John F. Kennedy, but these days the city is transforming itself into an exciting, faster-paced East Coast vacation destination. With its recent explosion of cafes, restaurants, boutique shops, and clubs, and its preexisting renowned museums and government monuments, D.C. has a little something for everyone.

If you choose a traditional adventure, your trip will be filled with tours of classic attractions like the White House, Washington Monument, the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the beautiful Tidal Basin. If you choose to get a better feel for the city’s more youthful ambiance, you will want to check out the marquee art galleries, vibrant farmers’ markets, the high-end stores throughout Georgetown, as well as the bars and music joints crowding the U Street Corridor.

San Francisco

You may be most familiar with this California city from the Painted Ladies featured on the American sitcom, Full House, or from the gorgeous Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco draws the free-spirited types who have an eye for cutting-edge art, incredible cuisine, and an ardor for adventure.

There’s no shortage of ways to stay busy here with the city’s jaw-dropping sights, amazing cuisine, quaint cafes, and nightlife venues. You can also follow the crowds of locals and tourists to the Fisherman’s Wharf area (where you will have an amazing view of Alcatraz). But don’t forget to make time for the Mission district, The Castro, and The Haight for exposure to all different varieties of the San Fran lifestyle.

New York City

As the most populous city in the U.S., set at the forefront of fashion, food, and the arts, NYC requires stamina. But don’t let the Big Apple’s frenetic sights and sounds intimidate you from soaking up its nobility.

Wander through the concrete jungle and you’ll discover a sea of taxicabs, fast-paced pedestrians, innovative cocktail bars… and of course the neon lights of Times Square.

In the trendy pockets of the city, like East Village and Brooklyn, you will find indie boutiques, iconic bakeries, and swanky coffee shops. For a more upscale experience, peruse the racks of the sleek shops lining Fifth Avenue, admire unique art collections at the Met and MoMa, or catch a Broadway show. There are virtually endless ways to utilize your time in the Big City, but before you leave, stop and look around – what’s here today will be transformed into something bigger and better tomorrow.

Yosemite

As one of California’s most formidable natural landscapes with 1,200 square miles of towering waterfalls, Sequoia trees and some of the most unique rock formations in the US, Yosemite will leave you in sheer awe.

Within Yosemite’s roughly 1,200 square miles, you will find a 7 square-mile area known as Yosemite Valley. This is where you’ll find the park’s most famous landmarks: Half Dome, El Capitan, as well as incredible hiking trails. Plan this trip at the right time and start your day a little earlier than usual to beat the crowd; Yosemite sees at least 4 million people per year.

Cape Cod

Known as “the Cape” to the locals of New England, this charming travel destination offers serene beaches, a seemingly endless seashore and a slower paced energy. While the Cape is a sought-after spot for the celebrities, it’s actually an unpretentious place with a surprisingly laid-back personality.

Take a trip to the artsy Provincetown, a bohemian seaport that boasts quirky art galleries and excellent whale-watching spots. Head down to Sandwich, the oldest town in the Cape, for glass-blowing demonstrations and historical New England homes.

Chicago

America’s third-largest city remains as diverse as ever, boasting a thriving arts scene, various shopping districts, exceptional museums and a cornucopia of eateries.

First-time Windy City visitors are sure to have their eyes to the sky. Chicago’s skyscrapers and public art is absolutely worth admiring. Jump on the Chicago Architecture Tour or spend an afternoon at Millennium Park, and you’ll find yourself spending lots of time looking up. For a different perspective, go to Willis Tower’s Skydeck or 360 Chicago for a bird’s-eye view of the city.

Charleston

As you walk the gas lamp-lit streets of this U.S. city at night, past horse-drawn carriages and the pre-Civil war architecture, you will think you’ve traveled back in time. But just because Charleston is proud to celebrate its heritage doesn’t mean it’s stuck in the past: the city boasts innovative restaurants, alluring shops and contemporary art galleries.

