Apartment Hunter’s List: Must-Haves, Nice-to-Haves, and Deal-Breakers!

When on the apartment hunt, it’s easy for apartments to start to blend together once you’ve been on a few different open houses or tours! That’s why it’s smart to create lists of features your  apartment must have, would be nice to have, or are deal breakers. This process will also give you a handy checklist for  comparing apartments and helping you to narrow your top pick.

Your apartment checklist should have a three different parts: The Must-Haves, the Nice-to-Haves, and the Deal-Breakers.

The Must-Haves

These are the features that you absolutely – you guessed it – must have. Maybe you need  two bedrooms and the building must be pet friendly. Maybe it must be under a certain price point for monthly rent. Maybe it must be less than a  mile to the subway or a few miles from the highway. Take a moment to jot down the things that you absolutely must have in your apartment. Try not to be too specific (i.e. say “accessible parking” instead of “parking garage”) to keep an open mind through your research process.

Key must-haves should include:

  • Price
  • Location
  • Size
  • Move in availability
  • Pet-friendliness (if you already have a pet)

The Nice-to-Haves

My personal favorite category, here is where you can think about the features that you would absolutely love. Some items may be features of the apartment itself, like hardwood floors, an updated kitchen, a bathtub, etc. Some may also be features of the apartment building, like having a gym, pool, or community space you can use.

These should not be “make or break” features, but as you tour apartments, keep track of which ones have more features that would be “nice-to-have.”

Nice-to-Haves may include things like:

  • Apartment upgrades
  • Room sizes
  • Distance to fun activities
  • Building amenities


Finally, think about what your apartment must not have. Maybe you are particular about not being on the first floor, or it must not require you to pay additional utilities. Maybe you and your roommate are not willing to share a bathroom. We recommend focusing on the positives, so this should be a fairly short list, but should give you a few different parameters when choosing your apartment.

Deal-Breakers may include things like:

  • Building cleanliness – signs of mice or roaches
  • Building safety – unsafe front entrance, no intercom
  • Poor apartment condition – musty old carpet, broken appliances/fixtures
  • Apartment size – too small for a full bed or normal-sized furniture

Creating this list before taking many tours will help you keep an open and clear mind without getting distracted by flashy features. It will keep you focused on what you really need from the perfect apartment. Bring it with you to each tour, then start comparing to narrow down and find the best place for you!

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Author My First Apartment

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Sarah is a dog lover and advocate for conversation & laughing at your own jokes. Since finishing her college career in communications, she began working (and living) in Atlanta. After living in a few different apartments over the last few years, she's ready to share experiences. Stay tuned for adventures, tips and advice!

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