Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Feeling Good in Your Neighborhood

I've been thinking lately about where I want to live when I do in fact move back to Minneapolis.  I hate to jump the gun, jinx myself, and do a post about what I'm looking for in an apartment but it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately.  Ideally, I would love to just move back into the place I was living in before but that is not possible as it was an owner-occupied building so I need that tenant to move out, or for another unit in the building to open up and so far I have only seen one unit up for rent so I don't know if I have a good chance of moving back into that building...

So I've started to think about where exactly I would live if I couldn't live there... which calls to question - what do I value in a neighborhood?  Here's my priority list:

1.  Safety first.  This is an obvious one but bears mentioning as rent certainly differs depending on the neighborhood that you live in.  As a single person who lives alone, a safe neighborhood where I feel comfortable walking at night is my top priority.

2.  Apartment features.  There are certain in-unit features that I won't budge on.  I need covered parking (hello, winter is awful here), central air (it's a little known fact that Minneapolis is actually quite hot/humid in the summer), and in-unit laundry. 

3.  Walking distance to work or walkable distance to public transportation.  Ideally, I would like to be able to continue to walk to work - however, I might not be able to find an apartment walking distance from work in the price range I am trying to stay within, so I would also be willing to live in a place where I could walk to a bus stop and take a short bus ride to work.  I know rents are higher for places that are closer to the downtown area but that also means I drive less which can mean saving up to $100-150/month on gas.  You also save on wear and tear on your vehicle which is more difficult to quantify but for example, I get my oil changed about twice a year now as opposed to around 4 times, and putting on less miles means my car will last even longer (I've had it for 11 years and plan to get at least 4 more years out of it!).

4.  Walking distance to grocery stores, coffee shops, and restaurants.  I value a pedestrian lifestyle so being able to walk to all of these places is important.  And by the way, I consider a grocery store walking distance away if it's within a mile. Did you know there is a website called "Walk Score"?  It's pretty cool as it rates the address and ideally I'd like something in the 90s, but could compromise and accept a place in the 80s.  But I really want to be able to do most things on foot if at all possible.

5.  Close to running trails.  I know that I will have to most likely drive to where my running club meets, but on the days when I am not running with the group, I want to be able to walk out my door and have access to a running path that is safe and scenic.  Luckily in Minneapolis there are lots of places with great running path options, from the chain of lakes area to the Mississippi river.

Of course, my old condo in Minneapolis had all of these features.  The neighborhood was safe, the condo had all the features I was looking for, it was a 0.75 mile walk to work, the grocery store was 0.75 miles away, there were 2 coffee shops within 2 blocks, and several restaurants were walking distance away and  I could walk to the light rail which got me to the airport for the bargain price of about $1.75-2.75.  (it got a score of 92 for walkability which is classified as walkers paradise).  Oh, and the condo building was ON the Mississippi River.

Le sigh.  If only I could just click some ruby shoes together and be transported back to my old condo with all my belonging moved in and put away that would be so fabulous.  But, since that's not an option, here's hoping that when I do move home, I can find a place that has the 5 attributes that I value most.

When looking for an apartment or home, what mattered/matters most to you?  My list can be summed up by saying, "location, location, location."  If you live in the US,  have you looked up the walk score of where you currently live?  My place in Charlotte gets a rating of 82, but that actually seems high to me because besides being walking distance to work, there's not much around me in terms of restaurants, coffee shops, and grocery stores.


Caroline said...

My apartment got a score of 94! That's such a cool website!

I love my apartment and really don't want to ever move again (though obviously that's not likely). When we were looking for a place, our big things were: safety, price, close to public transport, laundry in building (but found one with laundry in unit!) and somewhat updated appliances, etc. Boston has a lot of very old apartments so we wanted one that was taken care of. We don't have central AC.. just window AC units. I'll let you know if that's an issue in about three months haha :)

Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap) said...

