I mentioned (a long time ago) that we were moving to a new apartment. That move happened the weekend of September 17th, so we’ve been our new place almost 3 months at this point. I am absolutely in love with it. We’re in Arlington in a part called Ballston. We knew we wanted to be in Arlington because it’s really where we feel the young crowd is in Northern Virginia. Before moving we made a list of things we had to have, and things that were on our wishlist. Some of these are “duh” things, but you’d be surprised what we ran into along the way.
- Air conditioning (not a unit in a window)
- Close to a metro (within a mile walking)
- Outdoor space, preferably a balcony
- Washer/dryer in the unit
- Not a studio, but a one bedroom/one bath
- Closet space
- Some kind of storage – either a storage unit or a garage
- Over 700 square feet
- Budget: All in (utilities, cable, rent, etc.) had to be under $2000 a month
- Nice kitchen that opened up to the living room
- Not in a high rise
- Amenities (pool/gym, etc.)
- Lots of windows
- More than one parking space or good street parking
- Near bars/shops/things we could do
Thinking about what we ended up with, I’m surprised how many places we saw that only had one or two of these things. Seriously, we saw some AWFUL places. We almost made a bid on a place that was just too small for us because we got so frustrated. We also actually made a bid on a place that was awesome, but we ultimately lost to another person. I’m so glad we lost it (though at the time I was freaking out that we would never find a place we loved) because we ended up with something so much better. M moved in with me in my tiny basement apartment August 8th. We were looking for a place for over a month. To say I was stressed… let’s not even go there.
And now, I can say it was all worth it. So well worth it. Our new place has every single thing on the Must Have list. Every. Single. One. That’s amazing to me. Because I’m crazy, and I want to document this for my future self, I’m going to talk about all the great things in our new apartment.
- Air conditioning (not a unit in a window) – We have great air conditioning/heat (I could never control my own air at my last apartment. This is a freedom I will never again give up!) and it helps that we have awesome plantation shutters that keep the cold or hot air out of our apartment so even during the winter/summer we can leave the heat/air off during the day and only turn it on when we get home. Talk about savings.
- Close to a metro (within a mile walking) – We are on the other side of the Ballston mall, a block away. So to get to the metro it takes about 10-12 minutes walking, and we’ve already used it so much that I’m so glad I was convinced this was a necessity and we picked the right area.
- Outdoor space, preferably a balcony – We didn’t get the balcony that we both really thought we wanted, but we did get a fenced in yard. Our entire apartment building allows dogs (there are only 3 right now out of 14 units, and we cannot hear any barking at all unless the really hyper one, Cona, is out running in the yard), so we have an awesome grassy area and very social neighbors that hang out outside when the weather’s nice. It’s great to have a safe place to relax outside.
- Washer/dryer in the unit – We one-uped the washer/dryer request in that we have a washer/dryer in the unit that is apartment sized, and then a full size (FREE!) washer/dryer on our floor (there are only 4 units per floor and only 3 floors because it’s a garden style apartment, so it’s usually not in use at all).
- Not a studio, but a one bedroom/one bath – one BIG bedroom and a smaller, 50’s style (you know, awful mint green tile with a black border) bathroom. But the floor has been updated to large white tiles that are very pretty and the shower has a curved shower rod that makes you feel like you’re in a much bigger shower than you are, which I love.
- Dishwasher – The dishwasher we have is the best one I’ve ever used (sorry Mom!) It is a life saver and I would never ever move into a place that didn’t have one!
- Closet space – We have three closets in this place and it’s amazing how much space we have. My closet is in the bedroom and is very well organized – two great racks for my shirts/pants, and a taller rack for dresses. I couldn’t fit my shoes though, so those are on a hanging rack in our storage closet. The storage closet is in the living room and is HUGE. We were able to sign up for Costco memberships and store toilet paper/paper towels/chicken stock, etc. in it, as well as all of our coats, household repair/cleaning stuff, and extra bins with decorations and blankets. M’s closet is in the hallway right outside our bedroom, and he can easily fit all of his clothes and shoes in it. It also has shelving on the right that holds all of our towels/sheets, etc. which is very convenient.
