Many people move into apartments because a 10-minute walkthrough makes the apartment feel right to them. It’s only later, like at 11pm on a Tuesday night when the neighbors are yelling at each other, that the minor shortcomings really start crimping into the renter’s lifestyle, and have little to do with the price per square foot of space. So here are some of the things I’ve committed to memory for choosing my next apartment.
- No Bedroom Walls Shall Be Shared With Another Apartment. This is the primary rule, and it is simply because I don’t want to hear my neighbors fighting and/or having noisy sex. Ever. Especially not at the same time. I have learned this. (This rule may also create a preference for the top floor of the apartment building, so that you won’t have neighbor-noises coming through your ceiling.)
- Windows should face in two or more directions. This is about getting airflow through the apartment, and it is easier to do when air can exit from a direction other than the one it comes in.
- Windows should face East and North. This is to maximize morning light and minimize evening light. This should also make it easier to keep computer monitors, televisions and heirloom woodwork out of direct sunlight. Alternate facings, in order of preference as other circumstances allow, would include East and South, or North and West. South and West is going to be unacceptably hot throughout the summer.
- The apartment should not be facing into traffic. More specifically, your windows shouldn’t be facing a major road, medical facility emergency entrance, railway crossing, railway, minor road or parking lot, in that order. Also, try to not be under a flight path for the local airport. (You’ll likely have to suck it up on facing the parking lot, woe!)
- The kitchen should not suck. Here’s some specifics to check:
- How loud are the appliances — both the dishwasher you control and the fridge you don’t?
- How well and/or naturally lit is your food-creation space?
- If a friend comes over for a meal, will you be tripping over them or having to banish them from the kitchen?
- Is it missing anything, like a microwave or a garbage disposal?
- The apartment will be cat-friendly. The key things to check for here would be:
- Can I let my cat out on a balcony with him possibly going exploring? This necessitates an upstairs apartment, but balcony positioning with respect to roofline and stairs is also relevant.
- Is there enough room in the bathroom for a litter box?
- Does the toilet look capable of handling flushable cat litter?
- Do not get more space or plumbing than you need. Or, put another way, do not pay to rent and then have to clean unused space. Really, you’re likely to keep your bathroom, your cat’s litter box and your guest bathroom cleaner if it’s all the same room — to the hygenic benefit of everybody involved.
- Stairs should be minimized. While it is required that the cat have a balcony, and preferred that there not be noisy neighbors in my ceiling, remember that the stairs up to your apartment will be the same stairs you have to carry your groceries up every time you get them.
- Prefer an apartment that allows you to paint. Some apartments won’t let you paint, some will let you paint with a specific palatte, and some will make you paint over whatever you put on the walls before you leave. The preferred policy is “you don’t have to repaint if you use our palatte,” because chances are you have no idea how hard it’s going to be to paint over what you’re putting on those walls.
So that’s a pretty brutal list of requirements. But I have found some apartments that do a good job of meeting them. Consider the following floorplans:
Of course, you can’t see where they’re at in the complexes from their floor plans, but they are a good starting point. (My personal favorite is the Chatham; the trick is to use the guest bedroom as the master bedroom.)
Things that have gone without saying include that the apartment should be a slight distance from the garbage and recycling center, the cost of a reserved parking space is just part of the rent, fireplaces and soaker tubs won’t be as good as you can get in a house, but shouldn’t be shrugged off, and chances are you’re only going to be able to grill with gas, if at all, which is sad.
One final note on cat needs versus dog needs: I’ve got a cat. If you’ve got a dog instead, a first floor apartment will make it easier to take the dog outside several times per day, which you’ll likely be doing.