What makes a good apartment?

I’m talking about less obvious things. I’m not only talking about apartments that look nice and/or in nice areas. I’m talking about things that aren’t visible to your eye while you’re passing the complex in your car.

An example, income-based rent. I know a few people who live in nice apartments (think high rise), who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it, because they knew someone who can chop their rent in half for them.

I work for an apartment company.

Soundproofing. Modern high rises have it, a concrete sheet behind the wallboard sheets and under the floor. Makes a lot less noise from neighbors. Now done in most major remodels of 60’s buildings. Tall steel buildings in general are a lot quieter because sound tends to stay in the steel rather than radiate into the rooms.

Water pressure is a frequent question from prospects, so it must be pretty lame in some buildings. Although if it’s just in the shower it’s due to the flow-control shower head, which can be modified if you know how. Ask at the local hardware store.

Street noise is hard to judge. If near a busy street, be sure to come back at rush hour. And pool noise is worst on weekends. And partying is bad in any college housing area.

Crime statistics are available in most areas online these days, although hard to compare town-to-town because they select different categories to report.

If they allow short term or month-to-month leases, it’s a bad sign. Although most places are allowing that this year due to the slump. But in general, the easier it is to get in, low deposit and short leases, the more flaky people there are. Drifters, problem tenants evicted from other places, young singles who pile in more and more roommates, murderers, etc. All the undesirable neighbors. :wink:

IF you have the option, I’d go by at several different times of day to check the noise and traffic level. Ask the manager about your potential neighbors…how many people live in the unit, kids, approx age. That can help you judge possible noise levels. Your local utility company can tell you what the bills have been over the last year. It can’t tell you if the previous tenant ran the AC all night and day, but it’s a start.

Parking availability throughout the day.

Storage space.

The available natural light on hours when you will be home.

Drafts, humidity, and bad smells.

Off-street parking

Part or all of the utilities being included in the rent; cost of utilities if they’re not

Washer and dryer in the unit, or at least in the building in a nice clean laundry room with enough machines.

Pet policy – to me as an owner of a small dog, the ideal apartment or complex allowed small animals only up to, say, 20 lbs, so there were no big dogs. If I didn’t have a dog myself, I would have wanted a “no pets” apartment.

A responsive super who fixes problems right way and correctly

Vents in kitchen and bathroom which vent to the outside. If yours don’t, then the neighbors’ don’t either. Yech!

If your neighbors cook curry every week. For me, that’s a bad thing but I guess for some folks it would be a plus.

Washer/Dryer hookups. The ability to do your laundry in your own home is almost priceless.

Pet policies. My complex was very pet friendly and had poopy stations in every branch off the main street. Again, this could be a plus or minus depending on your feelings about pets (dogs specifically).

The complex I just moved from had enormous apartments, kitchens about 3 times the size of an average apartment kitchen, washer/dryer hookups, screened in porches on all the units, ample parking, valet trash pickup (all you had to do was put your trashcan outside your door with the bag tied off on the designated nights), gigantic closets and an outside locked storage space on the porch, free laundry room for tenants without their own washers or dryers, a free fitness center with nice equipment, a pool, a fenced dog park, a frisbee golf course, basketball and tennis courts, and lots of resident activities. The rent was also reasonable considering all the amenities.

I’m going to miss it there. Except for curry lady. Blech.

How about insulation? What is it with apartments not properly insulating their buildings? Makes me wonder if they have some sort of sweetheart deal with the power companies.

Having lived in my share of apartments over the years:

  1. Rent control? If not, how much can rent increase, and is it worth signing long term lease?
  2. Location, Location, Location - close to supermarkets, nightlife (if you like that) and shops? Street noise? Crime area? Schools? How far from work?
  3. Maintenance. Somebody available when the water breaks at 3:00 AM, or there to come fix things during the day only? Or does it take longer? How clean are the hallways and public areas?
  4. Laundry nearby? Enough machines? Clean? Upgraded?
  5. Inhabitants. Is this a “young” apartment complex (late night parties OK?) or an “old” building (turn down that damned music! It is 8:00 PM!) Druggies or families with kids? Or both?
  6. Parking. Reserved or open? What about guest parking?
  7. Utililties? Included? If not, estimated costs for air and heat and water and cable and gas?
  8. Amenities? Pool, community room, gym, deck, security, doorman, buzzer, fireplace, dishwasher, balcony/patio, natural light, enough windows, enough privacy?
  9. Pets?
  10. The most important is the hardest to determine; does it “feel” right? Would you be happy to bring friends here? Can you make it “home”?

I have a cousin who lost everything in a fire last year. When I took her out with me looking at new apartments, she always asked what kind of sprinklers they had - save the building or save the people. There’s a difference.

It’s whatever is important to you (sounds obvious, but only you will know how to weigh factors). For me, I dream of:

–in-apartment or at least on-site laundry
–garbage pickup from a Dumpster in the complex
–no dogs barking

–reliable snow removal from lot and walkways
–good water pressure, a strong toilet
–utilities included or a reliable estimate of what they will cost, efficient heat
–secure parking (if I were in a city, this would change to “proximity to public transportation”)

–central air
–storage/lots of closet space

My daughter lives in Brooklyn and most of things menioned are simply unavailable. Off-street and guest parking, hah! The reasons she is moving from a 3rd floor walkup to a ground floor apartment include: laundry one floor below instead of three; bedrooms in the back, away from traffic (even a small side street with little traffic can be noisy from the occasional truck); a little extra space (including space for my wife and me when we visit); access to the garden in back; somewhat more storage space, including in the basement.

They might be available for an additional rental. Good thing to find out when searching for an apt.

Utility fees can be a trap. Some places claim that they simply take the power charges for the whole building and divide by your share based on square footage rented. But the bills are so high you know they are scamming you. So find a place with separate meters. Ask for the prior months charges, in writing, including all costs, electric, gas, water, sewer, trash, anything else that the last tenant paid.