5 Things To Consider Before Committing to a New Apartment

Securing your first apartment has long been considered one of the major milestones of adulthood. And while this big step should be considered fun, between confusing AF rental agreements and an unrealistic idea of what actual apartments look like (thanks, Friends), your apartment hunt can quickly go from heck yeah to oh no

While you may jump forward and start thinking about how you are going to decorate your new space, it’s important to keep your head in the game during your apartment search. You may not be focused on factors like amenities, location or money right now, but three months later, when a problem arises, you could end up in a sticky situation. So, as you search Pinterest for decor ideas, here are five things you should consider before committing to an apartment.

1. Location 

Location, location, location is the most important factor in real estate – and there’s a reason for that. Margit Brandt, a Relocation Specialist with Next Step Realty, agrees that location is everything and that you need to decide where you want to be. 

“Specifically, in NYC, pick a location that works for you—close to work, close to friends, close to the things you like to do (exercise classes, restaurants, clubs),” Brandt says. “There are a lot of things in life that are hard—do not make where you live hard.  You are where you live a lot of the time so make sure it is a place you enjoy!” This may seem like common sense, but in the midst of an intense apartment search, it becomes easy to forget this simple concept. Finding an apartment in your ideal location can also offer additional benefits related to your commute and transportation. 

“Especially for students, [location] is important because finding parking and paying for parking passes can be a hassle,” says Taylor Mickel, a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University. 

The bottom line is location is one of the most important things to consider, as it can either complicate or simplify your life. 

2. Roommates 

Even after leaving campus, many people choose to continue to live with roommates for a variety of reasons. Some like the company, and others like the financial benefit (read: cheaper rent). And even though more people means more fun, it also means more ideas about what constitutes a “good” apartment. 

“When apartment hunting with roommates, you have to keep in mind there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen and you have to be flexible in order to find the right spot for everybody,” Brandt says. “After relocating thousands at Next Step over the last five years, we have learned you have to have a list of what your ‘nonnegotiable’ are versus ‘like to have,’ and our job is to get you most of those things.” 

Before beginning your search with your roommates, take the time to talk to each other. Each person should make a list of things they absolutely need, as well as things that are deal breakers. If one of you has a car, parking near the apartment is a must have. If you all don’t drive, you’ll need a place close to public transportation or within walking distance. But features like a gym or pool, may not be necessary, especially if you have access to these amenities elsewhere. 

Once you have your list, you can negotiate with each other to make a list of everything you need in your apartment. And while this may not be fun, there is a bright side to making it work with your roommate. You should also take time to consider what will happen once you all move into the apartment. Having early discussions about your individual schedules, how chores will be split and what your policy on guests is, will help prevent headaches in the future. 

And if having a roommate is starting to sound stressful, make sure to focus on the main benefit. “The benefit here is you have a live-in support system with roommates for your first home,” says Brandt.  What can beat that? 

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3. Money

If only we could live in a world where money isn’t an issue. But until that happens, you’re always going to have to consider how much this new apartment is going to cost you. 

Rent is the big-ticket item here, but additional costs such amenities and utilities can move an apartment from affordable to out of budget very quickly. 

And while you may be looking for that perfect, aesthetically pleasing and oh-so fancy abode, Taylor says that just because something is nice, doesn’t make it affordable. 

“When looking at what’s included, it’s important to know if a parking pass, water or gas and sewage [are] included in the rent price,” says Taylor. 

But inexpensive places can also have hidden costs. Your rent itself may be dirt cheap, but if you add on utilities, maintenance fees, parking and transportation, you may end up paying even more than you would at a more expensive location.  

Ask your realtor, broker or landlord to help you evaluate every single cost you may have to pay—no matter how small. Seeing all the numbers in black and white can help you make the decision about whether or not you can truly afford the apartment.

4. Amenities

If you are shelling out money for an apartment, take time to think about what you need to have in a space, whether it is a state-of-the-art gym or a relaxing pool and hot tub. 

“The amenities you look for are of course specific to your interests,” says Brandt.  “One popular ask people have when moving to New York is outdoor space either private or shared.  A beautiful roof-deck or a gym would obviously to most be a huge bonus! Some of the luxury buildings in NYC often have pools, sauna steam room (great in winter time), golf simulators, and even Turkish baths.” Apartments that aren’t in major cities may have more practical amenities like a community building for hosting gatherings, a game room or a large outdoor patio that may fit better with the recent grad lifestyle.    

And apartment buildings are more than just a residence—they’re a community! So, when you are searching for a place, make sure to think about whether or not the building will give you opportunities to connect with your neighbors. Brandt says that this is a component many buildings are now emphasizing. “Many now are creating community activities such as wine night, sushi tasting night or barbecue night in an effort to get their tenants to meet one another within the community. To find a building that offers this is really great especially in a new city like New York!”

It may seem trivial now but choosing a building that you can turn into a home can make your apartment much nicer. 

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5. Safety

Home sweet home isn’t that sweet if you don’t feel safe in your new residence. Even if an apartment checks off all of the boxes, if you don’t feel 100 percent safe in the building or neighborhood, you may need to continue on with your search. 

But many buildings do place an emphasis on safety and security. “Safety is of course important anywhere you are but when moving out on your own for the first time you want it to be a place you are comfortable in and feel safe,” Brandt says. “In New York, a doorman is a common ask people have for their first apartment.” 

If you are not looking in a major city, a doorman may not be at the top of your list, but be sure to look at whether or not your apartment is in a gated community, requires key card access to get in the building or limits who can enter the building at different times of day. All of these practices can help make your apartment as safe as possible. Other factors to consider are if there is a private parking garage to protect your car, if there is a security service on call as well as how things like packages and mail will be protected. 

Even though you should consider all of these important factors during your apartment search, make sure to have fun. If you approach the process with a clear idea of what you want, you’ll find your dream apartment in no time!