Finding an apartment to live in can be challenging, especially in large cities with limited space and elevated prices. There are many questions you can, and perhaps should, ask yourself, such as whether you can afford it, what area it is located in, how you will furnish it, and whether it is well isolated. Unless you have unlimited funds available, it is almost inevitable that you will need to cut back on your demands and wishes. Still, it is important to ask yourself a number of questions, before either signing the contract or rejecting your potential new home as a whole.
What is the price of the apartment, and more importantly can you afford it? Typically, people should endeavor not to spend more than 30% of their net income on rent or mortgage (although 50% might also be typical in very large and more expensive cities). Spending more than that means being at risk of not having enough money for other expenses, or having to cut back on the quality of life as a whole.
Another method to adopt is to carefully calculate what you earn after deduction of taxes and to make an estimation of what you need in your day-to-day life, which is subtracted from your earnings. Additionally, you will have to subtract some amount for one-off expenses, such as clothing, repairs, or travel, as well as loans and other fixed costs, and you will need to subtract an amount of money which you would like to save each month or invest. The amount you need to save each month should be at least 10% of your net income.
Many people live beyond their standard and simply pay more rent than they can actually afford. This causes them to cut back on daily necessities, which limits the quality of their life, or it leaves them with a big debt in the end.
In what kind of neighborhood is the apartment located? Some people prefer to live in the city center, whereas others prefer one of the many city’s suburban areas. If you want to live in the suburbs, you might pay less rent or mortgage due to real estate being less expensive. However, in exchange, you will probably need to pay more on public transportation, or fuel costs. Also, what type of neighborhood is it? What kind of people live there, and is it safe?
Apart from that, you might need certain amenities in your neighborhood, such as a supermarket where you can do your groceries, a park where you can go jogging, perhaps a good connection to the public transportation system or to the highway. If you have children, are there any other children living in the area they can become friends with? Are there any schools? Is there a doctor in the area you can visit quickly when necessary? Is there a hospital in the vicinity?
Often, the only possibility to find out is to take a walk around the neighborhood and see for yourself. Take half a day off, and walk around. Look at the type of people you encounter and how clean it is. Perhaps you find an opportunity to have a small chat with someone, and you can ask that person a little bit about the neighborhood to find out some more information.
Number of rooms
Different people, or families, need different sizes of apartments. If you are alone, you will probably be fine with a one-bedroom condo, whereas a larger family might need a 3- or 4-bedroom apartment or house. What you need in terms of size and the number of rooms needs to be defined beforehand, so you know what you are looking for. What is the smallest apartment size or the number of rooms which is acceptable to you?
Once you have the possibility to actually go and view the apartment or house for yourself, then take a good look at the general condition of the apartment. Often, condos are poorly maintained due to cost reasons and then rented out to horrendous prices. Often, poorly maintained apartments might mean that things are bound to break or deteriorate soon, without the landlord having the intention to make the necessary repairs. A well-maintained apartment is therefore to be preferred, and your relationship with the landlord will most likely also be much better.
Orientation and view
The orientation and view from your apartment are important. Condos that receive a lot of light during the day are much pleasant to live in, and the sun does well to your general mood. Therefore, it is always a positive thing is some or all windows look towards the south or the west. Also, if you have a nice view, for example towards the city skyline, a quiet street, or park, it is much more pleasant than having another building only a few feet away. This would also block the light coming into your apartment.
Balcony / terrace
Perhaps you are not extremely keen on having a balcony or terrace. But especially in summer, or if you are living in a city with a mild or extremely warm climate, a balcony is an excellent opportunity to go outside and enjoy the weather without leaving the place. You can invite over friends and family for a drink or for dinner at your balcony, and it adds to the quality of living. Preferably, the balcony is located towards the south or the west, for you to get the most of the sun until it sets.
Although this might seem a minor issue, I find it a major problem if I move into an apartment and I notice that I cannot connect all my electrical devices, because there, not enough electrical sockets. This happened to me once, and ever since I pay attention to this when I am looking for a new apartment. I usually list all devices I need in the living room, bedroom, dining room, kitchen, etc, and then see if all these devices have enough sockets to be connected to.
Phone / cable television / internet
A phone connection as well as being able to receive cable television and have an internet connection are important. But sometimes, I cannot choose the providers I want, which can be either expensive or it can limit me in my possibilities. For example, a very old apartment complex may not yet have the infrastructure in place to receive a high definition (HD) television. Or my contract may prohibit me from placing a satellite dish on the balcony.
Especially in higher buildings, an elevator is imperative. But is the elevator indeed big enough to bring all my furniture to my apartment? If it is not, I may need to organize a relocation company, which is expensive. If there is only one elevator available, what happens when it breaks down, or when there is a power outage?
Kitchen and bathroom
Do the kitchen and the bathroom suit all your needs? I once rented an apartment with a bathtub, which I intended to use frequently. Honestly, in 4 years’ time, I used it 3 times only. Now I know I do not need it, as it also takes away valuable space in the bathroom. A kitchen needs to have all the amenities for me to be able to cook or to prepare a quick meal. The requirements differ per individual, but you should have a clear picture of what you need. Perhaps it means investing additional money.
Finding a new place to live is a true challenge, and it is even more challenging to get an apartment that has all your requirements. Possibly, you will need to let go of that perfect apartment. But knowing what you want and what to look for is a first and important step of feeling well at home.
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