Apartment hunting is difficult and stressful, but proper preparation can make the process much easier. Before you embark on your apartment search, think about what it is you are looking for and what you need. Then, as you look for an apartment to rent you will know when you have found the right apartment for you.
Make a list of your wants and needs, and take it with you as you hunt for an apartment. Also, as you look at what is out there in your market area, adjust this list as you think of new ideas, and to adjust for the realities of what is available and your budget.
Decide Where You Want To Live
The first thing is to choose the rental locations where you want to live. You may already have an idea of these areas based on your job, friends, schools, recreation, etc. If not, you need to do some self-examination and research.
Location Is Important – What Do You Want In The Area?
First think about what is important to you. What is your lifestyle? Do you like peace and quite, or to be where the action is? Do you have kids? What about schools? Where do you work? What kind of commute can you tolerate? Do you want nearby shops and restaurants? Do you like to walk or use your car?
What Areas Of Town Appeal To You?
Are there specific areas of town that appeal to you? Do you like to be in or near downtown, city neighborhoods, urban villages, suburbs or rural areas? What kind of "character" do you like in a neighborhood? This really comes down to what kind of life style you will have when you live in your rental.
Think about where you and your family members work and go to school. These are things you do every day, so having an apartment rental that is accessible to your job or school can make a huge difference. Consider the time and cost it takes to commute, as well as issues such as traffic and rush hour. If you have kids, think about how you will get to school or day care if they are sick or need to leave early. Also, what activities and recreation will be a normal part of your day, such as trips to the gym, ball games, doctor, kids day care, swimming pool, beach and all your other favorite or regular activities.
As you think about commute, look at your public transportation options. Will it be important to have an apartment rental near a train or subway station? Is there city bus service? Will you have to transfer to get to/from frequent destinations? In the right location, public transportation can be very convenient and save you a lot of time and money.
Neighborhood and Apartment Amenities
What kind of amenities do you want in or nearby your rental? Many apartments offer swimming pools, exercise facilities or fitness center, roof top decks, private and shared yards, shared laundry facilities, child care, playground, furnished, covered/secured parking, high speed Internet access, and gated access. In the surrounding neighborhood, you may want to have shops, shopping malls, restaurants, hair and nail salons, fitness center, parks, beaches, and bike trails.
Kids and Apartments
If you have kids, location is a major consideration in your apartment search. Schools can be very important, so be sure to check out public and private schools at sites like www.greatschools.net. You may also want to look around the apartment building and neighborhood to see if there are other children in the area of the same age – not only is that a clue as to whether it is a good area for kids, but you might meet some good playmates once you move in.
Having kids may also mean you want to be near parks and recreation areas, as well as services such as schools, day care, toy stores, children's clothing shops and pediatricians. As you look at apartments, you may want an apartment unit that has space for a play area, and an apartment building that has a safe outdoor area for kids to play.
Safety and Security
Safety and security are major concerns in deciding where to live. When considering a city or neighborhood, look around for signs of how safe the area will be. Check out crime statistics at www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm, as well as local sources such as the city or county web site and newspapers. Even if crime is higher in an area, you may still want to live there for other reasons, but be sure you look for an apartment building that has good security, such as good lighting, secured parking and strong locks.
Decide What You Need In Your Apartment
In addition to location, you should make a list of what you want in your apartment unit and building. The following is a list of things to consider, and you should also think about what other things are important for you to have in your rental. Go through these and make a list of what you will want to find when you look for an apartment for rent. Take this list with you when you search for an apartment.
- How many people will be in the apartment, and how many bedrooms and baths do you need? Will a studio, efficiency unit or loft be enough, or do you need and apartment that has 2, 3 or more bedrooms?
- Do you want a master bedroom with a separate bath, or an apartment with more than one bathroom? If you have children (especially teenagers!), will be sharing an apartment or will have frequent guests, a second or even third bath can be very handy.
- What kind of kitchen do you need? Do you want a large kitchen where you can cook gourmet meals and entertain, or is an efficiency kitchen sufficient? Do you want an eat-in kitchen?
- Do you need a separate dining room?
- Do you need extra rooms for an office, play area, entertainment, games, etc?
- How much stuff do you have? How much needs to be in your apartment living area vs how much you would have in storage.
- Do you need an apartment building that has storage lockers? If so, how much space and for what kind of items?
- How many cars to you have, and how many need to be inside or in a secured parking area?
- How much furniture do you have and what type? Will you need a furnished apartment or will you need to rent furniture?
- Do you have pets and are you willing to limit your search to those apartments that take pets?
- If you have kids, do you need a play area and storage for toys.
- Do you need cable or satellite TV connections? Do you need high speed Internet access?
- What kind of outdoor space do you need? Would you like a deck, patio or yard area? If you like gardening, you may want a yard or a roof garden.
- Do you want to have recreational or fitness facilities in the apartment building? This could include a pool, exercise gym, tennis courts, jogging path, etc. Usually these are only found in larger apartment complexes.
- Do you want a view? Would you prefer a first floor apartment or something high up?
- Do you, a family member or friend have disabilities? Do you need wheelchair friendly apartment or other accessibility features? Check for wide doors and hallways (enough so you can turn around a wheelchair), accessible bathing and toilet facilities, and appropriate counter heights in the kitchen and bathrooms. Do you need room for a hospital bed and medical equipment and supplies? Also look for safety issues such as sharp corners, ledges, glass furniture or partitions, stairs, etc, especially if someone is prone to falling.
- Do you need senior living features, such as wheelchair access to all facilities, rails in hallways or in the apartment, transportation services, social activities, meal services and caregiver access.
Be Realistic – Prioritize Your Needs vs Wants
After you have made your list of wants and needs for an apartment rental, you will need to prioritize your list. As you look at apartments, it may be hard to find or afford the perfect match, so be prepared to make some compromises.
Take your list of apartment needs, and list them in priority order. Mark those that you think are absolutely necessary, and those that you could live without.
Now that you have a prioritized list of what you need in an apartment, your next step is to determine your budget for an apartment rental. This will help you to focus your apartment search on what you can afford. Consider also reading up on preparing for you apartment move. Then, you will be ready to look for apartments for rent.