Apartment Search: 5 Sizing Tips to Consider Before Selecting an Apartment

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How big is 500 sq. feet? 700 sq. feet? 800 sq. feet?

If you’re asking these questions, you’re not alone. Here are several tips to help you figure out how large of an apartment you need:

1) Figure out the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need – This may seem obvious, but it’s the most important starting point. Regardless of the unit size, make sure the apartment has the number of bedrooms and bathrooms that you need.

2) Map it out to see if your furniture fits – It’s not too often we buy all new furniture. Most often the concern is: will my existing furniture fit? In either case, there are a lot of simple ways to resolve the furniture placement question. Perhaps the easiest way is to:

  • Measure your furniture (height, width, depth).
  • Write down the measurements.
  • Grab (2) pieces of graph paper (or print from online).
  • Establish a system (i.e. each square = 1 foot).
  • Using a marker, draw out the dimensions of each room on the first piece of graph paper (focus on bedrooms, living room, dining room). You’ll need the floor plan of the unit to do this.
  • On the second piece of graph paper, draw out the dimensions of your furniture.
  • Cut out the pieces of furniture and arrange on the first piece of graph paper to see if they might fit.Make sure you allow space for travel paths. Make sure you allow enough room to pull out table chairs and to get around occupied chairs.You can also try a free online layout planner like Room Styler or Plan Your Room.

3) See the apartment (or a similar apartment) – Very often you won’t be able to see the actual apartment that will be available, so ask to see a similar apartment. Ask the leasing agent “How is this layout different from the apartment that will be available?” If you have existing furniture, bring along a piece of paper with a list of the major furniture pieces and their sizes. Also, bring a tape measure. Before you decide on “the apartment”, check to see if your furniture fits. If you’re moving into a smaller place, consider de-cluttering first and getting rid of some furniture that may not fit.

4) Decide if it is a good deal – You can use the square footage of the unit, monthly rent, and any included utilities to determine if the unit is a good value.

5) Can you afford it? – Generally speaking, we all like bigger units, but is it in your price range? Check out the article we wrote on affordability. Space and value varies a lot by region. For example, in Center City Philadelphia you may only be able to afford 500 square feet, but in Northeast Philadelphia perhaps you can afford 1,000+ square feet. Lastly, whenever evaluating an apartment, don’t forget to consider what we call the LLR’s (Location, Lifestyle, Reputation).

Pro Tip: Bigger is not always better. It can mean larger utility prices (i.e. more space to heat and cool).

Make sure the unit size works for you.

Hopefully you’re now armed with an understanding of how much square footage is enough!


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