Free Move Apartment Locating Companies – Know the Truth!

We all are attracted to the word “free”, and the idea that we are getting something for nothing. There are many legitimate free offerings available to consumers in a wide variety of settings. For instance, Apartment Locators truly do offer a valuable service to all renters who are searching for an apartment, and the service is completely free to the renter, saving them countless hours driving around visiting thousands of properties, and very probably missing out on the best deals and the best apartments.

However, there are also many companies who use the word “free” to lure in customers, and then they may or may not actually deliver the product or service that they initially promised. They get past this deception by writing so many loopholes into the fine print of their advertisement that they can always excuse their lack of delivery. So caution is always in order when you are trusting any company who promises to give you something important for free.

Moving is a very stressful time for many. Often there are deadlines to be out of your current apartment by a certain time. There are items to sort and boxes to pack, and to pack carefully to avoid anything from being broken. Then there is the careful loading and the careful unloading and the unpacking and placing and sorting. You have to allow time to clean the old apartment before you turn in the keys, and you have to be sure you are stopping by the new apartment during business hours so you can obtain the keys to your new home. You have utilities to disconnect and new utilities to connect. A lot is happening at once, and there always is the concern that perhaps you have forgotten something important. You already arranged your schedule to have the day free for moving. You got all your affairs in order, and now you are just waiting for the moving company to arrive. The LAST thing that you need is a glitch over some small detail in fine print that causes your moving company to not show up and deliver that “free” move that you were counting on and planning for.

That is exactly what happened to a friend of mine very recently. She used one of those apartment locating companies in the Dallas, TX area that supposedly offered a “free” move. I wont mention names here, but it is a well known company. Anyway, she gets home from work and has all of her items packed and ready to go. It’s a Friday evening, and she has had the move scheduled with the movers for weeks. She has to be OUT of her apartment by midnight THAT night. They are suppose to come at 7:00 pm, so there is a bit of a time crunch but that’s the only time the movers had available. They finally show up, take a look at her small 1 bedroom apartment and tell her “The free move only covers 2 hours worth of free moving. It looks like you have more items than we can move in 2 hours” (fine print), and they leave!!!! My friend is panicking. She is a single lady who lives all by herself and has to be out of her apartment in just a few hours. If she lives in a small 1 bedroom and had too many items for them to move, it makes me wonder exactly who they COULD move?? Anyway, my friend calls me at 8:00 desperate and crying. I rally up our other friends and we manage to find a U Haul place that was still open and rent a truck. We all go over and move her that same evening. She got out of her apartment in time, and she got a free move all right, but it wasn’t from the company who promised her the move. She did everything she was suppose to do, wrote their name on the Leasing Application as the Locating Company who referred her to the new apartments, and THEY GOT PAID FOR THE REFERRAL, yet they did NOT deliver the move that they promised.

It turns out that many of these “free move” companies have fine print that limits how long they will give you for the move. And what happens if the move happens to go over that time. Do they just leave? Evidently. Or, if they look over your items and feel the job might take longer than the allowed time, they may not even START the move. Another thing to beware of in the fine print….not only may there be limits to the time they will allow, but they often limit the types of items and the number of items they will move. For instance, if you have a one bedroom, they sometimes have a very specific list of the only items they will move. For example: 1 couch, 1 coffee table, one dining room table, 4 dining chairs, a bed, a dresser, a nightstand, 2 lamps, a few boxes (they often will only agree to move a small number of boxes) and many times that is it!! If you have a 2 bedroom, they may increase the list by adding another bed and dresser. But what if you happen to have an item that is not on their list…..such as a desk, or a curio cabinet, or a piano, or an aquarium, or a chest of drawers or an extra table or a loveseat, or a recliner, or a few more boxes than they allow? Do not be surprised if they leave all items behind that are not on their restrictive list, and you are just stuck figuring out what to do with them yourself. If it’s enough items, or items that are large enough, you may end up having to rent a truck or UHaul anyway, or call friends who can come help you.

Another friend of mine recently told me that something similar happened to him that happened to my first friend. He was using one of those apartment locating companies that offer a “free” move. He said they were calling him every day while he was looking for the apartment, trying hard to convince him to move into one of the few places they had recommended. Each day they called to check if he picked a place yet and if he put their name on the Leasing Application of any apartments yet. Finally he did pick a place, and he did put there name there as the Locator who referred him. AFter that, an interesting thing happened. He could never get ahold of anyone at the apartment locating company again! Once they found out he picked a place and wrote them down (their check was guaranteed), they never called him after that. They wouldn’t return his calls and he couldn’t find a real live human in the company to speak with in order to schedule his free move. He ended up having to hire another moving company in the end. The “free” move locating company got paid their money and they never delivered the free move.

