Apartments for Low Income

Questions and Answers

Your Questions About Efficiency Apartment Plans

July 3, 2012

David asks…

What is a reasonable monthly electric bill for an efficiency apartment in Houston?

I have never had an apartment to myself before but am getting one now, and am not sure how much to budget for electricity. I’ve been told anywhere from $70-200 a month. The apartments I’m looking at are between 400-600 square feet, and I do not have a TV and shut my computer down when not using it, don’t leave lights on, etc., and plan to use a fan rather than AC when possible. What can I expect to pay, ballpark?
I’m assuming that the stove is electric, so no gas bill. And the apartments I’m looking at wouldn’t have washer/dryer in the apartment.

Administrator answers:

I live in Houston too and Im sure you know living in Houston in the summer time can be torture! It can get well into the 100s with the humidity. Have to factor in what will be electric and what is gas in the apartment. Is the stove and dryer gas or electric? Fan will use electricity too and i can promise you that you will want your ac on during the summer time.

I would say somewhere between 150-200 is what i would budget for. Better to budget to high and have money left over than not have enough. I have had electric bills in the $200 range before for a one bedroom one bath apartment so it can happen.

Now in the winter time your electric bill will go down but the gas bill will go up (if you have one)

Make sure with the apartment that the stove is electric. That alone can raise your bill a lot if you like to cook and cooking is way cheaper than eating out all the time. I still say you should budget 150-200 and if its less a few months than thats greats but I do think that it will get in the high 100 during the summer if not in the low 200s.

Ruth asks…

How should I proceed if I can’t get an apartment? I should just give up the divorce idea right?

I checked this week into getting a tiny cheap efficiency apartment. They asked a few questions and came back with the fact that I have excessive home loans in my name…can’t rent to me…I said i would be selling the homes. dividing things with my husband.

I don’t want to live with the hostility at home when i say I want to seperate. I literally can’t get away!

I need a plan. If I can’t get an apartment until I sell my home I will have to go into my 401k and use the money each month for the payment. (mortgage amount is what I earn each month). my car is worn out now almost and I can’t get the car loan either as I don’t earn enough according to the bank…used cars here I come…

my spouse is interviewing even as I type this and will probably be taking a position in another state. truley it feels like I am just getting out of college have no money everything is closed off to me for financial reasons. There is no where in my budget for health Ins. I am just ranting
thank you…I have good credit. I just earn a low income. It’s called the Social Service field.

Administrator answers:

Depending on your state, you may be required to have a residence separate from your husband, to be granted a divorce. His moving out of state, however, makes this easy.

As it stands, it appears that you and your husband took out a larger-than-the-two-of-you-could-handle mortgage (or, after you took the loan, your income decreased). Which is why it’s always a good idea to take out a lower mortgage than you can handle.

OK, that ship has sailed. Now what?

First, ensure that your husband is contributing his share to the mortgage.

Second, do get the house on the market ASAP. You can continue to live in it.

As a contingency on the sale of your home, let the sellers know that you’ll want 30-60 days, after the sale, to rent-back.

When you get a buyer, THEN start applying for apartments. Let the landlord know that you’ve received a ratified contract for the sale of your home, but have not yet closed. Request that you be granted an apartment, subject to a successful closing. After the sale, you’ll have piles of cash. The landlord will like that.

Worst comes to worse, you can pay the first few months of rent from your 401(k), until the house sells. Not usually a great idea, but if it’s for 2-4 months, it’s worth it.

Ken asks…

Planning a remodel: how do I know whether I can remove a wall or not?

I want to make part of my house into an efficiency apartment that I can rent out. To make it nice I would need to move some walls. But how do I know if the existing walls are weight bearing or not?? I assume that would greatly influence the cost and difficulty of moving them. If they’re NOT essential to the structure of the house, I can probably know them down and build the new ones myself, eh?

Administrator answers:

Just try it, if the house collapses or other walls fall down, then you probably shouldn’t have knocked down the wall you chose =)

Mandy asks…

I own a tri-plex. Two units are occupied and one has been empty for over a year. May I claim a full year lose?

The main reason the unit is vacant is that the electric and heat for this unit supplies the efficiency apartment. I have paid for both the electric and gas this year. I also travel 88 miles to service all units and resolve issues. I plan to have my taxes prepared but want to make sure I receive all tax breaks that are legal. Thank you in advance for your advice.

Administrator answers:


I am not sure who has been providing you tax advice over the years….There is no claim for loss of occupancy. You basically deduct all costs, including electric, gas and travel expenses and mortgage costs, interest, from gross income. You will also have a depreciation allowance based upon structure depreciation.
See a tax professional and not rely upon DIY computer program. I have found good and skilled tax preparers at major mass franchise marketers like H & R Block.

Nancy asks…

How to drape fabric from ceiling Moroccan style?


I am moving into my first apartment. It is a small one bedroom efficiency. I am trying to furnish it cheaply and searching on the web I found a great idea. Moroccan styel!

I plan to use the idea to make a tent out of the living space by adding fabric to the cieling like at this website:,,HGTV_3522_1385596,00.html

Because it is an efficiecy I would like to know how I can do the fabric draped from the ceiling?
I have another really good link too for what I am trying to do:,2041,DIY_14074_2269926,00.html

How do I put up curtain rods all over? Im trying to do it on three walls.
By the way if I do go wtih the staple method, how badly would it damage the walls because this is a rental? Are there any ways to do this without damaging the walls?

Administrator answers:

OK! You will need a lot of tacks or a staple gun. And a hook in the middle of the ceiling. From that it is fairly easy…But if you do not want to mess up your walls and ceiling, I would suggest going simple and use curtain rods to drape the fabric along the walls. Remember that fabric will be expensive!

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