By Bailey Caldwell
When you are apartment searching, it can be tough to know what to prioritize. On one hand, a living space without updated amenities may be a dealbreaker for you. On the other hand, finding an apartment with a parking garage may be non-negotiable.
No matter your preference, the first step in apartment searching is to set a budget. Determine how much you’re willing to spend on a pad before you stumble on a place you love only to realize it's out of your price range." (or "only to realize it's more than you can afford" or similar)
From there, determine how important location is to you. Ask yourself if you’d prefer a smaller-sized unit in the heart of the city or a larger, newer apartment closer to the suburbs.
With that in mind, here are four things to consider about the location as you hunt for your new home.
Typically, the closer you live to a metropolitan area, the more the apartment will cost per square foot. As a general rule, you shouldn’t put more than 30 percent of your income toward housing. Take a hard look at your finances, and create a budget accordingly. Get a gauge for going rates in your desired renting market by using a rent estimator tool.
As you determine your finances, consider your options: would you rather live in a neighborhood that’s your third or fourth pick but spend less on housing? Or, would you prefer a smaller, more expensive apartment in an area of town you love? Depending on the stage of life you’re in, and how much money you make, determine if paying more upfront for a favored location is worth it to you.
As you shop around, calculate how far away each prospective apartment is from your work. Consider factors like rush-hour traffic or city congestion, and set a limit on how far you’re willing to commute for work.
If you don’t have a car or work in the heart of a city, see if there’s public transportation close by. Is there a bus stop or train station you can walk to each morning?
If you work remotely, think about how conducive space will be for success. If your complex is made of brick, will it make it difficult to get a strong internet connection? If your living room window is near a loud street, will it make it difficult to focus?
If you’re moving to a new area of town, evaluate the culture of the community. Is it family-friendly and more quiet, or more lively and full of a younger demographic?
Do some research on the various personalities of each community you’re interested in living. Visit the grocery store, gym, and parks you’d frequent if you lived there. Contemplate if you can see yourself happily assimilating there. W(And who knows—in doing so, you may find a location better-suited for your lifestyle!)
It’s also worth weighing how far away the location is from your family members. Even if you don’t visit them frequently (or don’t feel like you need to be close to family at this stage), think about whether you’ll need them close by in the upcoming years.
When identifying safe locations, analyze the number of property crimes in the area. See how often burglars break into cars or burglaries occur. Also, consider the number of vacancies in the area. If an area’s vacancy rate is high, it could suggest a high crime rate.
If you live alone, consider how safe you’ll feel walking alone to your car at night or taking your dog outside. How many street lamps light the path at night? Or, if you have a family of young kids, see if there are any busy roads or major freeways near your home.
In a similar vein to safety, it’s worth considering which school your children will attend. Research the school districts in your area and use that to guide your search as well.
Don’t Stop There!
Once you’ve found an apartment you like, consider the location of the unit itself within the complex. Is it located in the basement? Is it ground-level? If you’re moving with an infant or dog, how thick are the walls?
Think of the long-term effects of the move: how your new apartment will affect your lifestyle. Will you be able to afford vacations with your new budget? Will you feel strapped for cash each time a friend asks you to eat out?
Ultimately, the only person who can answer these questions is you! There’s no right or wrong answer, so choose an apartment based on what matters to you most. Happy hunting!