≡ Menu

Looking for an Apartment; what to get?

April 2011 checklist for weeding out apartments. Move in Date: Fri May 7 or Sat May 8.

  1. extra expenses (utilities, insurance, etc).
  2. large pool (vs. smaller pool)
  3. How late open on weekdays? Open Sunday?
  4. Any move-in specials?
  5. what kind of broadband options?
  6. how new are the air conditioners? what is the typical kilowatt usage over the year?
  7. How new is the refrigerator?
  8. need washer connections (but not dryer).
  9. Built in bookshelves?
  10. balconies for bikes? outside storage?
  11. What recycling options are available?
  12. How close are you to park where you can walk dog?
  13. what is pet deposit/pet fee?
  14. do you have onsite police officers? Do they patrol?
  15. how many units onsite?
  16. How long has the current management property run the property?
  17. package pickup? leasing hours? open Sunday?
  18. own parking spaces?
  19. how many floors?
  20. where would the best place to put your bicycle? What percent do?
  21. other exercise facilities: tennis/fitness center, workout center?
  22. how old are the units generally?
  23. how long has the management company been running?
  24. proximity to pool/dumpster?
  25. street noise?
  26. What is the fee for early termination of the lease?  How is it calculated?
  27. How much notice do you need to give?
  28. Is there a place to plug in electric vehicles?

April 15, 2011 Update: Here are some location requirements for moving into a new apartment. I expect to move much closer to town, ideally inside the loop and close to mass transit.

  1. nearby park for dog?
  2. bike lanes?
  3. access to library?
  4. bike distance to supermarket?
  5. 30 minute commute to downtown?
  6. nearby meetings/entertainment?

Other Resources:

Top Candidate So Far:

Oxford on Greenridge, Robert Nagle,  6121 WINSOME LN APT 56C , HOUSTON, TX,  77057-5581 ; Leasing Office: (866) 865-4329

3 years ago on this blog I made a web page about my apartment search. I set up this criteria:

What I’m looking for an apartment (2005):

  1. MUST HAVE: gigantic swimming pool, fitness center Many Outlets in Computer room, Place to Store Bike, 620-700 sq feet, Adequate Laundry Facilities, Book Storage Space,
  2. Nice to Have: Built-in Bookshelves/ Book Storage Space, Good TV room, Washer/Dryer?, Open Sunday, Close to Dumpster, Tennis Court, Carpet Cleaning, Party/Partyspace? Exterminator On Demand, good acoustics for sound recording.
  3. MUST NOT HAVE: Towing Company Scams, Street Noise, High Electric Rates, Low Crime, Facing Pool
  4. Check Leasing Agreement: Reletting Fees, Late Fees, Pet Fees, Guests, Deposits (what are mandatory fees?), Sample unit electric bills, crime report,
  5. LOCATION PREFERENCES: Supermarket, Pedestrian Friendly, Library, Access to the Beltways, Busstop? Postoffice?, Computer Store, Family,

Three years later, I have learned a valuable thing after being robbed twice. Security is a concern.  (At the moment, the major determinant was price; I was taking off time from work and wanted to keep expenses down to a minimum).

Wow, I’m older and how my priorities have changed (2008):

  1. MUST HAVE: gigantic swimming pool, fitness center, large enough space for a kitchen table (I was currently using the kitchen area as a computer area and eating in front of the TV).  Place to Store Bike, 700-800 sq feet,  Book Storage Space, Decent DSL or broadband solution.
  2. NICE TO HAVE: Recycling, Built-in Bookshelves/ Book Storage Space, Good TV room, Washer/Dryer?, Open Sunday Leasing Office, Package Pickup, Close to Dumpster, Tennis Court, Carpet Cleaning, Party/Partyspace? Exterminator On Demand, Close to swimming pool.
  3. MUST NOT HAVE: Towing Company Scams, Street Noise, High Electric Rates, Low Crime, Facing Pool
  4. Check Leasing Agreement: Pet Fees, Guests, Deposits (what are mandatory fees?), Sample unit electric bills, crime report,
  5. LOCATION PREFERENCES: bikeable, close to work (Montrose), close to farmer’s market, good Supermarket, Pedestrian Friendly, Library, Access to the Beltways, Busstop? Postoffice?, Computer Store, close to Family (in Katy and Bellaire area), Decent restaurants, close to social spaces.

(I expect to update this over the next two weeks as my search continues).

I have enjoyed living in Alief (all things considered). The area is great, but the crime rate makes it impossible to stay. Although I have  Walmart and HEB within biking distance, there are no decent restaurants and very few places where to meet people.  I’ve added farmer’s markets to my list of location preferences. You really can’t be expected to go to farmer’s markets on a regular basis unless you live within biking distance of one.

