How Much Does Renters Insurance Cost?

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If the thought of another $100-plus monthly expense is keeping you from buying renters insurance, you should know a renters insurance policy isn’t likely to cost nearly that much.

The average cost of renters insurance in the U.S. was $188 a year, or just over $15 a month, in 2015 per data from a 2017 report by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), ranging from a high of $262 to a low of $114.

Now that you know that the cost of renters insurance is closer to a car wash than a car payment, read on to learn more about how that number is determined:

How Much Does Renters Insurance Cost in Each State?

Given that your neighborhood and building type can influence your premiums, it stands to reason the cost of renters insurance varies dramatically across state lines. Keep in mind, though, pricing gets more granular than that, and the cost of renters insurance can also vary dramatically across any given state.

With that caveat in mind, here are the average annual renters insurance premiums in each one as of 2015, per the NAIC:

 

State Avg. Annual Premium
Alabama $242
Alaska $172
Arizona $191
Arkansas $214
California $202
Colorado $166
Connecticut $201
Delaware $156
District of Columbia $158
Florida $195
Georgia $226
Hawaii $201
Idaho $155
Illinois $173
Indiana $183
Iowa $146
Kansas $177
Kentucky $172
Louisiana $249
Maine $147
Maryland $161
Massachusetts $196
Michigan $203
Minnesota $144
Mississippi $262
Missouri $180
Montana $147
Nebraska $149
Nevada $189
New Hampshire $150
New Jersey $171
New Mexico $191
New York $202
North Carolina $154
North Dakota $114
Ohio $185
Oklahoma $242
Oregon $166
Pennsylvania $156
Rhode Island $179
South Carolina $192
South Dakota $121
Tennessee $210
Texas $241
Utah $149
Vermont $155
Virginia $153
Washington $169
West Virginia $186
Wisconsin $132
Wyoming $153
United States $188

The most expensive states for renters insurance

The unifying theme here: Extreme weather. Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana and Alabama are coastal and susceptible to strong storms, while Oklahoma has a tornado problem.

  1. Mississippi: $262
  2. Louisiana: $249
  3. Alabama & Oklahoma (tie): $242
  4. Texas: $241
  5. Georgia: $226

The cheapest states for renters insurance

Conversely, the states with the cheapest renters insurance are much more insulated from extreme weather and natural disasters. Is it worth moving to cut your renters insurance rates? We’re gonna go with … no. But it’s good to know about state-by-state disparities if you’re planning a move so you can account for the cost difference in your budget, or just understand why cousin Beth in North Dakota is paying so much less to insure her apartment than you are.

  1. North Dakota: $114
  2. South Dakota: $121
  3. Wisconsin: $132
  4. Minnesota: $144
  5. Iowa: $146

What Determines the Cost of Renters Insurance?

Renters insurance provides protection for your belongings, plus some liability coverage for good measure. Renters insurance rates are determined by a few factors, some of which you can choose, and some of which you can’t.

Renters insurance cost factors that are set by your circumstances:

  • Your location: Renters insurance rates can vary widely by location (see the table below) and can even vary within cities and neighborhoods and property by property (older buildings tend to cost more, while newer buildings with more security and safety features can garner lower premiums).
  • Your credit score: Your credit score influences a lot of the rates you’ll get in your financial life, and renters insurance is among them. A good credit score is considered a sign of financial wellness and is a big factor in lowering your premiums.
  • How much stuff you have: Generally, the more value your home inventory has, the more it’ll cost to insure. We’re saying value because, while having a lot to insure generally costs more, the total price of your possessions is the real driver here. So a two-bedroom full of Ikea furniture may be valued less than a studio full of Eames.

