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When you're looking for a place to rent, your first thought is probably an apartment. But renting a single-family house is another option—and could be a better choice. When deciding whether to rent a house or an apartment, factors to consider include your budget, your lifestyle, required upkeep and privacy.
Renting a house and renting an apartment can be very different experiences. They can also take a different toll on your bank account. Does an apartment make sense for you, or is a house a better bet? Here's what to think about when weighing your options.
Pros and Cons of Renting an Apartment
Renting an apartment has both positive and negative aspects.
Pros of Renting an Apartment
- Access to amenities: Apartment complexes often feature fitness centers, pools, recreation rooms, tennis courts, rooftop lounges and other desirable extras you won't find with a house.
- Security: If you're concerned about safety, apartment buildings with gated entries, security guards or doormen can ease your mind.
- Proximity to city center: Many apartments are in urban areas, making them a good choice if you'd like restaurants, retail stores and nightlife within a walkable distance.
- Minimal upkeep: There's no need to clean the pool or mow the community green spaces when you live in an apartment; it's all handled for you.
- Convenience: On-site superintendents, building managers and doormen can make life easier by handling tasks like accepting packages or unclogging your tub.
Cons of Renting an Apartment
- Lack of privacy: Depending on the apartment, you could have neighbors above, below and on three sides of you, separated only by a thin wall. You also have to share amenities; your peaceful poolside sunbath could be disrupted by noisy neighbor children holding a cannonball contest.
- Restrictions on pets: Many apartments forbid pets; those that allow animals generally limit their size and number, and may require that you pay extra.
- Less child-friendly: Apartment living can be restrictive for children. Neighbors may complain about noise if your little ones run around or play loudly, for example.
- Shared problems: When you're close together, your neighbor's problems can become your own. An upstairs neighbor's overflowing tub could leak through your ceiling, or a bedbug or cockroach infestation next door can easily spread to your space.
- Less space: Apartments typically have less closet space than houses. If there's extra basement storage spaces, they may cost extra. Even if the square footage of a house and an apartment are the same, the apartment may feel smaller because you don't have your own outdoor space.
- Parking problems: Unless your apartment includes a dedicated parking spot, you may struggle to find street parking every night—a major challenge in crowded urban neighborhoods.
Pros and Cons of Renting a House
There are advantages and disadvantages to renting a single-family house.
Pros of Renting a House
- More privacy: No matter how close it is to the neighboring homes, a standalone house provides more privacy than an apartment.
- More storage: A house may have a basement, attic, garage or all three. You'll get more storage space than an apartment, generally without any extra charges.
- Outdoor space: Even a house that's smaller than an apartment is likely to feel bigger because of the outside space. You'll enjoy a space that's all your own for barbecues, backyard parties or gardening.
- May be more pet-friendly: No more waiting for the elevator at 2 a.m. to take the dog out … in January. Just open the back door of the house and let Fido run free.
- Child-friendly: Your kids can run, play and make noise without neighbors pounding on the walls or complaining to the landlord.
- Convenient parking: Houses typically have driveways and garages, so you won't have to hunt for parking.
- Possibility of buying: Some landlords offer a rent-to-own agreement, giving you the option to buy the home after a certain time. Part of your rent may even go toward the purchase price.
Cons of Renting a House
- More upkeep: Depending on your rental agreement, you might need to handle chores like mowing the lawn or cleaning the pool yourself.
- Further from city center: Renting a house in the suburbs could lengthen your commute to work and limit nearby entertainment and dining options.
- Fewer amenities: Some rental houses have pools, but you're unlikely to find one boasting its own tennis court or fitness center. You'll also do without a doorman or on-site superintendent.
- Less responsive landlord: If your landlord is an individual, he or she may not be able to help immediately when you have a problem like an ant infestation or plumbing leak.
- Less stability: Landlords may decide they want the house for themselves or a family member to live in. In a hot housing market, the landlord could sell on short notice, leaving you scrambling for housing.
How to Decide Whether to Rent an Apartment or a House
Price is a major factor in your rental decision, but apartments aren't necessarily cheaper to rent than houses, or vice versa. Amenities, location and market demand are all factors in the rent you'll pay.
When deciding whether to rent an apartment or a house, start by making a budget so you know how much you can pay for housing. Research available rental properties to get an idea of average rents and available housing.
When evaluating rental properties, find out exactly what the rent covers and what it doesn't. Extra charges might include association or maintenance fees, parking and extra storage space. Some landlords include utilities in your rent; others don't.
Once you have a housing budget and a shortlist of properties, think about which features of your home matter most to you. You might decide having a yard for your children outweighs paying more to rent a house. You may feel an expensive apartment is worth it if you can walk to work and to city nightlife.
If the rent for your desired property is outside your price range, explore ways to make it work, such as:
- Examining your budget for places to cut expenses
- Getting a side gig to earn extra money
- Asking for a raise at work
- Taking in a roommate to share expenses
- Asking the landlord to negotiate the lease
Ready, Set, Rent
Landlords want tenants they can rely on to pay the rent on time and to stay put for a while. When evaluating your rental application, they may consider your income, monthly debt, job and rental history report. Because some landlords also review your credit report and credit score, it's a good idea to check your credit report several months before you plan to rent a house or apartment. Paying down credit card debt and not applying for new credit can help improve your credit score, which might help you land the rental property you want.
Also consider signing up for Experian Boost®ø, a free feature that adds on-time utility, cellphone and streaming payments to your Experian credit report and can improve your FICO® Score☉ powered by Experian data. If your new landlord lets you pay rent online, you can even add your rent payments to Experian Boost, potentially increasing your credit score.