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Author Archives: Chris Neighbors

About Chris Neighbors

As an employee of the Bureau of Land Management and an MBA student at the University of Nevada, Reno I've had a wonderful experience seeing how the government does business and how the private sector should do business. In my free time I like to pursue my passion for personal finance. Ever since I started studying finance I've been hooked. My goal in life is to take valuable financial information and use it to help others. I also enjoy spending time with my family, reading, fishing, and traveling.

Feeding-Tube Diet: No Wonder Our Society’s a Mess

The older I get the more apparent it becomes that there are usually right ways and wrong ways to do things. It also becomes more obvious that the majority of people like to choose the latter of the two. I’m all for saving time/money, but only when the consequences of my actions make sense. Before I go any further, I need to share this story that I saw on the news with you. A soon to be bride wanted to lose weight before her wedding. Instead of dieting and exercising, she decides to spend $1500 to go on the feeding-tube diet. For those of you that haven’t heard of this trendy diet, it consists of shoving feeding tubes down your nose to get nutrients. The woman lost 10 pounds in eight days by doing this.

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard of this was that the loss of her fat was worth $150 a pound. I don’t know about you, but that seems a little outrageous to me! When will our society realize that you can’t just throw money at your problems to make them disappear? The next thing that came to me was that all that weight will come right back. It’s like those people you used to see on the TV show Survivor. They would be skin and bones by the end of it, but as soon as they started eating again they fattened right up. My last thought was that this is what’s wrong with our country! People will spend $150 a pound to lose weight! Not only was she willing to spend it, but she probably preferred it to eating healthy and exercising. If this is the new trend for soon to be brides I should just call it quits now.

Okay, I’m done ranting. The point behind my rant is that we all need to think about the consequences of our actions. This is true in all aspects of life (but I’ll relate it to personal finance since that’s what my blog’s about) . I Googled “consequences” and it brought me to a bunch of parenting website. The pages were titled things like “The 10 Best Ways to Teach Your Child Consequences”. The funny thing is a lot of adults still need to learn about consequences. We teach children to put their b-day money in the piggy bank, but we spend it right away. Our society has accepted the fact that people make mistakes, but it’s almost like we hold ourselves to a lower standard because of that acceptance. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy: we are going to screw up so it’s ok not to care about it. When people make purchases, they have the attitude buy now and worry about paying for it later. The short sightedness of our society will be our demise. Luckily for us, we still have a chance to change. I used to be one of those short sighted people, and if I can change anyone can. Do you agree with me on this, or am I totally off base?

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Would You Use Medical Tourism?

Last night we had to give some end of the semester presentations, and one of the groups in my class discussed medical tourism. Just in case you don’t know what medical tourism is (as I didn’t), medical tourism is when someone from one country opts to get a medical procedure done in another country. The first thing that popped into my mind was that this must be a cost issue. People are getting heart surgery in India because it costs $30,000.00 while it costs $180,000.00 in the United States. It turns out that was one of the main reasons for people to opt for medical tourism, but there were many more motives. Another motivator was that the treatment they needed wasn’t approved by the FDA. They couldn’t get the treatment in the U.S. so they went overseas. If there was a cure for diabetes in another country I might be interested in giving it a shot. This next reason is what I really thought was interesting; people are participating in medical tourism because their health insurance companies are incentivizing them to do so!

Now I’m not sure how I feel about this. If I need heart valve replacement, which is very expensive in the United States, my insurance company will give me presents to get it done somewhere else. It’s obvious they would be saving a lot of money so they better give me some darn good incentives. It turns out that they are offering different incentives ranging from offering you a check based on the amount of money you saved them to paying for your whole “vacation”. Some of the insurance companies that are offering these incentives are Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

I’m curious to know how some of you feel about medical tourism. I know I would be nervous about the quality of work, but apparently there is a U.S. based non-profit agency that accredits hospitals around the world. I think a decision like this, like so many others I’ve discussed, needs to be made by an informed consumer.

Would you ever participate in medical tourism if it was proven you would get quality work, or is there no way you would be interested?   