Renters insurance cost factors that are set by your choices:

  • How much coverage you want: More coverage costs more money. If you’re willing to accept lower payouts in the event of a claim, then your premiums will be lower. And if you’re willing to gamble that your entire vintage guitar collection isn’t covered, then you’ll save some money upfront. But if you want higher coverage limits and additional riders for expensive items (and you probably do), expect your premiums to be higher than if you just had a thrift store bed and a beater guitar.
  • How high (or low) you want your deductible to be: That’s the amount of money you pay out of pocket before your coverage kicks in. The higher your deductible, the lower your premium.
  • How you want to be paid in the event of a claim: Actual cash value renters insurance will pay you the value of belongings at the time of a claim, not the price you paid for them or the price it would cost to replace them. Replacement cost renters insurance covers the cost of repairing or replacing the item at the time of the claim. Replacement cost renters insurance pays out a lot more if you need to file a claim, but it also costs more.

How Do Coverage Choices Affect Price?

Since your circumstances are generally set, it’s your choices about coverage that allow you to have some leeway over the rates you’ll get. Find out how your choices can change your premiums.

What does a basic renters insurance policy cost?

The average renters insurance policy costs between $120 and $190 a year. These basic policies generally offer $25,000 personal property coverage, $100,000 liability protection, and a $500 deductible, though those numbers are just ballpark figures and your particular insurance company’s basic coverage may be different.

Some examples of what a basic renters insurance policy will cover:

  • At least part of the replacement cost of a laptop that gets fried by a water damage from a burst pipe.
  • Some coverage for medical expenses if a friend gets hurt making a smoothie in your apartment — plus some court expenses if that friend decides to sue you.
  • Coverage for personal property that is stolen when you’re away from home.
  • If a covered event renders your apartment uninhabitable, your policy will also pay additional living expenses so you can stay in a hotel during repairs.

Check out our deep dive on what renters insurance does and doesn’t cover.

What is the cheapest renters insurance you can buy?

The cheapest renters insurance will have the least amount of coverage. If you opt for low coverage amounts for personal property (say, $10,000), personal liability ($100,000), and medical payments to others ($1,000) and you choose a high deductible ($500 to $2,500), you can conceivably get renters insurance for as little as $5 to $8 a month.

Learn more about how to buy cheap renters insurance online.

How much does more coverage cost?

As you up the coverage limits of your renters policy, you also up your premiums. But remember, renters insurance is super affordable, so even huge leaps in coverage can result in just a few more dollars a month.

For example, if you increase to the most common coverage amounts — $25,000 for personal property, $300,000 for personal liability, and $2,000 for medical payments to others — your premiums can still often be under $20 per month.

You can also purchase riders to increase your coverage for specific belongings, so if a basic policy only covers $1,000 worth of jewelry but you have a $5,000 ring, a rider could make up the coverage difference.

Riders are also available to add to your policy that cover you and your belongings in more situations. For example, renters insurance policies don’t cover earthquakes, but you can purchase a rider so that you will be covered in the event of a seismic disaster.

These additions can be as low as a few more dollars a month, or in some cases, even less than that.

Read more about popular renters insurance riders, floaters, and endorsements.

How can you save on renters insurance?

You can lower your insurance rate by increasing the number of safety and security features in your home. Many renters insurance companies offer discounts if you have one or more of the following features in your home:

  • Local fire/smoke alarms (sounds in home)
  • Central fire/smoke alarms (alerts monitoring system)
  • Automatic sprinklers
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Local burglar alarm (sounds in home)
  • Central burglar alarm (alerts monitoring system)
  • Deadbolt lock

Some companies also offer discounts if you bundle your renters insurance plan with another plan, like auto insurance, or if you pay your annual premium at once instead of monthly.

Finally, another huge way to save: increase your credit score. This one takes time, but as your score gets higher, you can get better renters insurance rates.


Colin Lalley is a writer for Policygenius, an online life insurance site with one purpose: “To get people the insurance coverage they need and make them feel good about it.”’ Please note that this editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you. 
This post originally appeared on Policygenius.

5 Expenses I Didn’t Expect After Graduating

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Graduating is even harder than it looks.

