Renting can be a good solution for a family, allowing you the flexibility to move to a new location as your family grows or changes. How can you find the perfect apartment that suits the needs of everyone in the family, from Mom and Dad down to the little ones? Here’s what to consider when you’re looking for a family-friendly apartment to rent.
In this guide:
- Before you begin
- What building amenities are must-haves?
- What features do you want in the surrounding community?
- Do you want a high-rise or traditional apartment?
- Questions to ask when choosing a family apartment
- Find the perfect fit
Before you begin
To prepare for your apartment search, first determine your budget for monthly rent. How much apartment can you afford? You may already have a budget in mind based on what you’re currently spending on rent. If not, try a rent calculator that uses your location, annual income and other factors to estimate how much rent is reasonable for your family’s budget.
When setting a rental budget, don’t forget to consider the cost of utilities. Some landlords pay some or all of your utility costs. Others build those costs into your monthly rent. Still, others ask you to pay for your own utilities.
Once you’ve got a budget in mind, decide how much space you need for your family. Consider both your desired square footage and the number and type of rooms. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you want a separate bedroom for each child?
- Would you like a master bedroom that includes its own bath for privacy?
- How many bathrooms do you need? Trying to manage with one bathroom can be challenging for a family.
- What type of bathroom do you prefer? If you have a baby or young child, you may need at least one bathroom with a tub so you can easily bathe them.
- Do you want a separate dining area?
- In addition to the main living area, do you need a room that can serve as a family room, den, children’s playroom or home office?
Depending on your needs, an apartment that offers less square footage but has more rooms may suit your family better than a larger unit. For example, you might want to sacrifice square footage to get separate bedrooms for your two pre-teens.
Do some preliminary research with Apartment Guide.com’s apartment search tool to get an idea of rents in your area. Based on what you find, you may need to adjust your budget or expectations or widen your apartment search to different locations.
Decide what building amenities are must-haves
Once you have a good idea of how much space and what rooms you need, make a list of essential amenities and those that are “nice to have.” This helps you eliminate apartments that don’t have the necessary features.
Wants and needs in your apartment
Amenities you might want in your unit include:
- A specific location: Do you have a preference about where in the building your apartment is located? A unit on the ground floor offers lots of conveniences (especially with young kids, dogs and groceries) but could potentially be a privacy or safety risk since it’s easier for people to look in your windows or break into the unit. A top-floor unit means you won’t have noisy neighbors stomping around above you, while a corner unit minimizes the noise from next-door neighbors. Units on higher floors may offer a great view. Being near the pool, elevator, laundry room, children’s play area or other space where residents gather is convenient but could be noisy. Keep in mind that in some cases, the location in the building can impact the unit’s price.
- Carpet or hardwood floors: If you have young children, carpet can be more comfortable for them to crawl and play on. On the other hand, an apartment with hardwood or laminate flooring will resist spills and stains.
- Appliances: Do you want an apartment that includes appliances, such as a stove, refrigerator and dishwasher? Or would you rather supply your own appliances? Do you want upgraded appliances or fixtures, such as stainless-steel appliances instead of white, granite countertops, or tile backsplashes?
- Air conditioning: In some locations, air conditioning may be a necessity. Also, keep in mind that a top-floor unit will trap warm air and be hotter in the summer than a ground-floor unit. If you don’t need central air conditioning, do you want a room air conditioner for your bedroom or other rooms?
- Ceiling fans: Ceiling fans can reduce the need to use the air conditioner, saving you money on utilities. Depending on the climate, fans may be all you need to stay cool.
- Walk-in closet: How many closets do you want in your apartment? In addition to bedroom closets, do you need a hall closet? Would you prefer a walk-in closet in the master bedroom?
- Balcony or patio: A private outdoor space of your own offers more flexibility in how you use your apartment. If you have young children, however, you may want to avoid apartments with balconies unless the balcony is child-safe. If you’re looking for an apartment with its own patio, make sure the patio can be secured to keep children from wandering off.
- Washer and dryer: The more people in your family, the more laundry you’ll be doing. An in-unit washer and dryer can save you time and eliminate headaches. Instead of dragging a fussy toddler to the laundry room or laundromat, you can do your wash at home. Do you want an apartment that provides a washer and dryer, or would you rather supply your own?
- Allows pets: If you have pets or plan to get them, you’ll want a pet-friendly apartment. What if your kids are begging for a dog and you don’t want one? Choose an apartment that doesn’t allow pets so you won’t have to be the bad guy.
Next, make a list of what amenities you need (or want) in the apartment building or apartment community as a whole. These might include:
- Common areas for entertaining: A community clubhouse gives you more options for entertaining friends and family. For instance, hosting 45 guests for a child’s birthday party is easier to do in a spacious clubhouse than in an apartment.
- Swimming pool: Children love swimming, making a community pool an in-demand amenity for many parents. Make sure the pool is secured so children can’t slip in unattended.
- Tennis or basketball court: Larger apartment communities may have their own tennis or basketball courts. This can be a great way for your children to burn off energy right on the property — or for you to stay fit.
- Children’s playground: Some apartment communities offer on-site children’s playgrounds. After a long day at work, it can be convenient to have your children play right nearby instead of taking them to a park.
- On-site gym or fitness center: Access to an on-site fitness facility can save busy parents precious time. Ask about age limits, open hours and whether membership is included in the rent.
- Pet-friendly areas: Like children, dogs need space to run and play. If you have a dog, an apartment community with its own green spaces for pets to roam is convenient. Learn more about finding pet-friendly rental homes.
