Whether you’re looking to rent your first apartment or plan to move and need to find a new rental, you probably have a list of requirements. Near the top of that list, of course, is cost. You have to find something you can afford.
You may also have a lot of “wants.” Perhaps you desire on-site parking, a washer / dryer in-unit, central air, or maybe it’s a complex with amenities, such as a gym and pool.
But in all your dreaming about the perfect rental, have you given enough consideration to the apartment size or location? It turns out, there’s a lot more to think about than whether you desire a big space in the country or a studio in the city.
Let’s start by looking separately at the issues of location and size.
Selecting a Location That Suits Your Lifestyle
“Location, location, location.” While sources don’t agree on who said it first (although it was probably someone in real estate), almost everyone agrees that location is a critical consideration.
You may want to be where the action is…right in the heart of a metropolitan area. City living, in most major cities across the US, offers a delicious smorgasbord of diversity. You have ethnic neighborhoods to explore—each with their distinctive food and culture. Plus there are rich cultural experiences, including museums, art galleries, and music.
And then there are the conveniences. You have public transportation. Shopping is often within walking distance. And your commute to work may take you 15 minutes as many jobs are closely centered near urban cores. Generally speaking, you’ll pay a premium in rent for living in the best parts of the major city.
But then again, not everyone wants to live in a city with several million neighbors. As the Green Acres theme song made clear, there are tradeoffs: “Fresh air. Times Square.” You don’t always get them both.
If you have pets or children, you may want to give them access to wide-open spaces. Maybe you favor the relative quiet of suburban or rural locations. Or perhaps you like the sense of community that comes with living in an area where people spend more time outdoors. Perhaps you prefer to run errands in a car rather than by foot. Maybe the solution is an urban-suburban mix.
Because the Internet has made remote work easier, there are more opportunities than ever to make a lifestyle decision about location.
Does Size Matter?
Size and space do matter. After all, no one wants to feel cramped or be constantly tripping over each other. And it shouldn’t surprise you that much of the new construction going on, especially in urban cores, has a much smaller average size apartment.
For some, small is in. So much so, it’s almost a race to see what the smallest micro-apartment that will be offered will be. If you prefer small footprint living, you’ll need to rent a space designed accordingly—with lots of built-ins.
But for the rest, what size apartment is realistic? While it’s a personal decision, there are considerations. Are you living alone? If not, are you living with roommates or a partner? How many bathrooms do you need?
A couple can probably co-exist comfortably in a smaller space than roommates.
Here’s another issue when calculating a size that fits your budget: Smaller spaces are generally less expensive to heat and keep cool.
The Bottom Line: Location versus Size
While we can talk about location and size independently, and you can even say that one is more important to you than the other, these two variables are often linked.
The same money will get you a much smaller apartment in downtown Philadelphia, for example, than in Northeast Philadelphia. For what you can rent a 500 square foot studio in Center City, you could probably get a 3-bedroom townhome or apartment in Northeast Philadelphia.
So what’s more important, location or size? Your answer is going to depend on what matters most to you. So take the time to think through what is most important to you and your family. You need enough space to feel comfortable and fit your furnishings. And you need a location that makes you happy, offers access to what you need.
Unless you have an unlimited budget, you’ll likely need to make some trade-offs between size and location. So think about your wants and needs carefully. Then good luck finding the apartment that satisfies your requirements.