I am one of the lucky ones who found my first job right out of school. But that secretly meant my living expenses suddenly skyrocketed after I had to buy a used car, move away from home and find and furnish an apartment.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew those purchases would be way more expensive than the usual trip to the grocery store. But there were so many details I didn’t even realize existed. It was a crash course.

Now I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. Here are the random expenses that hit me after graduation, plus how I survived a rocky first few months so that I remained intact before my first adult paychecks could make an impact.

1. Moving Costs More Than You’d Think (But There’s a Hack for That)

Moving101 Container Price Comparison

When I graduated I lived on campus, but I still somehow had a lot to move into my first apartment. The first thing I did was figure out if anyone could help me move. In return for snacks, my friends and family were happy to offer some manual labor. I got lucky!

But when I got a job, it ended up being located out of state. So to save money, I figured out I could rent a truck and tow my car behind it, and only hire movers to do the lifting. Getting your own vehicle and hiring labor separately for either end of your move (Hybrid Moving) costs less than Full Service moving and varies dramatically in price, but the average cost is around $660. It’s an added cost, but plenty of critical time saved, which I needed.

HireAHelper lets you compare the price of movers and customize everything, from how many people help you move to what arrival time window you’ll need. The more options you can compare for a moving process the better, as every move is going to be a little bit different.

Get Your Quote for Movers

See prices for movers by the hour – instantly.

Read real customer reviews.

Easily book your help online.

 

How can someone so young take on that expense? Well, I barely had enough to cover the move, but here’s another thing I learned — many employers offer reimbursement for moving expenses! Make a note to talk with your new employer and ask if they make a similar offer. It was a lifesaver when my company helped me out so that I could put my money toward the next round of expenses!

2. Crossing State Lines Can Mean More Fees

When you move to a new state, you’re going to have to get a new state license and plate for your car. The steps will be different depending on your move, but you can check out the process for your specific state online to know what prices you’re in for.

I had to fill out paperwork and pay fees for the process of:

  • Getting an updated title for my car
  • Printing a new plate
  • Creating a new license

All of it cost about $200! Plus, there was the time it took to go to the DMV, get my new emissions test and talk with my car insurance company about my new address and license information.

Call the DMV where you’ll be moving to ahead of time for clarification because it really is a lot to deal with when you’ve never done it before. It definitely was for me.

3. Even My Used Car Had a Major Price Tag

An approximation of how getting your first used car looks.

When I was in school, I used my parents’ old car to get around to my part-time jobs and the grocery store. But after college, I knew I had to get my own ride. I’d been saving up for a while and figured I could negotiate the price of the car down to what I had in my savings account, but it turns out there’s so much more to it than that.

The only thing I knew about buying a car before I walked into the first dealership was that you have to negotiate your final price, but fees and taxes can’t be worked down. The dealer had to explain things like document fees and dealer fees, plus the sales tax. (Again, every state will be a bit different, though some fees are the same across the board.)

It’s smart to save up some extra cash to cover these fees since they’re non-negotiable. While you’re getting your down payment together, take steps to research what these expenses will be so you can better plan for the total cost of a car.

Lastly, make sure you can handle the monthly payment. While I saved enough for a hefty down payment, I did have to take out a small loan to cover the rest. I automated my car payments through my bank once my regular paychecks started rolling in so I would never risk jeopardizing my credit score with late payments.

4. My First Student Loan Payment Shocked Me

The amount I had to take out in student loans wasn’t nearly as drastic as what some of my friends had to sign for—proud state school grad here—but there are ways those loans can pull you into paying more than you originally borrowed. For starters, I had no idea what capitalizing interest was. Basically, it’s interest that’s triggered by specific events and causes your monthly payment to not even make a dent in your overall debt. The debt increases while your payments stay the same.

I also began to panic when the loan bills came in. I hadn’t even earned my first paycheck with my new job yet, so how was I supposed to pay $350 a month after already paying for moving and buying a car?

