Tag: Floor Plan Residential

6 Landlord To-Do’s: Preparing for a New Tenant

https://www.pexels.com/photo/building-metal-house-architecture-101808/Having been landlords for several years, my husband and I find ourselves fortunate to have had tenants who have taken care of our home as if it were their own.  We are hopeful, like many homeowners, that our investment property will appreciate in value.  Each year we get a bit anxious around the time our tenants’ lease is almost up and the idea of having to find a new tenant may be a reality.  In anticipation of such an event, I began to put together information that would help if such a situation should arise.

Looking back, I owe much of my experience in property management – working with tenants, maintenance staff, managing budgets, upholding policies – to my experience working in Housing and Residential Life.  As an undergraduate at the University of San Francisco, I was a Resident Adviser running a living & learning community with a $40K budget.  During my graduate studies at the University of Minnesota, I participated in the College Student Personnel Administration Program. In addition to a full academic load, my grad assistantship included being a Faculty Adviser, a Residence Director of 735 residents during my first year and 141 residents the following year.  Let’s just say I didn’t get much sleep when I was in grad school.

Little did I know that my experience in Housing & Residential Life would help prepare me as a homeowner and landlord.  In this week’s blog post, we’ll take a look at preparing for a new tenant.  I discovered a number of SmartDraw templates to help in the process.



In addition to posting photos of the property on the appropriate sites, you may also choose to include a floor plan or layout of the home.   As the original owner of the home, I was able to reference the brochure of the unit to create this particular floor plan.

Condo Floor Plan_8.31

SmartDraw Tip: In the Left Panel, navigate to the Floor Plans – Residential Category.  Select the appropriate room outline from which to begin.  

If an applicant expresses concerns about safety and security, you may also choose to provide a detailed emergency evacuation plan.

Emergency Condo Floor Plan

SmartDraw Tip: Since the floor plan was already created, the evacuation floor plan was easily created with the addition of emergency related symbols and labels.  If you’d like to learn more about SmartDraw’s Emergency & Disaster Planning templates you may want to read a few of our recent posts: Protect Your Family: Create a Family Emergency Plan, Do You Have an Emergency Evacuation Plan?, and HAZMAT Response Team Harnesses the Power of SmartDraw


It’s important to be consistent and treat each potential tenant or applicant the same so that you’re not in violation of any of the fair housing laws.  At minimum, you should have every potential tenant submit a rental application and a credit report & criminal history check authorization form.

Prior to showing the property, it’s important to find out how serious a potential tenant is about renting and if it’s worth your time scheduling an on-site visit.  Here are a series of questions to consider asking the applicant:

  • Why are you planning on moving?
  • When would you like to move?
  • What is your monthly income?
  • Can you provide me with references from your former landlord and employer?
  • Will you complete a rental application and a credit & background check form?
  • How many people will be living in the home?

Rental Application

SmartDraw Tip: Navigate to the Forms Category in the Left Panel.  The Rental Agreement can be found in the application Forms Sub-Category. 


Review the lease agreement with the tenant(s) section by section so that they completely understand what they are agreeing to.  Once you have gone over the entire agreement with the tenant and answered any questions, you and the tenant should sign and date the lease.


You should always collect the first month’s rent and the entire security deposit before the tenant moves into the unit. If the tenant does not pay on time the first month, it increases the likelihood that they will be late with their rental payments the following months.


Upon receipt of the keys to the property or the actual move-in day, you should go over the move-in checklist with the tenant. The checklist describes the condition of the property as a whole and of each room in detail. Both you and your tenant should sign and date this checklist.

The move-in checklist is important as it allows you to compare the condition of the property when the tenant moves in to the property’s condition when the tenant.  The Rental Property Condition Form, found in SmartDraw, is similar to the move-in checklist I had originally created.

Rental Property Condition Form

SmartDraw Tip: Navigate to the Forms Category in the Left Panel.  The Rental Property Condition Form can be found in the Miscellaneous Sub-Category.


