What do you look for in a new house/apartment?

I’ll be in the market for an apartment soon, and don’t particularly look forward to slogging through a long list of apartments that suck before finally finding one I can deal with. What qualifications does a home or apartment need to meet to make it onto your maybe list?

Here’s what I look for:

  1. Location. I go to school downtown, I work downtown, I love the bars and restaurants downtown. My main goal is to find an apartment within walking or biking distance of all these things, and the further from downtown it is, the less likely I am to even bother taking a look at it.

  2. Aesthetics. This is almost tied with location, though luckily, most of the apartments in the area I’m interested meet the aesthetic qualification. Old building with character. Wood floors if at all possible, nice molding, original bathroom and kitchen a plus. Clawfoot tub preferred, although a later-era bathroom with crazy colored fixtures works too (like my recent I Love Lucy bathroom, with pink and blue tile and fixtures). Carpet drops it down to the bottom of the list.

  3. Closet space/kitchen size. These two are tied. I like a decent sized kitchen, with sufficient counter and cabinet space. It at least has to be big enough to fit my kitchen cart in there, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to put it anywhere. It also needs a decent amount of storage, because I don’t like clutter in living areas. I’ll admit, I’ve been totally spoiled in these areas in my previous apartments.

  4. Size. It’s just me (and my feline overlords), so this is not very important to me. I need a separate bedroom (allergies- no kitties sleeping on my head :(), so a studio is out, but I am perfectly happy in a little shoebox apartment with a clawfoot tub.

  5. Parking. Not having to park on the street is awesome, but not necessary.

  6. Laundry facilities on-site. This is nice to have, but I don’t mind doing my laundry at a laundromat so not a huge deal.

Things that don’t matter:

  1. Dishwasher. Never had one, and I wouldn’t generate enough dishes by myself to use it.

  2. Stairs. I’ve only had one first-floor apartment, which was nice, but stairs are good for you.

Exposure is the very first thing I consider. I like sun, warmth and like to grow plants. Assuming I’m not desperate, I won’t bother looking at something without lots of south-facing windows/patio if it’s an apartment, or south-facing backyard if a house.

I’m no longer in the market for an apartment, since I now own a house, but if I were:

Central air conditioning. Those window or wall units never, IME, do as good a job.

A dishwasher is a necessity for me. I remember Mr. Neville having dirty dishes in the sink for literally months, and I’m no better.

When I lived in the Bay Area, assigned parking was a must. I didn’t want to have to worry about coming home late from work or whatever and not being able to find a place to park.

Now, a garage is a must. It’s bad enough that I have to sweep and scrape ice and snow off my car at work, I don’t want to do it at home, too. I don’t want to have to deal with frozen locks or having to warm up the car before I can go, either. I wanted (and got) a short driveway, too, so nobody has to shovel much snow.

In-unit washer/dryer is a must, because Mr. Neville and I have both thrown our backs out hauling laundry. It’s also really nice that, with your own washer and dryer, you don’t have to take the laundry out of the dryer right away.

Pets allowed is an absolute must. I’d give up my job and move a very long distance, or put up with a really long commute, before I would give up my cats. Sneaking them around so the landlord doesn’t know isn’t an option, either- I’ve seen too many cats given back to rescue groups from situations like that.

A separate room for our computers was a must in either renting or buying. There’s no way we can keep our desks neat enough to want them in an area of the house that guests might go into, and we don’t want the computers in our bedroom either. If they’re there, you can’t surf the internet or play games while the other is sleeping.

We need a big kitchen. We keep kosher, so that means two sets of dishes, silverware, pots and pans, and most kitchen gadgets (we have two food processors and two Crock Pots, for example).

It was never an issue where we were looking, but having high-speed internet available is crucial for us, because Mr. Neville often works from home. If he couldn’t, I don’t think I’d ever see him.

Neighbors! Talk to the current tenents if you can and ask what the neighbors are like. I’d hate to live below a heavy-foot or beside a partier.

What type of heat it is and what the monthly cost might be.

Are utilites included.

I’m in SoCal and sans vehicle, so that probably skews my priorities.

  1. Price- It’s pointless to weigh any other factors if it’s unaffordable.
  2. Location- Preferably near banks, post offices, and schools, and far from schools and other major sources of traffic and noise.
  3. Security- For both the apartment itself and the mailbox area.
  4. Laundry on-site
  5. Design- I like plenty of closets, lots of counter space in the kitchen, a decent number of electrical outlets, clean carpet or wood floors, clean tile, decent paint.
  6. Sane neighbors and management

I would never live on anything but the top floor. I just can’t stand hearing people over me.

Lots of windows.

Good water pressure in the shower.

My must-have list was very similar to yours actually. I’m insanely picky but lucked out and found an apartment that fit all my criteria and then some.

  1. Location. Had to be within walking distance of my fiance’s job.

  2. Character. High ceilings, quirky angles, weird nooks, big windows. You’re fortunate if most of the apartments in your area have character. Most of the apartments here are highrise shoeboxes indistinguishable from one another. Character costs extra.