That’s when I started to research how to consolidate my loans, and it really saved me. The Department of Education can consolidate multiple federal loans with one fixed interest rate, which streamlines the process and extends your repayment period. Rather than juggling multiple payments, I just had to worry about one.

You may also consider private refinancing if you’ve landed a steady job and worked to build a credit score of at least 690. This can both consolidate your loans and lower your interest rate — but isn’t necessarily always the best choice for recent grads. Do your research! 

(So I Learned a Budgeting Trick)

Sure, I’d managed my own bills in college, but between forthcoming loan payments and the costs of moving and a higher rent, I saw my expenses skyrocket. 

So I did some research online and began militantly tracking all of my income and expenses with a Google spreadsheet. I vowed to follow the 50/30/20 budget, which stipulates that half of my earnings pay fixed expenses, 20 percent goes to debts and savings, and 30 percent is reserved for variable expenses like groceries and light spending.

TheBalance.com

It’s tempting to have your paychecks come in and put all your extra cash toward one big thing like a savings account or credit card debt, but metering it out will help you tackle everything at once. Building my savings while decreasing my debt has helped me more in the long run than just choosing one over the other.

Now, my healthy savings account means a minor emergency like a car repair doesn’t trigger any anxiety. After upending my meager college savings to move, a steady and dependable tracking system soothed my nerves and helped me navigate this whole new world.

5. Filling Up a New Apartment Drains Your Wallet

The process of finding my apartment was easy since everything is online now. I could map out how far each apartment complex was from my work and not have to worry about it being too far away. Actually getting settled was a whole different story.

I had to buy all my own furniture, and you can bet that I didn’t have the money to do it all at once! For a little bit, my apartment décor consisted of a mattress on the floor and the most basic kitchen supplies. A good list of basic apartment supplies you’ll need will consist of:

  • Plates and bowls
  • At least two or three of each type of silverware
  • A trashcan
  • Dish soap and a sponge
  • Toilet paper
  • Basic cleaning supplies (e.g., broom, cleaning solution)

Don’t panic if your apartment doesn’t feel like home for a little while. Getting more than the basics will take time, but eventually, your new fancy budget will help you get everything on your list, and your apartment will gradually feel more like a home and less like a living space. 

Plus, if you have a roommate, that makes your quest to fill the space of essentials even easier! Me? I bought myself a couch from a killer Amazon Prime Day deal—and I’ve been treating myself with one apartment item a month since.


Some of the above surprise costs were never mentioned to me because I didn’t know to ask about them.

Give your post-college world about six to eight months to settle down. Now, I’m much more financially secure and living in a home that feels cozy and welcoming. I’m finally ready to put some money into my travel fund and I don’t sweat the occasional sushi dinner. For now, you just have to buckle in and prepare for a crazy ride after that diploma lands in your hand.


Holly Welles is a millennial-focused real estate writer and the editor behind The Estate Update. For more home tips and financial advice, subscribe to her blog for even more financial advice.

Paint Chips Aren’t the Only Toxic Hazard I Found While Apartment Hunting

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I‘m a single mom, so you might say I’m a little overprotective of my daughterwho isn’t?

My daughter and I are a dynamic duo. When it was time for us to pack up our stuff and journey across the city, my overprotectiveness made sure our new home was safe for the one thing in my life I couldn’t possibly live withoutmy little girl.

I also happen to live in New York City. And like many families here and other metropolitan areas, we’re your average apartment dwellers. Guess what? Especially here on the east coast, apartment buildings are often old, which set off my mom alarms when I was looking for a new place.

What I already knew to do was be vigilant about paint chips. But after a scare that led me to do more research, I found out there was so much more than lead paint to worry about. I want to share what I learned so other families can be safer when they move.

Asbestos

Have you heard of asbestos? I had heard of it before but never understood what it really was until I was told that the material was actually in my new apartment.

