How to find an apartment you love

So many people talk about finding the right home.

How to find an apartment you love
How to find an apartment you love

You know, the perfect family room with kitchen, the open plan, the separated rooms, the bathrooms that make you feel like you’re at a spa.  Blah, blah, blah…

What about an apartment?  Sure, you know that you’ll be there only a temporary time… but, temporary can sometimes mean years. And you know you need to find a place that you can afford, does that mean you have to have a major commute to work daily?  Some people save a couple hundred dollars in rent only to turn around and pay that in gas money to get to work or school.  That’s not smart financially. Or smart on the stress levels.

I don’t want to live like that.  I want to live enriched.  Finding an apartment has become not just a challenge, but an adventure!  I know this is a short-term situation, but I want our family to be happy, at peace, and feel safe in our temporary home.

It’s more than just location, location, location

There are several excellent tools on your phone to help you find a worthwhile place. Forbes has a great post about finding an apartment in the big city here, while Lifehacker offers suggestions here.  The apps we’ve been using are: Zillow, Redfin, Hotpads, and Trulia.   Each app offers great options, allows you to filter your search for what you are looking for and allows you to save the search and send your favorites via email.

The problem is, like finding a new minty toothpaste, there are just way too many choices.  And some great properties are listed one app will be missed by another.  What my husband found on one app was different than locations I was finding on another app.

We are on the hunt to the find the right apartment for our next few years and we have done some intense looking.  I never looked for an apartment like this before, and I know that this one decision will have impact on other decisions in our life, like:

  • Will this area be safe for our family?
  • Where will we meet our next good friends?
  • Will my daughter be able to make friends in the next community?  What about a playground?
  • Where will we attend church services?
  • What about the daily commute to work and school?
  • What grocery stores are nearby?  (Sure, we do the big shopping trip of the week at our store, what about the late night gotta get just 1 or 2 things before school tomorrow runs?)

We have been on the hunt, checked out properties, big complexes, small ones and have had several random conversations about making a decision.  But here’s the problem:  we aren’t getting anywhere.

Ever been there?  It’s probably because even though an apartment looks great on an app, we aren’t able to see that apartment in the context of the location.  We aren’t seeing how close our neighbors are, how the parking is for the complex and if and where the playgrounds are located.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Finding an apartment is temporary living, but temporary can be… years. @itsamyrobles” quote=”Finding an apartment is temporary living, but temporary can be…years.” theme=”style4″]


You can talk about all the cool things you’ll want in the next place you’ll live, but until you have a plan and priorities it is just talk.  That’s what we’ve learned.

We’ve been talking about the next place to live for too long that we had to start looking at the locations, making the drives, and getting a feel for the different complexes in the area.

We also had to start evaluating the kind of floor plan we want.  Oh, and the price.  We know that smart family budgets spend 25 -35% of their monthly take-home pay on rent and utilities, we want to stay as close to 25% as possible.

Through conversation we determined that our priorities include:

  • A more open floor plan.  (We would much prefer space to host family & friends over than have a couple of extra closets.)
  • We want a pantry in the kitchen to ensure we are cooking as many meals from scratch as possible.
  • We could be happy with two bedrooms, but having three would give us the space we could use for an office/ guest room.
  • We are determined to stay within in our housing budget to keep our financial plan on track.

Start looking early

You are not just looking for a bachelor pad for a couple of months.  You are looking for your own personal spot in the world.  This decision matters.  When I worked at a high school, the most important thing for incoming freshmen was to have their own locker assignment. They would freak out and you could see the stress in their eyes, desperate to have their locker.  What I didn’t understand is that they were making their own safe place in school.  It wasn’t about getting a place to hold their books, it was about their place have some peace during the day.

Your apartment is way more important than a locker at school. Give this decision the time it deserves.  Starting at six months just driving around the area on a lazy weekend afternoon will give you an idea of the area, see how comfortable it is, and let you see what the routine would be like in your life.  While I know that six months isn’t always possible, I’ve had those company paid for weekends to find my next spot to live in an entirely different state, the earlier you start looking the better prepared you are to make a wise decision.

[clickToTweet tweet=”An apartment should feel like a home. Not a box to hold my life for a while. @itsamyrobles” quote=”An apartment should feel like a home. Not a box to hold my life for a while.” theme=”style6″]

Ask more questions than you think you should

Sometimes, especially in apartment living, the most important part is precisely what they don’t tell you.  Ask questions about the utilities, how much does the price in heating go up in the winter, really?

Garbage and trash pick up is on Tuesday.  Decide now if you are taking things to the dumpsters or taking a bin out from your place.

What about the amenities?   Sure, the pool is gorgeous. But if it closes every day at 6pm, there’s not a lot of swim time after work.

This is going to be your home.  Make it yours.

A gift for you

After discussion with my husband, we decided that best way to make this happen was to actually be able to see it.  We talked about a few methods and decided that in a couple of Saturday afternoons we can take the decision between dozens of places to just a handful.  But remembering all those specifics, taking all the notes can be tedious and getting all the numbers accurately would be a nightmare.  So I made a matrix to keep all the differences clear in my mind.

And if you are looking for a copy, I’d be happy to send it you!

The people who were hosting the properties and showing us around took us much more seriously and seemed to “step up their game” when they saw me with the list of questions, asking all about the specifics and no-nonsense approach to finding our next place to live.

How to Find the RIGHT apartment
How to Find the RIGHT apartment

If you would like your own copy of this to help find your own place, join the email list and I’ll send it to you directly!

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