Celeb Housing: “Aliens” Producer’s Ranch Is No Joke

Storage, Celeb Homes, Kitchen So what does being a big-shot movie producer get you anyway? Not much fame, really, outside movie-industry circles. I, for one, had never heard of Gale Ann Hurd, producer of films like “Aliens” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

But fortune is another matter. Ms. Hurd is, by anyone’s measure, living large these days. Just check out the unbelievable horse estate in Santa Ynez she recently put on the market for $6.1 million. A pristine stable sits across a smooth lawn from an inviting swimming pool. The tile-roofed house is like a cross between a ski lodge and a hacienda, all timbered ceilings and wide, round doorway arches. Continue reading

Six Tips for Renting with Pets

Young woman with her dog against the clear sky.Looking for a place to rent is always an adventure, even more so if you’re a pet owner. Many landlords and property management companies are wary about renting with pets, and for good reason: Irresponsible pet owners can alienate neighbors and cost property owners thousands of dollars in damage repairs. Prepare for some extra challenges when finding a new place to live when renting with pets.

Here are some tips for getting a great apartment for yourself and your furry or feathered companion:

Understand Landlord Concerns About Renting with Pets

Landlords don’t forbid pets in their buildings just to be mean. Pets can do some serious damage to both rental units and community spaces and it is ultimately the landlord’s responsibility to deal with repairs.

Here are some typical landlord concerns:

  • Damage to carpet and furnishings.
  • Inability to get pet odors out of the unit after your departure.
  • Dog messes on the building’s grounds.
  • Animals left alone can make a lot of noise and are at greater risk of damaging the property.
  • Risk of injury to another tenant.
  • Large dogs or dogs that are considered to be of a “dangerous” breed might be considered a liability risk.

If you approach your landlord with an understanding of his concerns, you’ll be in a better position to negotiate an arrangement that works for both of you.

Talk to Your Vet

Before you begin your search for a rental home, take your animal in for a vet visit. Having vet records showing that your animal is in good health and is up to date on shots can be helpful in persuading a landlord to accept your pet into her building.

Put Together a Pet Resume

Much like a job resume, a pet resume is a document that contains details about your pet. Put together a detailed record of your pet’s behavior, medical history and a list of people who can testify that you are a responsible pet owner. Attaching documentation such as vet health certificates and obedience school diplomas to your pet resume gives in credibility.

Narrow Your Search

Before you begin your property hunt, be realistic about the kind of property that you need. Look for an unfurnished unit, preferably without carpeting that your pet could soil or damage. If you have a large or energetic dog, you might have difficulty getting a landlord to rent you a small apartment: Consider a house or a large, garden apartment with yard access. Older buildings are less likely to be sound proofed, something to think about if you have a particularly loud animal.

Prepare for Negotiation

Be proactive in approaching landlords and property managers and expect to do some negotiating. Here are a few things to address during your discussions:

  • If you make regular use of a pet sitter, dog walker or doggy day-care, let the landlord know about this. He may be concerned about a dog left alone in your apartment all day and knowing that the dog is looked after might persuade him to rent to you.
  • Let the landlord know if you are willing to bring in your own air purifiers or to pay for regular steam-cleaning of any carpets.
  • Offer to pay for a professional cleaning when you move out of the unit.
  • If a landlord doesn’t ask for a pet deposit, but appears to be on the fence about accepting your application, offer an additional security deposit anyway.
  • If you have a large or “bully breed” dog, offer to muzzle the dog when taking him in or out of the building.

Be a Good Tenant

Once accepted as a tenant, make good on your promise to be a responsible renter and pet owner: Not only is it the right thing to do, but you may need your current landlord to give you a reference in the future. Clean up immediately after your pet and address problems with barking, scratching or chewing immediately. Keep your pet’s shots up-to-date and be courteous to your neighbors when taking your dog out for walks.

Are you a pet owner who rents?  Have you faced any challenges? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section.

House Hunting Tips: Checking the Pool, Deck and Backyard

The backyard has to be one of the biggest selling points of a house. After all, we’ve all seen prospective house buyers on shows like House Hunters reject a home that meets all of their needs on the inside but has a yard that they don’t like.

Although it can seem like the status of a backyard can be an afterthought when house hunting, you still want to pay attention to some warning signs in the backyard.

Swimming Pool


Photo via Flickr user Arnoldmasonryandconcrete

Everyone would love to have a swimming pool, right? Who couldn’t picture themselves coming home from work on a hot summer day and taking a float with a good book and a refreshing drink!

But, swimming pools can also be incredibly expensive, so if you are looking at a home and see a swimming pool, take a really close and careful look at it. If you have never had experience with a pool find out from your realtor what the costs associated with keeping it running and maintained are going to be, including closing it in the winter and opening it in the summer, depending on your location.

For in ground pools take a look at the edges around the pool, is there any chipping or cracking, this is a sign of ground shifting and is not good. Also look in the pool, does it appear to be well maintained, is the water clean, does the lining appear smooth all the way around? If all of these are yes, you’ll be in good shape.

For above ground pools, keep an eye on the pool’s structure itself. Check out the ground around the pool and see if it’s wet at all or very muddy, this could be a sign the pool is leaking. Also make sure that any decking around the pool is stable and solid.

The last thing to look for is a fence. Most every state has some sort of regulation regarding the yard or the pool area itself being fenced in, so take a look at that fence and see if it is still in good shape or might need to be replaced.


Next look at the yard itself. There aren’t too many things you can control about a yard gone wrong, but a few things to keep in mind. Remember that the backyard, just like the rest of the house, is a very personal preference.

You are going to want to determine if the yard is going to be a good fit for you. Yards that have a lot of land associated with them are wonderful, but at the same time they require a lot of maintenance, mowing a few acres every other week all summer will certainly take a few hours.

If the yard is much more of a garden ask yourself if you are up for the task. While the current homeowners might have the greenest of thumbs, you might not want to take on the responsibility of tending to a huge backyard garden.

The last thing to really be aware of are any safety issues. If you have small children or pets you might want to consider adding in some fencing to the yard if you live near the water or the woods. And, if you know the area has flooding issues, follow up with the realtor about the water levels in this yard to see if that might become an issue.



Photo via Flickr user Arnoldmasonryandconcrete

Finally, the last big thing to pay attention to in the yard is any decking. Decks are popular in many areas of the country and most homeowners use them for grilling food and entertaining.

What you do want to make sure is that the deck is made up to code and is not rotting anywhere. Have a quick look at the deck, including the flooring and beams, note if any of the wood looks to be very old or is splintering.

If you can walk under the deck, do that as well and take a look up from underneath, note any potential rotting or termite damage. Also look at where the deck is set in the ground, you are going to want solid concrete footings into the earth, check those for cracking or crumbling.

A great deck is going to be something that will certainly add value to your home, but a deck that is not in great repair will most likely end up having to be torn down and re-built for safety purposes.

Most of all make sure you do remember to look at the backyard, pool and deck while house hunting. It can never hurt to be too careful and take a quick poke around the yard when you are house hunting. Do you have any of your own suggestions? Let us know in the comments!

Apartment Location: Finding Out What Matters to You

When looking for a place to live, consider your apartment and your neighborhood to be a complete package. While your apartment is certainly the place where you eat, sleep and relax, your neighborhood is, ideally, where you’ll be doing most of your living. Decide what you want to be close to before you go apartment hunting, and you’ll have a better chance of finding a place that you are happy to call home. Continue reading