 
14 Comments

Posted by on April 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Easiest Way to Save Money- Just Ask

Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of examples of the power of asking for something. My girlfriend’s father loves the quote, “The answer is always no unless you ask.” I can admit that I’m very introverted when it comes to this topic. For whatever reason, I don’t like to ask people I don’t know questions, and I frequently assume the answer will be no, and I know I’m not alone in this. I would even go as far to say that most people hold themselves back by assuming the answer will be no. This is such a huge mistake! There is a lot of power in asking people for something. I think this is true because the majority of people won’t ask. If 100 people want something, but only 10 ask for it, the 10 that asked will receive whatever they wanted before the other 90.

 I was recently reading a blog post (which I can no longer find) where the woman swears she gets discounts just by asking for them. What a neat thought. I would have never had the guts to just ask for a discount. I would just assume that if they wanted to give a discount they would have already attached a huge 10% off sticker to the item. I never ask about special discounts so I never receive them. There was another guy I saw on TV that tries to completely avoid spending money. Instead of using cash, he tries to barter with companies. Now I can’t see myself doing this very often, but he has great success with it! He’ll write you a poem for a doughnut, or pick up trash for a meal. Most of us won’t go out and do these things, but if companies are willing to trade a song and dance for their product I guarantee they’ll give a small discount.

 Why don’t most people (myself included) like to ask for things? I think it’s because it makes us uncomfortable. I personally feel dumb when I ask for something and the person tells me NO. We as a society don’t like to be told NO so we avoid it all together. Depending on the situation, there are different techniques you can try to change a NO into a YES:

1) The Power of Reciprocation- Do you get something for free? Give it away as a gift in the hopes that it will benefit you in the long run. When I worked in a restaurant, I would have definitely given a customer free drinks or an appetizer if they gave me a gift. The urge to reciprocate is very commanding.

 2) Talk Yourself Up- Companies are constantly giving influential people free things to help market their business. If you can persuade these people that you can help them they will most likely want to make you happy. I’m not saying go out and lie to people or scam them. All I’m saying is that if you’re at a book store, and you want a discount, you might be able to mention that it’s your turn to pick the book for your book club. You have 25 other people that would buy that book, but your book club rules state you can only spend $15 on a book and the one you want is $20. It’s worth a shot!

3) Don’t Ask for Too Much- Asking for a 10% discount might not be a big deal, but demanding 50% off is pushing it. If you asked your boss for a raise you would probably have more success asking for a $1/hr instead of $10/hr. Just keep it reasonable.

4) Give a Valid Explanation- Most people like to deal with reason. If something makes sense it’s hard to say no. If you want to purchase something that is a little damaged ask for a discount. I love the items that have exterior damage but work perfectly. They are always worth asking about.

 It’s time for me to get over my fear of the word NO. Please share any successes/failures you’ve had by asking a simple question. I think that hearing examples of how you saved money would help me with my fear.

 
17 Comments

Posted by on April 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Help Your Financial Success- Prevent Unnecessary Purchases

We had a great guest speaker last night, Laura Zander (Owner of Jimmy Beans Wool), in my personal branding class. She gave us the low-down on how she started her company. Even though the class is based around social media, she spoke on many topics. I think she’s particularly amazing because she has grown Jimmy Beans Wool from nothing into a +6 million dollar company within 10 years with no business education. As I listened to her story, it became apparent to me that a lot of her success is due to frugality. She gave an example that the table they use in the back of their store is one her husband bought from a garage sale when they first opened. They use this table to write on, and while it might not look the best, it still serves its purpose. Why would they buy a new one while this one’s still standing? There is no doubt in my mind that this mentality (along with other personality traits) is why Jimmy Beans Wool is as successful as they are.

Anyone reading this post is probably fairly good at practicing frugality, but I think we can all use some reminders every now and again. If Laura can own a successful yarn company and stay frugal, so can we. It amazes to me how many people have good paying jobs, but they have no savings. My friends are always telling me about the next cool thing they are going to buy, but (from an outsider looking in) I can tell it’s probably not the smartest thing for them to do. Here is my question to you: When is it appropriate to help (give advice to) your friends on their purchasing habits and to what extent? I’ve felt like slapping a few of them across the back of their heads when they tell me what they’ve bought. I know everyone’s different, but there is no way they can think buying a project car is a good idea when you can barely pay your bills. The easiest thing to do would be to do nothing at all, but it’s hard to sit back and watch people you care about make terrible financial mistakes. I’ve tried explaining personal finance management to them, but it rarely changes their minds. We all want our friends and family to make smart financial choices, but how do we force them to do so when I know we can’t.

When the topic of smart purchases is talked about, most people start thinking about big purchases like a new car or a house, but I think it’s harder to manage your micro purchases. If you’re going to buy a house (hopefully) you’ll spend a lot of time researching it so you can make a smart, informed decision. On the other hand, when you go to the grocery store how many times have you added items to your cart that you didn’t plan on buying? Dealing with micro purchases is definitely one of my weaknesses. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the store for a few things and ended up with a whole cart full. None of the items were things I needed. I just wanted them at the time (which is why grocery shopping while being hungry is bad!). After doing the math, these small items add up. People always talk about the importance of a shopping list. While I think they have value, I think it’s more important to be able to use self-control while you shop. You can pick up extra items every time you leave the house (stopping by Starbucks, or buying a candy bar at the gas station) and you won’t always have a list. Being able to tell yourself no is a crucial part of having a successful financial future.

There are tons of examples of the importance of frugality, but what’s the best way to stop these unnecessary purchases? Here are a few things I do (this isn’t expert advice by any means, just a few things I’ve found that have helped me):

1)      Turn on your blinders: When I go shopping I try to already know exactly what I’m going to buy. This way I don’t need to look around (less temptation) the store. I’ll walk right up to the sales person and ask them where the item is. I especially use my blinders at the cash register. I try my hardest to focus on the cashier so I don’t see the delicious candy bars sitting right next to me!

2)      Limit the time you have to shop: I like to go shopping when I only have a limited amount of time. One way I like to do this is go shopping before I have an appointment. If I only have an hour to shop and return home to drop the stuff off, you bet I’ll stick to the list. Another creative idea (if you have a dog) is to not take them potty before you leave to go shopping. This way you’ll be in a hurry to return home, because no one likes to clean up accidents!

3)      Make Yourself Feel Guilty: Before I buy something, I like to think about all the bills I have to pay. I find that the guilt I feel for buying things I don’t need will usually prevent me from making the purchase.

4)      Take away the excuses: One of the reasons we used to eat out a lot was because I could justify it by not having food at home. We used to wait until we had eaten everything before going grocery shopping. I’ve found we eat out less if we go grocery shopping more often. We still buy the same amount of food over the month, but we just make sure we are stocked up. I no longer have my favorite excuse to eat out.

Do you have any advice on preventing unnecessary purchases?

 
17 Comments

Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Secret Advantages to Living in an Apartment- Save Your Money

The housing crisis has forced a lot of people out of their homes and into rentals. I have friends that couldn’t even stay in a house, and had to move into an apartment. As I’ve mentioned before, we decided to stay in our apartment for another nine months instead of moving into a duplex. I dislike living in an apartment (noisy neighbors, no yard, drug dealers living next door). I would much rather stay in a house, but apartments do offer some ways to save money (besides cheaper rent).

1)      Money Saving Contests– Help your personal finances, and pay attention to contests! When we decided we wanted to re-sign our lease we were invited to a lease signing party. They had a raffle type contest that offered a bunch of different prizes (gift cards, free pet rent, free rent). Once I heard that we would be guaranteed to win something, I knew we had to show up. We ended up winning the grand prize, which was one month of free rent! The thing that bothered me about this situation was that we didn’t know about the party until two hours before it started. We could have easily missed it. They sent out a letter about the party, but we threw it away without reading it (then we’d be paying rent this month L). They also have another contest where you can be entered into a raffle to win $100 off your rent if you pay before the 1st of the month. Just by paying attention to what the front office offers we saved $650.

