Serial Renter

Serial Renter: The quality of life quiz

By Caren Maio  | September 26, 2011 - 12:58PM

Finding the right apartment isn’t just about discovering the nicest one for the best price. It’s easy to get swept up in amenities and location, but it’s just as crucial to make sure that your future apartment meets some basic criteria to ensure high quality of life.

Here are a few key issues to keep top of mind when you’re on the hunt:

1.  Elevator capacity

I’ve lived in quite a few buildings with less than stellar elevator service. I’ve experienced slow service, frequent breakdowns, and even poor elevator-to-tenant ratios. Living in a building with a bad elevator(s) can add unnecessary stress to even the simplest tasks – no one wants to wait an exorbitant amount of time to enter/exit their home.

Now, whenever I enter a new building, I always make sure to note the last time an inspection was performed on the elevator(s) – and how often inspections are conducted. (Typically, inspection history can be found on the interior wall of the elevator itself, with a sign-off from the inspector.)

In addition, if your prospective building has an elevator, do yourself a favor and look under the hood. Ask yourself the following questions: How many elevators does the building have? Is the number, size and swiftness proportional to the number of units in the building? (If you’re not sure, check it out during morning or evening rush hour.) 

2.    Building staff

Try to spend some time getting to know the building staff—whose demeanor can range from helpful and professional to surly and shifty--and don’t be afraid to ask questions about their respective schedules. For instance, if your building has a doorman, is it a full-time or part-time service? Is the super off-site or does he/she live in the building?

It’s no coincidence that some of the best supers I’ve had usually lived in the building (or very close by), so if you have an off-site super, it’s a good idea to find out how he/she handles emergencies during off-hours and weekends.

Additionally, try to solicit some opinions on the super from current tenants. Is he/she quick to fix things? Does he/she seem like a decent, trustworthy person? This person will have access to your apartment so it’s important to garner as much information as you can. One of my friends was not so lucky, and once came home early from work to find his super had barged into his apartment and was surfing the Internet on his laptop.  

3.    Laundry room

If the building has laundry facilities, do not leave without checking them out. This is probably one of the most forgotten items when it comes to sizing up a new building, but ends up having a huge impact on quality of life.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Are there washer/dryer units on every floor or are they located in a common area like the ground floor or basement? I once lived in a building that had laundry facilities with key-card access on every floor. I didn’t realize just how good I had it until I moved into another building and had to swing a bag of quarters to a scary, damp basement housing barely-functioning washer/dryers.
  • How many units are there total? I always preferred laundry on my floor, but I once lived in a building where a huge floor shared two washer/dryer units – completely inconvenient and often tension-inducing.
  • How much does the building charge to use them? I've seen anywhere from $1 to $3 for each machine.  Dryers tend to come in closer to the $1-$2 per load range, while washing machines are a bit pricier at $2-$3 a load. 
  • Do the appliances utilize a convenient key-card system or are they kicking it old school with quarters? While not full-proof, this should be a good way of determining the age of the appliances.  
  • And last but not least…these days many buildings feature “high-efficiency” washing machines, and a lot of them have a problem with mildew because they seal so tightly and use less water. If possible, open up a unit to assess the situation. If the machine has this problem, you’ll be able to quickly detect the smell.   

While this isn’t a comprehensive quality of life checklist, these items are among the most often overlooked.  Keep them in mind along with other potential saboteurs (secondhand cooking or other smoke odors, thin walls/floors/ceilings, neighborhood disturbances from local nightlife venues, bed bugs, and slow cable/internet access) to ensure a long and happy tenant tenure.

Happy Hunting,


Caren Maio is the CEO & Co-Founder of Nestio.coma website that makes it easy for renters to collect and organize rental listings from any site. She currently lives downtown in a boutique elevator building that has ten coffee shops in a three-block radius (a feature she claims sealed the deal--but the washer-dryer didn't hurt either). 

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