History pervades almost every aspect of the Holy City, from the majestic homes turned museums to the landmarks that promote the city’s role in the US history. If you’re a Civil War buff, head to Fort Sumter, where the first shot of the War between the States was fired. Meanwhile, shopaholics looking for locally made products should stroll through the Charleston City Market. If the weather is warm, the city has you covered with several beach towns including Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palm and Folly Beach.

Las Vegas

Sin City, the Entertainment Capital of the World, America’s Playground, all otherwise known as Las Vegas. This is a city where inhibitions are not welcome, and while you may not want to go as far as to re-enact “The Hangover,” you don’t want to leave without experiencing a bit of the Vegas strip. Just remember: What happens here, stays here.

Las Vegas isn’t only for bachelors and bachelorettes. Today, Las Vegas is just as intriguing as it is conspicuous in that you can mold it into any type of vacation you like. Taking a different approach to Sin City and you can indulge in its luxury spas, high-end shopping and gourmet restaurants. Activities such as hiking in Red Rock Canyon or visiting the Hoover Dam is available for the outdoorsy type. There are even kid-friendly activities for the underage travelers like Cirque du Soleil, Neon Museum and Bellagio Fountain.

Seattle

This U.S. travel destination is known for its consistently cloudy weather, laid-back attitude, diverse neighborhoods and for being home of the country’s best coffee. Plus, it has a thriving arts scene, plenty of history, culture and some exciting outdoor activities.

Surrounded by water, the city’s favorite outdoor adventures include kayaking, hiking and camping, and ski slopes are just a short drive away.

yellow-cabs-in-new-yorkIf you’re headed to the Emerald City and not up for strenuous outdoor activities, Seattle still offers plenty to do and see. Art lovers will appreciate the glass-blown pieces at Chihuly Garden and Glass, as well as the pieces at the Seattle Art Museum. The city is emerging as a popular beer destination, so make sure you make time to switch gears and check out the dozens of brewers that produce local craft beer.

 

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Help! I Can’t Afford My Rent!

file6311284659096The Great Recession is over, and the job market is looking good.  Or so we are told.  All this taken into consideration, and some are still struggling with low paying jobs, especially new college graduates.  While many are stuck moving back in with their parents, others are trucking along trying to make it on their own.  Apartment rental rates are not going down.  So what is the best way to be able to afford those monthly rent payments? The most obvious choice is to get a roommate, but you can’t do this with only a one bedroom apartment.  The cost difference between a one bedroom and a two bedroom is not that huge in most areas, and a roommate splitting the rent and utilities can more than make up for that slight jump in rent.  Then your problem becomes where to find a good roommate.  You know, the kind who can afford to pay their rent and utilities to you and don’t tear up your furniture and have parties every weekend.  You need a responsible adult trying to make it in the world on their own, just like you are doing.

First place not to look: Craigslist.  No seriously, you can venture on to some online sites to peruse for potential roommates.  I mean, free advertising is perfect for anyone looking to save money.  If you post online requesting a roommate make sure you clearly list your criteria.  Can they smoke, drink, party, have pets?  Make this clear up front.  You don’t want to have people wasting your time, nor do you want to waste their time.  It is always better if you can get a personal reference, say from a mutual friend.  If you are a recent college graduate, chances are you know plenty of people who need a place to live for cheaper than full price.  If you have limited friend connections, look at co-workers you trust for word of mouth recommendations of people they personally know and can vouch for.

 Most local law enforcement agencies have some sort of public index online that you can search for people and find out any pending or disposed of criminal or civil matters.  You can see if they were recently evicted, or if they have a long criminal history of drinking and driving charges, drug possessions or larceny.  These will all tell you that you are better off not renting to this person, regardless of the word of mouth recommendations.  You need money, not a potential thief for a roommate.

shutterstock_257349061Last thing, make sure you get this new roommate to sign a simple written agreement.  This should lay out exact expectations.  You can list their responsibilities in terms of expected upkeep, use of shared areas, and shared household and yard cleaning.  At a minimum, you need to list the monthly rent rate and state they are to pay half the billed monthly utilities (listing each utility specifically) or if you are just charging a flat rate, list that.  Make mention of any deposit amount and regulations regarding smoking and pets. Make sure they can afford it as well.  While everyone enters these agreements as friends, many do not part as such.