Finally, you should provide the tenant with your contact information. This will be the method of communication which allows them to reach you if they have a question or complaint. Ensure they know if you prefer to have them contact you during normal business hours, 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., unless it is an emergency.  It is at this early stage in the tenant-landlord relationship that you are able to establish a healthy working relationship.

Home Improvement Ideas for the Summer

If your To-Do List for this year includes buying a fixer-upper, updating your house to sell, or making upgrades to your home for your enjoyment, then you’ve come to the right place.  In this week’s post, we’ll take a look at some of our previous posts focused on bath remodels and outdoor living spaces.

You may just be inspired to create that spa-like bathroom you’ve been dreaming of or maybe you’re ready to create that outdoor oasis that’s as beautiful, comfortable, and functional as the inside of your home.


“2015 bathrooms should be three things: contemporary, spa-like, and accessible,” according to the National Kitchen & Bathroom Association.

“Expect built-in soaking tubs to be replaced by open or frameless, large walk-in showers, with multiple shower heads,” say the experts at DreamMaker Bath and Kitchen Remodeling. The fluid look and fewer lines of a frameless shower doors will finish off the room.


3 ‘Must Have’s’ for Planning Your Bathroom Renovation

We enjoy working on projects together.  So, for our 1st anniversary as Mr. & Mrs., we decided to opt out of a vacation to renovate our guest bathroom.  Though we were excited about our first bathroom renovation, it also brought us some anxiety.   We knew we would need some help.  So we decided to hire a general contractor. Read full post>>




12 Remodeling Tips for Your Master Bath Retreat

After our guest bath remodel project, our garage became a storage facility of tiles, grout, dry wall, and paint. With supplies readily available, we were anxious to design our master bath retreat.  We’ll take a look at the actual SmartDraw diagrams used from the brainstorming, planning, to execution stages of the remodel project.  Read full post>>




How to Enhance Your Bathroom Lighting

Bathroom lighting slowly eases you from sleep to awake, allows you to complete your daily grooming rituals, and can comfort you as you unwind after a long day.  But bathroom lighting can be neglected, and a poorly lit bathroom can be a dim way to start your day. Read full post>>




“2015 will be the year of outdoor living spaces,” says Jim Saxon, President of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty. “Home buyers are looking for large outdoor gathering spaces that have high-end features, such as stone fire pits and outdoor kitchens.”


Cut Through Landscape Planning Red Tape with SmartDraw

The Homeowners Association rules looked as complicated as the U.S. Tax Code.  In short, the HOA requires the submission of landscape planning diagrams prior to any changes made.  The next road block was having to create a packet that would include the design and other external structure documentation.  Read full post>>



Landscape DesignLandscape Design Basics: 3 Steps for First Time Homeowners

We have spent the last two years resloping the entire backyard which was initially sloping towards the house causing water damage to our wood floors inside. At last, we are to a point where we are ready to have sod laid.  I have created a series of diagrams that we plan to use to build the backyard of our dreams.  Read full post>>



Julie Backyard 1California Drought Prompts Landscape Redesign

California is now in its fourth year of a drought state- one so extreme that Governor Jerry Brown has recently declared a statewide drought emergency which asks all Californians to reduce their water usage by 20 percent. This drought is not solely limited to California, but is happening throughout the nation and worldwide. You know the importance of reduction, but still may be asking the question of how can I cut back?  Read full post>>



How do you use SmartDraw?  Did you use SmartDraw to one of your home improvement projects?  I’d love to hear your story.  I’m always intrigued to find out how other members of the SmartDraw community are using it.  Send me an email at rjbitner@smartdraw.com or comment below.

Protect Your Family: Create a Family Emergency Plan


You may not be with your loved ones when a disaster strikes, that’s why it’s important to create a family emergency plan.   A few years ago, I decided that I was going to take the initiative to create my family’s emergency plan.  I spent several weeks reviewing the information made available online by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross.  As my research continued, I began to gather emergency supplies from bright red backpacks to first aid kits to hand-crank radio flashlights.

By the holidays, I had assembled enough emergency backpacks for each household in my family throughout the state of California.   The diagrams that I will be sharing with you in this week’s post are the diagrams from my family’s emergency plan that were printed on heavy weight card stock paper and included in the backpacks. Note: The names and contact information found in the diagrams have been modified. 


Establish Family Meeting Points  Discuss with your family, or members of your household, how to prepare and respond to emergencies that may take place where you live, work, and play.

In case you are separated during an emergency,  the American Red Cross recommends that you identify TWO places to meet:

  • Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire
  • Outside your neighborhood in case you are unable to return or are asked to evacuate

Determine Exit Routes  Below is the evacuation plan for my previous residence.  Primary and secondary exit routes have been identified and noted in the floor plan diagram.  If you have elderly, children, or pets it’s important to ensure that their special needs are met and that a member of the household is assigned to the task.

condo floor plan4SmartDraw Tip: To create this diagram, several layers were used.  In order to identify the elements of the emergency plan into the floor plan diagram, an additional layer was created.  To create a new layer, navigate to the Page Ribbon.  In the Layers drop-down menu, select New Layer.   In the Add a New Layer dialogue box, enter the appropriate name in the Name field.  Click OK.  The name of the new Layer will appears below the Work Area.  


Identify an Out-of-Town Contact It’s important to identify an out-of-town emergency contact person.  During an emergency, you may find it easier to text or call long distance if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service.  Everyone should have the information in writing or programmed in their cell phones.  The “How to Use the Household Phone Tree” flowchart diagram (below) outlines detailed instructions for two urgent scenarios: (a) family news or (b) emergency.

Create a Family Phone Tree  Although the concept of having a phone tree can easily be resolved with a simple status update to any number of social media sites or group text message, there are a number of relatives in my family who are not quite tech savvy.  For instance, several of them have feature phones.  The term “feature phone” refers to any mobile phone that is not a smartphone.

How to use Phone Tree1

SmartDraw Tip: Two fill types were used in the flowchart diagram.  The blue start/end symbols are shaded in.  The dark grey symbols are colored in solid.  To shade in a symbol, begin by selecting the shape.  In the Home Ribbon, navigate to the Fill drop-down menu and select the appropriate color.  The color will automatically fill according to the theme that is applied to the shape.  To color the shape in solid, simply repeat the shade in procedures using the same color.

PhoneTree3SmartDraw Tip: This particular diagram was created from an Org Chart template.  In order to convey that certain households had only one contact, I create “ghost” symbols.  To create a “ghost” or blank symbol, begin by selecting the appropriate shape.  Navigate to the Fill drop-down menu and select white.  In the Effects drop-down menu, navigate to the Shadow drop-down menu and select No Outside Shadow.  Lastly, in the Line drop-down menu navigate to the Thickness option and select None.  


Devise a Plan to Leave Town  Determine where you and your family would go and what route you would take to get there.  You may choose a particular hotel, friends or relatives to stay with or go to an evacuation shelter.  As a best practice, the American Red Cross recommends that you practice your evacuation plan twice a year.  They recommend that you and your family drive your planned route and plot alternative routes in case roads are impassable.

Since my relatives live and work in close proximity to one another, I thought it would be beneficial to plot everyone’s locations.  As noted in the diagram, each family member is to ensure that family member in their respective areas have transportation prior to leaving their work or home.  When I created the diagram, I was able to capture live data from Google Maps with the option to display roads, terrain, and even satellite images.  SmartDraw also has the ability to plot locations automatically with a simple data import.


SmartDraw Tip: A table was added to a Data Map to create the diagram above.  In the Left Panel of the Category Screen select Maps.  In the Maps Sub-Category menu select Data Maps. In the SmartPanel, click Select Map.   To create the map, enter the appropriate address, zip or location name into the Search field.  Click Go.  Using the Format controls modify the map.  Click Import to SmartDraw.  

To add a table, navigate to the Table Ribbon.  Select the appropriate values in the Rows and Columns drop-down menus.  Click the Tables control and the table will appear in the Work Area.  Click and drag the table to the appropriate location.


There’s a lot to consider when developing an emergency plan which is why I pulled together information from FEMA and the American Red Cross to create this checklist.  Learn more about SmartDraw’s Emergency & Disaster Planning templates, take a look at a previous post entitled, “Do You Have an Emergency Evacuation Plan?

Emergency Checklist_pg1

Emergency Checklist_page2



How to Enhance Your Bathroom Lighting

https://static.pexels.com/photos/65055/pexels-photo-65055.jpegBathroom lighting slowly eases you from sleep to awake, allows you to complete your daily grooming rituals, and can comfort you as you unwind after a long day.  But bathroom lighting can be neglected, and a poorly lit bathroom can be a dim way to start your day.  In this week’s post, I’ll share with you what we learned about lighting during our two most recent home renovation projects.   Keep in mind that this information can be applied to lighting in any room in your home.

If you’d like to learn about our renovation projects you can read, “3 ‘Must Have’s’ for Planning Your Bathroom Renovation” and “12 Remodeling Tips for Your Master Bath Retreat.”



Know the size of the space.

It’s important to provide the appropriate amount of light for the size of the room.  We actually found several formulas online as to how to determine the amount of lights in a room.  In addition, we relied on the experience of our contractors to help guide us in some of the final decision making when it came to the placement and amount of lighting for the space.

room lighting6

SmartDraw Tip: To automatically calculate the area of a room, first select the room.  Navigate to the Design Ribbon, select Dimensions.  In the Show Dimensions dialogue box, navigate to the Area Display section.  You have the following three options: The Area of the Shape, The Width and Height of the Shape, or None.  Click OK.  


Keep in mind where your natural light comes from.

Take note of where the windows are located and how much light is let in.  Pay attention to large plants or trees that may partially block the sun’s natural rays.  It’s also important to consider both daytime and nighttime lighting when choosing lights.

Just outside our guest bath we have two large palm trees.  Fortunately,  the morning sunlight has no problem brightening up the room.  On the other hand, our master bath receives afternoon light.  In comparison, our master bath has more lighting than the guest bath to compensate for the amount of light and the size of the room.

Customize lighting to your unique preferences.

Whether I’m stumbling to use the restroom in the middle of the night or getting up early for my morning workout, I’ve always dreaded turning on the lights in the bathroom after going from a room of complete darkness. In the dark, our eyes dilate to take in as much light as possible in order to see.  Depending on whether we’ve close our blackout shades in our master bedroom, the amount of time it takes for my eyes to adjust varies.

eyes_light conditions

SmartDraw Tip: There are a number of Template Categories available in SmartDraw.  They can easily be accessed from the Category Screen when you first open SmartDraw.  This particular diagram was built upon an existing sample diagram found in the Healthcare Category.  To save time, I simply entered the search criteria of “eye” in the Search field and pressed the Enter key.  Using the Previous and Next navigation arrows, I scrolled through the sample diagrams until I discovered the appropriate diagram.  

In order to customize the sample diagram, I selected the eye then navigated to the Design Ribbon.  In the Design Ribbon’s Group drop-down menu, I selected Ungroup Objects.  The keyboard shortcut is Shift+Ctrl+G.   With the object ungrouped I was able to manipulate the diagram to meet my needs.  


Our solution was to customize the lighting as well as the lighting controls in our master bathroom.  I may be a morning person but that doesn’t mean I don’t need time to adjust and get oriented.  With that in mind, we designed the light switches in ascending order from the doorway.  When I get up, I just reach for the first light switch located closest to the door.


SmartDraw Tip: You can easily apply effects, such as a shadow,  to any object within a diagram.  First, select the object you wish to modify.  In the Home Ribbon, select the Effects control.  Then, navigate to the type of effect you wish to apply to the object.  In this case, I selected Shadow which then displayed a sub-menu from which to select the appropriate option.  