How are the “free move” locating companies different from all the other Apartment Locating Companies? Well, there are some definite differences that you should be aware of. First of all, let’s establish the fact that most Apartment Locating companies do not need to offer a “free move” to lure in customers. It has been shown that their superb customer service and the expertise they offer will save the average renter $500-$700…..which is much more valuable than the cost of a 2 hour move. Plus, they truly help you find the BEST and most awesome apartment home. Another clear difference is this: Not all of the apartment communities out there will work with the “free move” locating companies. In fact, many of them will not. This is because of a combination of reasons.

For one, some of these “free move” companies do not have the best reputation. Secondly, some of the apartments do not feel that they actually earned the commission that they are wanting the apartments to pay them. Some of those free move companies simply have a website where you log on and search for yourself. They only will show you information on the limited number of properties that will actually work with them and pay them. Once you pick a place, you log on again to the website and tell them which one you picked and then the computer is suppose to schedule the move. Not all of the companies are identical, but this is the procedure for some. A real human is not even actively involved in helping you with your search in many cases. Many of the apartments feel that just putting a website online alone does not merit earning a commission. Anyone can have a website. In fact, the apartments already have their own website. Although there is nothing wrong with a Locating Company having a website (in fact, all of them do), the problem arises when the locator ONLY communicates through their website and are predominantly a dot.com business.

The apartment complexes don’t want to pay a dot.com for setting up a website and then only delivering what they promises part of the time. They want to pay Apartment Locators who have a brick and mortar office, who have actual live Agents who work there and who deal one-on-one with the potential renters, assisting them to find their new rental home with customized, individual lists of apartment information. Many times these Locators even escort their clients to the properties. If the client has a unique situation, the Locator can tell them which properties are most likely to work their their particular circumstances. They know who has the best specials out there, or who has the specific amenities that the renter is seeking. The renter can actually call their Locator and speak to them and ask questions and develop a working relationship.

What is the disadvantage for YOU, the prospective renter, when not all the apartments will work with the “move free” locating companies? The problem arises in that the “move free” companies are only going to recommend to you the particular apartments that happen to work with them. This means that you may not find out about the property who is actually the one that matches exactly what you want and has the best special. They will only display information for the properties who will pay them. When you work with a traditional Apartment Locator who works with ALL the properties in the City, you can be confident that you are getting the whole picture and will honestly be told about all the properties who have the best specials. This is a distinct advantage that real brick and mortar Apartment Locators have over the so-called “free move” locators. Most traditional Apartment Locators work with All the reputable apartment and townhome communities. It doesn’t matter to them which one you pick in the end as long as you are happy, because ALL of them will pay the Locator and work with the Agent. They have no need to try to steer you to one particular property over another. Their job is to recommend who has the best deal and seems to be the best match for you.

So, go with the Locating Company that is going to give you the best long term deal and the home that you will be the most happy with. These type of Companies should have years of experience and contracts with almost ALL the apartment communities in your area of interest. For instance, in the Dallas Fort Worth area of Texas (DFW), there are over 3000 apartment communities. Apartment Locators in this area should have brick and mortar locations with multiple Locators onsite who are all Licensed Real Estate Agents, and familiar with DFW. Listen to these comments made by a local DFW Locator: “I give my cell phone number to each client because I want them to be able to reach me any time they need my assistance. I’ve even had them call me while they were sitting in the chair at the leasing office at one of the apartments I referred them to, to ask me a question. I truly am their advocate, an expert on their side to make finding their new apartment as quick and easy and successful as possible. I work with them all the way through their move and have even assisted many people who were relocating from other states and were not able to come here in person to DFW to see the properties first. They relied on me to be their eyes and ears and select the best property for them and arrange all the paperwork so that their new place was ready and waiting when they arrived.” Try getting THAT kind of service from a “free move” company website.

Instead of opting to go with a “free move” Company that may or may not actually deliver their free move, and may or may not tell you about all of the choices you truly have at your disposal, go with a reputable and experienced live Apartment Locating Company who can save you $500-$600 average on your overall lease by telling you about specials you may not have ever discovered otherwise and give you complete information on all the awesome properties available. For more information, visit: http://www.BestApartmentsDFW.com.

