What am I looking for in a rental

In order of importance (and assuming under $5K/mo):

1.  I will be able to get enough sleep at night– no thin walls, no cigarette smoke.  (Also non-crazy landlord, but how does one screen for that?)

2.  At least 2br.

3.  In unit laundry.  Dishwasher.  Reasonable appliances (though we can always buy cheap ones).

4. In a decent to good school district and DC1 can stay grade-skipped (or they want to test before keeping the skip– I’m fine with that too).

5.  We can keep at least our main kitty, little kitty.

6.  A reasonable commute to:  Sabbatical Uni, DC1’s school, DC2’s preschool, given that we will only have one car.

7.  Walkable neighborhood that includes a playground.

8.  Allows us to take Nice kitty

9.  3 br

10.  Walking distance to a library

11.  Walking distance to shops

12.  Excellent schools (as opposed to decent)

13.  Driveway or garage space, not just street parking.

14. Out door play area such as yard.

15. Furnished.

16.  More than 1000 sq ft.

17.  Nice appliances.

18.  Nice extras (countertops etc.)

19.  Fruit or nut trees.

20.  A price considerably lower than 5K/mo.

What are your priorities when it comes to a rental?  Do they differ for long-term vs. short-term?  What am I forgetting?

33 Responses to “What am I looking for in a rental”

  1. Leah Says:

    I suppose priorities depend on station in life. When I was last renting, my priorities included laundry in-building (didn’t have enough $ to pay for places that would have in-unit) and furnished.

    Now, I’m much pickier. I think your list sounds reasonable. I really mind neighbor/people noise, but I’ve never minded ambient noise. Thus, I’ve found I can live near a hospital (helicopters) or a railroad station just fine, which helps bring rent down a little.

    I always thought appliances were included in rentals, but my brother lives in a location some might consider paradise, and he had to buy a fridge. I was pretty thrown by that. Who wants to move a fridge around between apartments? Blegh.

  2. First Gen American Says:

    Safe would be #1 but I am assuming at $5k/month that is a given? This is a city right? If so then things like walking distance to subway would make my list. Off street parking is HUGE in the northeast in the winter months when people have battles over parking spots. Interesting that my top 3 didn’t even make your radar.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Good point. We’re not looking in unsafe communities, and you’re right that subway should be on the list somewhere, though that’s a complicated interactive thing (if we can walk where we need to go, it is less important), so it’s been bundled in with #6.

  3. Liz Says:

    YES, the laundry. I don’t even care about continuing to do dishes by hand, even though I’m lazy about it. But having to drive to the laundromat and spend 2 hours there… It’s not fun anymore.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m not sure how much of a deal-breaker on-site vs. in-unit laundry would be. I think it would still be because you can’t just throw in a load and go about your day.

      • Miser Mom Says:

        My best apartment ever: above a laundromat. I’d just walk down the one flight of stairs to the laundromat, throw in all three loads of laundry, and walk back upstairs. An hour later, walk down, move all three loads to the drier, and go back up. A half hour later, get all clothes. Fastest laundry day ever!

        Plus (and this was helpful in Rhode Island), essentially free heat all winter long.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We have some friends who live above a laundry service– they use it!

    • Thisbe Says:

      We semi-recently lived in an otherwise-awesome apartment without laundry or hookups. It was really annoying to do the laundry at the laundromat, so one day in a fit of irritation I asked the people there how much it cost for them to do it for us. Answer: surprisingly reasonable!

      We would take in our laundry once or twice a month and get all of it done for ~$20. And it would be folded!

      It would never have worked if a) I had been working at that time (I go through a large volume of work clothes, they get gross) or b) we had children. But we were really pleased with the “paying someone else to do the laundry” solution.

  4. Linda Says:

    Rental markets can be so different from place to place. While renting in Chicago where most of the units were in older buildings, finding one with in-unit laundry would have been nearly impossible. I got used to either figuring out the best time to use the shared machines in the building, or going to the laundromat. When you have kids I can see this would be a pain, but many city laundromats these days have wifi and it’s possible to be productive during the wash and dry cycles if the kids are either at home with the other partner or suitably occupied.

    When I was looking at affordable places in the Bay Area I was finding that in-unit laundry wasn’t highly available, either. Here in Napa, house rentals are more likely to advertise washer/dryer hook-ups only, so it’s usually bring your own appliances. And that’s where the weird refrigerator thing comes in, too. I’ve seen both rentals and sale houses that don’t include the refrigerator. It’s fairly common here, apparently. I don’t understand why that’s considered a movable appliance, but apparently it is. Ugh. If/when I have to move from this little house, I’m hoping I can find a place that includes all big appliances like refrigerator, washer, and dryer.

    If you’re moving to Paradise, cycling is also an option for getting around. This does add another item to the list, though: bicycle storage. It’s best not to leave the bike in a place where it will get wet in case it ever rains, so you’ll want a sheltered place where you can lock a bicycle (or two or three) up when not in use.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      One of the previous times we lived in a city, we bought a cheap refrigerator for our apartment. We actually still have it!

