When you’re apartment hunting, everyone will tell you to make a list of your must-haves: How do you feel about not having a dishwasher? Is no air conditioning a deal breaker? While these things are definitely important, finding the right neighborhood should also be at the top of your list. No matter how much you love your apartment, if you hate the area that you live in, chances are you won’t be staying there for very long. Wondering how to choose a neighborhood? Or where you should even begin your neighborhood research? Consider these factors:
It’s important that you are able to feel safe in your home, so when conducting neighborhood research, be sure to consider the crime rate. There are tons of websites like City-Data that will not only tell you the crime rate in a given neighborhood, but also the different types of crimes that have been committed and how frequently they have occurred.
The amenities available in a given area can have a huge bearing on its vibe, so in order to find the right neighborhood you’ll need to know what sort of restaurants, shops, grocery stores and banks are nearby. If you have kids–or are planning to soon–you may also want to choose a neighborhood that has good schools. This type of neighborhood research is best done on foot, walking around the area and chatting up the locals. Grab a cup of coffee at the corner cafe or spend an afternoon at the park to see if you can envision yourself living in the neighborhood.
If you’re not working nearby, you’ll also need to consider your commute to and from the office before signing a lease. While distance is the largest factor, the amount of traffic that you’ll face can also have a major impact. If you plan on driving to work, consider what the parking situation will be when you get home. If you prefer to take public transit, find out if there is a bus stop or subway station nearby. If you’re thinking about biking to work on occasion, make sure you choose a neighborhood that’s located close enough to the office where you can make that goal a reality.
Whether you live in a shiny, new high-rise apartment building or prefer something with a little more history, you’re going to be living close to your neighbors. While you may not run into them in the halls every day, making sure that you get along and live similar lifestyles can make living in the area a much more pleasant experience. You don’t want your neighbors throwing a wild party at 2AM on a Tuesday when you have to get up early for work the next day.
When considering the stakes of choosing the right neighborhood, it’s a good idea to look to the future. Where do you see yourself in five years? If you plan on living in this apartment for the foreseeable future, that may raise the stakes–sacrificing a great neighborhood for the trade-off of cheaper rent isn’t always a good idea.