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Apartment Hunting in Philly

If moving into a new apartment is the worst ordeal ever, hunting for that apartment might be a close second.  As you may know, I've recently relocated to the Philadelphia area, and as much as I enjoy spending time in the town and house in which I grew up, I need to get into the city, fast.  After five years living in a city as vibrant as Chicago, suburban Lansdale just doesn't cut it. 

Several factors limit my choices when it comes to finding an apartment in Philly.  First and foremost is budget.  I'm in the enviable position of looking for a job and an apartment at the same time.  So while I'm able to put a deposit on a place today, I want to make sure I can stay there for more than two months. 

Right now, I'm looking for a one bedroom in the $800-900 range.  I've committed to getting a place on my own, because even though I've had good roommate experiences in the past, I feel it's time to live by myself.  This automatically makes an apartment more expensive, and most likely smaller. 

This price range eliminates some neighborhoods in Philly right off the bat, because even though real estate here is not as pricey as New York or Chicago, it's still a major city with many desirable neighborhoods.  So, based on prior knowledge, friends' advice, and some research, I limited my search mostly to the following areas - Fairmount / Art Museum, Graduate Hospital, Northern Liberties, and Passyunk Square.

The next factor is demand.  I'm not the only one who realizes these are cool neighborhoods with good bars, restaurants, shops and necessities like pharmacies and supermarkets.  So many of the apartments closest to the hot strip or whatever are not going to be opening up anytime soon.  This has resulted in the "fringing" trend, as I'm naming it right now, of people renovating apartments that are just at the edge of these cool neighborhoods and advertising how close they are to all the cool stuff, when in fact it's a tiny box of a place eight blocks from anything good. 

That brings me to another fun factor of apartment hunting - Craigslist.  Unless you're looking to buy a condo or live in a high-rise, you don't tend to go through real estate or management companies.  That leaves me dredging through the same shitty listings every day on Craigslist, trying to find that one shining gem that indicates a good space in a good location with a sane landlord.  This can be frustrating, but I can't hate too much on CL considering how useful it's been to me. 

Compromise is key when choosing an apartment, because with my limitations, I'm not going to be living like royalty anytime soon.  I've seen enough bad apartments to know a good one when I see it, and I'm ready to make a commitment quickly if that's what it takes.  But I have two lists when I look at an apartment, my wish list and my dealbreaker list. 

My wish list includes things like a roof deck or patio, central air, and heat included.  My dealbreakers include no laundry in building, old appliances, and not enough space.  I've seen apartments that have a lot of space, but look like a squatter's been living there.  I've also seen apartments that are in a great location, but are basically a bedroom and a kitchen.  It's tough to find that balance. 

So, I'll keep diligently getting out there and looking at places, and I hope to move into an apartment in Philly sooner than later.  I'm ready to find my new home.

I'd love it if you share any tips on apartment hunting in general, resources in Philadelphia, or lessons learned the hard way in the comments below!

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Reader Comments (4)

It's a life saver for apartment hunting.
Good luck!

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin

I lived in NoLibs for about a year-and-a-half and left with a strong anti-NoLibs sentiment, but I'll try to be objective with my feedback on that particular hood.

Advantages: There is plenty to do. Between North Bowl, the bar scene, the concerts in the Piazza, and the proximity to Fishtown and Old City, if you're bored, it's your own fault. There is also a strong sense of community. It's easy to get to know your neighbors. If you own a dog, it's even easier. Everyone owns a dog. I've neer seen so many dog owners in a few square block radius in my life. There's also a surprising amount of parking. With a park just up the street, it's not hard to find a place to drop off your car for free. The buses swing by the area and you can easily walk to the Girard or Spring Garden stops on the Market Line. And there's lots of people our age.

Disadvantages: Well, I was robbed at gunpoint in my kitchen, so I guess you could say "crime" is a huge disadvantage. There are a lot of car break-ins. Vandalism. Muggings. NoLibs is a cool area smack dab in the middle of a sketch area, and while things are not nearly as bad there as they evidently were in the 90's, there's a steady stream of crimes (some violent, some not). Also, while there are plenty of neighbors to get to know, those neighbors are probably hipsters. If you like that, well then there you go. If not, be warned. I felt remarkably un-hip a lot of the time. We had a pretty bad winter this past year, so this may have been an exception, but they didn't really plow us out...for two weeks. That was fun! And while there is decent access to public transportation, the bus only runs once an hour outside rush hour and I wouldn't walk to the Girard subway stop on a dare.

If you're going to look in that area, a few tips:
-Stay south of Girard (technically, North of Girard is Kensington)
-Stay in the lower numbers (2nd through 5th)

Hope that's helpful!

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJess

Fuck hipsters

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmer

MapThatPad is another lifesaver when using craigslist or apartment hunting in general. Makes it dead simple to keep yourself organized.

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTK

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