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Memorial Day Weekend!

file0002057392851Summer is coming soon and that includes planning for Memorial Day weekend.  Memorial Day holiday tends to be a very popular weekend for Americans, since most people take vacations or plan barbeque parties and commemorate our soldiers who died in armed services.

If you plan on inviting friends over for a party, ensure that your management company is aware of several resident issues.  Since this holiday weekend is popular, you should ensure you request any overnight parking permits as soon as possible.

Also, make early arrangements to reserve the community’s conference room or barbeque area for your party to ensure you get your room request approved.

IMG_2887If you want to have a barbeque in your front yard or back patio, also be sure to get approval from your rental management since some cities have fire codes that may or may not allow barbeque grills on their premises.

Some rental communities have certain restrictions on how you can decorate the conference room and if they allow the kitchen for use, be sure you check with the staff personnel on any decorations that are not allowed.

Another possible room to reserve is the Media Room.  The Media Room is a wonderful way to entertain the family or the children where you can watch old family movies or rent the latest film.  With a little planning, you can have an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend and leave the stress and have less mess to clean if you use the community conference and media room.

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Who Are Renter’s Voice Independent Evaluators?

Last week we talked about how Renter’s Voice reviewers let readers know what it’s reallyRV_man-at-door like to live in an apartment community. These reviewers are current renters and former renters. But readers of our reviews will know that there are 3 kinds of reviewers represented on Renter’s Voice. So what’s the third? Meet the “Independent Evaluator”. Continue reading

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How Renter’s Voice Finds the Best Rated Apartments  

RV_Modern-ApartmentsRenter’s Voice knows that looking for your next apartment can be a challenge. That’s why we collect comprehensive reviews from actual renters to compose our list of best rated apartments in various cities across the country. But how do we narrow down the best rated apartments? We’ve always relied on authentic, honest reviews and commentary about potential properties from former or current residents or independent reviewers, which gives those looking for an apartment a better understanding of their future home. We take this information and, based on the number of positive reviews, we are better able to determine which apartments deserve a higher rating.

But let’s dig a little deeper and find out more about the process behind finding the best rated apartments in the U.S. Continue reading

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How to Lower Your Utility Costs

441970348_c44d661cd6Everyone knows the standard suggestions for lowering your utility costs: use cold water instead of hot water when possible, unplug appliances not in use, get a smart thermostat, etc. While some of these apply to homes as well as apartments, there are some more specific things you can take into consideration to help with energy costs in your apartment.

 

 

 

To start with, consider apartment location. Do you like being on the ground floor, a corner apartment with a wrap around outside balcony? That apartment would have at least two and possibly three sides with exterior walls. You like the top floor? You probably will have two to three exterior walls. So what is the best choice? Choose sandwiched. The best location for the sake of your utility bill is the apartment that has the least number of exterior walls. Now you have to determine if you are willing to sacrifice the convenience of a ground floor apartment, and willing to tolerate the potential for neighbor and breezeway noise from all but one side of your new home. Fewer exterior walls also means fewer windows and less exterior light. Will the location of your apartment make a huge difference in your utility costs? It could, especially as compared to the bill for a house.

 

Next, consider moving into a newer community. Newer apartments usually have the most updated appliances that have better energy efficient ratings. Insulation in the walls is usually at the maximum level when the community is first built. This option includes finding green communities that are more concentrated on conserving energy and being environmentally friendly.

 

Another suggestion for lowering your utility costs is so simple, yet so complicated. If you want to know where all your money is going, you document where it all goes. Do the same with the energy used in your apartment. Sit down and evaluate where your electricity and/or gas is going. Most local power companies will do free assessments to let you know where you can conserve energy and lower your bill, so give them a call and ask. You can also ask your landlord about improvements within the apartment such as sealing all cracks and crevices (window and door frames) and maybe upgrading your appliances.  If the appliances are provided by you, the renter, upgrade them yourself.