I love your list! The apartment Eric and I lived in before our house had literally none of the "apartment features" you listed- no ac, no covered space and no laundry. We would both go to our parents on Sundays to do laundry... seriously terrible. I normally don't love AC but in this apartment it was totally necessary since there was like 1 window, and no real cross breeze. In our defense, my K job was only half day at the time so we were very focused on price haha.

I've used the walkability website and I believe my house is like 40 something ha ha. Unfortunately Eric is not really a fan of urban living, and I am not a fan of paying for walkability in the suburbs ha ha. I actually find my house relatively walkable minus the giant hill which is kind of annoying but doable. Yesterday Max and I walked to Trader Joes, Walgreens and Starbucks. It's also a short ride to the bus that gets you to the center of town in one direction, and to the T (to go to Boston) in the other... so, not too bad! Though I admit I never take the bus! The things I do love about my house include the neighborhood, commute to work (7 minutes) and garage!

Marlys said...

I am just so excited that you are starting to plan for your return! I am not an urban living type of person but do understand why the features you mentioned are important and I agree that safety should be #1, especially because I am your Mom! :)

Abby said...

I am so happy you're return is in sight! I think that is a very realistic and good list of "musts"!

I think it would be awesome to live somewhere urban - where you can walk everywhere. In fact, earlier this year Ryan and I seriously looked into Renting out our house an buying an income property by downtown/campus, fixing it up, and then moving back into our house.....but that would involve compromising a few things.

My biggest musts when we were house shopping was #1 location #2 space/storage # easy access to great running/biking trails. (And our house is actually along the my favorite trail...so that worked out well!!)

I know you're going I find a great place to live when you return home!

Carolina John said...

Believe me, I've already got my list prepped for our next house. it's all based on features, not location. As much as I like living in this part of Raleigh, I would much rather have the items on the list again.
1. 2 car garage
2. built after 1974
3. master bathroom
4. total payment under $1k on a 15 year fixed loan.

and those are deal breakers. Our current house has none of those so it may be reactionary. And the kids want a pool in the backyard.

Amber said...

I have seen that website before, it's so cool!

Since I live in such a small city and driving places is relatively easy I don't value walk ability as a super important quality when it comes to where I want to live. Actually, as we get older and more settled and start to talk about a home to raise kids in we find ourselves talking a lot about wanting a rural property. I never thought I would want that but I just find myself wanting SPACE. Especially for my kids to run around in one day! Luckily you can have that here and still only be a 10-15 minute drive from work (aka, downtown and in the city!) :)

The reasons I love our current townhouse can definitely be summed up by location though! Right by a bus stop so it's easy for us to be a one-car family. A 10-minute drive from work. Walking/running distance to SO many amazing trails. A 5 minute drive to my yoga studio. And we are only 5 minutes driving (15 - 20 walking) from Starbucks, Target, Walmart... basically all the amenities we could need. Again, I think this all comes back to living in a smaller city as no-one is really more than a 20-25 minute drive from anything here!

Leigh said...

When we were looking for a house to buy, we were looking for something that was move in ready, finished basement and a backyard for a dog. We live in the suburbs and most neighbourhoods here have a grocery store which is nice when we need to quickly pick something up we forgot for dinner

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

We like space. I'm sure my walkability is like 5 and only because there is a corner store about a mile down ha. We are 5 miles from downtown and that is perfect. Now REAL grocery shopping is about 15 minutes across town but I can stop on my way home from work and get more expensive stuff if needed. I'd love to live on the opposite side of our town actually or in one of the newer neighborhoods on this side. We aren't in a neighborhood we are just in the country. And I wish we had better neighbors or more of a neighborly feel to our area but whateves. I'd love to be able to walk to places but I also enjoy not being on top of the people next to me and my private backyard. There's just something to say about having 2.5 acres to yourself and a bonfire on a summer night.

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

I love a convenient location, close to downtown, and walking distance to a grocery store, coffee shop, etc..

Stephany said...

