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Apartments and kids

post #1 of 60
Thread Starter 
What's your experience been living in an apartment with young children? What are the things to look for in an apartment complex when you're living with kids? What are the hard parts?
Would you pick between an hour commute twice daily and a big house/yard or a five minute commute and an apartment?
post #2 of 60
We're facing this question in our house too - interested to hear what others say.

FWIW - I HATE my commute - which is why we're selling our house before we are ready to buy again. My commute is 30 minutes in decent weather, 1 to 2 hours in the winter and I'm done.
post #3 of 60
Originally Posted by *MamaJen* View Post
What's your experience been living in an apartment with young children? What are the things to look for in an apartment complex when you're living with kids? What are the hard parts?
Would you pick between an hour commute twice daily and a big house/yard or a five minute commute and an apartment?
Definitely I'd pick the five minute commute and apartment. Better quality of life in my opinion.

We just sold our home and downsized to an apartment. We are so happy. We thought we'd be here for just 6 months while we found a new home to buy, and now we're going on three years here. No maintenance, no upkeep, gorgeous pool. They even change light bulbs! We just feel free.

I'd get a ground floor apartment that is near a park. Also make sure that it is in a good neighborhood with good schools. I'd make certain that the unit that you rent has an area where the kids can run around and ride bikes/trikes. Oh, and a washer/dryer in the unit.
post #4 of 60
There are pro's and con's to each situation. I think it's really individual.

For instance, I hate long commutes... but I also grew, over the years, to hate apartment complexes too. I can't do ground-floor apartments, because I hate the sound of people tromping around overhead. I also feel that second-floor units are safer from break-ins (this was a hard feeling to break even when I moved to a really nice complex, since I'd lived in dangerous neighborhoods for so long). However, I really don't recommend stairs with young kids. There's also the balcony issue - even with good rails, I was always nervous about the kids being on the balcony.

But there are up-sides to the no maintenance worries thing too. You don't have to deal with anything yourself - just call the office and they'll send someone over for you (if you're in that good complex). There's usually the nice pool and if you're lucky, there's a playground. Plus that gloriously short commute.

Having finally gotten out of apartments, though, I won't go back unless there is literally NO other choice. I am in a duplex now, but it's close enough to being in a house that I can live with it. It's not a complex, but a freestanding building with only one shared wall. It's got a yard and I can plant my flower garden in peace. No stairs. No parking lots to fight over spaces (or speed bumps, though our street could use some). The husband has a commute that is longer than he'd like it to be, but that's his own fault - we originally chose this place because he was so close to his job that he could ride a bike to work and be there in 5 minutes. (Then he got fired )

So I guess, really, it depends on what you want out of your living arrangement. Personally speaking, if I was the one working, I wouldn't want a commute longer than 30-40 minutes in order to get to my own home, with my own yard and my own driveway, but I wouldn't sacrifice that personal living space in order to be closer to work if it meant transitioning back to an apartment. That's just me.
post #5 of 60
If you rent a ground floor apartment, you might want to invest in an alarm system & put stickers in the windows. That's what we did.

Oh, and rent a garage if you don't want to hunt for a parking space.
post #6 of 60
Where we were living, the commute was about 50-60 minutes to get to town (groceries, etc) & an hour to an hour & a half to work; I really loved it there, & hope to live in a place like that again! Lots of space, had fruit trees, big gardens, livestock, lots of trees, areas to hike, seasonal creek, etc.

Right now we're living in town/suburbs (not an apt., but the most urban place I've ever been), & we spend most of our time in the backyard - we seldom go out front, on the street with the sidewalk. After over 2 years here, I did recently find out where a couple of parks are, but I really don't like going. I like to grow my own stuff, dig in my own soil, have whatever animals we want, & build stuff on our own land.
post #7 of 60
I'm renting a townhouse. I'm on the end and only have one (quiet) neighbor whom we love. I've been here for seven years (pre-kids.) My street is a cul-de-sac and very quiet. There's grassy areas to play, sidewalks, and the pool is right across the street. I love it here. I'm job hunting but I'd hate to work to far from my house.
post #8 of 60
We currently live in an apartment in a large complex and there are ups and downs.
We enjoy the pools a lot in the summer and there is a playground down the street where we often go to play, so that works out pretty well. Theoretically there are also a lot of other kids we could play with, but the thing I've noticed is that most people don't tend to go outside and we know very few of our neighbors.
The balcony isn't much of a problem; we put chicken wire on it so that my son can't squeeze through and a lot of people put black mesh around it.
The main downside is that the time we spend outside is basically wasted for me (aside from playing and excercising). I can't work in the garden or hang out laundry or do anything useful while we're outside because it's not my yard and I don't have a garden. That, for me, is the major downside. And of course the lack of my own washing machine.
But if the choice where an hour commute vs a 5 minute commute, I would pick the shorter commute. Driving that long gets old real fast...
post #9 of 60
Personally, I hated living in an apartment with young children. Granted, the last one we lived in we were on the 2nd floor, it had a tiny balcony, and we had 4 children under the age of 6. Lets just say the people underneath us hated us, and probably thanked their lucky stars the day the moving truck pulled up.