Fast and Efficient Ways To Finding An Apartment In New York City

Searching for an apartment in the biggest City in the country is a daunting task; whether you are new to NYC or a 12 year veteran like me, you will need thick skin to navigate this concrete jungle! Let me start with my personal experience.

I am originally from Portland, OR, I moved to the Big Apple back in 1998. My first 5 months living in New York were spent living out of a hotel because I had a hard time finding a place. My original intentions were to stay at my hotel for 2 weeks, but I had to extend my stay since I grossly underestimated the difficulty of finding a decent apartment in New York. Now after 12 years and 7 moves I consider myself an expert in New York City apartment hunting and now I will share the knowledge I have accumulated over the years of searching for apartments by myself or using a broker.

This article is a guide that will help make the process of finding an apartment in this “crazy city” easier, more efficient and less confusing (it might even save you a couple of dollars in the process). It is all laid out in an easy to follow 6-step process.

Step 1: Figure Out What Neighborhood You Want To Live In!

This may seem like the easy part because you obviously want to be in an area that is convenient, trendy and safe, however you will soon figure out nothing is that easy in New York City. You need to determine what neighborhood fits your personality/life style and at the same time determine what kind of space/amenities you will need. For example you may work in the East Village and love the energy there but are you willing to pay the steep price tag for a “shoe box”(and by “shoe box” I mean a tiny apartment) in a run down building that is a 4th floor walk-up. Do you feel comfortable living in an area where it’s a constant party scene every night?

A book that is an amazing source of info for the ins & outs of every neighborhood is the NFT (Not For Tourist) guide of New York City. You can buy this in any Barns & Noble and make sure it is the most up to date version because there is a new version every year. Another great way of getting to know a neighborhood is by Googling it. With an endless source of information in cyber space why not take advantage of it. If you prefer doing it the old fashion way, taking a stroll through the neighborhood, go for it! But make sure you have your trusty NFT guide with you so you can spot the important things.

Step 2: Determine What You Are Willing To Sacrifice

In your apartment search you are going to have to sacrifice something whether it be size, location or amenities. You are going to have to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally because the grim reality is the perfect apartment doesn’t exist (unless you have an unlimited budget) The general rule of thumb in New York is the further uptown you go the bigger and cheaper the apartments will be. The further downtown you go the smaller and more expensive it will be.

You need to determine what is most important to you within your unique budget and find that middle ground. My advice, is if you find an apartment that is 70-80% ideal, take it, because the pickier you are the harder the search will be! I learned this the hard way a longtime ago and you do not want to get stuck chasing around that “magical apartment”. Yes, it is possible you might get lucky and find that perfect apartment but so is hitting the jackpot in the lottery!

Step 3: Determine What You Can Afford And If Your Budget Is Realistic

Once you have an idea of which neighborhoods you prefer to live in, now you have to determine if your a budget is realistic. Determine what is the average price for an apartment for those neighborhoods. How? I recommend going to a website called apartmenthero.com. This website will provide current market averages for every size apartment rental in every neighborhood in the city. Results are usually pretty accurate but sometimes they can be a little off, about plus or minus $300. When you first enter the site you will be prompted to enter information to compare your current apartment to the current market rate. If you’re a “newbie” and do not have an apartment yet, go to the right column of the website, click on “average rents in Manhattan”. Another great way is to do your own research on nytimes.com. I find that nytimes.com rental listings are much more accurate and up to date, as opposed to Craigslist and other sites where there are tons of bait & switch scams.

Next, determine what you can afford, landlord’s make this part easy because to qualify for most apartments in the Big Apple, you need to have a good credit standing (650 or above), earn a yearly household income of 40-50 times your monthly rent and if you don’t, then you need a guarantor. He or she needs to earn 80-100 times the monthly rent. For example the average one bedroom apartment in East Village is about $2,300 -$2,600 per month; you will need annual household income of $92,000 to qualify and a guarantor, would need a yearly income of $184,000 minimum.

Step 4: Timing Is EVERYTHING

I have a good friend whose ex-wife worked as a real estate agent for eight years. When they were still together, I had the unique opportunity of getting some great tips on how to look for an apartment in New York. The most impacting tip she gave me was that timing is everything. New York is unlike any city in the country when it comes to this, in most cities you generally start your apartment search two or sometimes three months before your move out date. In New York the market moves so fast that most landlords want to sign leases immediately after your application is accepted. At the very most, you have a month to search, the best deals generally come out the first week of the month or the third week of the month. Approximately 70% of the listings in the first week of the month are for movers moving on the 15th, 30% are meant for movers moving at the beginning of the next month.

