Jen Jackowski

Imagine your perfect apartment. Mine has a big kitchen with plenty of storage, an extra room for crafting and working, central air conditioning, on-site laundry and a closet big enough for all of my clothes. As you can see, my wish list is long. To get everything I want in the city where I live, I'll have to shell out way more money than I can afford.

Every renter goes through this debacle of looking at their income and their apartment hunting wish list and realizing there's a gap. The unfortunate reality is that we can't have it all (sigh). But prioritizing the things you want in an ideal apartment will help you sign a lease as a satisfied renter.

With that in mind, here are some tips to help you prioritize what you really need out of your next place:

What Can't You Live Without?

Your top priorities for apartment hunting should be features you can't live or rent without. These are the parameters you include in your search. For many, a certain price tag is No. 1. If your budget limits you to places that are $800 and under, you can only look for units in your range.

Additionally, if you're a pet owner, finding a pet-friendly apartment will be high on your list– if Fluffy can't stay, then you can't either!

The third deal breaker could be any number of things, depending on what you personally need. It could be a certain neighborhood, access to public transportation (especially if you don't have a car) or a certain number of bedrooms. Additionally, security measures (like having a deadbolt lock and hallways that are well lit) are important.

Make a list of all the items you absolutely can't rent without and stick them at the top of your priority list.

What Don't You Need, But Would Make Life Easier?

Let's be real: We don't all need laundry on site, building parking, or central air conditioning. However, these amenities can increase quality of life. I've had both a radiator and central heat in my apartments, and I'd prefer the latter any day.

Although amenities are nice, you don't necessarily need them. You can walk to a laundromat, find street parking or buy a window air-conditioning unit if your building doesn't have what you want. It may be inconvenient, but things like location, rent cost, pet-friendly living, and the right number of bedrooms are way more important.

Know What Matters to You

In order to make lists that include your must-haves and would-like-to-haves, you need to know what matters to you. For this, take a look at your lifestyle.

If you enjoy walking everywhere, don't live in a neighborhood where stores, restaurants, etc., are miles apart. If you like to go out on the weekends, living near bars could be high on your list. Those who cook and bake regularly need a good-sized kitchen with updated appliances.

Even your work can help you figure out what means the most to you. From commuting distance to needing fast Internet to work from home, your job could influence your apartment-hunting wish list.

Talk to Your Roommate

Knowing what you want out of an apartment makes building a priority list of amenities easier. However, if you plan on living with other people, you'll have to make compromises. Even if your budget is big, your roommate may want to save money. Your roomie may also want to live in a different neighborhood than you.

Have a conversation with your roommate about each of your priorities. Both of you should share your individual priority list to see where you match and where you don't. Then you can start compromising. Perhaps you'll give up central air if your roommate is willing to bump parking up on the list.

When you're done talking, you should have a joint list of apartment priorities to use when searching for your next place. Stick to it and you'll be able to keep the peace.

When You're Looking …

Although you've spent time making the perfect priority list, you may not find a place that has everything, or even half of what you want. Remember, you want your next apartment to hit at least the must-haves. Then, if it has one or two of your other priorities, you're in good shape.

Ideally, you'll search for places by going top-down on your list. That way, the things you care about most will be included in your apartment.

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