Through my ordeal with the removal process, I learned that this toxin is the only known cause of a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma. Wow! Getting cancer from the one place meant to keep you safe?

What happens with asbestos is this: when disturbed, the asbestos particles are released into the air and then unknowingly inhaled. Those particles get caught in the lining of vital organs. Consistent exposure can cause cancerwhich can form in the abdomen, lungs or even heart. Asbestos is tricky because you can’t identify it by sight with the untrained eyeyou actually need to pay someone to inspect your home. (Sometimes this can come with your home inspection, but you might need to ask for the actual test.)

Though when I say you need to, I mean just that. If your home or apartment building was built between 1930 and 1980, it may have asbestos in it. The initial cost may seem like a heavy burden now, but in the long run, will prevent an unnecessary battle with cancer. Get that stuff far, far away from your loved ones!

Radon

Radon detecting units being built underneath a house

So you’ve checked for asbestos. Now onto radon, another sneaky toxin. Radon is an invisible, odorless, and tasteless gas.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as many as 8 million homes throughout the county have elevated radon levels. That is problematic because the gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon leaches from the soil and into the home where it can collect. There is the highest risk of elevated radon levels in the basements or lowest levels of buildings.

The only way to know if you have elevated radon levels is to test your home. There are two different forms of testing: short and long-term detectors. Short-term detectors measure radon levels for two to 90 days. The long-term tests determine the average radon concentration for more than 90 days. Long-term detectors are more accurate, as radon levels change constantly.

Mold

Mold … now that I’ve done the research, just thinking of this word gives me the willies. Mold is quite common, and for those with allergies or asthma, the presence of mold can be really disruptive to their lives. Yep, unfortunately, I am one of those people. (All my fellow allergy suffers please blow your nose in solidarity.) 

Unfortunately, mold does not discriminate against any homes or apartments—you lucky ones with brand spanking new homes may still fall prey to mold growth. Thankfully, it’s pretty simple to remove! 

Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than one cup of household laundry bleach in one gallon of water.

To prevent further mold growth, ensure that humidity levels in your space are low. An air conditioner or dehumidifier can help to dry that air out! Cleaning bathrooms with mold killing products will also ensure no little spores have time to flourish. Also, make sure to consider your vents. Keeping household vents open will allow for proper circulation to keep mold at bay.

Lead-Based Paint

Lastly, it’s still important to be on the lookout for lead-based paints. Bad paint was at the forefront of my mind with a little “ankle biter” in tow when I looked at prospective apartments.

Lead is particularly dangerous for kids because, if you weren’t aware, just about everything goes into their mouths, including paint chips. For kids, lead exposure can result in behavior and learning problems, slowed growth and lower IQ. Again, older homes and apartments have a higher incidence of lead paint—those built before 1940 have an 87 percent chance that they contain lead paint. If the lead paint is in good shape, there is little to no risk. but if the paint is chipping, peeling or cracking, it’s time to get it removed.

It’s important to have your homes inspected for lead-based paint. Don’t be shy about bringing it up to a landlord, even if you’re already moved in! A basic risk assessment will inform you about any lead-based paint present in the space and how to mitigate the risks.

As a young professional making my way on my own I was confident that I was smart enough to know what to look for when apartment hunting. It turns out I wasn’t smart enough without additional research. But hopefully, through the tips and tricks I’ve mentioned, you can be sure to save yourself from some headaches (and heartaches) and prevent you and your little bundles of joy from exposure to toxins.


Tonya is a single mother and blogger raising her daughter in NYC. She has a newfound passion for health after journeying into motherhood and hopes to share her knowledge with those around her. In addition to writing, she enjoys going to the park with her daughter and cozying up with a good book.

This Is How I Made My Living Room Into a Cheap, Secret Gym

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Like many people during the month of January, I’m vowing to clean up my diet and add more exercise to my weekly routine. But there are a few challenges I’m already running into when it comes to working out.

