Apartment Series: Location & Neighborhood

Finding an apartment can be a long process, but one of the most important parts is picking a good location. The neighborhood you pick will be where you live, eat, walk, shop and maybe even work. Picking somewhere doesn't have to be hard. I put together some tips to finding a good location.

None of this is meant to offend anyone. I know there are exceptions to every statement below, these are just some general ideas that I used to find a good location to move. 

Visit during the day on the weekend, then again on a weeknight. 

This is important if you are seriously considering a place. Listen to how loud it is, how many people are home, are there parties, what kind of people are outside. It's okay to judge a book by it's cover in this case. If there's a bunch of creepy looking people around the place at night, maybe you should re-consider.

Look at the landscape.

Is there dog poop on the lawns? Are there flowers, trees and how well taken care of are they? A landlord who cares about the place will make sure the location looks good. Neighbors who care about their lawns and take care of their houses are probably the type of people who won't throw raging parties until 4 am.

Pay attention to the cars.

If there are nice cars in the lots, it probably means the people who live there make some good money, care about their belongings and usually the neighborhood will be a little better.

This might seem silly to judge the neighborhood by the cars, but I'd rather live next to a family with a mini -van than a single guy with a junk car and sketchy friends. They don't have to be Benz and Cadillacs, but cars that look well-taken car of and clean are usually a good sign.

Are there more yoga studios than pawn shops?

Pay attention to the kind of store in the area. If there are a lot of pawn shops, dollar stores, thrift shops and alcohol shops then you might want to keep looking. All these stores are still in business meaning the people who live in the area go to those stores. You can tell a lot by a person by where they shop.

Again it's not to say any location with a pawn shop is sketchy but I guarantee a neighborhood with a 24 hour gym, panera bread and target is probably nicer than one with a dollar tree, goodwill and "we buy gold" shops.

The school district can be a huge indicator.

Do some research on the school district in the location you are looking at. A good school system almost always comes with good neighborhoods. Parents who value education move to those areas, kids do well in school in those locations, and the overall area has more successful people and families.

Visit a coffee shop and a grocery store.

Everyone needs groceries. Go to the closest store to your place and get a feel for the people and the atmosphere. Are people polite? how busy is it? What kind of people live there? A coffee shop is another great spot to get a feel for the area.

Often times coffee shops have events, flyers or some sort of billboard. Look at what is going on in the community. This is also a great place to chat with the people who work there and find out what they think of the area. They will know the location better than most and they will likely give you an honest answer.

Use online tools

There are a number of websites you can use to find crime rates, neighborhood ratings, and other stats to help you get a better idea of the location. Below are a few that I used while looking for an apartment.

The absolute best way to find a good location is to visit a couple times and trust your gut. Bring some friends or family along and get their opinion as well. You can update your home and change the paint but you cannot change the location, so be sure to be careful when you pick.

photo credit: Lost Albatross via photopincc edits by norbly