Make sure you secure an apartment at least 1 1/2 week prior to when you want keys! My advice is you only need 5 days (sometimes less) to find an apartment. The first 2 days should be getting to know what’s out there, the 3rd and 4th day should be narrowing down your search and 5th day should be getting your paperwork together & submitting your application. With every rule there are exceptions, if you find an amazing place that is 95% ideal on your 3rd or 2nd day do not hesitate, take it! What is great to you is more then likely great to most apartment hunters. The vacancy rate in Manhattan is usually around 1-2% so there will be always more people looking for apartments then there are availabilities.

Step 5: Determine What Strategy You Will Use To Find Your “New Home”

This decision can make or break you depending on your situation. There are two ways to go about finding an apartment in New York City, you can do it the easy/expensive way and hire a broker to find you a place or you can do it the hard/affordable way by doing it yourself. I personally have done it both ways and it all depends on what you are looking for and what is your situation. Here are the benefits of both methods:

Benefits of doing it yourself

1) You will save MONEY!!!

-Broker fees are expensive; they range from 1-month rent to 15% of the annual rent. If the broker has an exclusive on the listing, you will likely have to pay 15%

2) You avoid shady money hungry brokers

-Lets face it in every industry there are bad apples and the real estate industry is no exception.

3) You will learn the City

-With all the walking you will be doing you will get to know the city better then you ever have before.

4) You’ll be in better shape when your done

-You will be in better cardiovascular shape because you will be walking a ton! So you better have on some comfortable sneakers.

Benefits of using a Broker

1) Faster and more efficient

-Your apartment search will be less time consuming and more efficient because brokers have access to thousands of listings you will never have access to and can show you a bunch in one shot.

2) Avoid outdated listings

-Websites like Craigslist, Renthop.com & Apartments.com are flawed and poorly regulated and most of their listings are barely updated. Brokers listings are updated daily because they have direct contact with the landlord

3) Brokers know what a landlord wants

-Each landlord in the city has their own preferences and application requirements. Brokers know what each landlord is looking for in a tenant; this can save you time, heartache and expensive application fees.

4) You will have access to more Apartments

-Approximately 41% of available listings in New York are only accessible through brokers. These types of listings are called “broker protected listings”, the land lord will only take applications represented by a broker.

Step 6: Here Are Some Great Tips

1) Talk to a Doorman

-If you do decide to try doing it yourself talking to doormen is a great way to find an apartment. Doormen not only have info to the building they are working in but to other buildings the landlord may own.

2) More is not always better

-If you do decide to use a broker, more than one broker at a time is not always better. Brokers have almost all the same listings because most listing are open. For example if you call ten brokers and give them your detailed description of what you are looking for there is a distinct possibility you will be shown the same apartments. At the same time you should not limit yourself and work with one broker, you might be missing out, because some brokers have exclusive listings. My advice is, you should only use three brokers and if you find one that you feel is competent and trustworthy, stick with him/her.

3) Use NakedApartments.com

-This website gives you the ability to not only look for rental listings while discreetly contacting brokers/landlords but you can give them a review if you had a bad or good experience. You can also look at the reviews of other brokers or landlords before you decide to contact them.

4) Don’t be afraid to negotiate a broker fee

-Most brokers would rather negotiate and get the deal done then risk having the next broker showing the apartment and rent it before him/her. Do not get carried away, no broker will take less then a month. Remember if the apartment is an exclusive listing you will have no leverage for negotiations.

Luxury Apartment Living in Modern Suburban Communities

Like many of my generation, I left fast pace, aggressive city living for a kinder, gentler lifestyle in South Florida. I sought temporary living accommodations, because I was sure that my housing wants and needs would become more apparent and defined once I settled into the tropical lifestyle, assuming they didn’t change altogether. So, I set out to rent an apartment from among South Florida’s abundant supply of luxury apartment communities.

Once I had made my decision to move I was eager to find a place to live and allotted myself a week in which to accomplish the task. Before leaving for Florida, I started my groundwork and searched online using a variety of websites that cater to the needs of people relocating and seeking housing in Florida. After I arrived in Florida, I picked up a couple of free paperback guides at the local supermarket, which proved more useful than I ever would have imagined. Finding a new home was going to be a snap, I thought.

IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT, YOU WON’T FIND IT HERE.I quickly learned that sometimes too many options can be (almost) as frustrating as too few, and came down with an acute case of “analysis paralysis” trying to sift through the dozens of possibilities I had before me. Initially, all I really knew was that I needed a place to live and that I wanted it to be somewhere on Florida’s Gold Coast, that vast region stretching from West Palm Beach south to the Florida Keys. With the Atlantic Ocean bordering the region to the east and the everglades to the west, I felt fortunate that my region of interest was fairly narrow, even if it had been longer than I would have preferred.

My next move was to buy a map of the region and select some criteria to focus my search and further limit my search area. Some considerations were more obvious than others were. For example, I knew I’d need a job and that, in my field, the prospects for finding one would dramatically increase with my proximity to the larger, denser urban areas of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. However, I also knew that, with my luck, it was more than a possibility I’d land a job in less likely West Palm Beach and probably the day after the ink dried on my apartment lease in a community in the midst of one of those more prominent cities. I decided to hedge my bet and search within the nondescript area of Southern Palm Beach County-Northern Broward County, somewhat equidistant in space and time between the polar extremes of West Palm Beach and Miami.

In an attempt to further minimize my potential commutation time, I figured it might be a good idea to find a place near the region’s two major north-south highways, I-95 and the Florida Turnpike. Seeing still too many options on my list, I knew that further limiting myself to moderately priced communities would be sure to eliminate both the high end and more affordable extremes. I soon discovered that seeking moderate pricing would also narrow the geographic scope of my search, as I would now be looking too cheap to be near the Atlantic Ocean, but expensive enough to avoid sleeping with the gators in the glades.

Although I had done my best to winnow my list, I still had too many communities to evaluate in detail within the week’s deadline I had set for myself. I also knew that the kind of evaluation I needed to do would require more than a seat-of-the-pants review of the various apartment websites and paperback guides that I had at my disposal. It was time to get out in the field and kick a little dirt and wrestle with some bricks and mortar.

YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE. How hard could that be? I wondered. I had limited myself to a mere twenty-mile radius centered somewhere on Military Trail, between Boca Raton and Delray Beach, and I already possessed the complete addresses for all the communities I intended to visit. All I had to do was plan a logistically sensible itinerary, hop in my car and go take a look. As I started to plot each day’s itinerary on my map, I realized that having an address offered little insight into a destination’s location. After all, this was laid back Florida where residents come and go at a leisurely pace and show little concern about how long it takes to find their destination. Sure, South Florida has addresses, but no one abides by them, not even the mailmen. Around these parts, if you want to know where to go, you ask someone for directions, and get accustomed to hearing them in terms of mileage, number of traffic lights, or counting local landmarks like Winn-Dixies or Exxon stations.

I learned quickly that most street addresses are useless, especially those on streets that don’t extend more that a couple of miles, or those on streets that change their names occasionally along the route. Adding to the confusion is the fact that every other town seems to have a road, street, avenue, or boulevard named “Atlantic” or “Ocean,” or has street numbers and directional designations that from the perspective of passersby seem to emanate from some fictitious place. Streets that don’t calibrate evenly like, for example, NE (Northeast) 47th street, followed immediately by NE 52nd street, and then NE 89th street are bad enough. But, when they intersect, say, SW (Southwest) 11th avenue, you start to wonder if you’ve found a new wrinkle in our universe’s space-time continuum.

Many apartment communities just make matters worse by concocting their own “exclusive” street addresses specially designed to give their locations cache, even if they lack a spatial context. In reality, the addresses exist only on their own community site maps and usually relate to nothing more than a long driveway extending from public access roads to their front gates.

LOTS OF DATA, BUT NOT ENOUGH INFORMATION. Street address numbers are among the most heavily guarded secrets in Florida. Many places don’t even bother to display them or display them so poorly that even a pair of eagle eyes and x-ray vision can’t spot them modestly displayed behind palm trees, store signs, shopping center marquees and the like. Besides, in my experience, following address numbers are more likely to hinder than help. Sometimes they lull you into a false sense of security as you observe them ascending or descending toward your destination only to find them jump ahead or completely reverse direction when you pass from one town to the next.

After these revelations, I knew that nothing short of some serious old-fashioned dead reckoning was going to be required in order to find my way. That meant picking up a phone, calling leasing offices, and asking for specific driving directions to their apartment communities. In some cases, I literally had to simulate in my mind taking the actual trip by visualizing all its landmarks before ever leaving my driveway. Gone were the days when travel directions were a matter of pinpointing a major intersection near a destination on a map and then leaving the rest up to an organized grid of roads to get there.