First of all, the gym is packed! All of my workout classes are filled to the brim and each cardio machine is taken. Second, the temps have been in the single digits here in Chicago, and the thought of freezing my buns off on my walk to the gym is enough to make me hit the snooze button instead of getting in that a.m. workout.

So, what’s a gal to do? Improvise!

5 Sweet Garage Upgrades That Up Your Home’s Value

Garage additions and upgrades like the five in this list can produce an estimated 65 percent return-on-investment.

Instead, I’m getting my workouts in at home in my “secret gym”. And since we live in a small spot in the city, there’s no buying a huge “Total Gym” machine (sorry, Chuck Norris). How did I manage? I got creative with a few workout items that I can easily store and hide in our condo.

To open my gym, I push my table aside.

Take a look at my family room. Little did you know it doubles as an at-home gym space! I simply move the coffee table and chair … and boom! I’ve got plenty of room to spread out and get sweaty.

“Home gyms” actually take a very small amount of room. Take a look around your home and find a comfortable spot where you have space for an at-home workout. Just give yourself enough space so you don’t break anything or hurt yourself. If you’re looking for a new home right now, it goes without saying: make sure there is accumulative space to make one of these in your home.

I concealed all my workout equipment.

I designated a cabinet in the room for all of my workout equipment. This ensures that I have everything I need right on hand, plus it’s less of an eyesore because it’s hidden. No need for one of those big racks.

I’ve got all of this stuff in one cabinet:

  • Yoga mat
  • Foam roller
  • Weights
  • Resistance bands
  • Printed workout plans

They’re all easily accessible right in here. I used to just throw all of my resistance bands in a random drawer, which actually meant I rarely used them. Now, they’re all organized neatly in the box on the top shelf, so I can grab them and get to work!

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I suggest maybe also investing in a few baskets or a container to organize your workout gear. Sometimes it makes it easy to just grab the entire basket and have access to everything you need at once.

I printed and organized my favorite routines.

I’ve dabbled in various workout routines over the years. I love changing things up to keep myself motivated. You can find lots of awesome workouts online (they’re seriously everywhere) and can print them right at home. I printed off a few of my favorites and put them into this workout binder.

Now, I simply flip through my $2 binder and find my exercise routine for the day. It’s super easy and I no longer have to dig through drawers to find these crumpled sheets of paper in my desk.

Personally, I’ve also run into a few injuries over the years and have had success with physical therapy. Those trips to the therapist left me with lots of random sheets of paper outlining the exercises I needed to do to keep those injuries at bay. You can bet they’re all organized nicely in my at-home workout binder.

I just use a stepping stool, and it works great.

Some of the full-body workouts I do require a step, to get in some cardio. Since I have absolutely zero space for a workout bench to step up on, I improvise with a step stool. This little guy easily fits into a closet and I bring it out when it’s time for my sweat on. Consider buying one with two steps so you can always make things more challenging as you progress with your workouts.

If you don’t believe you can get a good workout with just a stool, you obviously have never tried it!

A Closer Look at the Supplies

Instead of running to the sporting goods store for tons of crazy equipment, I invested in the essentials.

Smart Dumbbells

Light weights and heavier weights should do the trick for most routines. My husband actually purchased these smart dumbbells that can start at five pounds and go all the way up to 52.5 pounds … all in the same dumbbell. Definitely a space saver!

Inexpensive Yoga Mat

A yoga mat is another must, even if you’re not a yogi. I love using mine to cushion my knees for push-ups and when I lay on the ground. It’s also great to dampen the sound made when you’re working out! I don’t want to disturb my neighbors downstairs when I’m doing jumping jacks or jump lunges, so I always try to do those exercises on my cushioned mat.

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are incredibly effective, can be used for just about anything, and are super cheap! (Here’s some from Amazon.) What’s not to love about this gym supply? We have a variety of tensions and use them for full-body workouts.

Finally, I watch stuff on Youtube.

