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NYC Comptroller Recommends Alternatives like Rhino to Replace Security Deposits

Rhino Team

Yesterday, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer called for major reforms to the way New York City tenants and landlords handle security deposits. Under the Comptroller’s recommendations, every renter should be able to purchase low-cost insurance like Rhino instead of paying an upfront security deposit.

Here’s an excerpt from the announcement:

 

  • Insurance as an alternative to the security depositA number of local companies have introduced an insurance alternative in recent years. These start-ups allow renters to pay a small monthly or one-time fee in exchange for guaranteeing their security deposit with landlords…Paying $10 per month to insure your apartment against damages rather than an $1,800 security deposit is a significant reduction in the upfront costs of moving…Moreover, tenants who have already paid their security deposits can request that it be returned and can switch to the monthly payment, insurance model instead.

We’re pleased to see our elected officials recognize the positive impact Rhino is making for both renters and landlords, and we look forward to working with more leaders across the country to make renting easier and more accessible for everyone.

Read the Comptroller’s complete statement here.

How to find an apartment with outdoor space

Becca Schuh

There’s a plethora of elements in a home that people outside of New York take for granted, which city dwellers see as unicorns in a potential apartment. One ubiquitous feature of most suburban homes that can feel impossible to find in the city is outdoor space. But it does exist, as you’ll know from the occasional backyard or roof party that has you salivating after an acquaintances apartment.

The first thing to remember is to not limit your search to apartments with backyards. There’s all kinds of outdoor space, and each can be fulfilling in it’s own way depending on your wants and needs. For instance, you might need a more sizable space if you have bikes or a grill, but if you just want a space to sit outside and read you could go with a porch or terrace situation.

Buildings with shared rooftops, though often on the more luxury end of apartments, are an incredible option if you’re looking for a large space that can be used for both relaxing and hosting gatherings. Some have built in seating and grilling options to help you make the most of the few months of good weather in NY.

In terms of actually finding a space, many of the apartment listing sites have a feature to narrow for apartments that have some kind of outdoor option. If you’re dedicated to finding one, don’t look at apartments that don’t have any outdoor space to save time on the actual searching.

In terms of neighborhood, of course you’re more likely to find outdoor space in areas that skew residential and are further from Manhattan, but terraces and roofs can still be found in dense areas, and even yards depending on the block.

How to survive a summer move

Becca Schuh

If you’re planning a move in the summer, probably most of the advice you’ve gotten is “don’t.” Alas, sometimes that’s how the cookie (or, in this case, the lease,) crumbles. Despite the notoriety of the horror of the summer move, huge numbers of people make it happen every year. Here’s how to do it with minimal loss of sanity and hydration.

Whether you’re doing the move over one day or over the course of a few, try to get as much done early in the morning (or late at night) as you can. Midday is when the heat will be most oppressive, and during commuting hours is when you’ll have the most trouble finding parking and dealing with traffic. If you can adjust your sleep schedule for a few days to do some early riser or night owl shifts, you’ll make the energy back in avoiding heat exhaustion.

Stockpile water! It’s easy to forget to drink fluids when you’re stressed and trying to organize, but either having bottled water on hand for you and those helping you or setting a reminder to drink a glass every thirty minutes is key to making sure you don’t get dehydrated.

If you’re moving an AC unit or have one at the new place already, try to install it either before the day of the move or first thing. You’ll be grateful to have the cold air circulating as you do heavy lifting and organizing.

Make sure to separate anything that’s at risk of heat damage—load it into the truck or car last, and take it out first to put into the new apartment. Food items are an obvious risk, but also electronics, candles, and artwork.

A summer move will be rough, but millions have done it before and hey, once you’re done you have a great excuse to have a frozen drink on a patio!

These Brooklyn neighborhoods are now among the city’s most expensive

Becca Schuh

Gone are the days when Brooklyn was a surefire refuge from the prices of Manhattan. Though deals can still be found in the sprawling borough, a number of the more established neighborhoods rival or even surpass certain areas in Manhattan. Though Brooklyn hoods likely won’t overtake Soho or Tribeca anytime soon, property prices in many areas are stretching the definition of affordability. These are the borough’s most expensive spots.

Routinely among the top ten most expensive neighborhoods citywide, Dumbo is the borough’s priciest haunt. Though it’s not off particularly convenient train lines, it’s waterfront location keeps the property at a consistently high value. It’s held this spot for several years, but there’s plenty of other Brooklyn areas that are rising quickly among the ranks.

Among them, Fort Greene, with a 131% year over year increase. The Fort Greene crowd is a little more mature than nearby Bed-Stuy, with many professional adults and families. If you take a walk around, you’ll understand (to a point) the high price tag—the buildings are historic and gorgeous, and the ample parks make the neighborhood an enviable one.

Red Hook, like Dumbo, is not exactly easily accessible—it’s a decent walk from F and G trains, and that’s it, but it’s also among the highest property values. If you can find a spot, it’s a great place for that neighborhood vibe—many businesses have been around for years and have become local institutions. Nearby Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill also retain high spots on the list.

When you’re talking about expensive Brooklyn, you can’t help but think about Williamsburg. The neighborhood is big enough that there’s still some affordable spots for renters, especially in the East, but the Bedford Avenue area is fully transformed into a Manhattan-esque subdivision, completely with an Apple Store and a Whole Foods.

 

What’s up with the new Hudson Yards?

Becca Schuh

Maybe you’ve been keeping an eye on the booming new development, or maybe you’ve heard about it in the local real estate news. Now’s the time to catch up on the story behind the new Hudson Yards.

The lynchpin of the development is the new high rise, 30 Hudson Yards, which will house the highest outdoor observation deck  in the Western Hemisphere, as well as a bar and restaurant. But 30 Hudson Yards won’t be the only big building—there will be a whopping 16 megatowers within the division.

A subway line extension for the 7 will make transport to Hudson Yards some of the easiest in the city (depending on the neighborhood of origin, of course.) You might end up working in the complex—many companies are relocating or starting new offices in the space, like HBO, Warner Bros, Coach, and more.

Beyond business, Hudson Yards will include all the other hallmarks of a futuristic development: restaurants, retail, a luxury hotel, and even a “center for artistic invention.”

 

The best Manhattan hotels for out of town guests

Becca Schuh

Friends or family coming into town is always a cause for celebration, but helping people figure out where to stay can be a logistical conundrum. Unless you have the rare treasure of a guest room, you’ll want to help your friends find the perfect place to live for a few days while they explore the city. But since you live here yourself, you probably aren’t spending much time in hotels. Here’s our favorites in various parts of the city.

The Whitby

Centrally located on West 56th Street, The Whitby is an excellent choice for guests who want to be close to the classic attractions like Central Park and MoMA. Another reason it’s a great pick for the art-inclined is that The Whitby is designed by Kit Kemp, noted interior artistic decorator. There’s also a lovely restaurant and Drawing Room for lounging.

The High Line Hotel

The High Line is a favorite out of towner attraction, so why not stay at it’s namesake hotel? The Victorian style adds an aesthetic flourish, and the garden restaurant is a perfect option for when your friends want a break from eating out. The hotel aims to model the rooms after a guest house, so it’s a little more homey than the standard issue hotel room.

The Carlyle

For the friend who’s obsessed with old school New York vibes, The Carlyle is the perfect home away from home. Located on the quiet and classy Upper East Side, there’s shopping and dining within the hotel as well as all over the surrounding area.

Crosby Street Hotel 

If Lower Manhattan is more your speed, check out the Crosby Street Hotel. It has a British influence, down to a daily tea time in the bar. Soho is the perfect place to begin an exploration of New York, between excellent shopping, classic restaurants, and easy migration between other Lower Manhattan neighborhoods.

Introducing: The Rhino API

Bryan Woods, CTO

Streamline the leasing process

Over the course of the two years we’ve been building Rhino, we’ve met with numerous listings platforms, brokerage firms, property management system operators, landlords, renters, and software developers, and eventually arrived at a list of what is now 84 product integration requests.

 

While we’ve already built integrations into many of the most popular real estate platforms, people keep coming up with awesome new ways of using Rhino to make their lives easier and to better serve their customers, and we want it to be as simple as possible to build new products on top of our ecosystem.

 

The Rhino API

 

Today, we’re excited to announce that we’re sharing the Rhino platform with the world.

 

Developers will be able to add deposit-free search tools to their listing platforms or agent dashboards, receive inbound leads from prospective renters, track applicants in real-time through the Rhino enrollment process, or view information about their enrolled tenants from the comfort of their existing tools (like Salesforce or Yardi).

 

We’re offering a conventional JSON REST API that will be familiar to any web developer. You can be up and running in minutes.

 

Early Adopters

 

Igluu is a new listing platform which aims to be New York City’s largest set of verified home listings. Since listings are verified, they’re able to allow more powerful search tools than competing platforms. As an early beta user of our API, they were able to quickly add the ability to allow renters to search strictly for deposit free apartments.

 

 

In our early beta program, we’ve also helped brokerage teams and property managers to build tools to search their own inventory for Rhino availability, and to view information about their enrolled tenants’ coverage.

 

Technology

 

Our core web applications are built with Ruby on Rails with React, and are architected as distinct services. As a new member of the Amazon Activate program, we’ve been migrating slices of our infrastructure from Heroku to AWS, which has led to a distributed architecture that made extracting our public APIs straightforward, and which allows us to scale each piece independently.

 

While Rails continues to serve us well (as it has for me over the past decade using it to build startups), we saw our API as a great opportunity to assess a new technology. We don’t know for sure yet what our normal use case will be, how many developers will integrate with the API, or how many concurrent users we’ll need to service, so we wanted to choose a programming language and framework that would allow us to remain flexible, without needing to think much about performance (or migrate to a new stack years down the line).

 

For that reason we built our API with the Elixir programming language and Phoenix web framework.

 

While the internet is filled with articles about the rock solid performance and reliability of Erlang (the technology Elixir is built on top of) and Phoenix, there is one benefit I’ve come to appreciate I haven’t seen outlined so much elsewhere, which is Elixir’s consistency with regard to response time.

