Trying to decide whether to rent an apartment or a single-family house?

Because renting is a common lifestyle choice for many, it’s important to consider what’s most critical for you — whether a sense of community, more green space, larger living areas or easy access to shopping and restaurants — and factor these items in before signing the lease.

There are many types of rental properties to consider when searching for your next home, but for now, we will focus on two options that are top of mind for many renters: apartment communities and single-family homes.

Here are some key factors to consider when exploring your next rental option:

Apartment communities

Apartment communities offer many attractive features, including amenities like swimming pools, finished rooftop areas, shared green space, fitness centers, media rooms and more. These amenities provide the added benefit of eliminating the need for pool and gym memberships, especially when those on-site services are just a quick trip from your doorstep. Beyond these, many apartment communities are likely to offer easy access to stores, restaurants and entertainment.

Perhaps the top selling point apartment communities provide is what’s noted right in the name: a built-in community. Apartment residents are surrounded by a network of neighbors to engage with, and many communities host social events that bring residents together, whether in person or digitally in the covid era. For those who are new in town or certified locals, the presence of an easily accessible network of neighbors and friends can make an apartment community especially appealing.

Naturally, apartment communities come with their own set of trade-offs to consider before signing a lease. In comparison to single-family homes, apartment communities can vary where it concerns space and privacy. Apartments often also share walls, making noise considerations especially important.

The other key consideration for apartments is availability of complementary parking spaces. While many apartments offer parking options, they may come with additional fees that could add to your overall costs. And in some cases, it’s not uncommon for residents to seek parking off-site, also at a potential cost.

Ultimately, the vast range of amenities, built-in community and accessibility make apartments an attractive option, and renters can choose an apartment that best complements their unique situation and lifestyle.

Single-family homes

For those looking to maximize space and privacy over accessibility and amenities, a single-family home may be a rental option worth consideration. Single-family homes can often have more square footage than apartments and offer residents more space, both personal and shared. Kitchens, living areas, work-from-home spaces and storage may all be larger and more conducive to gathering in a single-family home, which makes them key items to consider before signing the lease.

Another appealing feature in many single-family homes is the availability of personal outdoor space. Whether a front yard, backyard or both, the outdoor spaces that accompany many single-family homes allow residents the flexibility to exercise outdoors, entertain or give pets a safe place to roam. And, even if green space is lower on the list of priorities, parking is likely to factor into your leasing decision. Single-family homes typically offer a personal driveway or ample space for street parking right outside of the home. Residents of these homes will generally not need to weigh the costs of round-the-clock parking or the time spent walking to and from the lot.

A larger living space will also require heightened use of utilities. Residents of single-family homes may need to be more mindful of their water, electricity and gas usage than those who live in apartments because there is simply more energy required to keep the home running. These costs are unavoidable in our modern society, but it is important to note that the utility totals of single-family homes can be eye-popping.

One more trade-off to consider when renting a single-family home is the absence of amenities. Even if you own personal exercise equipment or at-home entertainment devices, a single-family home is less likely to have included access to features like swimming pools and full fitness centers. And if you rent a single-family home, you will need transportation to get to work, stores, restaurants and other necessities.

Whether you consider the suburban setting an attraction or a trade-off will depend on your personal preferences, but it’s important to remember that single-family homes are far more likely to place residents in the suburbs than the city. Though accessibility and location might be a trade-off, for many the additional space and privacy as well as a lower density lifestyle that single-family homes offer are worth the distance.

It comes down to lifestyle

The beauty of renting as a lifestyle is that it provides residents the freedom to move homes without the cumbersome and expensive buying and selling process. If you are accustomed to apartments, but find yourself seeking a more spacious environment, renting offers the flexibility to try out single-family home living. If you reside in the suburbs but long for the amenities and convenience of walkable city living, you have the freedom to lease an apartment and see if that suits you best.

Ultimately, renting is all about flexibility and finding the best rental option that fits the needs and desires of your lifestyle — and there are plenty of options for you to choose from all across the country.

Robert Pinnegar is the president and CEO of the National Apartment Association, based in Arlington, Va.

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