It’s Rough Out There Thursday, Apr 10 2014 

Cottage I manage a duplex in Berkeley for my family and see first hand how hard renting in the San Francisco Bay Area has become – for many it is harder than finding a good job. The Open Houses are packed with people, sometimes up to 50 applicants for one apartment (I hear in San Francisco the numbers are much higher), and the number of emails and inquiries are triple that.   After selecting the renter, I always send the other applicants an email to let them know they didn’t get the apartment. This past rental, several prospective tenants wanted to know if there was anything they could have done to improve their chances, and with some it was just a numbers game, but for others there were things they could have done that may have improved their chances.   Here are my tips:   It’s in the Details This is similar to finding and applying for a job. Read the rental Ad and follow any instructions listed in the Ad (how to contact, application/showing process, etc.) Pay attention to the details of the rental such as: vacancy, items included (parking, utilities, laundry), lease or month-to-month, pets allowed. Remember this is a very competitive process and the way you communicate with the landlord/rental agency may be considered in the end.  If the Ad is fairly descriptive and the rental process is outlined you should save your questions for the showing. Is it a Match? After reviewing the listing, make sure it works for your needs. If you need a place for six months, don’t waste time with a place that wants a one year lease, if you need a garage don’t waste time with a place that only has street parking, if you have a pet and the place does not take pets don’t waste time on it, etc. Also, check out the neighborhood of the apartment, either by using maps online or by going in person, but don’t bother the current occupants of the unit, you don’t want to be seen as pushy.   Be Flexible If the listing provides information on a public showing try to make it to the listed showing. Most landlords are overwhelmed with responses and they don’t need to and don’t have time to have several showings for an apartment.   Be Prepared Bring with you a current credit report that includes your credit score. Provide an explanation if your score is low. Bring proof of income (pay stubs, letter from current employer, etc.). If you don’t have a job but have plenty of funds, bring proof (bank statements, etc.). Bring the information you will need to fill out the application or bring an application that you have pre-filled out. The information you may need is: current and past employers, current and past residences, personal references, credit report, proof of income, and bring a pen. If you can, you might want to bring letters from current or past landlords or neighbors attesting to the type of tenant you are, this is especially useful if you are a dog owner.   Pets If you have a pet and pets are allowed, bring a pet resume (include a picture of the pet if you are not bringing the pet to the Open House) and references. Landords will want to know the pet is not going to be a problem. The San Francisco SPCA provides information for tenants on how to put together a  Pet Resume.   At the Showing When going to the showing make sure you park on the street and are considerate of the neighbors, you don’t want to be seen as pushy or entitled. Once there, take your time and really look at the place. I don’t suggest asking for an application or turning over your personal documents until you have spent some time looking at the unit and have asked some questions about the place. You want to clearly communicate your interest in the unit, so tell the landlord a little about yourself and the people/pets that would be living at the unit, and how it is the right place for you (be brief, especially if there are others waiting to speak to the landlord). Mention anything that might enhance the property for example, you like to garden and take pride in where you live.   It seems like a lot of work, but if you put a packet together you will be able to use it for multiple places, and it may make the difference in getting the place you want. Most landlords want hassle-free, low maintenance tenants, and the more you can convey that to the landlord, the more likely you will be chosen. Good luck in your search!


Keeping Critters at Bay Wednesday, Mar 7 2012 

I have had raccoons coming in my yard for many years without any problems. Then about two years ago a raccoon discovered my dog door and came inside my house. Luckily I was home when it happened and scared the raccoon away. Since then, I have made sure to always lock up the dog door at dusk and that seemed to work. However, in the last several months I have been awakened in the middle of the night by a tap, tap, tapping at my back door, only to discover a raccoon trying to get in through the dog door.

I have done all of the preventive measures such as keep food, water, garbage and shelter unavailable to raccoons without success. Through some research I found some Raccoon Help and the solution is ammonia. Place a rag in a low, unbreakable container then pour ammonia on the rag, enough to cover the rag (the rag will help the ammonia from evaporating too fast). Next, put the container where you want to keep raccoons away, for me that was outside near the dog door. You can also use this method for keeping raccoons away from a lawn (you will need several ammonia stations for larger areas with multiple access points). Good luck!

Love These Dog Treats Thursday, Jul 1 2010 

I found a great dog treat at Trader Joe’s. I hope they don’t end up discontinuing it. They are Trader Joe’s Organic Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe Sticks. A long name for these semi-soft treats. I use them to stuff the Kong Bone and I also break them into small bits for training. They break easily and don’t crumble. For the Kong Bone, I take two sticks, break each stick in half, then I put two halves together and stuff the ends.

The Best Dog Toy Ever! Thursday, Jul 1 2010 

If you have a puppy or a new dog you should have at least one Kong. They come in various sizes and shapes and the ones that you can stuff with treats or the dogs meal are great. I use the bone shaped one for my dog when I leave her alone for long periods of time. I take some treats and stuff the treats in the ends of the bone; then I toss her the bone and she spends the next several minutes to hour (depending on how well I stuffed the toy) getting the treats out. This rewards the dog for chewing the toy instead of my shoes, and the dog is mentally stimulated which helps cut down on boredom and negative behavior. Plus my pup isn’t focussed on me leaving, she is focussed on the treats.

Pet Adoption Thursday, Jul 1 2010 

Here is a list of local animal shelters and rescue organizations. It is by no means all-inclusive, but will give you a good place to start your search. If you are not ready to adopt, you might consider fostering a pet or donating time, money and/or items. The city animal shelters are in most need. The items they really appreciate are your old towels and blankets.

  1. Berkeley Animal Shelter:
  2. Berkeley East Bay Humane Society:
  3. East Bay SPCA:
  4. Grateful Dogs Rescue:
  5. Hopalong & Second Chance Animal Rescue:
  6. Marin Animal Care & Welfare Services:
  7. Marin Humane Society:
  8. Muttville Senior Dog Rescue:
  9. Oakland Animal Services:
  10. Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA:
  11. Petfinder a directory of different pet adoption organizations:
  12. Pound Puppy Rescue:
  13. San Francisco Animal Care & Control:
  14. San Francisco SPCA:
  15. Rocket Dog Rescue:
  16. Wonder Dog Rescue:

My New Friend Thursday, Jul 1 2010 

I recently adopted an adult dog from the Marin Humane Society. She has turned out to be the best little dog. She came with basic manners and is house broken. After only having her for two days, I had to leave her alone for 9 hours while I went to work. When I returned home, she and my house were fine.

One trick I do is to take a Kong bone and stuff it with treats when I leave for long periods of time. This helps distract the dog and keep them entertained for a bit. See my Tips on ‘Products’ for the Kong toy and treats I use.

To find your own rescue pet please see my helpful list under Pet Adoption.

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