How to choose an apartment

6 minutes read | Posted on: Apr 20, 2023

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By: Smaya Anand

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Photo by Timothy Buck on Unsplash

Choosing a place to live is an important decision that can affect the quality of your life. Here are some things to consider when looking for an apartment, which can help you narrow down your choices until your selection is less overwhelming.

Budget

Almost everything on this list is affected by the budget that you have. Make sure to consider this carefully; if you overextend you may not be able to pay your rent, but get a place that’s too cheap and you may lose some of the features you’d wanted. A good rule of thumb is to choose a place that’s rent is one-third of your gross income (your income before tax).

Type of apartment

Think about what kind of apartment you want to have. This depends on your budget, the features you want, and the amount of roommates you have. Here’s a list of the general types of apartments:

  • Studio apartments are generally small with an open floor plan. The kitchen, bedroom, and living room are all combined into one room, with the bathroom in a separate room. They are an affordable type of apartment, though you do sacrifice some space for that. The average studio is around 600 square feet.

  • Micro apartments are studio apartments with even less space, as the name suggests. They’re usually less than 350 square feet, but they are even more affordable than studios.

  • Loft apartments are similar to studio apartments in that they also have an open floor plan. However, they are much larger, around 1,000-2,000 square feet, and they tend to have high ceilings, exposed brick, and large windows. They also tend to be much more expensive, not just for rent, but also because those big windows can make heating and cooling cost more.

  • Duplex/Triplex: This is a building with two or three units in it, respectively. This is a good option in between a studio apartment and a family home. However, in New York City, these terms refer to apartments with two or three floors, so keep that in mind.

  • Railroad Apartment: This is an apartment that has three or four connected rooms, to form a long, thin rectangle. They are usually found in smaller or older apartments. They are more affordable than other apartment styles, but have less light (especially in the middle), less space, and the buildings in which they are located tend to be older and without some amenities.

Location

Make sure to choose a neighborhood that fits your needs. Do you want somewhere quieter, or somewhere more urban? If you don’t have a car, or you live in a city where using a car is difficult, you will want to consider the closeness of your apartment to public transportation. If you do rely on a car, you will want to be close to major roads and highways. You should also consider which places you’d like to be close to, whether that’s your workplace, grocery stores, or schools.

Also, think about the location of your apartment within the building. Do you want to live in a lower floor, a middle floor, or an upper floor?

Lower apartments offer more accessibility, as you won’t have to climb stairs. You also don’t have to worry about disturbing your downstairs neighbors. You also will have lower utility bills in summer because cool air will stay lower. However, they are closer to the street, so there’s noise, and they aren’t as private and secluded as the upper floors. And that accessibility might stab you in the back, because these apartments are more likely to be targeted for a break-in, and pests are more likely to be on lower floors. They will have higher costs in winter, since hot air tends to rise. They also don’t offer the views that upper-floor apartments do. They are the most affordable apartments in the building because of all of those cons, though.

Middle apartments can offer a great middle ground between lower- and higher- floor apartments. You will have steadier temperatures year-round, though you won’t get as much of a seasonal break like you would in other apartments. There isn’t much street noise, but because you are surrounded by neighbors, you’ll have to be careful about them bothering you, or you bothering them, with noise. The climb up won’t be terrible, but there is a climb.

Necessary features

Think about what features are absolutely necessary for your apartment to have. For example, if you have a pet, you will need your apartment to be pet-friendly. If you have roommates or a family, you will probably need more than one bedroom, or even more than one bathroom. This will help you narrow down your choices.

Luxury features

You can also think about features you would like to have, but can do without. For example, many apartment buildings will have amenities like a fitness center or pool, which for many people is a plus. Things like in-unit laundry, rather than a shared laundry room, might also be nice to have. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of having a balcony.

Keep in mind that you probably won’t get an apartment with all of your luxury features– and you may not even get one with all of the necessities. The housing market is competitive and expensive, after all, especially if you live in a crowded area. But thinking about these things can be a good guideline when you’re picking.

Happy apartment hunting!

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