How to Choose the Right Neighborhood

Housing Finances

Affordability is at the top of most prospective renters’ list of must-haves when searching for an apartment.

While a below budget find may seem like the ultimate win, an apartment that fits into your lifestyle is essential and one that doesn’t can come with hidden costs.

If your bargain apartment score is in the wrong neighborhood, you could encounter myriad inconveniences and incremental expenses.

A wrong neighborhood means fewer amenities you want, more costs you can’t afford and less time spent doing the things you love because of your now lengthy commute.

Here are some things to consider when you find yourself tempted by a below budget apartment find in an unknown or less-than-ideal neighborhood:

Commute time

For those who drive, the farther from work you live, the more expensive your commute is likely to be.

With the price of gasoline in the U.S. averaging out at about $3.38/gallon, your wallet can take a hefty blow from hours of commute time.

Plus, don’t forget to factor in tolls and additional maintenance costs you’ll likely accrue for putting so many miles on your vehicle.

If you opt for public transportation, make sure your new neighborhood provides easy access to subways, buses, etc.

Even with easy access, a new neighborhood often means a new route, and your time spent traveling could become longer or require multiple transfers, leaving you less free time to spend in your new apartment or piling on stress if you’re now frequently late to work.

Of course, walking is the most cost-efficient option in most instances. If your new neighborhood is a short walk from your work you’ll likely save more in the long run.

However, if you live in an area where inclement weather is common, factor in the cost of frequent cab rides.

Access to necessities

Think about the places you visit frequently when checking out a new neighborhood.

A couple of staples to keep in mind include grocery stores, pharmacies and banks.

If your apartment is not providing a laundry service or gym, you’ll want to keep an eye out for these as well.

It is also important to make sure the quality and price of these necessities near you are reasonable.

You may have a grocery store nearby, but it might only carry gourmet products with accompanying expensive price tags, or conversely, if you steer clear of processed foods, factor in the cost of transportation if your local store doesn’t stock fresh goods.

Check out reviews for local businesses in your area on review sites such as Yelp or Angie’s List to get an idea for what you can expect.

Proximity to education

Proximity to schools is a major bonus for renters with children—especially if you are located on the bus route!

However, if the schools nearby don’t have great education programs, some parents opt to send their children to private school.

If you choose to do the same, you may have to take into account the cost of tuition, enrollment fees, uniforms and additional commute time.

Entertainment within reach

Great neighborhood entertainment options can make the difference between a house and a home for many prospective renters.

Traveling outside your neighborhood for great restaurants and nightlife can turn date night or drinks with friends into a costly endeavor—especially when you factor in additional transportation costs, like taxi cabs for responsible drinkers or lot parking for trendy restaurants in crowded neighborhoods.

Some neighborhoods even do one better with free entertainment options like public pools, parks and museums.

Easy access to loved ones

If you’re moving farther away from family, friends or someone you’ve been dating, commute costs and time can add up here as well, and even hurt your relationship.

According to a recent survey of 1,000 single renters, 43 percent of respondents said they would not be willing to date someone who lived more than 30 minutes from them.

If you are willing to commute for love, keep those incremental commuting costs in mind when selecting a neighborhood.

There are many factors that go into finding the right apartment for you and your budget, and not all of them are on the lease or in your unit.

Read up on and spend some time in your prospective neighborhood to find hidden expenses…or hopefully hidden gems!

“How to Furnish an Apartment on a Budget” was provided by is the only free rental site that helps you find an affordable apartment, gives you tips on how to move and then says, “Thank you” with a $100 Visa Reward Card. 


Leave a Reply