Boy oh boy, time moves quickly! I’m entering my fourth year of living in an apartment (plus a few years in college apartments) and it’s been quite a series of changes. During the past four years, I’ve moved from North Carolina to Maine to Maryland and then moved apartments within Maryland! I’ve packed a ton of moving boxes and helped to scour so many websites during the apartment hunting process.
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Though purging, packing, and cleaning are very important parts of moving apartments, planning out your move and picking an apartment is definitely the hardest part. Let’s talk about some of the things you should plan out when apartment hunting.
1. Decide on a Moving Budget
Establishing a budget is a good way to set some early parameters when you start apartment hunting. However, keep in mind that your budget will probably change a little bit as you narrow down your search locations, learn about different neighborhoods, and decide on apartment amenities.
If you’ve already lived in the area, then you’re probably familiar with associated costs but, if you’re moving to a new area, you’re not going to be as familiar with costs and your budget might change a bit as you research options.
When creating your budget, keep in mind to set aside an amount for:
- Moving Costs, like cardboard boxes, a moving truck, bubble wrap, etc.
- Security Deposit
- Extra Payments for certain amenities, like parking, garages, pets, etc.
- Utilities and other extra bills
- First month purchases like cleaning supplies, furniture, kitchen gadgets and appliances, groceries, light apartment decorations, etc.
2. Consider Amenities: Necessary vs. Optional
Let’s talk amenities! This is both my favorite and least favorite category when apartment hunting. Amenities can make or break your apartment experience, but it’s also important to remember that you do not need every top-of-the-line appliance to have a good apartment experience. In some cases, you may actually be able to purchase a mini-version of an appliance you really enjoy having.
When thinking through amenities, it’s important to see what is an acceptable “standard” amenity and what’s considered a “luxury” amenity in your area. For example, in some cities, a shared laundry facility might be the standard, whereas other cities might consider in-unit laundry a standard amenities. These amenities could also be determined by your budget and the apartment building style you’re looking for.
When deciding what amenities are non-negotiable for you and where you might be flexible, take a look at the following and figure out what are the minimum amenities you need for comfortable living.
Community amenities can vary a bit but not as much as some of the other amenity categories. Some of these can seriously impact your rent, while others might almost be considered standard.
These are just some community amenities I’ve seen advertised while apartment hunting:
- Pool Access
- Fitness Center
- Business Center
- Barbecue Areas
- Community Garden
- Rooftop Access
- Shared Laundry Facilities
For me, in-unit amenities is what took up most of my attention! My husband and I refused to live in an apartment without in-unit laundry. That was a necessary amenity for us but that might not be the case for everyone, or it might depend on the location where you’re apartment hunting.
Here are some in-unit amenities I’ve seen advertised, either in the apartment description or in photos, while searching for apartments:
- In-Unit Laundry
- Large Windows or Floor-to-Ceiling Windows
- Hardwood Floors
- Patio or Balcony
Apartment amenities come in all shapes and sizes. Here are some additional amenities I’ve seen listed in apartment descriptions to give you an idea of what you can expect.
- Reserved Parking Spaces
- Reserved Garages
- Bike Storage
- Guest Parking
- Electric Vehicle Parking or Charging Stations
- Pet-Friendly Apartments
- Pet Washing Stations
- Car Washing Areas
One last note about amenities: if you’re finding that the minimum amenities you’re looking for are putting your rent prices at a higher level than you expected, then it might be necessary to rethink certain amenities. While it might seem daunting to live without certain amenities, it’s important to remember that most rents are just for a year at a time. Can you go without a “luxury” amenity for one year to save some money?
A note on laundry amenities for during your apartment hunting. Depending on the area you’re looking to move into, laundry is a big amenity that varies. Sometimes apartments come with laundry machines, sometimes they come with hookups but no machines, sometimes there are shared apartment laundry facilities, and sometimes…there are no apartment community laundry spaces!
Since laundry as an amenity tends to vary so much and it’s such a heavily used amenity, definitely pay attention to this amenity as you search for apartments. This is also an amenity that you could cut off to easily save some money. If you do decide to skip on in-unit laundry, then be sure to take a look around the apartment complex area to make sure there’s an affordable laundry service nearby.
Whatever you decide for laundry amenities, when looking at amenities during your apartment hunting, keep in mind that your lease will probably be for just a year at a time. If you can live without an amenity for a year to save money, remember that it would just be for a year!
3. Research the Neighborhoods
With your budget and amenities in mind, start your apartment hunting by researching various neighborhoods in the area you’re looking to move to. Figure out which neighborhoods are in line with your budget, which ones are less than your budget (and may allow you to save during the first lease), and which ones are out of your budget.
When researching neighborhoods, think about the following:
- Is there a grocery store nearby? If you don’t have a car, will you be able to walk to the store and get back to your apartment (with heavy groceries in hand) without too many bumps and issues?
- Is there a Target / Walmart / etc. nearby? When it’s time to buy or replace home essentials or you need a last-minute cleaning item, is there a store nearby where you can get these?
- How would your commute look like? Get on Google Maps and type in a potential apartment address and your job address to see how long your commute would be, whether walking, driving, or using public transportation. Make sure to change the arrival time to match when you need to arrive at work!
If you’re trying to reduce your car usage (or maybe not bringing one at all), then definitely check out WalkScore to explore the walkability of the area around your apartment. You can also use Google Street View or Google Satellite to explore how walkable the area would be!
ProTip: If you’re living in the center of a city, then a grocery cart or trolley is definitely the thing to get! Here are some Amazon best-sellers with amazing color options (some even have cute patterns for the carts)!
4. Explore Near-by Stores & Services
Part of your apartment search should be thinking through different life scenarios and what kind of stores you would need. At some point, you will need a last-minute item, whether it’s a cleaning product, a household essential (toilet paper, anyone?), or ingredient!
When apartment searching, keep in mind some of these last-minute needs and what kind of stores will be nearby to help with those last-minute purchases that Amazon can’t fulfill, even with Prime Membership!
Thinking through your store needs is especially important if you don’t have access to a car and will be walking around with groceries in hand or dragging furniture to your apartment.
Even with access to a car, take a look at your life and see if you have any specific or unique need. Do you need access to a specific doctor or hospital? Do you need to get specific types of food for you, your family, or your pet? When picking your apartments, make sure these needs are being met in your surrounding area.
Funny story, my partner asked me what I required from our apartment hunt and I said, as a joke, that Target needed to be walking distance. Well, guess what?! All of our apartments have since had a Target within walking distance! While this has not always been great for my wallet, it has been great for any last minute needs (like when we run out of a cleaning supply or when I needed a yellow shirt for a last-minute Halloween costume).
Whether you’re moving soon or you’re just casually testing the apartment-hunting waters, I hope this post helped to kickstart your apartment hunting and gave you ideas about what parts of the process you need to think through before committing to the apartment of your dreams.
Whether you’re living in the big city or closer to the suburbs, this are just a few of the things to keep in mind when searching for a new apartment.
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How to Search for Your First Apartment.