This screenshot from our application performance monitoring system shows what I’m talking about. Yes, Elixir is fast. The endpoints profiled in this screenshot make database queries, call out to external services like Algolia, and still return in a small fraction of their Rails counterparts, but one thing I’ve grown to appreciate is how the mean response and the 99th percentile response are nearly identical in every case. Coming from Rails, where I’m used to the 99th percentile often being several times slower than the median, I’ve been shocked by how predictably our Elixir services perform, even under load. I’d highly recommend giving Elixir a try if you haven’t already.

 

Get Started

If you’d like to give the Rhino API a spin, sign up for early access here: https://www.sayrhino.com/api

 

We can’t wait to see what you build!

3 neighborhoods with (semi) affordable one bedrooms

Becca Schuh

Whether you’re single or living with a partner, the one bedroom is the holy grail of New York apartments. And it’s about as rare to find an affordable one—even in cheaper neighborhoods, landlords know they can charge a lot for a one bedroom, because someone out there will be willing to foot the bill for the private space. It’s certainly an easier feat when splitting between a couple, but it’s still possible to live in a one bedroom as a solo person if you hone and find the right area. These neighborhoods are your best bets.

Bay Ridge

It’s far from Manhattan, there’s no way around that, but if you have a flexible work situation or don’t mind the commute, Bay Ridge is an easier option for the one bedroom hunt than most of it’s more central Brooklyn counterparts. It has more of a suburban neighborhood vibe than many other areas, which can be a huge plus if you miss things like greenery and space.

Jackson Heights

If you’re willing to make the trek northward into Queens, this neighborhood offers a plethora of options for renters with many benefits. It’s a diverse, sprawling area with much to offer when getting involved in the community. Moreso than many New York areas, it’s an eclectic mix of families, couples, singles, and young and old, not pinned down to one social stereotype.

Washington Heights

If you’re committed to Manhattan, you’ll do well to head northwards and check out Washington Heights. Express trains can get you back to Midtown or downtown in a jiffy, and you’re close to the great green space of the Cloisters area. The river views are another perk, as well as the more homey neighborhood vibes.

How to host a dinner party in a small apartment

Becca Schuh

It’s harder to have friends over in New York than in many other major cities or the suburbs. Beyond the small apartment issue, friends often live in disparate neighborhoods and it’s often easier to congregate at a centrally located bar or restaurant. But you don’t always want to be in the company of strangers, spend the money on a big night out, or be limited to the timing of a commercial establishment. Dinner parties are their own unique social pleasure—and there’s no reason to let the size of your apartment stop you from hosting the perfect soiree.

Rearrange your furniture 

Most of the time, our apartments are set up for day to day functionality or aesthetics rather than maximizing people in a space. Move extra items from the living or dining area into the bedroom, or consolidate sitting areas. Strategize with your roommates or partner about how you can switch up the space for a night, they might have ideas you’ve never thought of.

Make it a potluck

If you have a small kitchen and are worried about having enough space to cook a full dinner, see if guests can provide some of the lower maintenance dishes like sides, salads, or appetizers. That frees up space in your kitchen so you can concentrate on main dishes or specialities and you’ll have less cooking overflow into other areas, which means that more space is available for mingling.

Use your end tables 

End tables can be a great serving station for appetizers and smaller bites so you don’t have to do a full switch up of the dining table between parts of the meal. This also encourages your guests to walk around and chat before the sit down portion of the evening, which is always nice since no matter how large your dinner table, you usually end up talking to the same people through the entire meal.

Create a signature drink

Even at dinner parties in large apartments, guests have a tendency to congregate around the bar area. One way to circumvent this common issue is to pre-make a signature drink and place it in pitchers around the apartment. You can also keep a stockpile of beer and wine in the fridge for when the drink runs out, but either way you won’t have guests constantly waiting to mix drinks at a small bar.

Keep it cool

Especially in the summer months, humidity and stuffiness can be a problem in a small space. Open your windows and throw on the AC a few hours before the party starts to get everything flowing, and consider extra fans or putting your AC in a different window, closer to where everyone is gathering.

 

How to survive without a closet

Becca Schuh

Every lease you sign in New York City will include some compromises. Most of the time you don’t have in unit laundry, many apartments don’t have any outdoor space, and you’re nearly always short on space. Giving up a closet might be what it takes to get other amenities, or maybe that’s just the apartment you ended up with. But it’s also a city of constant apartment innovation, so there are plenty of alternatives if a closet is not among your amenities.

A dress rack 

Of course, it doesn’t have to be for only dresses. Though this alternative is pretty bare bones, it also helps create a simple and pleasing aesthetic if you like your clothes being on a certain level of display. Dress racks are also one of the cheapest options—though of course expensive ones exist, you can easily find them for under $20.

Expandable closets

In the same family as the dress rack, expandable closets take it one step further by including shelves and compartments.

Wall shelves

One version of this product goes by the name “closet system,” the basic principle is using wall shelves as a closet replacement. As long as you keep everything folded, it’s an attractive alternative that frees up space on the floor.