- Some kind of storage – either a storage unit or a garage. – This storage was important because I have a bed and M has a bed… and we were only using one. But why get rid of a good bed (not just because something could happen between us, but if we ever get a 2 bedroom place, we’ll need that extra bed). So many places we looked at didn’t have any kind of storage, and a storage unit would cost us an extra $100-ish a month. This place has a one car garage that is amazing – it has wood palates to keep our stuff off the ground in case it rains and plenty of room for more storage bins. The previous renters also built a hanging system in the top of the garage that allows us to hang beach chairs, M’s golf clubs, our fishing stuff, and coolers. It’s amazing how we didn’t even think where we were going to put all this stuff and somehow this all magically fell into our laps.
- Over 700 square feet – our place is 850 square feet, and we use every single foot of it. It’s large, but not huge, and we’ve found that it gives us both enough breathing room. I also got to buy the sectional couch I wanted because we have the room for it. Here’s hoping we will be able to continue to use this couch in other big spaces!
- Budget: All in (utilities, cable, rent, etc.) had to be under $2000 a month – We are just under this. Once we have the TV and couch paid off (we were able to buy both right after we moved in because they have no interest for a year… yes, we’re those people paying it off instead of saving it all up) all of our monthly costs will go down and we’ll be well within our budget.
- Nice kitchen that opened up to the living room – This is the one thing that didn’t happen, but as you can see I can’t say I regret it that much because we have such an amazing place. We have a galley kitchen beside the living room with an eat-in space as well. It’s so big though, it shouldn’t be described as a galley kitchen. It’s also fully upgraded – granite counters, gas stove, HUGE refrigerator, garbage disposal, built-in wine rack, built-in spice shelves and plenty of cabinets. I bought a TV during Black Friday on the cheap from Best Buy (actually my brother stood out there and got me and my parents TVs and himself a Garmin. Oh to have the energy of a 17 year old again). It was meant to go on the counter but it didn’t fit, which was actually a blessing in disguise. Instead we got a wall mount and it works out even better. I’m so happy because now I won’t miss any big plays if I’m in the kitchen, and it’s nice to have something to watch while we’re cooking.
- Not in a high rise – As I’ve said our apartment is garden style, so it’s only 3 floors and we’re on the 3rd (no one above us!) We live right beside a high rise, and I’m so glad not to have to deal with those elevator rides. Speaking of elevators, we don’t have one. Trust me, moving day is something we just don’t recall anymore because it was that horrible. Just ask my friend B who helped us. But now I love it because there’s no waiting and we get at least a little bit of exercise every day. Bringing in groceries is still a pain, but my parents have to deal with that in their house too, so it’s just a small sacrifice.
- Amenities (pool/gym, etc.) – There are no amenities in this place. The first place we placed a bid on had a pool and we really thought that was important. M had a pool at his first apartment and would spend some time there. But really, this is city living and we shouldn’t except big luxuries. The tradeoffs were worth it.
- Lots of windows – As I mentioned, we have plantation shutters that are on all the windows in the apartment, and there are a lot of them. We don’t have direct sunlight because of the direction we face, but at least we get light in the apartment, so I’m not complaining too much.
- More than one parking space or good street parking – We have a garage, as I’ve mentioned, so we have one spot taken care of. There have been nights where I have had to drive around to find a spot, but if anything it’s a block walk to get to my car. I had to deal with this at my last place, and it’s worth not having to pay an extra $150-200 a month to have another parking spot. Sure it’s annoying sometimes, but it’s the city.
- Near bars/shops/things we could do – We are in walkable distance of anything we want really. We’re on the same block as the grocery store, there are bars/restaurants within a mile radius, my nail salon is less than a mile away, the metro is a couple blocks over… we have it all without being in a highrise in the middle of it all. So I can live my quiet home life but go out when I want.
This was a long post, but I wanted to document this all for myself so that hopefully when we buy a house I can remember to keep things in perspective. This move was also a good life lesson that good things can come to those who patiently wait for them. Not to say we didn’t need to do all the leg work we did, but I’m so glad we passed on the many apartments we toured that were “okay” but not “great” and we waited for the right one for us.