Before you set out to hunt for an apartment, it helps to make an apartment wish list of your must-haves and like-to-haves. Once you begin looking at units, you’ll probably shift your priorities as price and reality set in, but it’s better to go in with an idea of what you want than to let a building manager talk you into a lease you might regret. If you ask yourself the following questions as you begin your search, you’ll be better able to recognize right away whether a place is really right for you. This will save you time and land you in a place that’s truly a good fit for your lifestyle.
1. How big a place do you need?
Ask yourself if you really need two bedrooms, or if a roomy loft with an open floor plan would be just as good. Can you get by with just one bathroom? Can you fit a workspace into your living room, or do you require a more serious home office (maybe because you work from home full-time)? Most apartments are smaller than houses, but if properly designed they can offer lots of nooks and crannies for creative storage. Look at layouts and visit a few apartments before you set your space requirements in stone.
2. How well do you sleep?
If you’re a light sleeper, give careful consideration to the bedroom: Does it share a wall with another apartment—one that could be home to a noisy night owl? Will sunlight pour in at an early hour? If so, can you fix these potential problems with proper furniture placement, heavy blinds or other work-arounds?
3. Do you entertain at home?
Is the apartment’s layout conducive to the kind of entertaining you like to do? Or is it so small that you could only invite a couple of friends over at a time? Is the apartment near your friends? Are you working long hours and more likely to socialize outside the home than in it? If so, is your place near the kind of nightlife you like?
4. How do you feel about overnight guests?
Do you host a lot? Or as little as possible? Where will guests sleep? If you’re considering a one-bedroom, can you fit a sleeper sofa in the living room? Will that setup work for your guests, or do you really need a second bedroom? Is there ample street parking or a paid lot your guests can use?
5. What kind of neighborhood suits you?
Do you thrive on excitement and want to come home to a vibrant area full of restaurants and nightlife? Or do you like proximity to parks where you can calm down after a busy day? Maybe you fall somewhere between these two and would like to live near the retail hub of a residential area so you can walk to coffee shops and restaurants but still live in peace and quiet. Ask yourself whether the apartments you like are available in the type of neighborhood that suits you.
6. How much is an in-house gym worth to you?
Is it worth something to you to live in a building with a gym, a pool and a bit of a social scene? Or would you rather live in a building with basic services and look elsewhere for your workout and social life? Many developers have created complexes packed with amenities—sports facilities, community rooms with big-screen TVs and kitchens, extra storage, covered parking, even wine storage. These upscale buildings typically cost more, so think through whether it’s worth it to you.
7. How safe is the apartment?
If you’re concerned about safety, you may want to look for an apartment without easy exterior entry, like a balcony door or ground-floor windows. Or you may feel safer in a building with a 24-hour concierge or a gated entry that makes note of who is coming and going.
8. Are you free to decorate?
Many rental apartments feature standard-issue white or beige paint and unobjectionable but uninteresting bathrooms. Are you allowed to paint, hang art and maybe even install carpeting so the place feels more like yours? Depending on your landlord, your handiwork may be seen as a voluntary upgrade—or a nuisance that’ll cost you your deposit.
9. Which appliances do you use most?
If you like to host dinner parties, you may want to prioritize an apartment with a dishwasher. If you’re more a cereal-for-dinner type, you may not care so much. Similarly, think about your laundry habits. Will a couple of loads once a week take care of it, or do you tend to run a load of laundry more days than not? Considering your own rhythms will help you decide what’s really important to have in your own unit.
10. Would your stuff look at home here?
You generally know you’ve found the right place when you start picturing where your couch would go and you can’t stop thinking about how cool your favorite poster will look above the mantel. If you’ve begun mentally decorating, then you may have found The One….
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