How to pick an apartment
I’m apartment-hunting again.
This process usually drains me — not just because of constantly shuttling from unit to unit, but because of the mental pressure. Don’t screw this up, my inner voice says. You’ll have to live here for the next 12 months.
Some of my friends are also hunting for new apartments (coincidence? Or just Baader-Meinhof?). One of them laughed after I told her about my struggle to pick the right place. “Just pick a place that makes you happy.”
Sure. Super helpful, Lihle.
The thing is, lots of things make me happy in an apartment — and I’ve spent the last few days trying to nail down what draws me to a place.
Just like Tinder, there are things that make you instantly swipe right on a unit and others that are instant deal-breakers. Here’s my Delighters vs. Dealbreakers list.
- Modern fittings and finishes. I’m a huge sucker for these. Sleek wooden cupboards, modern doors and door handles (ugh), glass stovetops, and chic lighting and taps. Instant right-swipe.
- Space. A spacious kitchen (with plenty of cupboards), bedroom (with lots of closet space), and bathroom (with a nice, big mirror) are all important to me.
- Height. The quickest way to get my attention is to mention that the unit is on the top floor. I equate that to great views, reduced noise from traffic, and no inconsiderate neighbors smoking in the unit above and blowing smoke into my apartment. Bonus points for units with high ceilings.
- Windows and lighting. Beyond indoor lighting, the place should have plenty of windows that I can stare out of, as that helps me to think. This is easier with a top-floor apartment.
- Distance to shops, the gym, and amenities. The unit has to be within 600m of a mall or shopping center, as I prefer walking to get groceries or lift weights. I learned the hard way in 2017 never to base your choice of location on having a car, as it can get totaled within weeks of you moving in. Always ask yourself: “Where would I choose to live if I had to walk everywhere?” You’ll make a much sounder decision.
- A great street and building entrance. The street you drive out on can greatly influence how you feel about your day when leaving or about coming back home. Your environment matters for your mental health and sanity, so pick a place that makes you feel happy coming back home to (or inviting people over to). Potholes, trash on the street, unswept leaves, and unpleasant smells can subtly poison your mood.
Those are my delighters — let’s look at what might make me reject a place.
- Cracks, holes, or old fittings and fixtures. Instant nope. Apart from indicating a lack of maintenance, cracks and holes are prime hiding spots for cockroaches.
- Only having a bathtub. Gimme a shower, dammit.
- Grass, trees, or hedges anywhere on the property. As soon as I see greenery, I hear leaf blowers. You can’t think, sleep, or hear yourself talk when those noisy contraptions are at work — and the more trees and hedges the complex has, the longer and more often their blowing happens. Dear maintenance people: there has to be a quieter solution.
- Only having one kitchen sink. Petty? Yes. A dealbreaker? Also yes. I like having two sinks to do the dishes in — sue me.
There are plenty of other things that would either delight me (grey or light brown interiors! 😍) or deter me (red cupboards 🤢) but I’m more flexible on those than the above.
How house hunting is similar to job hunting
How we choose where to live is no different from where we choose to work. Your home and workplace are the two places you spend the most time in.
If you work from home like me, it becomes even more important to pick the right place.
You may be considering a job change and likely have a list of delighters and dealbreakers to help you navigate your options.
For example, you might value a great, supportive boss and cool workmates and eschew a slavedriver who micromanages your every move.
Maybe you crave coming to work in a nice building with your own office and want to avoid another open-plan situation.
Write down whatever is important to you and use that to benchmark your next job application — but recognize you might have to make trade-offs.
But when you know what you want, the universe conspires to bring it to you. That’s not just a hokey-pokey, feel-good line — that’s a fact.
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Mohammed Shehu, Ph.D. writes on content and marketing for creators and brands. You can find him online @shehuphd everywhere.