My apartment scored an 11! HA. Totally not surprising at all. We do have a grocery store a mile away, but I'm always going to opt to make the 2 minute drive than the 15 minute walk. I'm lazy. :)

For me, some of my non-negotiables when apartment hunting: not too far from work (I can handle anything under 30 minutes), safe, central heat and air, dog friendly, & has a laundry center a gym.

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

I love this post. Because, we all have priorities and it's cool to see how we organize them. My must haves: safety, access to public transportation (for Sweets to get to work), access to a park/playground (it's what saves us with Gavin), AC, in-unit laundry, garage spot, extra storage, quiet street (I'm over living on busy streets - it's not even the noise that bothers me, but all the soot/dirt from large trucks, buses, etc. that use busy streets more frequently).

Walking distance to shopping would be nice (and we have that now), but if I'm honest, then I'll admit we use our car for most errands, so it's not a must-have.

I'll also add, living in a neighborhood with relatively easy access to a highway. I used to live a mile from a major artery; now we live 3.5 miles from the nearest highway and it makes a HUGE difference. It can take me 20-30 minutes to get home from the highway itself during rush hour, which kills me!

BTW, my condo got a score of 74, which I find to be on the low side. My last condo got a 95, which I find to be on the high side. Not sure I completely agree with their methodology. Though, it does give a good, general idea of a neighborhood.

Linda said...

Affordability and good condition/safety for me.

However I am an hour's commute now so maybe next time I'll consider commute.

Elizabeth said...

Haha my walk score currently is 42. I put in the address for where I lived downtown during grad school and it scored 95 though--impressive! Ironically I CAN walk to the grocery store, easy errands, and at least a few restaurants where I am now though. For me, the biggest factor for housing hands down is regarding the pets. (I had no clue that German Shep mixes are restricted breeds!) Second largest is being within an easy drive to work (rather than the other side of the city). I'm not super close to my neighbors but I actually like living where I do. Within half a mile of two of my aunts (although we don't see each other too frequently), easy walking distance to a park, dog park nearby, grocery stores within 1-4 miles, I can have chickens if I desire, right now I'm 10 minutes drive from one of my campus locations, and 25-45 minutes to two different sets of forest trails, and I actually enjoy living by the sports noise of the high school. I might not have many sidewalks or great roads for running and there's a huge traffic jam at school times due to the fact that there is at least 1-2 school zones on almost every way out of my neighborhood....but for the most part it's really pretty decent. ;) Hoping something opens up perfect for you!

Jeanie said...

I don't know about the walk score, but I think I live in that neighborhood. A grocery about five or six blocks away, about a mile or so to two different shopping areas with a variety of good stores and restaurants and good access to bus lines to get downtown. Too bad you aren't moving to Michigan eventually -- Rick has a duplex open now, beginning in May. Ah, sigh. I'm with you on all those things. I bought my house in this hood because it is a place where you see people out and about -- all kinds of people, too -- families and seniors and all the in-betweens. To me that says safe. And you're right -- that's first!

Alli said...

I know you will be shocked to hear that my place got a Walk Score of 97. I actually am sort of shocked that it didn't get a 100 as I can't think of anything I can't walk to.

Lesli said...

That walk score is super interesting. I did my address in Hudson, WI and got a super sad score of 29--very car dependent! However, on weekends when the weather cooperates I can and do walk to Target, Caribou, library, etc.

Lesli said...

That walk score is super interesting. I did my address in Hudson, WI and got a super sad score of 29--very car dependent! However, on weekends when the weather cooperates I can and do walk to Target, Caribou, library, etc.

Shoshanah said...

It's funny because when we bought our house I was so excited about the big landscaped backyard. And now, looking forward to our next house, I want a small-ish low maintenance yard. I really didn't realize how much work it needed, and am a bit depressed about how grown over it's gotten.

And, in a way I think it's amusing you listed air conditioning as a need. Especially since in Louisiana, I don't believe you could even find an apartment without it. Of course, I grew up in a house in California without central AC, so it really is all relative!

San said...

Your list is pretty much the same as my priority list for apartment hunting. I hope you find a place that you like!