- Parking: Assigned parking spaces ensure you never have to hunt for parking when you come home late at night. You may also want covered parking to keep your car clean and dry or secure parking, such as a gated underground garage. Are there enough parking spaces for your family’s vehicles? What about guest parking for any visitors you may have? Find out if you have to reserve guest parking in advance or need to get a special parking pass.
- Storage space: Families tend to have lots of stuff. If you need extra room to store off-season clothing, sports gear, bicycles or keepsakes, look for an apartment that has additional storage besides closets. You may want a private storage closet on your balcony (which will be included in your rent) or the option to rent a storage unit at the complex.
- Laundry room: An on-site laundry room is the next best thing to an in-unit washer and dryer. Check to see if the laundry room has plenty of machines, is well-maintained, and is secured so that you feel safe using it. Make sure the laundry room’s open hours fit your schedule.
Decide what features you want in the surrounding community
When it comes to finding a home for your family, the surrounding community is just as important as the apartment community. Here are some factors to consider:
- Nearby playgrounds and parks: If you have young children, you may want to be close to playgrounds. If your kids are older, you may want nearby parks where they can play ball or join recreational leagues.
- Good schools: Your children may be in diapers now, but they’ll be heading to school before you know it. Choosing an apartment in a good school district helps ensure they get the best possible education. Check out our guide to the Top 10 elementary school districts in America. You can find school district ratings at Global Report Card and specific school ratings at GreatSchools.org.
- Safety: How safe is the neighborhood? It’s important to feel safe walking the streets of your community or coming home late at night. CrimeReports and SpotCrime let you search by location to see a map of crimes you can sort by date, offense and more. If you have young children, you should also be concerned about nearby sex offenders. You can use the National Sex Offender Public Website to search for registered sex offenders by location. Use Family Watchdog to find offenders and get alerts when offenders move into a neighborhood.
- Other attractions that are important to you: Do you want to be near grocery stores, your child’s daycare center or a shopping center? Think about the places you go on a regular basis and look for an apartment that’s close by.
- Ease of commuting: Can family members who work get to their jobs without a long commute? If you regularly use public transportation, is it easily accessible nearby?
Do you want a high-rise or traditional apartment?
What type of apartment community do you want? A high-rise building (generally defined as 10 or more stories) or a traditional apartment building with fewer floors? Each has its own pros and cons.
- Better security: High-rise buildings are generally more secure. They often have controlled access and may even have a doorman.
- Convenience: They tend to be in more urban areas close to offices, restaurants and retail space, which can make getting to work, shopping and dining out more convenient. High-rises also have elevators, which make transporting children and strollers easier.
- Extra amenities: They may have more amenities than standard apartment communities, such as bowling alleys, arcades, rooftop terraces, on-site concierge services, community co-working spaces, spas or salons, pet groomers, markets and storage lockers for package or grocery deliveries.
- Not designed for families: Many high-rises are designed to appeal to singles and empty nesters. They may attract fewer families, so your children may have trouble finding friends to play with.
- Less access to outdoors: Getting outside takes longer. Even with an elevator, getting down to the lobby from the 33rd floor takes time. If you need to walk an active dog or frequently shuttle children to extracurricular activities, getting in and out of a high-rise can be a hassle.
- Fewer green spaces: Unless they’re luxury buildings, high-rises are unlikely to have green spaces for dogs or playgrounds for kids.
Family-friendly: Traditional apartment buildings may be more likely to have families as tenants.
- House-like: Some apartment communities feel more like condominiums, with doors that open to the outside and plenty of green space on the property. If you have a ground-floor unit, this type of apartment may feel almost like a house.
- Suburban: Traditional apartment buildings are more likely to be in a suburban area, which many families prefer.
- Stairs: Traditional apartments may not have elevators for residents’ regular use. Even two or three flights of stairs can be hard to navigate when you’re lugging a stroller.
- Less secure: A traditional apartment that’s not gated can be less secure. If your front door opens to the outside, it may be more susceptible to breaking and entering.
If you’re not sure which kind of apartment community appeals to your family most, take a look at both kinds of buildings to help you decide.
Questions to ask when choosing a family apartment
After viewing several apartments, narrow your list down to a few that you’re most interested in. Before you submit your application, make sure to ask these important questions:
- Are pets allowed in the community?
- Are there restrictions on type of pets, breeds, size limits or total number of pets allowed?
- Is a pet deposit required when you sign your rental agreement?
- Is there an extra monthly pet rent?
- Is there a pet-related cleaning fee when you move out?
- Is there a dedicated superintendent on-site?
- During what hours are they available to help you?
- If there’s no dedicated superintendent on the premises, who should you contact for maintenance?
- How long should you expect to wait to have problems repaired?
- What type of security does the apartment community or building have?
- Is a doorman on duty 24/7?
- If the building has controlled access, how is it controlled (key, code, card)?
- How easy is it for strangers to slip into the building?
- What types of locks are in place on windows and doors?
- Are there safety latches on windows and balconies to keep children from falling out?
- If there’s a pool, is it fenced with a gate that locks?
- Does the building have smoke detectors, fire alarms, good lighting and clearly marked exits?
- Are there any extra costs above the monthly rent? These may include:
- Utilities (electricity, gas and water)
- Trash removal
- Cable television
- Internet access
- Storage units
- Are there any apartment community rules you must follow? These may include:
- Quiet hours
- Rules for using the pool, clubhouse, fitness center, tennis court, laundry room or any other amenities
- Rules related to resident and guest parking
Find the perfect fit
Searching for an apartment to suit the whole family means taking everyone’s wishes into account. Take the time to think through all your family’s needs, do some online research, and view different apartment options. By prioritizing and making tradeoffs, you’ll find the right balance of plusses and minuses that work for your family.