As I approached the entrance of the first community on my list, I couldn’t help feeling the sense of accomplishment I imagined Magellan had felt after circumnavigating the globe, albeit on a much, much smaller scale. However, I realized my celebration was pre-mature as I sat in my car outside the property’s heavy metal gates trying to guess the magic words that would get me inside. I followed the instructions posted on the gates’ sophisticated telephone directory system, but was denied access just the same. I ultimately ended up sneaking in behind a resident entering with an electronic key card. I learned during subsequent visits to these so-called secured, gated communities that sneaking in was part of the normal routine, which explains why none of the representatives I met at the various leasing offices I visited ever wondered how I got in without their assistance.

GOOD LEASING FOLKS CAN EASE THE PROCESS. I’m pleased to say that most of the leasing representatives I met at the more than two- dozen communities I visited that week were highly professional and efficient in discharging their obligation to enlighten me about their apartments. The really good ones cut to the chase and sized-up their offerings quickly. Many answered questions before I had asked them and usually with a few well chosen words and the aid of brochures, fact sheets and apartment floor plans and site maps. I was particularly glad when some representatives dispensed with filling out all the pre-application paperwork until after showing me their available units. As far as I was concerned, it was a complete waste of time for both of us unless and until I decided I wanted to live there.

DON’T BE FOOLED BY SMOKE AND MIRRORS. The fun part of the process was actually making inspections of the apartments. It was also the time I felt the need to start paying close attention to what I was doing. Some apartment communities will only show you model apartments they reserve specifically for that purpose, which are designed to help prospective tenants visualize living there. Needless to say, virtually all the models I saw looked brand new, tastefully furnished, and in much better condition than the apartments actually available to rent. And, except for giving a sense of the layout of a floor plan (and some communities have many) and how furniture might be arranged, models give little insight into the finish quality of the apartments actually available to new tenants. They also offer no sense of your neighbors or any other features that relate to the ambience of your apartment, such as its views or its exposure to light, air, and noise.

PRETEND YOU LIVE THERE. I learned quickly that the easiest way to become enthusiastic about or eliminate an apartment was to examine its layout, especially paying particular attention to room configurations, connecting walls and sight lines. If, for example, while standing at the front door, I was able to see all the bedroom and bathroom doors, I knew immediately I was ready to move on to the next apartment and hopefully one that would give the appearance (if not the reality) of more privacy. If layouts flowed logically with, say, kitchens situated near dining areas but separated from other living areas, I was satisfied and moved on to examining the rooms themselves.

During my inspections, I came to appreciate that room quality was not only a matter of size, but also shape and wall space considerations. Large rooms are great, but those with imaginative polygon shapes create odd angled corners that are difficult to utilize. In the same way, wall surfaces that are too encumbered with closets, windows and doors could make even rudimentary furniture placement a frustrating exercise.

The number and placement of doors and how well they separate living spaces was another consideration. For example, some master bathrooms have toilet closets, but no doors separating the shower/bath tub from bedrooms, which won’t suffice if you’re claustrophobic or finicky about not wanting shower humidity spreading throughout your home. Kitchens without doors can be troublesome too, unless adequate care has been taken to prevent cooking odors from wafting throughout the home.

While examining rooms, I took particular note of the number and spacing of electric outlets, and telephone and cable jacks available throughout an apartment. It came as no surprise that older properties do not usually cater well to today’s space-age electrical, entertainment and telecommunications requirements.

SOME PRISONS HAVE MORE WINDOWS. Windows were by far the biggest disappointment I encountered in all apartments across the board. Generally, there aren’t enough of them, they’re small and rarely found in kitchens or bathrooms. To make matters worse, most (if not all) tended to be on one side of apartments. It amazes me that in a place like Florida with all its sunshine, clean air and pleasant climate (at least 6 months a year), more care isn’t taken by architects and builders to optimize the use of windows in residential structures. Suffice it to say that fresh air cross ventilation is hard to come by in Florida, so get used to working your air conditioner hard, because you’ll need it and every ceiling fan you can install to pump air through your home all day long, all year long. Another important factor about windows is simply the direction they face. For example, if you like it cool, you should select a northern exposure, or alternatively, if you’d rather bask in sunshine all day long, then a southern exposure will be to your liking. A preference for cool mornings or cool afternoons will translate into a preference for western and eastern exposures, respectively.

