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Housing Pointers Big and Small

Updated on April 15, 2013

Finding that New Place: Your Next Apartment

So, your ready to move to a new place, or perhaps you are looking for your first place to live away from home. Looking for a great apartment is much more than just a fancy name or building. I certainly found this out when I went apartment hunting when I moved to the Portland, OR area.

Some things to look out for are fairly obvious, and major, and some are small and often overlooked, but can turn into big things, so it's important to look at the small stuff, too, when looking for an apartment.

The location is, of course, the first concern. Of course, you don't want to be too far from your place of employment, especially if gas is expensive and rising even more in price. Being in the same city is preferable, the same neighborhood, better, and within walking distance would be ideal. But do bear in mind, that other factors can retard or negate the advantages of being close to work.

  • If you are transferred or change jobs, you may find yourself living far from your workplace anyhow.
  • The rent, which is most likely the other chief concern, may be so high as to negate any kind of savings from a short commute to work.
  • The neighborhood or apartment community may not be the best.
  • Finally, it may be convenient to work, but not to anything else, such as stores, malls, hospitals, entertainment, and other amenities.

So, when checking out the location, consider it's condition and the proximity of amenities as well.

The internet is a great source of information and you can easily look at many apartments very quickly through various apartment hunting websites. I did this just before I made the move to the Portland area. And yes, I found several apartments, one of which looked really great.

Any apartment that looks promising on the web or in a publication must be visited in personĀ and the landlord spoken with!

I cannot emphasize this enough. The great looking apartment community that I saw on the web, did look great in person when I visited, but the location was not as pedestrian friendly as I would have liked, the freeway was too close, it was in a more crowded section of town, and I'm not sure I would have gotten along with the manager.

Which brings us to the next subject, the prospective landlord. When I was apartment hunting, I saw a number of promising apartments, but did not accept them because of attitudes expressed by the prospective landlords. Oh, they weren't unpleasant to me, but some things that they did do and say, told me that they might take too hard a line in certain circumstances, or might have onerous rules. One manager told me he would not hold an apartment for me more than a couple of days, absolutely no exceptions! Another, while showing me an apartment, noticed some Christmas ligts still on another apartment. She gruffly said that she'd tell them something. This was a few weeks after Christmas. Of course, you never know if a landlord, or anyone else will 'turn' on you later, but if they already show a tendency to see you as a rent defaulter even before you've even rented from them, you may want to go somewhere else.

Also in the visit, check the condition of the community, both in the apartment and outside of it. An apartment may have just been thoroughly cleaned for a prospective tenant to see, but the building may have cracks in the outside, the grass may be brown or overgrown, and the parking lot may have potholes.

Also, when viewing the apartment, be sure to try all the faucets, including the shower, flush the toilet, and try out all the lights and any appliances. And, try opening the cabinets quickly. If there are roaches, you'll likely see them skatter.

If you have a car or are planning on getting one, or plan on having visitors who drive, then parking is an issue. Many prospective renters don't pay much attention to this. Is the parking assigned, or is it first come first serve? Is there guest parking? Garages or covered parking? And how is entry/egress vis a vis the street? Is there street parking?

Then, of course, there is the rent, and what it includes. I found that some apartment communities will give you much more bang for the buck than others, even though their rents may be similar.

One complex may have a rent level of $500 for a one bedroom. There is a balcony, but no secured mailboxes, no washer and dryer in the apartment, no covered parking, no cable, no street parking, and limited guest parking.

Another complex, which has a one bedroom going for $600, includes free basic cable TV, a washer and dryer in the apartment, assigned covered parking, ample guest parking, lots of street parking, direct access to a park next door to the complex, and more secure mailboxes. Also, the complex is more parklike itself and is better maintained.

These amenities make the $600 apartment a better deal.

Then, there is the layout. This can have a big impact. I've seen apartments that have no doors on the closets. The apartments were just made that way. Some have less window area than others. Some have better views, or better placement of rooms. Some will have a bar at the kitchen area and others will not. Some will have an oversize living room or bedrooms but a very small kitchen. Also, consider the heating factor which can arise out of what the main view is. If the main windows face south, they'll get more heat, which is great in the winter, but can be a real killer in the summer.

Certainly, you may have a list of all the things you want to consider. But it's easy to forget if you try to keep them in your head. What I did was to make a form for myself that listed several questions and a comprehensive list of amenities that I was looking for. It also included the apartment name, prospective landlord's name, and a place for notes. This was great because it reminded me of what questions to ask, and allowed me to better compare different apartments.

As for that great apartment you're looking for, know that what you see on the net or in an apartment magazine may not be all that there is. I finally settled on an apartment in a complex that I discovered while hunting apartments. I happened to drive by several times, and decided to stop in and talk to the managers. They were, and are, very friendly and helpful. The complex is well maintained, stores and amenities are nearby, the rent was reasonable, and I have free cable TV and a washer and dryer. My view is quite unobstructed (except by a few trees, but not by another apartment building!), parking is great, and it's next to a park. Yes, it is the $600 apartment in the example above. And I found it just by chance!

So you never really know what you'll find until you get out and look. And don't forget, look at the small things, too! And good luck in your search!

Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment!

Alan S.

The outside is as important as the inside.
The outside is as important as the inside.


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