Looking for an apartment? It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the options available, especially when it comes to selecting the amenities you need. Every rental complex boasts its own set of ‘must-have’ apartment and community amenities that gives it the best value for the rent price. But which amenities are actually worthwhile, and which ones only drive up the price of rent without much value? After all, no amenity is ever truly ‘free.’
We decided to cut through the marketing speak and identify some of the most popular amenities, their actual value, and whether they’re worth the rent.
When you’re living in an apartment, you’re likely to spend most of your time… well, in the apartment. That makes in-unit amenities extremely important, as they can help make your life easier and save time and money. But not all in-unit amenities have an equal importance and usability. Here are the ones that really matter:
1. In-Unit Appliances
There are some appliances that are essential—an oven and stove, for example. Without these, you won’t be able to do much cooking in your apartment. You might consider yourself the order-out-every-night type, but eventually, you’ll find yourself wanting to enjoy a home-cooked meal (while saving yourself money along the way.) Dishwashers are extremely convenient, but it’s possible to get by without them if you like to wash your dishes as soon as you’re done with them.
In-unit laundry machines or hookups also have renters split. Some wouldn’t consider renting an apartment without them, while others consider them absolutely essential. When deciding for yourself, do your research into the surrounding area. Is there a laundromat right on the corner, or even inside your building? If so, you might be fine without in-unit laundry facilities.
2. Furnished Units
A furnished unit might seem like a nice convenience, but they come with significantly higher rent rates. You should only go for a furnished unit if you don’t plan on staying in the unit for long. If you’re moving to a city for a short-term internship or job assignment, a furnished unit can save you the cost and inconvenience of purchasing or moving furniture.
3. Pet-Friendly Units
This is a pretty simple one—want pets? You’ll need to choose a pet-friendly apartment. Just remember that these almost always come with pet deposits and monthly pet rent on top of your unit rent price, not to mention there’s a higher risk of losing your security deposit due to the damage pets might cause. That said, many renters choose units that aren’t pet-friendly because they don’t have pets at the time, only to find that the urge for a fuzzy friend comes a few months later and they wish they’d picked an apartment where cats or dogs were permitted. If you think there’s a chance you’ll want a pet during your stay, go for a pet-friendly unit.
4. Heat and Air Conditioning
Unless you’re apartment hunting in a city with a mild climate like Seattle, where in-unit air conditioning is rare, or Los Angeles, where heat usually isn’t essential, you should insist on heat and air conditioning wherever possible. When it gets really hot outside, fans just won’t cut it. And when it’s cold? You want to have something more to rely on than blankets and hot cocoa.
5. Private Outdoor Space
Private outdoor space usually takes the form of a balcony accessible within the apartment. While big, spacious outdoor spaces are great if you like barbecuing or catching some sunshine, be wary of balconies— they often drive rent up dramatically, even when they’re tiny, and renters almost always end up using them way less than they think.
6. Updated Kitchen
This is a vague term. It can mean everything from a fully-renovated, brand-new kitchen to a new sink faucet and nothing else. Take this with a grain of salt, even if you’re a home chef and love using the kitchen. Also, ask for more details on what this really means, so you can decide if it’s worth paying for extra perks.
Now that we’ve covered the major amenities inside the apartment, here are some of the most important community amenities to consider when apartment hunting.
No one likes street parking. It’s frustrating, takes up lots of time when you can’t find a spot, and leaves your car exposed to theft or damage. If you can, find a building or complex with onsite parking—preferably in a covered garage. You’ll thank yourself when you’re coming home from a late night at the office and don’t have to park five streets away.
8. Internet Access
Some communities offer internet access built-into the rent, or for an additional fee. This is fine (if the connection is dependable) but shouldn’t be the deciding factor for you. As long as a popular internet service provider offers dependable service to your community, you’ll be fine. Just be sure to talk to other tenants about which providers they use and whether they’re happy with the service.
9. Security Measures
Communities that take security seriously are worth slightly higher rent. Look for features like carded community entry, security cameras, double or triple unit door locks, and on-site security staff. These can all help keep you safe and reduce the risk of theft.
10. Rooftops, Outdoor Spaces & Swimming Pools
Rooftops and outdoor spaces are great, but surveys show that renters use them much less than they think they will. Swimming pools onsite can be great, but they have a similar reputation—look good on paper, get used much less than you think.
11. Fitness Centers
If you like some casual exercise to stay fit, then onsite fitness centers can be a great feature in your apartment community. But if you’re an exercise buff who wants to be in the gym five times a week, the onsite gym probably won’t give you what you need anyway.
You might not care about an elevator if you’re on the second floor (except for moving day), but don’t kid yourself—living on the tenth floor of a walk-up isn’t ‘a great way to stay in shape.’ It will leave you furious and exhausted every time you have to climb Mount Everest just to get to your unit.
13. Features for Your Four-Legged Friend
If your rental community is pet-friendly, you’ll want to find out just how pet-friendly it is. Onsite amenities can include a pet potty area, cleaning station, or grassy play area. How essential these are will depend on the area around you. If you live in the middle of an urban jungle with no parks for miles, they’re very important. But if there’s a big dog park on the corner of the block or walking trails nearby, you may not need those amenities in the community itself.
14. On-Site Laundry
If you don’t have laundry in-unit, onsite laundry can be a great way to avoid spending time (and quarters) at the local laundromat. If your building is secure, it also means you can put some laundry on and then head up to your apartment while a load finishes, rather than waiting around at the laundromat staring at your phone.
Remember—every renter is unique, and while some may not care about a swimming pool, you might swim every night before bed. A gas fire stovetop is perfect for someone who loves to cook, but if you’re mainly heating up mac & cheese, you’ll be fine with electric. We’ve listed some of the most commonly advertised amenities, but you should think about what you really want out of an apartment and community and look for units that offer those features for you to make your apartment life truly enjoyable.