Housing Update #10000: The Condo/Apartment Showdown

Siiiiiigh.

So, the latest installment of the housing hunt is at least promising in terms of progress. We have found two options that we really like and are completely stuck when it comes to choosing which one we want. I am not actually expecting you guys to choose where we’re going to live next, but I’m hoping that input from people who aren’t my husband and I might help us see some other perspectives.

Before I get into things, a little background. We cannot afford to live right near my husband’s new work because we’re not wealthy (and you have to be seriously wealthy to live around there). We limited our searches to a budget of X and required a minimum of 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. We looked in several neighborhoods and finally settled on this one. It is a pretty significant drive to my husband’s work, but there are several toll road/options that will get him there quicker (though for a cost) and there is a train that will get him there much more quickly that he can also get a monthly discount for through his job. It’s closer to my job and I’ll get into specifics with distances in a second.

The Apartment
So, the apartment is 1000 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms. It is a first floor unit (of a 2 story building) and the rent is X+20 dollars a month, which is because of the 30 dollar a month pet rent, and is not ideal cost-wise.
It has a HUGE kitchen (I mean HUGE. I could lay down on the counter and not touch anything.), separate dining and living rooms and a spacious patio (with a sliding glass door from the living room and another door from the master bedroom) that we are allowed to keep a BBQ on, not that we own one, but fun fact. There’s also a small storage closet on the patio.
The bedrooms are good sized, the master has a big closet with sliding doors, the kids room has a walk in closet. And the bedrooms are separated by the living room between them.
The bathrooms each have a tub/shower and a single sink, though the counter space is meh.
There are full size, side-by-side washer driers in the unit with a shelf above to store detergent stuff on.
There is plenty of grass and a nice sidewalk path for bike riding outside the unit and it is in a relatively quiet and secluded area of the complex, but also near enough to some nice BBQs and picnic benches.
It comes with one covered parking spot, the other car will have to park in first come, first serve guest parking.
It is 22 miles from my husband’s work, 3 miles from the train station and 7 miles from my work.
There is a huuuuuuuge park 3 blocks away (3 uphill blocks, but still) that Eli will love.
My favorite parts of this unit are the size- it feels big, the kitchen is ENORMOUS and it has new full sized washer and driers.
My least favorite parts are the cost and the fact that I’m tired of living in apartment complexes where people move in and out and don’t take care of stuff and the fact that it’s 20 dollars over our budget.

The Condo
So, the condo is 915 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms. It is a first floor unit (of a 3 story building) and the rent is X-50 dollars a month.
It has a small kitchen with a super fancy enormous refrigerator, separate dining and living rooms and a small patio that overlooks great outdoor space and some gorgeous mountains. There’s also a decent sized storage closet on the patio.
The bedrooms are good sized, the master has a walk in closet, the kids room has small sliding door closet. The bedrooms share a wall and the kids room is against the living room. The hallway is pretty narrow.
The bathrooms each have a tub/shower and a single sink with awesome counter space. The master has a separate dressing area/sink and toilet/shower room, which is nice.
There are stacked washer and driers, which they say are full sized, but I’m not completely sure.
There is a nice grass area and a big sand volleyball court that Eli can play in and it was very quiet while we were there. There are a few tables with benches nearby and the view is unreal.
It comes with one covered parking spot and one uncovered parking spot.
It is 20 miles from my husband’s work and close to the ideal freeway onramp that will spare him some traffic, and is 3 miles to the train station and 9 miles from my work.
There is a nice park about half a mile away, which Eli will love.
My favorite parts of the condo are the stability of the complex- people own and live here and so the turnover rate is small and people care for the space. There is an HOA we don’t have to pay for. The fridge is also pretty amazing and the price is within our budget.
My least favorite part is really the size. It feels small inside. The kitchen is more cramped than the one we already have and the patio is small, though the grassy spaces outside help make up for that.

So. There you have it. Two very comparable units with pros and cons that basically completely equal each other. If it was you, knowing only what’s above, what would you do?

There is a secret third option, because my husband got a job offer that will include a monthly stipend all year next year in the amount of exactly X, which would allow us to move closer to my husband’s work, however, it means more money on the place we live and significantly more money for daycare/preschool because it’s just a more costly area in general. Plus, it forces my husband to work at his current hospital for 3 years, which isn’t inherently bad, he’s just not sure he wants to commit to that yet.