SO MUCH FOR AN OUTDOOR LIFESTYLE. Patios were my second biggest disappointment with Florida apartments, and for similar reasons as windows. In general, they’re too small and confining to provide a relaxed, comfortable living experience. Most amazingly, few patios are screened-in to provide adequate protection from all those lower forms of life that seem to outnumber humans by many orders of magnitude, especially during the summer. In addition, surprisingly few have overhanging roofs or eaves to provide that little extra protection from sunshine and rain that at times can enhance the patio living experience. On the other hand, most patios have such poor views and overlook such noisy mechanical equipment that you probably won’t want to spend any quality time out there anyway. Those of you who look forward to napping on the patio will best appreciate the importance of these seemingly nitpicky comments.

Among other factors, don’t overlook the importance of elevation to the overall quality of the apartment living experience. Most of the apartment communities I visited charge a nominal rental premium for an upper floor apartment (approximately $25 per month), probably because upper floor apartments don’t have pesky noisy neighbors overhead throwing cigarette butts off their patios. They are also less likely to be flooded from rainstorms and tend to receive fewer visits from all those critters you’ll find on your unscreened patios (ants, spiders, lizards, etc.) that Floridians have learned to coexist with. However, along with the superior views and access to light and air that upper floors provide is the excessive heat and possibility of leaks (on top floors). Upper floor units sometimes offer the amenity of a vaulted or cathedral ceiling that can enhance the light and air or feeling of spaciousness in an apartment.

DON’T BE TOO IMPRESSED WITH ALL THE SHINY GADGETS. During most of my apartment inspections, the leasing representatives did their best to talk around the aforementioned design flaws and tried to “sell” me on all the gadgets and labor saving conveniences that typically come with luxury apartments. Many apartments come equipped with washers and dryers (which I prefer to be installed in utility closets off the kitchen or outside on the patio, instead of adjacent to carpeted living areas). By the way, if washers and dryers aren’t featured in an apartment, you better get a peek at your apartment community’s on-site laundry facility. Many communities offer dishwashers, garbage disposals, oversized bathtubs, microwave ovens, refrigerators with icemakers, and one or more ceiling fans, in order to enhance the comfort of their apartments.

MAKE IT YOUR BUSINESS TO STRETCH YOUR LEGS. After touring apartments that met my basic criteria, I spent some time walking the communities to get a sense of their residents, a feel for their comfort and ambience and to inspect their amenities. Also, as I strolled I took particular note of how well properties appeared to be maintained. Although most luxury apartments will be up to snuff on the day you move in, even the newest and best built will require routine maintenance and repairs from time to time. Walking around may also give you some insight into the mindset and proficiency of the management and maintenance crew. If the common areas are well maintained (e.g., clean and recently painted, parking lots well paved, landscaping well groomed, and few signs of deferred maintenance), chances are better that the same philosophy and vigilance will apply to the upkeep of your apartment.

The best single place for a maintenance inspection is the pool and its surrounding lounge area, which usually is the most popular common area within a community. Most leasing tours for prospective tenants begin with a tour of the pool area, which is usually centrally located adjacent to the property’s leasing and property management center. As a community’s showcase, these areas are usually better maintained than other less visible areas. So, if the pool area needs a renovation, you should wonder how the rest of the property looks.

SWIMMING POOLS OR CEMENT PONDS? Even if the pool area is well maintained, you may not be all that impressed with the scale and scope of those facilities. Before I started my search it was inconceivable that I would find such woefully inadequate pool facilities in a place where sun bathing and swimming take place more than 300 days per year. In general, pools are small and shallow (barely 5 feet deep in some cases), not very well maintained and surrounded with only enough lounge chairs to accommodate 5% of their tenant population. Most of the places I visited had whirlpool spas, but some are barely larger than bath tubs, are not particularly well maintained, and are as likely to be out of service as they are to be operating on any given day of the week. Even more surprising is the fact that some brand new apartment communities I visited, which typically pride themselves on being loaded with recreational amenities, are not even bothering to build these all-popular whirlpool spas into their otherwise state-of-the-art properties.

DO-IT-YOURSELF TORTURE CHAMBERS. In most cases, health clubs are small, dark unfriendly spaces that suffer from a serious lack of cable TV entertainment and exterior light and views. If I had to use such facilities, I know I’d be even more eager than usual to finish my workout. Except for basic treadmills, stationary bicycles and free weights, the other equipment in some of these facilities looks as though it is borrowed from The Smithsonian. As for other forms of recreation, some apartment communities provide tennis courts, bicycle paths, basketball courts and kiddy playgrounds, but not necessarily in a state of repair you might consider inviting.