2)      Free Food– I’ve never been the type to read anything the front office leaves on my door. After learning about the free food, I read everything they give me! Apparently it’s common for apartment complexes to offer free dinners on certain nights of the week. At our complex we get free tacos on Thursdays and waffles on Sundays mornings.  By offering 2 meals a week, every resident could save $40-$60 a month. When we went to taco night I noticed that there were only a handful of people there. This was great because they give away free food, cook the meal, clean up after it’s over, and there aren’t any lines (we did have to bring our own plates. Ha)! It’s a great way to save money and meet the neighbors.

3)       Use the Amenities– Almost all apartment complexes offer some sort of amenities. They aren’t always the nicest, but they are free. I paid for a 24 hour fitness membership for months while living in my apartment. I know that if I was doing it, others must be doing it too. My reasoning was the gym at my apartment complex sucked (but the pool is great). I decided to suck it up and go with the free gym. I miss my old gym, but my savings is thanking me.

 Living in an apartment isn’t always the most pleasant experience, but if you are living in one you might as well make the best of it. You can do that by paying attention and saving money. The apartments want all of their residents to take advantage of these offers. They want to build a relationship with you so you live there longer. That’s the big secret behind all this free stuff. So keep your eyes open, and nourish your personal finances.

 Does anyone else have advice for saving money in apartments, or just a really good story about apartment living?

 
23 Comments

Posted by on April 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Long Term Investment- Why Are Facebook Shares Doomed?

It’s rare that I talk about individual stocks on here. I try and stay away from this because I’m a firm believer that it’s more important to have a good investing strategy than having a good stock pick (since no one really knows if it will actually be successful or not). That being said, I have two reasons I don`t think Facebook should be part of your portfolio.

 1) They might not be around in 5-10 years.

 2) If they are around, they will be too big to function successfully.

Some of you might think I’m crazy to say that Facebook won’t be around in 5-10 years. What I mean is they won’t have the gigantic presence they have now. Facebook is a household name, but I can remember when Myspace was a household name. I never dreamed they would disappear, but they did. I’m currently taking a social media marketing class (inbound marketing, personal branding), and we get to talk to experts in social media from all over the USA. Most of them agree that the social media industry is changing fast. They either said Facebook won’t be around in the not so far future, or they won’t be as influential as they are now. Either way, it makes Facebook a bad long term investment.

Jump forward 10 years, do you see Facebook? If you do, here’s what you’ll see. They will most likely be a carnivorous machine that buys up new start-up companies to expand their market/services. Ok, move back to present times. Their growth has already started to slow down. New competition is popping up every day. It’s inevitable that they will start acquiring other companies. As they grow into new markets/services, they will become less efficient. We always hear the saying too big to fail, but I think it’s too big to function. The buzz around the Facebook name will eventually disappear, and their inflated stock price will fall flat. I don’t think this scenario is far-fetched. It’s happened to many companies in the past (Bank of America is a good example). More and more people/companies are starting to see the power in social media, but as that power grows the major players will change.

I have little doubt that their stock will do well at first. Speculation will drive the price up. The richest 1% will make a killing. Heck, maybe even a few of us could make a quick buck if we get lucky, but we should be thinking about the long haul. There is a fine line between a quick buck and a big loss. Am I completely insane? How do you feel about the future of Facebook?

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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How to Pick a Safe Online Pet Pharmacy: Follow Up Post

I wanted to write a follow up blog post on:

Research, Pets, and Personal Finance- How Are They All Relevant?

  I had a comment (which I really appreciated) that shook me up a bit. I was raving about 1-800-Petmeds in my previous post. I saved 50% by buying my pet’s medication through them instead of going to the vet. I had already done my research on 1-800-Petmeds, and I knew they were safe; however, I don’t want anyone to think that ANY online pharmacy, that sells pet medications, is harmless.

I went to the FDA website, and they have great information on finding online animal pharmacies. You can click the link below to see all their remarkable content. I have pulled out the information I thought was useful. The most important steps you can take to help you pets and personal finances is to stay A.W.A.R.E.