Help?

27 Responses to “Housing Update #10000: The Condo/Apartment Showdown”

  • Flip a coin. If you’re disappointed at the way it comes up, choose the other one. If you’re relieved at the way it comes up, you know what you wanted all along.

    [Reply]

    Katie Reply:

    @Suebob, I like that. I think I change my mind each day on which one I want, but I think this might be a good strategy if the stalemate continues.

    [Reply]

  • So, about the 2nd apartment that feels small. You mentioned that the kids’ room is against the living room. How thin are the walls? Like, will you be able to have a conversation with your husband or watch TV in the living room after the kids are asleep? Because that would be a deal-breaker for me. I need to be able to decompress and have a grown-up conversation after my kids have gone to bed.

    It’s a tough call and you really have to figure out your own specific needs/priorities. I’d be inclined more toward the spacious apartment versus the more stable condo community, but that’s a personal choice.

    Tough call for sure. Good luck.

    [Reply]

    Katie Reply:

    In both places, the kids room is actually against the living room and will be against the wall with the TV. I can’t say for sure about the thickness of the walls, but it’s something I’ll look into.

    [Reply]

  • Ooh, I like Suebob’s idea. But if I hadn’t heard that first (THANKS, SUEBOB), I’d say go with the first one. If it feels small to you NOW, compared to where you’re living with three people, think about what that will be like with four people. THAT SAID, if the locations are significantly different (but it sounds like they’re not?), go with the location that works best. A crappy commute or bad neighbors can make living even in the most wonderful space a trying experience. Good luck!

    [Reply]

    Katie Reply:

    They’re about 2 miles apart, so the area is pretty much the same. The commute will suck for my husband regardless (it’s finally my turn! Woooo!), but I am concerned about the space, especially putting a baby swing and all the toddler toys in it.

    [Reply]

  • My priorities would be
    1) storage space
    2) cost
    3) living space
    4) convenience (commute, the park, etc)

    I agree with the flip a coin idea. I have a random coin I use for decision making. Don’t always use the outcome but it can really help you figure out what your thoughts are. Always flip 2 out of 3 :-)

    [Reply]

    Katie Reply:

    @Lonek8, The storage space suuuuucks in both, though the condo has slightly more. We don’t get a garage at either, so likely we’ll have to rent some storage or sell what’s in our garage to make it work. The cost is definitely an issue.

    [Reply]

  • Eustice The Sheep:

    There are two websites you can check crime statistics on. Usually police departments report to one or the other. http://www.crimemapping.com and https://www.crimereports.com check out the last six to twelve months for both places, and then do what Suebob suggested ;)

    [Reply]

    Katie Reply:

    @Eustice The Sheep, So, I checked those out and it turns out that we’ve found the safest place in SoCal because nothing came up for either place on either site. I might live there forever.

    [Reply]

    Becky Reply:

    Also, check the area sexual predator/offender registry!! ;)

    [Reply]

    Katie Reply:

    @Becky, I checked that as well. There are a few scattered, but none in the immediate vicinity!

  • Stacey:

    I agree with te coin flip method. I must caution against the playing in the sand volleyball court though. Those things are giant litter boxes for every stray and outdoor cat in the neighborhood. Huge ringworm risks, and that is super contagious.

    [Reply]

    Katie Reply:

    Yikes! Good to know!

    [Reply]

    Becky Reply:

    YES!!! What she said! That was my first thought!!

    [Reply]

  • MissMary:

    We moved A LOT due to my husbands job while raising our 2 sons–six times in 12 years! We put our boys in the master bedroom, as they had far more stuff than we did. Toys were required to stay in the bedroom with the exception of a covered basket in the living room, otherwise toys came out & when back.

    Our housing priorities:
    1. Safety (check w/local police or sheriff’s dept. regarding issues in the area); visit the area at ALL times of day/night/weekend, etc… then you see & hear what the neighborhood really looks like/sounds like. (Hubby is a former Police Officer)

    2. Cost

    3. Apartment/Condo Space & Amenities

    Commute is a whole different ballgame. Commute=time away from family. And less time in your new home. What is that time worth to you & your husband? Only you guys can decide that.

    Best wishes on your new home hunt decisions!