Now, we moved to a new state - and DH does drive almost an hour when he goes into the office. For us, it's worth it to have a huge, 5 bedroom house with half an acre - if we lived close to his work we'd be in another apartment, a small townhome, or a house in a bad neighborhood.

I guess my advice would be that if you have to move into an apartment - try to get on the bottom floor (which is often hard to do - b/c no one wants to walk up stairs of ride an elevator several times a day), make friends with your neighbors in hopes that your children don't irritate the poo out of them, and expect noise yourself late at night (pounding bass at 3 am, fighting couples, etc.). Also, realize that other's habits will impact you - cigarette butts on the ground, smoke drifting through the walls - or windows if they smoke outside, their visitors may not be polite, etc.

I don't mean to sound so negative - but we've lived in 3 different complexes since having kids and I don't care how much money or time we saved, you couldn't get me to do it again.
post #10 of 60
I have the one hour commute and the apartment :-( Fortunately though most of the commute time is walking so I get my exercise and if I walk around the lake it's actually quite pleasant, especially coming home on a nice warm evening.

We actually have two apartments in the same apartment building due to the circumstances of it-is-what-it-is back in September when we moved. Living in the SF Bay Area though we really have no choice but to rent. Our apartment has pretty thick walls. I hear my neighbors through the floors sometimes (especially sex) but not through the walls much so I think that the sounds of our crying infant don't travel too far. Thankfully no one has complained yet. The combined rent I'm shelling out is insane and is a lot more than most mortgages would be. Even a mortgage on the half million dollar cardboard boxes they sell around here would be less than what I pay on two units so consolidating when our lease is up will be nice (we've been cohabbing most of this time anyway) so it would be nice to maybe rent a house, finding something with three bedrooms would be ideal.

Smoking hasn't been a problem. The neighbors that do smoke do so outside. If they smoke inside, I don't notice it in the common halls or in our units.

Noise isn't too much of a problem, but I've been in plenty of other apartments where it has.

The elevator and stairs aren't much of a problem either. The elevator breaks a lot, but we need exercise anyway.

I'm paying for a parking spot in the building garage, that's a big plus. Street parking isn't much fun.

We have a laundry room but the washers/dryers are awful. I'm often tempted to load up the car and go to a coin op down the street.

Our son is only a little over two months, so we don't have a toddler running around yet. The current apartment we're in is only temporary though. When the lease is up I think we're definitely looking to move to another place. We do like the neighborhood though, and would probably consider a 2BR in the same building if one opens up.

I don't find it very challenging living in an apartment with a newborn, it may get more challenging once he's older. But I've been living in apartments since the 80's so I'm rather acclimated ...
post #11 of 60
We live in an apartment because that's within our current financial means. We're saving towards a house, but in the meantime...
I like our apartment. It's roomy and in a nice neighborhood. And that's important, because we could afford to buy a house now, just not in a neighborhood I would feel safe in. I'm fine living in an apartment if it means I can take my dd out for a walk late at night without any worries.
If you're considering moving to an apartment, here's what I think is important to look for:
1. safe, clean neighborhood
2. washer/dryer in unit
3. some sort of outdoor area
4. locked building
And i don't know the rules about posting links to other sites, but there's a website called apartmentratings.com, where residents leave reviews of the complex. Because a complex can look nice to an outsider, but have hidden problems.
We live on the second floor, which I prefer. Third would be too many steps, but first I would just feel less safe. We have a pool that dd loved last summer, as well as a little play area and plenty of places to walk around. Also, the neighbor thing can be worked out, I feel. We have an apartment of college guys living directly underneath us, and they behaved like typical college guys the first night or two after they moved in. Then my husband went down and talked to them, and they've been completely fine since then (and that was almost a year ago). Some neighbors we know pretty well, some we don't.
Ultimately, I do think home ownership is best, but when that's not possible, I think there are ways to make apartment living enjoyable. You can always rent a community garden space.
post #12 of 60
Well, I'm a city girl, so I love apartment living! We're living in a house now (out in the 'burbs, for a temporary job), but we're desperately hoping to get back to a city apartment soon. I love having less space to clean, being able to live without a car, having a built-in community of kids for dd, feeling like our lives are less cluttered with stuff, having a super to fix anything broken instead of having to find, call, and pay for services, etc. Some apartment complexes have great amenities for kids--we have a few friends who live in buildings with communal playrooms, for instance.

Beyond that, our main things to look for would be:
1) safety: I much prefer to live on a higher floor vs. the ground floor for safety reasons. Ground floor apartments are far more likely to get broken into and are closer to street noise. I don't see what's inconvenient about taking the elevator many times a day--pretty much everyone in NYC does this! I don't even mind the stairs--good exercise! Awhile back, we lived in a three-story house and I'm sure I climbed the stairs far more times a day as I would have living in a walk-up apartment.
2) easy access to washer/dryer
3) walking distance to a park
4) easily accessible super
5) non-smoking building OR new ventilation system (we once lived in an older building and, because of the bizarre way the pipes/vents were set up, we had huge problems with smoke coming in from apartments that were on our line but many floors below--something I would never have even thought about).

