We have never owned our own home or lived in a "real" home since we got married in 2003. We have two kids - 5 years and 9 months. I honestly have mixed feelings about apartment living for us, but I dislike it most of the time. The maintenance is a bonus. It's nice that I got a brand new refrigerator when mine died suddenly or that the hole I punched into the wall when my neighbor was obnoxiously blasting his music was repaired right away. The maintenance works for us because DH is no where near handy and I am only somewhat handy. We do have a lot of outdoor space around the complex, but they spray pesticides, fungicide and herbicide like it's water and you have the issue of people not picking up after their dogs. We have a small garden outside, but we can't plant anything edible because of all the chemicals they use. The landscapers are here once or twice a week and they have destroyed so much of our garden. Not only is it constant chemical warfare, but they are incompetent and they cut down our plants, pull up flowers, destroy pots and my son's garden decorations. The management company doesn't really care.
Space is a big issue. We have 950 sq ft, which is definitely doable, but these apartments lack adequate storage space. The closets are tiny. The walls are cheap, so you can hang much more than pictures - definitely no way to hand something for storage. The cabinets are absolutely tiny and don't hold much. Between the lack of pantry space in the kitchen and the miniscule freezer, it is really hard to save money by stocking up on dry goods or by freezing anything because we just don't have the space. My son wants a real bike (he has a tiny tricycle), but we can't get him one because there isn't a place to store it inside the apartment and you are not allowed to leave bikes outside. They will actually go around and throw your kid's bike in the trash if it is left outside.
We have a pool which is very nice. That's a plus. They have a gym, but I've never used it because we have a free YMCA membership.
Laundry is a pain. There are no hook ups in the apartment. We have to walk outside and down the block to use the small machines and it costs $3.00 a load. I am often overrun with laundry because you have to fight with your neighbors to get a machine, you can't do a good sized load and it's expensive. Plus, we are not allowed to wash comforters, bathroom rugs or small little area rugs. If they catch you, they fine you. Ask me how awesome that is when your kid gets hit with a stomach virus in the middle of the night. Also, our neighbors use copious amounts of fabric softener and fabric softener sheets and that crap absolutely coats the inside of the dryers. We cloth diaper and the laundry situation is a pain. We are not allowed to hook up a diaper sprayer. If they catch us with one, they will fine us.
Our complex does routine inspections a couple of times a year. They come to make sure your fire and carbon monoxide detectors work, inspect your house for clutter and bugs and violations. They are only required to give 24 hours notice by law, which is what they do. It just feels so violating to have them come in and look through our stuff. They love to come in and spray the houses with bugs. I have to fight them tooth and nail to keep the exterminators out of my house. We've hardly ever seen anything in here other than a few spiders and the occasional centipedes. No need for an exterminator. I've claimed chemical sensitivity for that one.
And the carpet issue sucks. We have the typical ugly beige carpets which are stained beyond belief. They automatically replace all carpets after residents move out. Even if you're there on a 3 months lease, they will replace the carpet. Yet, if the carpet they replace is stained, they will send you a bill for it. We expect to receive a large carpet bill when we move.
As far as finances, apartment living actually screwed us. If I had actually done what I wanted to do back in 2003 and bought a house, we would have been in a much better financial situation over the years. I listened to everyone else who said that apartment living allows you to save a bunch of money for a down payment. That has not been the case for us.
I am the lone dissenting opinion here. lol I know some people LOVE apartment living, but I am dying to have my own home.