      I hadn’t thought about bicycle storage, but that’s important.

      The stuff that comes with 2-3br places does seem to be a bit more than with 0-1 br places. They’re also a lot more expensive!

  5. middle_class Says:

    I’ve never done a short-term rental but for long-term, I would definitely move your #20 (price) to a higher spot. I would also not worry as much about appliances or furnished if it’s long-term. For either short-term or long-term, I highly value laundry hook-ups even if I have to buy my own washer/dryer. I would put access to library lower than access to playgrounds/parks because I tend to borrow e-books and a library that’s close enough to drive to is fine for me.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, for long-term price definitely matters a lot more– we can do up to 5K because we’ll be spending out of savings– once those savings are gone we can’t afford that monthly rent anymore!

  6. becca Says:

    In the small midwestern college town where I went to undergrad, we had a laundry unit in our co-op house, and we still went to the laundromat. Why? Because it was a laundromat-bar and we’d go as a huge group and sit around playing apples to apples. Most entertaining laundry ever. I would probably consider doing without laundry in my home if it meant living abroad in some amazing paradise, but if it were a thing to be had, it’d be worth a chunk of change to me. Of course, there’s a natural limit to the in-house laundry premium- the amount it would cost to get the clothes picked up, cleaned, and delivered back without me having to do anything. I don’t like doing laundry so much I’d pay more for an apartment than it would cost me to get the task done for me. This is trickier with small children (where if you don’t have a few extra sets of bedding then the option to wash said bedding when child is sick or has accidents can be priceless), but still something to think about if you’re considering buying the appliances. Unless you get utility out of doing your own laundry.

    Also, if I had to pick walking distance to a park or to a library, I’d pick the park even though I like going to the library more. I’m more likely to drive to the library, since I don’t always want to lug all the picture books I get for kidlet and I back.
    Having experienced it, I will say that walking distance to a GOOD farmer’s market is a MAJOR selling point. There’s still the incentive to drive to haul stuff, but a lot of times when I go to the FM I just want a few specialty items and a treat for my kiddo, and walking fits the ethos of FMs better anyway.

    I was also surprised by how much nice outdoor space provides a lasting boost to happiness. Granted I don’t think it scales with size- 2x the yard is 2x the mowing, but not 2x the happiness.

    I also won’t live in a place without a usable bathtub. I occasionally consider it, when I look at things like the House Hunters that focus on Hawaii and places that only have outdoor showers, but I don’t think I could really live in them. I mostly take showers, so my intense need for bathtubs confuses my partner, but if you have just ONE icky physical ailment that needs a good soak… totally worth it. I don’t even like staying in hotel rooms without bathtubs, even though I rarely need it.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We would probably go with a laundry service if we didn’t have laundry, rather than the laundromat. (Presumably the amount we’d be saving on rent for the year would be worth it!) I would have to get over the squick factor of someone else touching my underwear.

      I think we could handle no tub for a year, but long-term we’d want that option.

      • Debbie M Says:

        We once had a laundromat that also had weight-living machines. It was called Clean and Lean.

  7. Debbie M Says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen your #1 requirement in an apartment. I didn’t even know that was possible.

    I only looked for rentals when I was single, so I had fewer priorities.

    1. Affordable

    1. Easily accessible to campus (generally by bus since it also had to be affordable)

    1. Safe (no warning notices about rapes or guys looking into car windows).

    (Those three tie for first because they were all required.

    4. Parking nearby for both me and visiting friends, ideally with no gates.

    5. Laundry room in walking distance. (Sometimes I took a bus, though.)

    6. Grocery store in walking distance, (Usually I took a bus, though. Generally there was something in walking distance like a gas station for times when I was sick and didn’t feel like walking to a real store, though. This was during the period when I didn’t own a car.)

    When I was in the market to buy my own place, I additionally required a solid foundation and a large living room. I lucked out and got a lot of other nice things in addition.

    Now I have way more requirements. So many requirements that I don’t think any place can fit them all. Even my current house! (Why yes, I am planning renovations.) But actually, I think if I were renting now, I’d have very similar requirements as I used to have because it’s temporary. When it’s temporary and when fixing the place is not your responsibility, it’s a lot easier to deal with problems. I think I’d want to make sure the property manager was in charge of the mowing, though. I do like your idea to use a laundry service instead of a laundromat if necessary because kids = buckets of laundry.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Well, #1 could happen with a rental house. But we’ve also had apartments with *really thick walls* before. They were also really old apartments. (We couldn’t live in our last old apartment building now because uncovered radiators = huge danger for small fingers. Also the hot water out of the taps got way too hot to be safe.)

      • Debbie M Says:

        Ah, right, houses and old apartments. It sounds like a rental house or maybe a duplex is the way to go. Good luck to you!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I saw one today on craigslist, available june 1 that hits #1-9, but when we called up, the real estate agent was all, yeah, unless I get a lot of interest, I’m not going to show it until late May. It’s a land-lord’s market out there!

