2 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Begin the Apartment Search

In a few short months, I will be relocating for graduate school and begin the apartment hunt once again. It’s a new chapter in my life, and for those of you graduating college or relocating for new jobs or professional schools, you too may be feeling excited for the next phase of your lives. Before fantasizing about your new place, you need to ask yourself two important questions so that your new apartment will be right for you. I asked myself these questions when I was looking for my first apartment, and they helped me to prioritize my search.

Question 1. “Do I want roommates or do I want to live alone?”

Maybe you always dreamed of having your own studio or one bedroom so that you could decorate it to your own taste. Perhaps you’ve dreamed of a larger space with roommates where you host parties and movie nights together. Either way, it’s important to figure out what sort of living situation will make you the happiest and what you are willing to sacrifice for it. Here are some pros and cons about living with roommates or living alone:

With roommates

Pros: Cheaper rent, people to keep you company, splitting utilities (cheaper), generally more space (2+ bedroom apartments, backyards/patios).

Cons: Potential drama if you don’t get along, losing privacy, making sacrifices for how things are organized in the apartment.

Living alone

Pros: Privacy, making all of the decisions for the apartment (i.e. cable or no cable, style, having a pet), setting your own schedule (no unexpected parties on a work night or 6AM alarm clocks on Saturdays), having guests over as often as you’d like!

Cons: More expensive since you are paying for the place and utilities/amenities entirely yourself, less overall space, potential to feel lonely in a new city.

Question 2. “What do I value most in an apartment?”

One realization I had while living in my first apartment was that I valued parking more than I previously thought. I lived in a three bedroom with three roommates and three cars, but there were only two parking spaces. In addition, those parking places were not adjacent but instead tandem to each other, so we needed to coordinate parking spaces and cars every day. For me, it was inconvenient to ask my roommate to move his car at 11:00pm so that I could have a place to park for the night, or to park a few blocks away and walk to the complex if both of out parking spots were taken. For others, this may not be as big a deal but regardless, it’s critical to determine what you value most in an apartment.

A good way to start is to make a list of what your dream apartment would be like. Then go through each feature and amenity and give it a value, 1 to 10, or whatever scale you want to use. Do you care about location? Price? New appliances? Wood floors? Having a washer and dryer in the apartment? Parking? Pet friendly? Gym? Close to public transportation or the freeway? Close to work? After you finish, you have a list that prioritizes all your wants and you are ready to start your search. You also know — especially if you move to an expensive and high demand city — that you’ll need to make compromises in the end, but your list of must-haves will help you in the process.

Even after being in a few different apartments now on my own, I still ask myself these questions before I begin each search since my priorities and lifestyle have changed over time. For those of you moving to your first apartment or for those finding their next place, I wish you all the best in finding a perfect match!

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Author My First Apartment
Anna R.

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Anna R. is currently a research assistant in a biology lab in the Bay Area and is interested in pursuing a Ph.D in Genetics. When she’s not daydreaming about food and browsing recipes on Pinterest, she likes to spend her free time dancing, paddle boarding and swimming. She’s been through a number of different housing situations and is eager to share her experiences with other MFA readers!

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