DON’T TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED. After one inspection, I started to pay attention to some of the amenities I would normally take for granted, such as where and how tenants go about retrieving mail or disposing of garbage. Tenant mail facilities range from the expected (i.e., located near apartments, sheltered from the elements by a breeze way or some other structure) to the ridiculous (i.e., all huddled together in the middle of a parking lot completely unprotected from the rain and sunshine, and dangerously close to moving vehicles). You may not mind waiting for the rain to stop to pick up your mail, but you can rest assured the mailman isn’t going to wait when he/she delivers it. If you live in one of those unfortunate places, you better have your mail delivered to a post office box, or get used to opening soggy mail.

As for the trash disposal, I resigned myself to the fact that the best I could expect would be having one large compactor and storage facility located near the exit of my community, regardless of how large an area that might be. The obvious advantage of such an arrangement is that tenants won’t have to smell or look at garbage anywhere else within the community and won’t have to be bothered by noisy garbage men carting it away in the wee morning hours. However, I’m still getting used to a routine of hopping in my car every time I need to dispose of trash or coordinating garbage runs with my daily travel schedule.

PEEK OVER THAT SECURITY GATE BEFORE SIGNING ON THE DOTTED LINE. Before registering a community on my short list of acceptable options, I made sure I drove completely around its periphery, and noted its proximity to public utility plants, highway interchanges, or some other equally undesirable land uses. In the process, I was sure to check out its neighborhood amenities, especially within a five-minute drive. Most appealing community locales were off main drags but near most of the daily conveniences I’d likely need, including supermarkets, restaurants, drug stores, banks, movies, etc.

Communities within 15 minutes of shopping centers, entertainment hubs and other desirable landmarks were placed high on my short list. As a contrast, some of the communities I visited were long hauls from commercial activity of any kind, and some were near special facilities I’d be more likely to visit on a monthly or annual basis, like Lowe’s Home Improvements, Home Depot, furniture outlets, vacuum cleaner distributors, and so on.

FINAL OBSERVATIONS. I am pleased to report that I live in a community that provides a reasonable blend of the four major features I had sought from the outset: decent living accommodations (spacious, functional layout, with a view); basic community amenities (good swimming pool and safe, convenient access to personal mail boxes and trash disposal facilities); abundant neighborhood shopping opportunities; and good accessibility to major highways and regional employment centers. Best of all, I reside near the intersection of two important road arteries, which means visitors can find me on a map even using the most schematic maps of the region.

Over the course of my inspections, certain facts emerged as apparent truths. And, you should be aware that some of the foregoing comments apply to other areas of Florida and other types of housing (like condominiums and single family homes) as well as luxury apartment rentals. Readers are encouraged to verify similarities and differences across geographic areas and housing types based on their own experience.

Some general comments are worth noting. Notwithstanding the extreme volatility in residential real estate markets recently, Luxury garden-apartment-style communities in this area of South Florida still rent for $1.00 (give or take) per square foot per month. That means a 900 square foot apartment will rent for approximately $900 per month. Not surprisingly, one bedroom units have the highest per square foot rents; three bedroom units the lowest. Some communities charge extra for water, sewer and trash removal. Most charge a rental premium for certain apartment views (especially golf course or lake views), upper floor apartments and pets.

Newer doesn’t always mean better and be aware that down here 10 years is considered old, if not a lifetime. Unlike other more traditional regions of the US, old residences down here are not considered classic, vintage, or quaint, but rather just plain obsolete and undesirable. However, as the expression goes, “they ain’t building them like they used to” and if you want spacious, well proportioned, logical layouts you’re going to have to look at the old stuff. The best compromise is to find an old unit that has recently been completely renovated and refurbished.

Age 55 plus communities cater to the seniors, but those without such designations don’t necessarily cater to the young single adult population. In my experience, the only tangible difference between the tenancies of the two types is the existence of lots of toddlers and teenagers in the latter.

Like everything else in life, tradeoffs do exist in trying to find that perfect blend of apartment features. In South Florida, within a given price range, if you want to be near the Ocean, you’re going to accept older, lesser accommodations. Newer properties tend to have more and better site amenities, such as pools, health clubs and tennis courts, but tend to be located farther away from regional employment centers and shops and facilities you’ll need to visit daily, such as food stores, restaurants, drug stores, banks, etc.

Finally, if you want to enjoy fresh air, sunshine and truly experience the lifestyle that has fostered Florida’s growth during the past several decades, you’ll just have to go to the beach!