The problem with searching for apartments is that you never uncover the real problems at the new place until you’ve paid a moving company and lived there a while. In the current apartment, the problem was 1)crime, 2)intermittent closing of the swimming pool  and 3)roaches (although I have to admit, recently my roach problem has improved considerably).  Actually, the other problem  at the beginning was that my current apartment had a gigantic construction which lasted three months longer than planned, which caused the workout center to be closed. As it turns out, that did not matter much because 1)the workout center totally sucked, and people were always stealing stuff and 2)I began to prefer exercise videos inside my apartment. In my next apartment it could be noise, extra fees or bad maintenance staff or who knows? One thing I’ve learned is that management doesn’t really make that much of a difference; they’re all relatively efficient, but they drop the ball at several crucial times.

In my current apartment, I have several annoyances which I must live with (they are trivial really).

  • The blower guy (the man who goes around the apartment with a contraption that blows leaves and grass away from the sidewalk), seems to hit my side of the complex two mornings a week. Really annoying.
  • The dishwasher is extremely loud!
  • For some reason, where I park is precisely where people in their cars veer to avoid a speedbump. That makes it difficult to get out sometimes.
  • The toilets don’t flush well (and always require maintenance adjustments; I am sick of it).

But I love:

  • the swimming pool (repairs and all)
  • the park across the street
  • the fact that I have an upstairs to sleep in. Acoustically it is blocked from the rest of the apartment

In the new apartment I am willing to pay a little more for the extra space. Not only is there the question of books, I will have a kitchen table and be probably keeping my bike inside. Commuting to work no longer seems that big of a deal to me, but having something fun nearby would be nice to have. Maybe a friend or a group, or an entertainment venue. Except maybe for Midtown and Westchase, apartments don’t really provide integrated living spaces. Apartment dwellers are segregated in suburbia,  toting their laundry in the car every weekend to the house of a family member.  At least with neighborhoods of house-dwellers, you have a sense that sooner or later you will get to know your neighbors.

Here’s a checklist for weeding out apartments:

  1. large pool (vs. smaller pool)
  2. what is pet deposit/pet fee?
  3. do you have onsite police officers? Do they patrol?
  4. how many units onsite?
  5. package pickup? leasing hours? open Sunday?
  6. own parking spaces?
  7. trash fees? recycling?
  8. how many laundry facilities?
  9. open Friday for showing?
  10. how many floors?
  11. where would the best place to put your bicycle? What percent do?
  12. what kind of broadband options?
  13. other exercise facilities: tennis/fitness center
  14. how old are the units generally?
  15. availability? Jan 1 or a week before?
  16. how long has the management company been running?
  17. Any move-in specials?

Nov 26. Update. It is quickly becoming apparent that despite the economic downturn,  rates for apartments have increased considerably! My current apartment at 700 sq feet  goes for $595 per month, compared to $750-800 per month for the apartments inside the loop I’m considering. These apartments have the same square footage, the same facilities, more expensive stores and pet rent.

If I go outside the loop, I lose the benefit of the Westpark Tollway and it probably means longer commute. (My current commute is 25 minutes approximately, which translates to 8.75 hours of drive time per month.

Expenses now (which could be subject to change depending on location):

  • Gas $160 (that assumes $2.50/gallon)
  • Tollway $35
  • Drive time, 25 minutes x 21 days = 8.75 days
  • Insurance (car & renters might be higher if I stay put)
  • Grocery bills: my shopping bill is relatively cheap now
  • Energy bills: my energy bill is modest; that depends mainly on apartment age and insulation.

Other considerations: Moving/Transition:

  • Moving costs $600
  • Packing/Unpacking Time: 4 days
  • extra deposit $400

Advantages of Moving vs Nonmoving:

  • Different Kinds of Social Contact
  • Start off with a very clean apartment
  • No roaches

Risks of Moving:

  • More unknowns & New problems which won’t become apparent
  • Losing things will be inevitable during the process

So I am seriously considering staying put in my current apartment, at least for another year. I don’t love that.  But there might be a way to remediate the current problems:

  • security. Renters insurance could mitigate the damage, plus better data protection methods. Plus a double deadbolt lock. Also, I could avoid going out after 9:00 and keep the radio on while I’m out. A dog would also help.
  • roaches. This was a serious problem over the last two years. But in the last 3 months, the problem has improved considerably. With enough prevention, I could conceivably prevent this problem altogether.
  • being locked out of my apartment. When my car was stolen, I was helpless. I could not get into my apartment, and I couldn’t get back into my apartment. That was a nightmare..and frankly a breach of trust. An apartment should be able to handle that common emergency, but they didn’t.  On the other hand, how badly did that hurt me..and couldn’t I have arranged for someone to have spare keys?
  • swimming pool closures. As much as this annoys me, I can always exercise inside my apartment and find other methods to stay fit.

One of the biggest considerations is which kind of apartment would be easier to keep clean? So far, this current apartment has been a disaster to clean, but that is mainly due to my personal schedule (which is always hectic).  If I devoted let’s say 3 days off to cleaning  (that would be the same amount of time required for the move itself), I could improve the liveability and cleanability of my apartment considerably.

{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment