What matters most when picking a place to live?
December 12, 2005 10:26 AM   Subscribe

What matters most to you when selecting a place to live?

We are renting out a small apartment in our basement, 700 square feet. The occupant is leaving and there is a fair amount of ugliness going on down there. So what matters to you as a renter, nice carpet, new appliances, view, accessibility? Help us focus our meager funds on what really matters.

Right now, there is on the negative side, newish but ugly purple carpet, old but functioning appliances, and plain old white walls. On the positive side, laundry facilities (shared with us), seperate entrance, and offstreet parking.
posted by stormygrey to Home & Garden (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
-Lack of musty odor
-Permission to paint (half the price of paint if its a color the landlord agrees with)
-Energy efficient, reliable appliances
-Doors and windows that work (they shut completely and lock without a fight)
-Reliable plumbing
posted by jon_kill at 10:32 AM on December 12, 2005

I'd start by taking a look at how well the appliances are functioning. For example, the oven might be working, but does it actually heat to the temperature it's set to, or is the thermostat off? The fridge is working, but does the freezer frost up? Is the dishwasher loud enough to wake the dead?

Speaking of loud enough to wake the dead, are the furnace and air conditioner in the basement? How loud are they?

Other things you could look at to improve - are electrical outlets sufficient? And are they all on the same circuit or can you actually run the microwave and the toaster at the same time?

On the aesthetic end, I wouldn't paint the walls, since white is neutral, but consider allowing your new tenants the option of painting (this would be a big selling point for me). I'd probably rather not have purple carpet - again, neutrals like beige or grey are your best bet for a basement.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:40 AM on December 12, 2005

The two most important things when searching for an apartment are location and price. Other than that, something clean and working is more important to me than new. If the rug isn't too worn out get it shampooed and clean the appliances thoroughly.

Good lighting is also important to me. If I can't get much natural light I would like good overhead lighting and no florescent light.
posted by Alison at 10:40 AM on December 12, 2005

I think your best bet (meaning these are the things that pretty much everyone cares about) is a combo of safety, cleanliness, and functioning.
posted by camcgee at 10:45 AM on December 12, 2005

Necessities (for me):
Hardwood floors - this is a dealbreaker for me. I won't live anywhere that doesn't have 'em
Proper kitchen - cabinet space, full-sized appliances. New is better than old, but if they've been thoroughly cleaned it isn't a big deal if they are older.
Cleanliness - no funky smells, no mystery-crud (especially in the kitchen and bath)
No roaches, mice, bedbugs, fleas or vermin of any sort
Must be pet-friendly - I have two cats and a dog, so this is a necessity for me

If you were going to do one thing (and you can afford it), I'd rip the purple carpeting out and install some woodflooring. If you don't want to do that, a neutral-colored carpet would be better. Purple carpeting is a tougher sell than older appliances, at least in my book.
posted by discokitty at 10:46 AM on December 12, 2005

For me (and I'm a renter), purple carpet would probably be a dealbreaker.

If it is a basement apartment, I would recommend doing as much as possible to brighten the space up. Purple carpet would be the first thing to go, replace with a light beige/tan color, or if you have hardwood underneath leave it uncovered. A new coat of white paint if you think it needs it. Clean up all the windows and the outside area around the windows (shrubs, landscaping, etc.) to let as much light as possible inside. And finally, clean, clean, clean everything!

It has been my experience as a renter that I have not minded older appliances at all, provided they are fully functioning. You should consider adding a dishwasher however, if there isn't already one.
posted by peppermint22 at 10:46 AM on December 12, 2005

The first question I ask (rhetorically) when looking at a place is "How close is the nearest bar?" Perhaps I'm a special case.

I wouldn't call 700 sq. ft. a "small" apartment. 250 is a small one. To answer your question, I'd say new carpet and paint are probably the more important items. Old appliances are fine as long as they work, but more importantly I want to be able to walk across the floor in my bare feet and not feel disgusted. Also, pay attention to the bathroom. I've rejected several places before because their bathrooms are little more than dark, cramped closets.
posted by sbutler at 10:50 AM on December 12, 2005

Response by poster: I agree the carpeting has got to go. I fear that hardwoods would make it feel colder than it is. Perhaps we just need to spend the night one night and see how the temperature and noise situations rank.
posted by stormygrey at 10:51 AM on December 12, 2005

for another viewpoint, i wouldn't care about the purple carpet at all for a 700 square foot basement apartment. in a place that small, i wouldn't be entertaining a whole lot so the looks of the place wouldn't be of paramount importance.

being able to paint would be nice, having newer/better appliances would be excellent and very well might convince me to live there (as would the free laundry). pets allowed would be even better, especially since you don't seem to care too much for the carpeting and will probably rip it out after i move.

the MOST IMPORANT THING for me, as a renter, is that my landlord/people are decent, kind, reasonable, and flexible, and handle repairs promptly. if you can project that kind of image (and if it's an accurate projection), you shouldn't have a hard time finding a good renter. i've had too many awful experiences to rent from someone who seems even the slightest bit off their rocker or anal.
posted by booknerd at 10:52 AM on December 12, 2005

1. Landlord isn't a freak
2. excellent lighting
3. funky neighborhood with bookstores/bus line
4. wood floors
5. great stove--preferably gas, with nice accurate adjustments
posted by craniac at 10:57 AM on December 12, 2005

Safety. Meaning, how safe is the area and how safe/secure is the building.
posted by JanetLand at 11:00 AM on December 12, 2005

- near enough to work for public transport
- secure
- space/light
posted by andrew cooke at 11:08 AM on December 12, 2005

My criteria for an apartment are as follows: top floor, not facing the street, hardwood floors, gas kitchen, good closets, window in the bathroom.

In a basement apartment I'd be worried about musty odors, dampness in general (particularly in the bathroom), temperature and noise from overhead. Purple carpet would be a turn-off.

What's the storage situation? Does the unit have plenty of closets? Who pays for heat, and how well does it work? Does the unit get any natural light at all?
posted by ambrosia at 11:14 AM on December 12, 2005

Quiet. This means not only a quiet neighborhood but if there are other tenants, they should be considerate or else BELOW you. (This won't be a factor for you, however.)
Adequate parking.
Convenient to work and not too far from stuff to do.
Good management staff.
No mold/mildew.
Ability to decorate as I see fit within reason.
Few or no kids.
No smokers living where I'd smell their smoke.
posted by kindall at 11:22 AM on December 12, 2005

Response by poster: ambrosia: The heat works very well and all utilities are included, so hopefully that will be a selling point. I think there are two good size closets.
posted by stormygrey at 11:29 AM on December 12, 2005

No vermin/insects.
Clean paint.
Appliances in good condition.
Cabinet doors hung properly.
Closet doors hung properly.
Bathtub in good condition with good caulking.
Clean carpets.
No smells.
My own ability to control heat. This is really important in basement suites, IMHO.
No smoking and no smells in suite or hall.
Reliable plumbing.
Security system depending on neighbourhood.
posted by acoutu at 11:39 AM on December 12, 2005

Only two things: location and price. The rest is either fixable or tolerable. By necessity.

If I had more options I could add a lot of other discriminating factors like - in order of preference - not facing a noisy street/pub, having a decent view, good appliances, good plumbing, good lighting, wood floors, nicely sized rooms, bathrooms, etc. But for good location and price I'm willing to take mould and thirty year old carpets. In fact even managing to balance location and price is a lottery.
posted by funambulist at 11:49 AM on December 12, 2005

privacy and security.
posted by gai at 12:06 PM on December 12, 2005

Wow, lots of purple carpet hate. I'd just want the carpet to be newish and clean, but then, I did just move out of an apartment with purple (industrial) carpet. Never bothered me. In fact, I like industrial carpet and concrete floors, but recognize that I may be something of a freak.

As far as things you have control over:

CLEAN. This is doubly important in a basement, as other people have alluded to. Nothing icky anywhere, paint should be very clean and in good condition. If it needs repainting, offering to paint in a (neutral, if you insist) color of their choice before they move in would be awesome.

Smoothly operating windows, doors, plumbing, etc. A nice showerhead (I like the ones on stiff, flexible necks, but only if you remove the flow restrictor. If you're water-usage-sensitive, just make sure it has good pressure.) is a nice touch.

Lighting, again, doubly important in a basement. I don't care so much about view, but having well-thought-out lighting included would really impress me. There's some great tips hidden in this thread. Things like discreet, tasteful, low-voltage lighting on tracks or cables would make more sense than funky floor lamps, but maybe you want to throw in a couple of those too. The lighting alone can make it look homey even with nothing in it. DIMMABLE, and make sure they know it and can see the place with the lighting dimmed.

Newer appliances are a definitely a plus, but older ones in good repair aren't usually a deal-breaker if the place is otherwise desirable to the would-be tenant.

Living with the landlord is always creepy, but I guess there's not much you can do about that other than being as friendly as possible. If you are quiet, don't mind noise, aren't nosy, etc., say so.
posted by trevyn at 12:11 PM on December 12, 2005

Shower water pressure. Really the only thing I couldn't stand would be a weak shower.
posted by nicwolff at 12:36 PM on December 12, 2005

If you want a tenant who's clean and responsible, then the place has to be really clean. A clean bathroom and kitchen are dealbreakers for me. I look for:

- clean grout in the bathroom and in the kitchen
- good windows (no drafts, close and open easily)
- spotless fridge, sink and oven
- lots of good lighting (fluorescent doesn't count)
- no scuff marks on the walls (if there are, then repaint)

Since it's a basement apartment, is the entrance welcoming? Make sure it's well-lit and clear of leaves and snow. It'd be nice if there's a porch light with a motion sensor.

Also, purple carpeting sounds kind of gross but I'd only get rid of it if the floor underneath is nice.
posted by hooray at 12:37 PM on December 12, 2005

My requirements when I went apartment-hunting were few and I ended up in a great place* :
- bathtub
- gas stove

After living in an apartment for months that had neither of these, I noticed that the lack thereof was what really drove me crazy. I could put up with overhead lighting and ugly walls, but not being able to take a bath was just the pits.

Things that are mighty handy, that sweeten the deal:
- on-site laundry
- hardwood floors
- good lighting
- accessibility to public transportation (currently, there's a busstop outside my house, but I'd be fine with a five minute walk)

*ok, so my landlady is a nut, but she's mostly harmless.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:46 PM on December 12, 2005

Response by poster: This may be a little much, but what would you all consider reasonable for this small apartment, with dedicated driveway, and all utilities (water, cable-tv&internet, elect. and gas)?
posted by stormygrey at 12:52 PM on December 12, 2005

Transportation/location (both public transit & parking facilities for both myself and friends).

I like to cook so having functional appliances are important. It might not be to others.

The carpet - is it easy to keep clean? If it's currently clean, doesn't smell, and easy to maintain it wouldn't be a problem, personally.

Is there the possibility of having in-suite laundry facilities so they won't have to share with you?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:58 PM on December 12, 2005

I wish I'd seen something like this before my last move. It was the first time I'd chosen an apartment without my dad there to give everything an OK stamp, and boy did I screw up.

Older appliances: NEVER AGAIN! My stove burners are no longer level, so things slide to one side of the pan whenever I cook. Unacceptable. It is also completely off temperature.
My fridge is tiny, cute, and works. However, it also accumulates about an inch thick layer of frost in the freezer, on all sides, in a month. I'm sick of defrosting, and if I just let it go the door won't even shut. I went away for a week and when I came back everything had spoiled since the frost forced the door open while I was gone.

If I ever walk into an apartment and see that it's an automatic deal breaker. I don't know if the landlord just defrosted for showing the place, or leveled the burners, so everything looks good. I would rather have something new and reliable than risk it again. Honestly, I couldn't care less what the carpet looks like. I have beautiful wood floors now, and I'd trade them for 1970s lime and orange shag if it would get me a decent fridge made in the last 20 years.

I don't know what your target is. Students and entry level people, who are generally broker than dirt? Young professionals who have a bit more income? The answers will vary. The former (of which I am one) are thrilled with well-functioning heat, working appliances, and windows that open and close properly. The latter are going to be more picky about aesthetics.
posted by Kellydamnit at 1:13 PM on December 12, 2005

-location (is the neighborhood safe, friendly? Is there good shopping+entertainment nearby?)

-layout (I'd rather rent a big open space/loft style layout than one that has awkward sized rooms)

-wood, concrete, or berber carpet (shaggy carpet, especially in off-colors is a dealbreaker for me)

-new or at least semi-modern kitchen. The cabinets close, the drawers slide, and the range looks like it was manufactured in the current century. A big plus would also be to have a new countertop, not some rotting mustard colored surface.

Some small touches might win some big points with your potential renters. I'm very sensitive to lighting and usually re-do all the fixtures wherever I live, but to those who usually don't bother, having some great tasteful, dimmable lighting would be a big plus. For well under $100 you can install a nice cable track system on an electronic dimmer that will surely impress renters.

Install a nice rainfall showerhead.

Also, you might consider painting one wall an accent color, maybe something in a warm shade. It will make the space appear warmer if it's a cold basement.
posted by FearTormento at 2:12 PM on December 12, 2005

  • true white, rather than "apartment white" paint
  • window over the kitchen sink
  • windows with a view (but through which people walking by can't observe my nakedness)
  • within an hour of an international airport
  • neighbors without noisy babies, dogs or vehicles
  • carpeting that isn't brown or orange. Gray would be great, beige is tolerable; purple might be, depending on the shade
  • off-site (but not absentee) landlord
  • book store, cinema, restaurants, supermarket within walking distance
  • effective sonic insulation
  • non-standard layout
  • anonymous trash (ie a communal dumpster rather than individual, assigned cans)
  • walking distance to public transit
  • carpeting
  • laundry on-site or nearby
  • ventilation that doesn't involve adjacent units (in other words, don't want to smell neighbors' cooking, nor they, mine)
  • good water pressure, hot water, drains that drain
  • electric wiring that can handle modern loads
  • 'party house' neighbors
  • extraneous appliances installed to justify a higher rent, such as dishwasher, microwave oven, and high-end ceiling fans
  • shower-only bathroom

posted by Rash at 3:18 PM on December 12, 2005

what would you all consider reasonable for this small apartment, with dedicated driveway, and all utilities (water, cable-tv&internet, elect. and gas)?

The question isn't answerable as such. Is this in Brooklyn, within a few blocks of a nice park and a subway station, or in a bad part of Detroit?

An apartment is worth what the market says it's worth - depends on supply and demand (which can be seasonable, if there is a college close by). What are nearby, comparable apartments renting for (if any)? (Check local papers, craigslist.org, etc.) When you last looked for a renter, were there a lot of applicants or a few (at the price point you advertised it at)? Is the occupant leaving the area, or did he/she just find a better/cheaper/whatever apartment nearby?
posted by WestCoaster at 3:48 PM on December 12, 2005

Someplace that is light and open. (good lights, no dark colors on the walls or floors, decent windows).

A competent kitchen and bath.
posted by I Love Tacos at 3:57 PM on December 12, 2005

My views specific to your apartment:

- Purple carpeting might be a deal breaker. A soft, grey-ish purple would be okay if it's really clean and in good condition. Bright purple - deal breaker. Wood (or laminate) floors are best, neutral carpeting is perfectly acceptable (new or in good shape).
- No smells, musty or otherwise (cigarette smoke is a deal breaker)
- Old appliances are fine as long as they work well and the units themselves are sparkling clean.
- Fresh, clean neutral coloured paint is mandatory.
- Bathroom and kitchen must be extremely clean and no mildew or other grunge.
- Cupboard doors must hang straight and close correctly, closet doors must work right - no sliding off tracks.
- Nice lighting, preferably no fluorescents except in the kitchen/bathroom.
- Functioning heating system is a must (a/c is a must in hot areas).
- Functioning/clean windows with screens is a must.
- Free laundry is awesome.
- Off-street parking is wonderful.
- Separate entrance is great.


- Cable (TV & internet) would be great if included (free or not - just as long as it's available).
- Lots of strorage is always a plus.
- Pet friendly is a must for me (two cats). If you can, try to be flexible on the pet thing - extra deposits or additional charge to your monthly rent or something like that.
posted by deborah at 4:33 PM on December 12, 2005

Some inexpensive changes that make a place attractive to me are: 1) Plumbing in excellent condition, with no water pressure issues or leaks (including a shower button that doesn't divert all the water to the shower head, toilet/ floor seals, dripping kitchen faucet). 2) Carpet is clean. The color doesn't matter much, and darker carpet hides stains which are otherwise not dirty, but still won't come out, which is impossible with beige. 3) Appliances work well. A refrigerator can't have broken shelves, and has to be cold when I'm looking at the place, and stove light has to work. 4) Weatherstripping/ insulation in good condition. If I can see daylight, I know it's going to be too hot/ cold when I don't want it to be.

If any of these criteria are out of order, I immediately believe that potentially this landlord doesn't care about their property or tenant.

Bonus: Something that makes an apartment doubly attractive is a lack of baseboard heating. Whether it's forced air heating, or in-wall heating fans, absence of baseboard heating is a huge plus. Plus, as a landlord you can feel a little safer from fire and darkening of your walls.
posted by Anders Levant at 8:04 PM on December 12, 2005

>Clean and quiet.
>A kitchen which invites cooking (counter space!). Old appliances that work properly are okay.
>Good water pressure for shower (deal breaker)

Purple carpet? No big deal.

Otherwise, I like places that are easier to clean. My current house has lots of ceramic tile. Wonderful stuff, it takes the maid very little time to clean, and even I can do it if some disaster strikes between her days.

But I would not likely consider your place simply because I have had bad experiences with private landlords.

When screening tenants for my own property, I refused to show the place to anyone with no current phone number. Cellular was less prevalent there/then, so that wasn't a consideration. Real people have phones. Deadbeats often do without.
posted by Goofyy at 3:10 AM on December 13, 2005

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