Multiple light sources balances a room by minimizing shadows and glare, while adding dimension and depth.  We used light layering to maximize the appearance and functionality of the space.  Here are the floor plan diagrams that enabled us to easily explain to our contractors: where we’d like the lighting to be installed as well as how it should be wired to the light switch panel.

all lights

SmartDraw Tip:  You my notice that the light in the diagram is transparent.  To achieve this, select the object you wish to make transparent.  In the Home Ribbon, select the Fill control.  Navigate to the Transparency bar in the Fill drop-down menu.  Select the appropriate percentage.  Repeat the process until you achieve your desired level of transparency.

fill menu

Task Lighting

Task lighting adds brightness to areas of the room where daily tasks are performed.  It prevents eyestrain and enhances clarity to tasks such as shaving and applying make-up.  Effective task lighting should be free of glare and shadows.  Through the use of the vanity lighting and the combined night light and light provided by the ventilation fan we were able to achieve proper task lighting.

task lights1

SmartDraw Tip:  Arrows not only provide direction they also function as labels.  To prevent the arrows from snapping into place, lock the object(s) in the diagram or create them in a different layer.  I chose to lock objects.  First, select the object or objects you with to lock.  Then, right + click to display the menu.  In the menu, select Lock Object.  (Note: In order to unlock an object, simply right + click on the object. In the menu, select Lock Object.  The object you originally selected will no longer be locked).  

In the Home Ribbon, select Line.  In the Line drop-down menu, select Line.  Draw the line in the Work Area.  Navigate to the Home Ribbon’s Shape Style group and select Line.  In the Line drop-down menu you will have the option to select the type of arrowhead(s).  In addition, you may also choose to modify the thickness of the arrow.  Select the appropriate options.  


Ambient Lighting  

Ambient, or general, lighting provides an area with overall illumination. We incorporated ambient lighting by installing recessed lights.  They provide a comfortable level of brightness without glare.

One term you’ll hear when shopping for your recessed lighting is “trim.” Trim refers to the visible part of the light and should reflect your individual style.  First, we selected the size.  Trims range from 3″ to 6″ in diameter.  The size of the trim is personal preference; however, larger sized trims are able to produce broader amount of light.  Smaller trims are less conspicuous and are considered to be a more modern contemporary look.  We decided to install (1) 6″ and (2) 4″ lensed trims since they are designed to protect the bulb and the interior of the housing from moisture or taking direct hits of water.


Accent Lighting

Accent, or directional, lighting is used to highlight certain objects or features.  It’s not meant as a focal point but rather to work without being seen.  Our accent lighting was provided by the vanity lights installed directly above each mirrored medicine cabinet.


3 "Must Haves" for Planning Your Bathroom Renovation

Purchased Image iStock_000007455255Medium

Together my husband and I have not only installed interior and exterior doors in our home, we’ve replaced, spackled, sanded, caulked, and painted everything from baseboards to trim to interior walls.   We enjoy working on projects together.  So, for our 1st anniversary as Mr. & Mrs., we decided to opt out of a vacation to renovate our guest bathroom.  Though we were excited about our first bathroom renovation, it also brought us some anxiety.   And although we’re no strangers to DIY home improvement projects, we knew we would need some help.  So we decided to hire a general contractor.


Having managed projects involving the selection and management of vendors before, I knew that I wanted the screening process to run as smooth as possible.   I wanted these appointments to be thorough but require the least amount of time.  Before scheduling the appointments, we decided what our requirements would be for the guest bath.  So, I figured why not have the information ready?  By providing the handout, we had more time to focus on specific questions and concerns as well as an opportunity to gauge their level of customer service.   The handout was issued at the start of each appointment.

Must Have #1: General Contractor Handout

1_Contractor Appointment

General Contractor Handout included:

  • Dimensions of the current floor plan
  • Overview of bathroom renovation ideas and expectations
  • Area to take notes and  enter their own measurements

SmartDraw Tip: The symbol libraries in SmartDraw contain more than 5,000  professionally designed symbols, images and clip art. With that many symbols, you can create this diagram in minutes.  Just watch this video.