To round it off, a TV or computer that can connect to YouTube is a must for at-home workouts! There are so many free exercise videos online, it just takes some searching to find ones that are right for you. This blog post outlines some of our favorites workout programs that you can do from the comfort of your home.


I’m convinced that you don’t need a huge home or tons of supplies to get in a great at-home workout. Until the new gym members lose motivation, you’ll find me getting my exercise in right from my secret gym at home.

The Important Things to Take Pictures of While Moving (and Why)

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Getting ready for the big move? Don’t pack that camera away just yet!

Besides getting those great social media shots (“I’m driving a U-Haul, everybody get off the road!”), taking pictures before, during and after your move can help protect your stuff – not to mention your wallet.

The main reason for taking pictures when you move might be obvious, but it is worth iterating. No matter how skilled, experienced and careful your movers are, accidents do occasionally happen. And if you don’t prepare, you may not be properly reimbursed for damage that occurs.

So before your movers show up, go around and take pictures of anything and everything you deem valuable. This means furniture, electronics, breakables and anything else you think would be difficult and/or expensive to repair or replace. Then when your move is complete and you find that something has been damaged, you will have proof that the item was in fact damaged in transit.

 

What Moving Insurance Actually Does

(And why it might not help you!)

This also means taking pictures of existing damage: a scratch on your kitchen table, a dent in your dryer, or a small crack in the corner of your mirror. Why? Because if you suddenly find a bigger scratch, a deeper dent or a longer crack, your movers can say “That was already there.” “Yes, but it’s much worse now!” you will cry. And you will lose.

Knowing all that, here are some crucial tips for everything you’ll especially need to take pictures of.

Take photos of your cleaned-out apartment.

Believe it or not, there are some crafty landlords out there who would love to pocket your security deposit. Taking pictures of your old place before you leave for good can help you defend yourself against false claims of damage. And if you did damage something? Take a picture of that too, so that same unscrupulous landlord can’t charge you hundreds of dollars for fixing a couple of nail holes.

Protip: Take pictures of the bathroom and the shower. Yours truly got nailed for leaving the toilet “a filthy disgusting mess” after moving out of his Boulder, CO apartment, even though it was sparkling and sterile when I locked the door for the last time. I don’t even want to know.

Likewise, take pictures of your new place.

Again, don’t just photograph any existing damage you may find. Photograph everything! Why? Because walls, doors and light fixtures (and door jambs and floors and ceilings) can suffer damage during the move-in process. Your movers might be a great bunch of professionals, but you probably won’t want to have to pay for the gash they accidentally put in the kitchen floor.

Protip: Also take pictures of your rental truck! Get shots of any existing damage, inside and out, as well as the general condition of the interior of the cab and the back where all your stuff will be going – especially if these areas are less than pristine.

Take a picture of the back of your TV, for reference.

You know all those dusty wires back there? The ones to your surround sound system and your Blu-Ray player and your four different gaming consoles? It’s all going to have to be disconnected (and, probably, untangled). Having a photo of which wires go where can save a lot of time and aggravation when you are setting up your system at your new home.

Protip: Snapping a pic of the make, model and serial number of each of your electronic components can be a huge help in case you have to track something down – or, if something goes missing, to confirm that component’s age and value.

Take pictures of large, especially valuable or just unusual items.

This isn’t to highlight damage, but it’s simply a good idea to have pictures of things, from furniture to expensive décor to items that we’d rather not have to try to describe. Because if something goes missing, a picture helps A LOT in finding it. (Use your inventory sheets, people!)

True Story: A week or so after delivering a long-distance shipment we’d taken into our warehouse, I got a call from the customer. “I’m missing a chair,” she told me.

This was not very helpful.

