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Comparing Apartments: How to Find a Home You'll Love

By: Susan Finch and Kimi Kaneshina
June 24, 2021

Summer is here and it’s the busy season for renters looking for a new place to live or a better deal. Many apartments are looking to fill vacancies and competing for quality tenants. That leaves renters with multiple apartment options.

But how do you compare apartments and what should you consider before you sign your next lease? We’ll walk you through how to compare multiple apartments to find the best choice for you.

Determine the True Cost of Renting in Each Apartment

Renters always want to score a great deal on an apartment. It’s easy to compare two monthly rent prices. However, calculating the true cost of renting for potential apartments is crucial to get the full picture.

Let’s start by calculating the full cost of rent when comparing two apartments:

  • Rent
  • Security deposit
  • Application fees
  • Pet fees and implications on your deposit
  • Utilities included in each apartment
  • Parking costs
  • Amenities

Rent

Rent prices vary across the US. According to our data rent estimates, here's the average rent costs for the following:

  • Studio: $1,509
  • 1-Bedroom: $1,253
  • 2-Bedroom: $1,525
  • 3-Bedroom: $1,807
  • 4-Bedroom: $2,207

Security Deposit

Security deposits are typically one month's worth of rent. But once again these differ between apartments. This would be something worth considering when you're looking at multiple properties.

Application Fees

The average application fee is $51. These fees are pretty standard when looking at apartments in the same area. If you're looking at apartments in different locations, the pricier location will most likely have a pricier fee.

Pet Deposits

40% of pet-friendly apartments require a pet deposit. The average pet deposit it $287.

You may need to look a little closer at everything on your list. One apartment may offer a lower pet fee, but require a larger security deposit or penalty if your furry friend causes damage.

Utilities

Part of your utilities may be included in one apartment, but the other may offer energy-efficient appliances.

When you're living determines the price of your utilities. For more information on an estimation of your utility cost, read about how much utilities cost in an apartment.

Parking Costs

You may also discover you don’t need a car at all when moving to a highly walkable neighborhood close to work. Ditching the car and relying on Lyft, Uber, and public transportation could dramatically reduce your costs.

Amenities

The full cost of renting your apartment should also include a look at amenity savings. Will an updated gym and pool enable you to cancel your gym membership?

Compare Apartment Community Amenities

Amenities like a fitness center often reduce some of your apartment costs. But they can also make it easier to choose when comparing apartments.

Is entertaining important to you? Top-end amenities make it easier to compare apartments with these features:

  • Pool
  • Gym
  • Clubhouses
  • Barbecue areas
  • Greenspace
  • Dog washing station
  • Gated community
  • Secure parking garage
  • Bike racks

If you can do without amenities and would rather live as frugally as possible, choosing the apartment with the lower overall cost is probably the best choice for you.

Compare Apartment Locations

Depending on what you value, location can mean everything for a renter. Living close to work, restaurants, public transportation, nightlife and attractions could be well worth the rent hike or the smaller apartment.

Living in a location outside of the city may be ideal if you value ample green space, family-friendliness, easy access to major freeways, and an escape from the hustle and bustle. Apartments outside the city are often larger and could prove less expensive.

Your location could also determine the true cost of your apartment. Living right next to a grocery store can limit the need to eat out. Expansive bike paths could eliminate the need for a car, public transportation, and rideshares during temperate weather.

Compare In-Apartment Layout and Features

Square footage and layout are crucial when you need to compare two apartments. Can you afford a two-bedroom in one complex and only a one-bedroom in another? You may decide the overall space isn’t as important as the layout and the in-apartment features.

Here’s what to consider:

  • In-unit laundry. Having a laundry setup in your apartment can save you time and money, and time is often more valuable than money. Enjoying in-apartment laundry instead of spending the afternoon in a laundromat is a significant factor in comparing two apartments.
  • Large balcony and patio area. A balcony area is crucial if you have pets that need some fresh air. Outdoor space can also enhance your quality of life if you spend a lot of time at home working.
  • Carpet versus hardwood floors. Hardwood floors are often more desirable and easier to clean up if you have pets. But carpet is often more comfortable and can warm up your floors on a cold day.
  • Central AC versus window units. You probably don’t need central AC if you live in a mild climate and don’t mind the heat. A window unit or fan is probably sufficient. Hot, humid cities with blistering summer heat make central AC an absolute must.
  • Closet and other storage space. Which apartment offers more space? Thoroughly check the closets, storage space, and empty areas that can transform into shelving.
  • Dual vanity sinks. If you’re moving in with a significant other or have a roommate, a dual vanity can keep the peace.
  • Updated appliances. When comparing apartments, it’s important to consider the appliances. Updated, energy-efficient appliances can reduce your bills and keep your kitchen looking fresh.

Consider the Apartment Floors

The apartment floor you choose makes a big impact on how to compare apartments. The top floor usually offers the best views. However, it’ll also be the hottest in the building.

The rent may also be more expensive for the views alone, but without the extra space or amenities.

The bottom floor is easy with pets and families and is often less expensive. However, you may feel less secure on the bottom floor or miss having a view.

The middle apartment floors are often the most desirable. They have a balance between amenities and layout.

Think About Safety Features

It’s easy to overlook the safety features when trying to compare apartments. However, every renter should look carefully at the building and in-apartment safety features:

  • Smoke detectors
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Deadbolt locks
  • Outside lights
  • Emergency exits

How to Choose an Apartment

It’s not always easy to compare two apartments. However, running through your priorities helps narrow down your choices.

Remember to determine your needs versus your wants. The rooftop pool may be beautiful. However, the lack of central AC could make it an unbearable living situation.

Final Thoughts

The good news is, comparing two apartments means you’ll end up with a place you love. Carefully weigh each choice. Focus on your priorities and the overall cost of your rent. Apartment List can help you get started finding your next apartment.

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AUTHOR
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
AUTHOR
Kimi is a Content Associate and contributing author at Apartment List, helping renters find a new place to call home. Kimi earned her BA in Organizational Studies, Economics from Scripps College. Read More
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