What I didn’t expect is that with each appointment came more and more ideas of what to do with our guest bathroom renovation.  Ideas are great to have. But too many ideas can be a bit overwhelming.  From the endless photos of bathroom renovations we found online to the ideas that came from each appointment, we wanted a way to keep it simple.    After we narrowed it down to our top 3 favorites, we thought it would be best to see what the flow and function of the 3 designs would be in the actual space.  So, I jumped onto SmartDraw and created this to scale brainstorm of bathroom renovation ideas.

Must Have #2: Bathroom Design Brainstorm

1_Guest Bath Options

Bathroom Design Brainstorm included:

  • Original floor plan
  • Each floor plan design
  • Duration required for each design

SmartDraw Tip: Use the Ctrl key + D key to duplicate an object.  In other words, if you’re a keyboard shortcut user, this command replaces the need to use Ctrl+C to copy and Ctrl+V  to paste.  To create the Bathroom Design Brainstorm simply duplicate the original floor plan as needed.  Then use the Design Ribbon to align and space the floor plans evening.  Click here to learn how to align, rotate, and group.

It was clear to both of us which design we wanted to go with once we viewed it in SmartDraw.   Fortunately, each general contractor also provided estimates on how long each one of their ideas would take.  The Bathroom Design Brainstorm diagram not only allowed us to choose a design, we also chose our contractor based on their estimated time of delivery and availability.  It was that easy.


One of the reasons we chose to work with our general contractor is that we had the freedom to buy all of the materials opposed to being limited to a set inventory of materials.  To aide in the effort, we were assigned an interior designer. She came with ideas that were based on our design requirements and brought us to their preferred suppliers who were not available to the general public.  She was there through every step of the purchasing process which was a huge relief. Although we had the freedom to take our time in designing our new guest bathroom, we knew that our general contractor wouldn’t break ground until all materials were on-site.  With that said, it was important that we purchased and ordered what we needed as soon as possible.

On the morning of our first shopping day, I was so excited to see what we would find.   I jumped onto SmartDraw to create a quick checklist, just like I would if I we were going grocery shopping.  I was confident that our designer knew what we were going to need to purchase but I didn’t want to leave anything to chance.  My husband and I also wanted to make sure that we stayed within budget and that we would get the items delivered in a reasonable amount of time.  From the design showrooms to the endless lighting and fixtures displays there was so much to take in.

Must Have #3: Items to Add/Remodel Checklist

1_Materials Shopping List

Items to Add/Remodel Checklist included:

  • List of items to add or remodel
  • Floor plan including dimensions
  • Tracking information such as vendor, price, and delivery date

SmartDraw Tip: Use Ctrl+C to copy the design from the Bathroom Design Brainstorm. Then use Ctrl+V to paste it into the Items to Add/Remodel Checklist.  You can add a Table or Form to any template in SmartDraw.  Learn more about Tables or Forms.

During our visit to the stone and tile showroom, the checklist proved to be a necessity .  Once we selected our floor, bath, and accent tiles, the next step was to place the order.  We just looked at the floor plan on our checklist and calculated the amount we needed. It was that simple.

In the end it took 3 days to shop, 2 weeks for the remodel, and 1 additional week for the mirrors to arrive and be installed.  We love our new guest bathroom and can’t wait to have our first house guests.

When you’re ready to get started on your next home or bathroom renovation, you’ve got to try these 3 renovation “must-haves.”  They’ll make your renovation process a whole lot easier.


Before getting started take a look at 12 Remodeling Tips for Your Master Bath Retreat to see what’s entailed when you gut out a bathroom only to re-imagine the entire space.  Not only did we use floor plans, we found elevation diagrams to play an integral role in the design and execution of the project.

In addition, before you head out to the home improvement warehouses or lighting showrooms you may want to read How to Enhance Your Bathroom Lighting. This information is not room specific and can easily be applied to any room in your home.



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