We had literally hundreds of chairs on the 30-foot-high racks in our warehouse. Knowing that this chair was upholstered with a flowery fabric was only slightly better, and as the woman lived up in the mountains two hours away. She wasn’t about to come down and help me find the right one. “Let me fax you a picture of the chair,” she said. (Yes, this was a few years ago.) And even though the picture was black and white and a little blurry, I recognized it right away, saving me hours of searching during the already-hectic summer season and saving the customer from days, if not weeks, of inconvenience and uncertainty. (Not to mention a two-hour drive to our warehouse.)

Take photos of the water, electricity, and gas meters.

Do this both at your old place before you leave, then at your new one before you move in. Why? To protect against being charged wrongly for utilities. Not that the utility companies are out to scam you, but it’s quite common for them to charge based on usage estimates (which saves time and money on meter readers). If their baseline reading is off, then so is your estimated usage. There may also be a lag – or an overlap! – between customer accounts. Bottom line is, there are plenty of ways you can end up being charged for another resident’s utility usage. Taking photos of your meters can help immensely if such a situation comes your way.

Take a video of your electronics in action.

On their inventory sheets, movers describe anything electric, electronic or mechanical using the acronym “MCU” – mechanical condition unknown. This means they don’t know if something works. Which also means you can’t prove something was rendered inoperable during your move. Without proof, it’ll be difficult to get reimbursed for the flat screen that has suddenly gone to plasma heaven.

To guard against this, videotape your TV, stereo, air hockey table, pinball machine, lava lamp, or whatever to show that these things were indeed working properly before the movers showed up. 

And ALWAYS timestamp your photos!

Imagine having pictures showing that you left your old place in perfect condition, but then having your old landlord claim that you took them before you did the damage he is trying to charge you for. Or owning a picture of the damage the movers did to your new place, only to have them say “No, that was like that before we showed up.”

How do you answer that?

There are a few ways.

  • Set your camera so the time and date show up on your photos.
  • Email your photos to yourself as soon as you take them.
  • Make sure your time and date is correct on your phone’s camera roll.
  • Even print out the photos you take and snail-mail them to yourself.

Protip: It may be easy for someone to claim that you simply changed the time/date setting on your camera before you snapped those incriminatory photos. So keep them on your memory card, sandwiched in between other pictures you took along the moving process – or even in between photos from before and after the process – to prove your timeline if need be. Most people are reasonable.

Are we being too cautious?

After all, the majority of moves – and the vast majority of HireAHelper moves – are completed without a hitch. But remember: accidents happen. Taking pictures can save you a ton of time and aggravation – not to mention a bit of cash – if something does go wrong.

6 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Moving Into a Dorm

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Category: College Moves

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Moving to college is a big deal. Take it from me, emotions are running pretty high, you may be nervous, you might have traveled pretty far and you have a lot on your mind.  Mistakes happen. Fortunately, there are several ways to make moving into college a whole lot easier. It won’t take away from all of the emotions of leaving home, but you can at least transition with simplicity, so you’re just prepared to enjoy your new life.

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7 Things I Learned When Downsizing From a House in California to a Shoebox in NYC

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Category: Organization

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Full disclosure: I’m a child of the suburbs. I grew up in sprawling northern California, where trips to used bookstores and the mall are practically pastimes. There wasn’t much spatial constraint when it came to accumulating things. If I picked up a tchotchke, there would definitely be a place for it somewhere in my home.

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Showing Your Home? These Are the First Impressions That Matter

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Category: Buying & Selling a Home

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To us, staging your home to sell is similar to going on a first date.

You set up this date in hopes to meet your future spouse. You don’t know if that’ll be the case but there’s always the hope, right? If you’re hoping to land “the one”, chances are you’re going to put some effort into prepping for this first date. We feel the same is true when it comes to staging your home to sell.

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Movehack: How to Perfectly Wrap an Office Chair in Under 3 Minutes

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Category: How To Pack, Pro Packing Guides

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When you move, protecting your furniture is a huge part of the deal. And for most people who move, we’ve noticed the hardest piece of furniture to truly protect is none other than the common chair.

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