  3. Parking space. The inner city has a lot of foot-traffic and traffic-traffic. A parking space was necessary for security and convenience.

  4. Air-conditioning. We lived in a house without air-conditionining once. Never again.

  5. View. The view didn’t have to be panoramic city skyline or anything, but I didn’t want it to look at a brick wall or, worse, someone else’s apartment. I just wanted something reasonably pleasant to look at.

  6. 2 Bedrooms. Or 1 bedroom and a study. Somewhere to put our computers because aesthetically I dislike having computers in the bedroom or the living area.

  7. Price. The apartment price, as well as the strata fees, had to be within our budget.

  8. Litter box area. Basically a spare nook where you can put your litter boxes, cat litter, spare bags of food, etc out of the way. Every apartment I looked at I thought “where would I keep the litter boxes?”

  9. Laundry. It didn’t have to be a dedicated room, but I wanted somewhere for my washing machine.
    Things I’ve learned it’s good to have since owning an apartment:

  10. Top floor. It’s great having no one above you. I also like the sound of rain on the roof.

  11. Balcony or courtyard. I like having some plants on the balcony, and being able to hang my laundry. I also have a little outdoor setting for eating or reading on nice days.

  12. Storage. No matter how much you think you need, you always need more.

Ah, I much prefer the *bottom *floor. No need to worry the kids are making too much noise and only 7 steps up when I’m loaded down with groceries and toddlers! The noise from above is far outweighed by the benefits, for me. Plus, every top floor apartment I’ve had has been a terror for heating and cooling.

One thing I never remember to look for, but I should, is outlets. Lots of them, placed well, and of a design that looks more recent than, say, 1920.

I like the Chicago style apartments (one long hallway with all the rooms off of it, kitchen in back, “front room”* in front. This lets me put my bedroom far, far away from the teenage funk and nocturnal hours.
*Known as the living room everywhere else.

I used to go for the quirky, funky apartments that were long and charm and short on functionality…in San Antonio you can find tons of quirky fun old apartments with hardwood floors and original glass windows and built-in antique bookshelves etc., etc…overflowing with the kind of charm you can’t really replicate.

But these units inevitably have either window units (which in South TX are horribly inefficient against the merciless heat) or central air with no insulation. Which is like trying to air condition the world. They also usually have tiny old-fashioned kitchens, old-fashioned iffy plumbing, nowhere to put a washer and dryer, and no management company. Just some old man who may or may not show up when your water heater goes on the fritz.

My current apartment is not something I’d have rented…I moved in with my SO. This apartment is one of the “upgraded” models in your classic cookie-cutter apartment complex. Other than the crown moulding and the painted ceilings it’s got absolutely zero character.

But I gotta say that carpet is warm when it’s cold. And a washer and dryer (not to mention a dishwasher!) are absolute luxuries. And the AC is efficient and cheap, and the hot water never runs out, and the floors don’t creak with every step I take, and the water-pressure in the oversized bathtub is AMAZING.

I miss my hardwood floors, I miss my bright painted walls (these are beige) and I miss my funky neighborhood.

But there’s something to be said for the modern conveniences, after years of all that charm and zero convenience.

I’m house hunting now (so far just looking at places online to get an idea of the market, but I’m going to start seriously looking in the next few weeks). My apartment lease expires at the end of July, and I want to close on a place with enough time to get my stuff moved by then. I can afford a month of two of mortgage/rent overlap. My primary considerations:

  1. Access to public transit and convenient shopping nearby. I don’t drive, so this is pretty important. Fortunately, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem here.

  2. Enough room for my books, which is why I’m only looking at places with at least two bedrooms so I can have a library/office.

  3. A decent kitchen, defined as one with counters and storage space. I’m not concerned about a dishwasher, since I live alone and don’t mind washing dishes by hand.

  4. Space for a garden, so I can grow some of my own food. Again, this shouldn’t be much of a problem, since houses here all seem to be on decent-sized lots.

  5. Single level, because at my age I’d prefer not to have to be going up and down stairs. Also central air, because it gets hot here in the summer.

I just moved, and here were mine: (keeping Chicago in mind)

Aside from the obvious dealbreakers like paying for heat in Chicago…

  1. Neighborhood. I pick where I want to live, and everything else must fall into place. Price, features, etc.

  2. Sane distribution of power outlets. I have a lot of electronics that I need to use on a daily basis, and most old Chicago apartments have like, one outlet per room and it’s in some ridiculous corner on the other side of a door and is inaccessible to 90% of the room. This can be a major issue before you realize it.

I would add, if you don’t see many outlets and the outlets aren’t three prong grounded outlets you have to seriously wonder how much electricity you can safely use at one time. The last house I lived in was like that and I frequently got sparks when I plugged something in and didn’t feel very good about that. We had to have an electrician disconnect the power from the sun room and do some re-wiring just so we could run modern appliances in the kitchen.

  1. Location
  2. Cleanliness