    [Reply]

    Katie Reply:

    We considered giving the boys the master, but the bathroom is attached (in both) and my husband and I often get ready at the same time, so we need both bathrooms. The two units are about 2 miles apart, so the neighborhoods are very similar (crime reports turned up absolutely nothing in either area) and the commute is equally sucky either way, unfortunately.

    [Reply]

  • Tia:

    The first one. You’ll have another child soon, so space is really important. Since you’re in SoCal, I’m guessing X isn’t $500, so it’s not like $20 is really that much more percentage-wise. Also, 2 kids is a lot of laundry, so the new, full-sized W/D is awesome.

    [Reply]

    Katie Reply:

    @Tia, Ha, no, X is not $500, but boy do I wish it was. This is the first time I am a little sad we’re not in Buffalo (where housing is much, much cheaper).

    [Reply]

  • Kimybeee:

    Both sound super tiny to me! I have 2120 square feet single story home on a farm! We don’t think about the particulars you gave. And my husbands family have lived on this farm for more than 80 years!

    I don’t know why but I felt like two was the answer. I think I got a little more enthusiasm from you even though it didn’t have some of the perks of number one. I think the fact the condo doesn’t have as much turnover would be appealing. More established families is better than never knowing your neighbors.

    [Reply]

    Katie Reply:

    @Kimybeee, Yea, it’s small. Thankfully it’s only for a year and next year we should be able to move to somewhere with at least 3 bedrooms and quite a bit more space.

    [Reply]

  • Ruth H:

    I am leaning towards the first one, but you’re going to have four humans, plus pets, vying for the same space; so if you can swing it, go for the larger place. Apartments are challenging, but I’d much rather have the space, and spend a bit more $$ and try my best to overlook any neighbor annoyances. Two doors down is a pathetic, aspiring, drummer, who “practices” daily 2-4; that was not enjoyable to listen to while recovering from surgery… but it’s better than gunshots in the more affordable neighborhood across town! You won’t be there forever, but you should be comfortable in the interim.

    [Reply]

    Katie Reply:

    @Ruth H, There’s a guy who practices the bagpipes every day at 4:15 by my work, so I can imagine how fun the drum was!

    [Reply]

  • Sally:

    You sound super-down on the commute. How does your husband feel about the train? I used to love my train commute… You get your coffee, read the paper, or a book, or work on your laptop — undistracted by kids. It can actually be quite valuable time, not wasted time at all. There’s a cost to it, but in your husband’s case, as you say, he gets a bit of a discount, and you’ll be saving on gas, repairs, parking… It might even help a little, money-wise. Just a thought. Perhaps not very helpful, but, you know, forgive. :-)

    [Reply]

    Katie Reply:

    I’m not down on the commute, but my husband is, which I get. I’ve been commuting for 5 years, so to be less than 20 minutes with traffic from work for me is basically a luxury. He’s been less than 2 miles from his work for the past 3 years, so it’s taking some adjusting. I think he’s probably the idea train rider- he hates driving, his car is slowly dying, and he doesn’t mind public transportation. Plus, the discounted ticket is awesome. I’m hoping to get him into it, but ultimately it’s his call, not mine, but I will definitely pass your experience along!

    [Reply]

  • jane:

    I say the condo. Think about that extra $70 in your pocket every month when the new baby comes. Its just a year, you can sacrifice space and small laundry for a year until you have a better idea of where your husband will wind up.

    [Reply]

  • We live in a twin (duplex) in a suburban neighborhood of Philly that has 1160 sq ft. There are four of us. The “office” is really the 3rd bedroom (it’s my sewing area/computer’s home), and the kids are currently sharing the smallest bedroom, which measures 7×11. Do I wish we had more space? Definitely. Do I wish the living room weren’t also the playroom? For real. I also wish we had less stuff, but having kids means stuff. At least, with your 2nd, you’ll have all the boy stuff already, and know what things are essential for baby, and which are superfluous. I would love the opportunity to have green space right outside my door. You might not want to pack everyone up for a 3 block walk, but you might need fresh air, which may make up for less indoor space?

    At least it’s only for a year, right?

    [Reply]

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I'm Katie, a 30-year-old, wife, mom, former teacher-turned PT, who also had brain surgery in November of 2007. This blog chronicles my daily life, from mundane to crazy, often with far too much detail. Sit down, get comfortable and stay for a while.
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