      • Debbie M Says:

        Oy. Well, some of those landlords will have good things to offer!

  8. chacha1 Says:

    For us to consider moving out of our present apartment, the requirements would be
    1. centrally located for our work area of West L.A.
    2. 1.5 bathrooms
    3. secure off-street parking for 2 (public transit really isn’t an option in West L.A. unless you want to add 90+ minutes to your transit time each direction)
    4. accepts cats
    5. has at least a gesture toward outdoor space (patio, balcony, courtyard)
    6. on-site laundry (in-unit preferred, but you generally don’t find it in anything but a condo)
    7. under our current rent of $2525

    I could live in a smaller space if all of the above conditions were met. So far, every time I’ve been fed up with noise or poor maintenance or whatever here, and have looked around, I haven’t found anything remotely worth considering.

  9. J Liedl Says:

    We’ve always stayed local for my sabbaticals, so we’ve never had the long-term rental conundrum. Our biggest issue has been quiet as my partner is a fiendishly light sleeper. We bring a small fan on travels to generate white noise and even that isn’t enough in many cases. If I’m travelling just by myself, I care only about safety and budget. I can live with pretty much anything. Factor in the family and infinite complexity soon results as I attempt to balance all of their needs and as many desires as possible. The cats stay at home during our travels to be cared for by a family friend, energetic young dog goes to the kennel and the geriatric dog stays with relatives. Pet care ends up costing a fair bit, I find!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m a fiendishly light sleeper too, and a fiend when I don’t get enough sleep. So it’s a priority for *everyone* that I get sleep.

    • fizzchick Says:

      My partner always wants to run the fan, but I get cold if air is blowing on my head at night. This has been fabulous. Definitely worth the price. And it’s smaller and thus much more portable than a fan. We brought it along on our holiday travels this year.

  10. Thisbe Says:

    I hope I’m done renting for the foreseeable future – I am actually en route *right now* to move into our semi-forever-home, and the good lord willing and the creek don’t rise I wont move again for at least a decade.

    But! I think it is the seventeenth place I have lived (well, for longer than 1-2 months – including the super-short-term places from my vagrant years makes the list unreasonable) since I left home for college, excluding dorms. I am a pro at renting, but gosh have I grown to hate it. My priorities right now would be:

    1a) accepts all of my pets (two dogs, one cat) – ideally allows for another one or two, since I sometimes end up needing to foster someone short-term, but I could let that go.

    1b) thick walls/no upstairs neighbors – like you, I’m terrible at sleeping through anything, and I am a Demon of Irritability if it gets too bad

    1c) walkable or bikeable to >80% of where I want to go

    (the above three are non-negotiable for me)

    2) good light (my SAD gets much worse when I live in gloomy houses)

    3) useable kitchen

    4) appropriately updated electrical

    5) general aesthetics – hardwood floors, high ceilings, open floor plan, no terrible paint color choices

    6) no carpets. Just no. And especially not in a rental.

    7) fenced yard

    8) decent dishwasher, laundry machines

    9) price

    I’ve never been able to care about off-street parking, and because I don’t have kids the safe neighborhoods/good schools thing is not relevant (provocative side note: someone recently said to me that the whole “good schools” focus is really a strong proxy for “white and/or Asian neighborhood” – grumpy thoughts?) – you’d think it would be, but it seems like I consistently choose to live in neighborhoods that might reasonably be described as “bad”, so I guess not.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Cloud has a few posts on what “good” schools are and how “rough” is a euphemism for “not white”. In our case, there are majority-minority schools with decent scores, which probably indicates they’re better at educating than the all-white/low reduced lunch school districts with higher scores. There are also majority-minority schools that are failing, have high student-teacher ratios, etc.

      • becca Says:

        Actually, it probably indicates that you have relatively affluent minorities, unless you’ve controlled for parental income in checking the scores. Though it may also indicate a lovely place to live.

        The blogger at Bad Mom Good Mom (does she have a snappy handle?) wrote some phenomenal posts on schools and performance and race a while back. They made me want to live in California.
        Looking at housing in the Chicago area, it is utterly dispiriting to try to find a school for a mixed race gifted kid. Or possibly any kid. In Chicago, schools that are majority African American do not score well on test scores for long (not quite so true of other racial/ethnic minority groups).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yes, controlling for % on free and reduced lunch which is also reported. My friends say that the mix of ESL is important too– when it’s mostly one language they tend to have higher test scores than when there are a lot of different languages. But that still doesn’t cause a school to fail, just have lower scores.

        In Chicago, check out the magnet and charter options. They’re not all just white islands. But yes, the public school system in Chicago is especially depressing. The suburbs can be pretty amazing academically, but yes, white flight.

    • Liz Says:

      Ugh, my carpet here (in a rental) is so terrible that when I vacuum I have to be careful about not catching a pill and unraveling the whole darn thing. This is not at all motivating for me to actually clean.

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