Apartment Searching Essentials
My roommate and I finally found an apartment we both are excited to live in. Apartment searching is the worst, though, fueled by a love-hate relationship of finding something you'll be comfortable in, all while combatting ridiculous move in fees, renter competition, and settling on amenities. While we are lucky to have found our soon-to-be new home, it took moving consecutively for four years before learning what I needed to look for and clarify before signing on the dotted line. This post will help you create a semi-checklist of items to look out for or consider when searching for a new apartment.
Other than price, your most important consideration should be how close you are to public transit. If you don't take the El - or subway for non-Chicagoans - how long will your overall commute to work be? Will you be sitting in traffic for over an hour? Will you be walking twenty minutes to get to your train or bus stop? Even if you take the train or bus, how long will that be? I once lived in a shitty Uptown apartment, paying close to nothing because I thought it would be fine for a first apartment. I was wrong; it took me 45 minutes to get to the Loop everyday and I may as well have just gone home to live with my parents in the suburbs at that point.
2. Paying for Amenities
It is important to remember that if the apartment you are looking at has all brand new appliances, floors, AC, or anything else, you will be paying for it in your monthly rent. A great piece of advice my parents gave me was "Unless you're buying it, don't waste time renting it". What that meant was I shouldn't waste my money paying off whatever the landlord spent on renovating if I could save that money to one day buy these types of renovations for a longer term living situation.
3. Looking for Amenities
That being said, you should still have standards for whatever new living situation will be. Don't settle for an apartment solely because of location and price. Something I learned, again from my Uptown apartment, was what exactly to look for to ensure I was getting the best deal. If there's no AC, are there ceiling fans? Is it a gas or electric stove? Turn on each faucet - how quickly does the water heat up? Are the drains draining efficiently? How much natural light does the space get? Will you end up spending excessively on electric to light your apartment? All of these are very important questions to ask yourself, and your roommate(s), when considering moving forward with a lease.
4. Look Up Your Landlord/Property Manager
I wish this was something I knew even after my Uptown apartment, because it would have saved me some frustration with my current landlord. He's a very nice guy, but does not put nearly enough effort into taking care of his building. We have cracks in our ceilings, water leaking from a sink, drains that are constantly clogged, water that won't heat... I could go on and on. Do some research before you sign!
5. Test Out the Space
What I mean by that is turn on every light switch, faucet, open every door, test the locks, see how fast the water heats up, flush the toilets, etc. It seems odd, but my very first apartment we were told we had AC and only discovered the broker had lied until after we'd already moved in during a very hot Chicago June. Similarly, my current apartment's water takes an extra 10 minutes to heat up. The landlord should be able to fix a problem like that easily, but testing these functionalities before hand could help you avoid serious problems (and frustration) upon moving in.
No matter, what take your time in finding your new home. There's nothing worse than signing a one year lease only to discover upon move in that it barely even meets your expectations. Be smart, consider all your options, and don't let a landlord talk you into something if you're not comfortable. You're going to live there for at least a year, you might as be as happy as you can.
What apartment searching nightmares have you experienced? Share your story in the comments!