December 31st, 2018
The stakes are high when you’re looking for a new apartment. This is going to be your home, after all. You want it to be perfect. But no two people have the same “perfect.” The best apartment guide is a thorough inventory of your wants and needs, so ask yourself these questions to identify yours.
There’s no quicker path to misery than being stressed about money every month. Account for your dependable income and all your fixed monthly expenses. Look back through past months to come up with a good estimate for the averages on things that vary, such as groceries, gas, and entertainment. Account for savings, emergencies, long-term purchases. Then give yourself some breathing room. Only then should you set a budget for rent. Check yourself with an online rent calculator like this one.
Map the places where you go most frequently and start your apartment search outward from the most central point. The minutes that travel consumes out of every day add up fast. And every minute you can take back is time you can probably use better. You’ll pay more for central locations, so putting together your apartment guide involves tradeoffs. You might need to give a little on the location or the size to stay in budget. Just be sure that location stays high in your priorities.
Every living situation is different, and only you know what’s best for you. Are you single, and want to live alone? Or would you be willing to take in roommates? Are you a couple or a family? Do you need an extra bedroom, or only want one? What are your storage and parking needs? Do you work at home? Some space needs are fixed, such as bedrooms for the number of people in your household, while others, such as storage, can be met in a variety of ways. Identify which space needs are absolute and which might be met with alternative solutions. The more flexibility you build into your apartment guide, the easier it will be to find something that successfully addresses all your needs.
As you hone in on your top candidates, learn all you can about how the management typically meets residents’ needs. Look for signs of good maintenance as you tour the complex—sidewalks and parking lot cleared in the winter, landscape in good shape in the summer, buildings well maintained year-round. Knock on a few doors or check with residents hanging around by the playground or pool to learn about response times when they put in a repair or service request.
What are your top priorities for amenities? Just because a complex offers a lot of them doesn’t mean those particular amenities will have value for you. Decide what matters most, and rank them in your apartment guide. Would a dog park be a game-changer? Common space where you can entertain larger groups? An on-site fitness center?
In the end, your happiness at home is an emotional response. You need to love an apartment just because you love it. Use these questions to build an apartment guide that steers you to the best candidates, and then you can let your heart lead you the rest of the way home.