We can all agree that our housing choices are deeply personal decisions that we do not make lightly. I’ve been a renter for nearly a decade at various properties at different price points and styles. Those personal experiences along with the knowledge I’ve gained working in the multi-family housing industry have provided me with a much deeper understanding of what we, as renters, need to consider when choosing an apartment home. Whether you’re searching for your first apartment home or are unhappy and searching for a different apartment, these six important factors to consider when apartment hunting will serve you well.
There are two obvious factors that are important, but I’m not discussing simply because they are either fixed or out of the renter’s control. These are the amount you can pay and availability in the market. Don’t spend so much money on your apartment you can’t enjoy daily life (not even college kids enjoy eating ramen noodles every day – I can tell you from experience). You also can’t control what is available to rent in your area. Automatically rule out any apartments complexes that are out of your price range or have no availability for your target move date.
6 Important Factors to Consider When Apartment Hunting
Have adequate bedrooms and bathrooms. Consider if you need an office space, somewhere for visitors to stay, somewhere to put your massive comic book or guitar collection, etc. Make sure you keep this restricted to what you need, not what you want. If you can afford some excess space to play around with, consider that later once you’ve visited properties and determined their price range.
I’ve heard more than one resident mention to me during my career that they are moving because it turns out the commute wasn’t something they could deal with. Be realistic with yourself when it comes to how long you’re willing to spend to get to work, the grocery store, your favorite hangout spot, and the like. I have a coworker who tells me in CA she spent an hour (sometimes more) commuting everyday, and that was normal. Comfortable commute times, as well as what a resident wants to be close to, will vary person to person. It’s important to ensure the locations of the properties you consider will work with your lifestyle and interests.
The staff at your property make a huge difference in your living experience. Go with your gut instinct on whether or not the leasing professional you’re working with genuinely cares about your needs. Someone who seees you as just another commission may not be motivated to find the right fit for you. Also, remember these are they people you’ll have to talk to in the future for any problems with your home. You’ll want to be comfortable knowing that they take any concerns you have seriously.
DISCOUNTS!! Most properties will have incentives to get you to choose their property and move in as soon as they can get you to sign the paperwork. Always ask about specials when touring a property. They can either be off of upfront costs (application fees, deposits, etc) or your monthly rent, but either way they certainly are tempting. Remember that any specials you get when you move in will likely disappear if you renew. Rent will almost always go up when you renew. The property’s costs will go up yearly, and those get passed on. They’re great moving in, but don’t rely on them for long-term financial breaks.
Be honest with yourself on this one. My mistakes, for instance, were insisting on having a fireplace and a balcony. How many times have I lit a fire? Zero times. How many times have I sat on that balcony? Zero times. My butt is inside on the couch watching the Food Network with the electric heat running. I love my apartment. BUT I may have approached the process differently if I thought about things realistically instead of idealistically. Don’t shell out more money for features that you can’t honestly see yourself using just because they sound fun or fancy.
On the flip side, some features make all the difference. You may regularly use an outside space, so absolutely narrow down options to those with a patio or balcony. One of my dealbreakers was a lack of washer/dryer connections (no more commuting to wash my clothes, thank you). I didn’t even look at apartments without them. Other things to consider are flooring (carpet or no?), floor level (stairs or no?), finishes (standard or luxury, such as laminate or granite countertops), or view (city, scenic, or parking lot?).
What other fun things do the properties in your area offer? Amenities include areas like a fitness center, business center, sports courts, pool, pet parks, etc. These help build the value of the apartment you choose because they affect your lifestyle and perhaps your wallet. Maybe an apartment is slightly above your price range, but having that fitness center means you can cancel your gym membership. In that case, more of your monthly income is freed up and you may find it worth it to reallocate that gym money into your housing budget.
What factors are most important to you when choosing an apartment? Comment below!
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