A. Ask your vet about the website.

W. Watch out for red flags:

      -The website doesn’t require a prescription.

      – They don’t have a licensed pharmacist you can contact.

      – The website isn’t based in the United States.

      – They aren’t licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy 

      – They don’t protect your personal information.

      – They prices are too cheap (I never thought I’d say those words!).

      – The med  look different from the ones your pet has taken before.

A. Always Check the their accreditation (Vet VIPPS accredited).

R. Report problems and suspicious websites.

E. Educate yourself on online pharmacies (just like you’re doing now).

 Most of us consider our pets a family member so it’s understandable to not feel comfortable buying medications online. If you don’t feel at ease with this you have other cheap options. My sister’s fiancé is a veterinarian, and he says that they price match 1-800-Petmeds all the time. Before you buy the medication from the vet, go online and look up the prices. Print them out, and show it to the vet. They want your business so they are more than likely to price match.

I would also like to share one more piece of information that I found to be interesting. Many of us use online pharmacies to purchase heart worm pills for our pets. It turns out that even if you give them this medication on a regular basis, it’s still important to get an annual heart worm test done. There have been cases where the preventative pills were ineffective. Let’s take care of our pets and save a little money while doing it.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on April 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Can Do-It-Yourself Videos Actually Save You Money?

I verified something this weekend that my friends have been doing for years. I went to visit my family in Sacramento, and when I got there my car started bogging down. Of course something like that would happen when I’m so far from home. Now, I love to drive, but I hate cars! It seems like something is always going wrong with them. As soon as one thing is fixed another thing needs to be replaced. It’s times like these I wish I had a mechanic as a role model growing up. I managed to get my car over to my mom’s house. I popped the hood and found one of my belts shredded (I wasn’t sure which one).

When something’s wrong, I do what most people do, I Google it. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was dealing with the alternator/power steering belt. It didn’t look hard to get to, but I know nothing about engines. At this point, I started to think about what my friends (who are car guys) would do in this situation. Once again, they would Google it. I was successful in finding a five minute video showing how to replace that belt on the make and model of my car. A few years ago I would have called a mechanic, but being a little older and wiser I decided to try and tap into all my resources.

I was successful in replacing the belt, and nothing has gone wrong since. I guess I didn’t do a bad job. This experience has shown me the power of do-it-yourself videos online (which is what my friends have always used). There are tons of them! I’m sure some might not do things the right way, but for simple tasks they work great. At a mechanic I would have spent $150 getting this fixed. Instead it cost me 10 minutes of research, $20 for the belt, and 10 minutes to replace it.  

This gets me to my main point:

 1) If you have a problem, see if you can fix it yourself. You might not have any knowledge of the topic, but you’re never too old to learn.

 2) If it’s clear it’s something you won’t be able to do, call an expert. I’ve tried to fix major problems myself and I’ve always made things worse.

3) If you aren’t sure, Google it.   

Have you had good or bad experiances from doing projects yourself?

 
6 Comments

Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Research, Pets, and Personal Finance- How Are They All Relevant?

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Almost a year ago my girlfriend and I decided to buy a puppy. We were on the fence for a long time about whether or not it would be a good idea. There were just so many things to consider: Did we have enough time for a puppy? Did we have the money to support a puppy? Do we really want to give up sleep to take care of a puppy? In the end, we decided just to run out and get one.  I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Sure it can be rough at times, but once you get used to the lack of sleep, and spending all your free time at the dog park, it’s actually really fun. The thing that worried me the most about the whole situation was paying for its medical supplies. What happens if he gets sick and we can’t afford the vet bill? Luckily for us we’ve only had to take him to the vet a few times, but there has to be a way to save money when your pet gets sick. When we got his shots we went through a clinic (which was way cheaper). They only do it once a month, but if you can time it right it works out perfectly.

