Sure, most people's perfect apartment on the inside has large windows, new appliances including a dishwasher, a walk-in closet. But just as important is what's outside of your apartment. Here are five tips that will help you narrow down exactly where are you looking for this dream apartment.

  1. Transportation and commuting: A cool apartment loses its charm after six months of an hour long commute. Depending on your mode of transportation, you'll want to be near different things. If you take the bus or the train to work, obviously try to get as close to the line you need as possible. If you drive, you can live farther out from the city but should be closer to the highway. If you ride a bike to work, you'll want to be near a route that doesn't cross over too many extremely busy streets without bike lanes or highways.
  2. Big complex versus small: Big complexes, such as a high rise apartment building or a large complex of 20-30 buildings spread out over a huge lot have a quite a bit going for them. They often have more amenities like a full office staff, a swimming pool (or two), a fitness center, free laundry and so on. There are usually a variety of unit types available at any given time and most of the utilities are often paid. However, the drawbacks are that these apartments can come of as somewhat unfriendly and at the same time, tend to be noisier and less private. A low-rise may lack in amenities but tend to have a homier feel, with only a few neighbors and are situated in the middle of established neighborhoods. You are also more likely to negotiate the terms of your lease in a smaller building.
  3. Your neighborhood atmosphere: It's not all just about work. Is your neighborhood a place you can enjoy on your days off? Is your apartment near a nice park or a fitness center? Would you rather be closer to a hip dance club or a comfortable dive bar? Are there mostly families nearby or is it a lot of single twentysomethings? Will people feel comfortable visiting you and have a good time in your neighborhood? Also, a lot of older neighborhoods have strong ethnic ties, which can really enhance the living experience for a resident.
  4. The necessities: Is there a post office nearby? If you regularly attend a worship service, is there a religious center of your choice within reasonable distance? Can you walk to a grocery store or hardware store in case of emergency? Do most of your friends or family live close to you? Where are the closest fire and police departments? What's the nearest hospital with an emergency room?
  5. Your own judgment: If you're interested in a neighborhood, take the time out to visit it at different times during the day. What may seem like quaint streets with little boutiques and coffee shops at night might be filled with some unseemly characters at night. Talk to another apartment tenant if you can and take walks throughout your potential new neighborhood.

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