I LOATHE commuting. Dh was just reading something in the paper this morning about consumer real estate patterns, and it said that people tend to overestimate how much space they'll really want and to underestimate how annoying a long commute will be--so that, statistically, people who choose space over proximity to work are less satisfied with their living situation.
post #13 of 60
Could you rent a house, duplex, or townhouse instead, maybe? Might be a nice compromise.
post #14 of 60
I live in an apartment too! We're just really not at the income level needed to buy a house in the metro Boston area. We'd have to move way out to the border of NH and I'm just not willing to do that. I hate driving on the highway for one.

However, apartment living doesn't have to mean complex living. I've always rented in homes. Our current is a two-unit, though not a duplex, just a divided house. It has a w/d in unit, which I agree is very needed. It's small and not that ideal for a child, but it will have to do for now.

I live about five miles from my job and close to things I need. This greatly reduces the gas bill for our one car family, along with preserving the health and well-being of our 12 year old car. Furthermore, we do not pay mortgage interest, property taxes (well we do through rent, but still) or upkeep costs associated with home ownership.

So my only advice is to seek private landlords renting out homes. You do have choices beyond the complex.
post #15 of 60
I agree with everything NYCVeg says above. We own our apartment (in a co-op building in NYC). DD has known nothing else. I can't really comment on commutes because it still takes me an hour to commute (by the time DD and I take the subway to her school and then I get back on the the subway to work). The co-op deals with our maintenance (except for interior apartment stuff) and we have a building laundry room. I love it for the fact that DH and I don't have to spend any extraneous time on house maintenance. It also helps us to consume less stuff. I guess I'm really biased. I wouldn't have it any other way at the present time. Plus, we don't really have much choice since a great portion of real estate in NYC is comprised of apartments! We do a lot of outdoors stuff (walking and parks and biking) in order to maintain our sanity.
post #16 of 60
I'd choose the apartment. Nothing beats a five minute commute.
post #17 of 60
Oh my, I just realized that's 2 hours total commute time daily. No way I'd do that. I've done it in the past and it sucked big time. Also, I always thought it was risky to spend that much time on the road daily.

Originally Posted by *MamaJen* View Post
What's your experience been living in an apartment with young children? What are the things to look for in an apartment complex when you're living with kids? What are the hard parts?
Would you pick between an hour commute twice daily and a big house/yard or a five minute commute and an apartment?
post #18 of 60
i would definitely pick the short commute and apt over the 2 hrs a day driving. we've done that, nooooo fun. gas is expensive, also.
I would try to get ground floor if you can find it, for safety, for ease (no hauling loads of groceries up flights of stairs),and no worrying about driving the people under you nuts when the kids are playing. been there done that, would *not* do it again.
post #19 of 60
We lived in different apartments with kids for a long time and I loved it. I almost wish we didn't have a house now except that I would miss the yard.
The advantages are many in my opinion.
Maintenance is a huge one! Anytime anything went wrong we had someone to call and fix it.
I liked the big complex we lived in the most. It was a good neighborhood, lots of townhouses and 1/2 bedroom apts. We had a town house and it was 3 bedrooms 2 baths 2 floors. Fenced in yard.
There were sidewalks everywhere and lots of green space in between all the groups of apts. So...lots of kids, sidewalks for chalk and riding bikes, etc...plus the grass and 2 little playgrounds. Everyone sat out in the front and talked while the kids were playing. Stores in walking distance and an industrial park nearby where a lot of people worked in different businesses.
lol, I guess I miss it!
I had no problems with little kids in the walk up apts we had either. I love being in a city and able to walk instead of drive.
post #20 of 60
We've moved a lot for DH's and I think we've had every possible living arrangment. As far as what to look for in an apartment, I'll build on this post:

Originally Posted by NYCVeg View Post
I much prefer to live on a higher floor vs. the ground floor for safety reasons. Ground floor apartments are far more likely to get broken into and are closer to street noise. I don't see what's inconvenient about taking the elevator many times a day--pretty much everyone in NYC does this!
Most places we've lived, apartments don't have elevators, and carrying a baby and a toddler plus either grociers or laundry up and down a couple of flights of stair just doesn't work for me. This is esp. true if the steps are out of doors.

I'm a first floor gal.

Some apartments have patios that open to a common green area -- very nice with small children!

2) easy access to washer/dryer
3) walking distance to a park
These are my top two. I would not choose to live without a full size washer and dryer in my home. Walking distance to a park is GREAT with kids, esp, if you don't have your own yard.

I'd add Good, Close, Safe Parking to the list.

A commute that take 60 minutes on a good day will take longer other days because of wrecks and weather and road construction. It will cost more money in gas and car maintence, and gas prices can spike at all time. If you are comparing buying a home to renting an apartment, be sure and factor in totally random expensives, like the heater going out. Stuff happens.

On the other hand, car insurance rates are partly based on your zip code, and the house in the burbs might be far less expensive for insurance than living in town (esp. if you are comparing renting vs buying).
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