Rental Report: Apartment Living for Families

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

A few decades ago, families packed up and left cities, moving out to the suburbs for big homes with yards in droves. But in recent years, many urban areas have seen resurgence in family living.

To start, it can simply boil down to money. With home prices on the rise, and a very competitive sales market, (especially with Ballston homes selling in an average of 5 days!), some families are simply priced out of the sales market. According to Trulia, the median home price in Arlington at $554,900, which means a family could potentially need up to $110,000 for a down payment. That is a pretty hefty sum when raising a family in this area, considering average rent in Arlington for a 2 bedroom is around $2213 per month.

Financials aside, some folks just prefer to live in an apartment. There are numerous advantages:

  • Flexibility — Living in an apartment means you can move whenever you need or want, as you aren’t locked in for any amount of time other than the lease term. And in the Arlington area, that can be a big benefit since many families are transplants, and may only be here for a short time.
  • Maintenance — Apartment living affords the family simplicity in home maintenance. Something goes wrong? Call the front desk. Done. No yard to mow, or hedges to trim. And when the dishwasher hits the skids, there’s no unexpected big expense.
  • Amenities — A lot of apartments have wonderful amenities for families including pools, game rooms (that often go under utilized) and playgrounds.
  • Reduced commute — If you are considering apartment living with your family, you are already considering changing your lifestyle from living in a home . You may also be able to give up a car in exchange for living closer in, taking public transportation and reducing your commute time (which could be refreshing considering the average commute time in Arlington is 27.3 minutes).
  • Access to great things to do — Living in an apartment also affords families the time to enjoy all of the exciting places and activities in their local area. In Arlington, that means taking advantage of any of the following (just to name a few):
  • Family Time – When families live in close quarters, they spend more time as a family: there aren’t as many escapes, kids often share rooms, and you usually can’t just let the kids out the back door for play time. When a family starts out this way, the kids aren’t likely to know or yearn for anything different, especially if they live in an area with other families.

While there are some disadvantages as well, with careful planning and thoughtful selection of an apartment, families can be quite comfortable.

  • Do your research. Spend time with an agent that knows the area and the buildings. While Fair Housing Laws prevent agents from discussing anything with regards to demographics of certain buildings and areas, they are going to be in the know about where you want to start. They will be able to tell you what to look for when selecting an apartment for your family. For instance, spend some time observing the building. When you go to view an apartment, try to go at a time where people are going to be coming and going. Take a look at the residents. Maybe even try to talk to a few. Are there a lot of singles or do you see lots of strollers? What about community activities? Look at the activity board; do you see any family friendly events coming up? Look up apartment ratings and see if there is a mention of families in the buildings.
  • Listen. Find out the construction of the building and the sound proofing. One thing you can’t do is always keep kids quiet, so find a building that helps you out in that department.
  • Neighborhood. Be sure to check out the onsite amenities as well as what is within walking distance. Sometimes when the kids need to get some energy out, it is helpful to have a playground within a 5-minute walk.
  • Space. There are some great space-saving tips for families in small units. Get some inspiration and get organized! It is a key factor to not feeling cramped.

While there are certainly some things a small or growing family may give up to live in an apartment, there can also be plenty of upside. More family time, great amenities, and a better location make apartment living an option worth considering.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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