 

While you can do a lot to save a decent amount on your utility bill, sometimes the sacrifice 6970802883_838f801d87or time involved in the cutbacks is not worth it to you as an individual. The idea is to use as many suggestions as possible to lower your bill, while maintaining a certain level of comfort. Try out all or a select few of the suggestions. See what works best for you. A newer apartment is most likely going to have a higher rent rate that will not be fully offset by energy savings. Before you make commitments, why do you want to save energy? Is it all about the utility costs, or is the environment a concern? As with anything else, look at the totality of the circumstances and decide what is most important to you. Once you determine that, make your choices.

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The Top Apartments in Dallas: From Uptown to Downtown

RV_Dallas-MapWatch out, Texans! Dallas is getting cooler by the minute. And no, we don’t mean thermometer-wise. Texas temperatures remain notoriously hot as ever, but Dallas is undergoing a major transformation that is introducing a new vibe to the city. Developers are implementing big plans for everything from an expanding Arts District to a revamped Elm Street. Longtime favorite fixtures like the American Airlines Center, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Dallas World Aquarium are as attractive as ever, but additions like Klyde Warren Park and the Perot Museum are bringing new life and new visitors to the city.

If you’re looking to connect with the Dallas scene, hop on the DART rail now and check out our top 5 picks for the best rated apartments in Dallas.

1. Riviera at West Village Apartments

With views of the iconic Dallas skyline and all the perks of West Village and Turtle Creek nearby, the Riviera at West Village Apartments are the perfect solution for apartment-dwellers who want downtown access with an uptown address. The Riviera is a quiet community situated in a walkable neighborhood. Residents can easily get to all kinds of shopping, eateries, bars, and even the ever-popular Katy Trail. Want to venture farther? Hop on the trolley just down the street or one of the many bus routes in the area. Continue reading

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Spring Cleaning Tips: Creating Your Cleaning Plan

RV_MoppingThe sun is shining. The bees are humming. The great outdoors is calling. Which is all to say: It’s time to sweep those winter dust bunnies and cobwebs away. And when trying to face the daunting task of spring cleaning, it’s important to make a plan of attack. Here are the five spring cleaning basics that will make your seasonal deep clean a success.

  1. Start from the Ground Up

When you’re looking to start on your spring cleaning list, the best place to start is from the ground up – literally. Give those neglected baseboards and bathroom tiles the spruce up they deserve. The best part is that cleaning these areas of the house only needs to be done sparingly. Continue reading

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The Best of the Windy City: A Guide to Chicago, Illinois

Chicago’s booming population and rich history make it a hot new locale for residents across the country. If you’re thinking of moving, consider the landmarks, cuisines, and top rated Chicago apartments that will help make the Second City feel like a first-rate home.

Navy Pier

Located in the Streeterville neighborhood in the Near North Side community, the Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s top cultural attractions. While the pier has been used for a variety of purposes over the years, visitors to today’s Navy Pier will find amusements like the famous Ferris Wheel, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and the Chicago Children’s Museum. Chicago’s Navy Pier is fun for both longtime residents and tourists alike.

RV_ChicagoChicago Foods

New residents of Chicago have the world’s food at their fingertips. With a population of 2.7 million people, many of the world’s cuisines can be found in Chicago. However, Chicago also has its very own staple foods. The deep-dish pizza, a thick crust pizza filled to the brim with cheese, toppings, and tomato sauce, originated in the Windy City, as well as the Chicago-style dog. The Chicago-style dog is a hot dog topped with yellow mustard, pickled peppers, a tomato wedge, a dill pickle spear, and celery salt with a neon green sweet pickle relish for garnish.

Neighborhoods Around Chicago

Many of Chicago’s neighborhoods are named based on their proximity to Lake Michigan, the Chicago River (which runs downtown), and the Calumet River (which can be found in the city’s south side). The city touts roughly 200 neighborhoods but many new neighborhoods continue to emerge as real estate develops and demographics change. Residents looking for a top rated Chicago apartment can begin their search in neighborhoods like Lincoln Square, Kosciuszko Park, or Wicker Park.

 

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