I still haven’t been able to find a way to get cheap vet visits. Maybe someone out there has an answer for me. The first time we took him to the vet it was just a checkup. He ended up prescribing us some heart worm tablets to give our puppy. They were $60 for 6 months worth. I didn’t think that was too expensive, but all the costs of a puppy definitely add up. Once we ran out of the pills I wasn’t sure about how to get them again. Sure I could have gone back to the vet, but I was worried they would charge a $50 checkup fee. I didn’t want to pay a fee when my puppy was perfectly healthy so I decided to look them up online (and I’m glad I did). I went to 1800petmeds.com and found the same pills for half the price! I was skeptical at first. Wouldn’t it be hard to buy prescribed medications online? As it turns out it’s really easy.  I just needed to enter hits veterinary’s information, and they call them to get the new prescription.  The tablets were delivered to me a few days later (I did pay a $3 shipping fee).

I just find it interesting how much money we can save if we just put a little time and effort into researching something before we buy it. I’ve always liked to just run out and buy something as soon as I needed/wanted it. I’m starting to think that’s not the way purchases should be made. I had no idea I could save money on pet medication, but I did. It makes me wonder how many other things I’ve bought without knowing I could get a better deal. I think we can all save a lot of money with just a little bit of research. I know I don’t want to be the person that pays full price for everything, do you? 

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Five Key Things to Check BEFORE Renting a Home

So I’ve mentioned in a few posts about me looking for a new place to move into. I have no experience in deciding if a home is in good shape or not. After getting approved for the duplex I thought everything was going to be smooth sailing from here on out. I guess I was naïve to think that if someone was going to rent out a property they would make sure everything was in working order before they allowed someone to live in it. Luckily for me, my girlfriend’s parents happened to come up and visit us the weekend before we signed the lease.

Her father deals in real estate so he has all the experience I’m lacking. When we walked into the duplex he immediately started combing through everything. As he went through the places we made a list of over 15 problems that needed to be fixed before we could move it. Some were minor, like one of the electrical outlets was missing a cover. Then we found some major issues, like where the plumbing in the bathroom leaks into the wall. I would like to give the owners of this property the benefit of doubt that maybe they didn’t notice the leaks (but I’m sure they had). The things that really blew my mind were the tricks the landlords had used to hide major issues. For instance, instead of replacing the bathtub they decided to paint it. Well it looks ok at first, but after a while the paint peels away (sneaky, sneaky). Also, they painted the ceiling to make it look nicer; however, to cut costs they didn’t use primer and the whole ceiling was starting to peel off. After seeing what type of people we were dealing with, I knew we couldn’t move in.

I wrote this blog post because I want to pass on the lessons I’ve learned to others so you don’t make the same mistake I almost made. Here are the main things:

1) Take Your Time And Look Through EVERYTHING– When we first found this place the only thing we looked at was the floor plan. It’s so important to look at all the little things to make sure everything works. Check things like the toilet, the shower, the fridge, the stove, the furnace/water heater, the air vents/filter, and especially look for water damage.

2) Don’t Be Shy, Talk To The Neighbors– We talked to the guy living next door to the duplex, and he filled us in on some very important information. He told us the roofers that built the roofs in this neighborhood were cut rate and did a terrible job. We also found out that the area was really windy and the siding of the houses tends to fly off. We wouldn’t have known about any of this if we hadn’t been open to chatting with the neighbors.

3) Never Trust the Landlord– It’s sad. The older I get the more I realize you can’t trust anyone (except a select few) when it comes to money. Never assume the landlord will have made sure everything is in working order before you move in.

4) Ask For Repairs Before You Sign The Lease– There are two main reasons it’s important to catch all these issues before you sign the lease. A) Their might be too many problems and you don’t even want to move in anymore (like in my case). B) You have way more leverage to get them to fix things before you’re already locked in to the lease. If you tell them you won’t move in until everything is fixed you will have a better chance at getting them to do it quickly.

5) Do All This Before You Fill Out The Application– We didn’t do a good job at checking the duplex before we filled out the application. If we had, we wouldn’t have wanted it and saved ourselves the non-refundable application fee.

Does anyone else have more advice for people that are looking to rent?

 
18 Comments

Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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