If you’re saving up to buy a home or new to Chicago and want to get a sense of neighborhoods before you put down roots, your solution is to rent an apartment.
While it can be exciting to explore the city and suburbs’ seemingly endless options, finding a rental apartment can be a daunting task.
Location, Location, Location
“This may be the most obvious thing to consider when choosing your rental, but it’s because your location is paramount to everything else,” said Roth.
“Consider whether you will be commuting to work or school. If you’re not planning to keep a car, being near public transportation is crucial.”
Roth said that the next thing to think about is what things are most important to you when you’re not at work or school.
“Do you want to be around a lot of restaurants and bars or more museums and parks? Do you need to be walking distance to grocery stores, gyms, coffee shops and dog parks? Location will always be one of the most important things to consider.”
Plan for Parking
Parking costs can often prohibit people from their first and second choice apartments, especially in downtown Chicago where garage fees can cost hundreds of dollars per month.
“While there are several exceptions, I often discourage people from bringing a car [when moving to Chicago],” said Roth. “One reason for this is that public transportation is outstanding in Chicago. Between the el, metra, and bus, you can get where you need to go from almost anywhere.”
As the number of tenants without a personal vehicle rises, there are more and more TODs (transit oriented developments) popping up in Chicago.
“I get it, people love their cars,” said Roth. “But without a car, you can save thousands each year on parking, insurance, gas – and even parking tickets.”
Everyone has a different budget, but no matter what you are looking to spend on rent, you should do your due diligence and look to a true market expert for advice.
“When working with a broker, they can help you uncover those hidden gems and also, be candid about the rental market,” said Roth. “We get so many people that come in with a budget of $2200 and end up spending $1200. We get just as many looking to spend $900 and end up spending $1600.”
Roth encourages people to be flexible, as long as it’s within their comfort zone.
“We’ve helped dozens with a hard line on a certain budget that raised it just $50-$75/month and ended up in their dream apartment,” he said. “Some of them ultimately saved money as they ended up walking to work or school and saved that $80-$100 each month in using public transportation.”
As you’re searching for your rental home, be prepared with a list of questions to ask your prospective landlord or property management company.
“We deal with dozens of landlords every year and it does make a difference,” said Roth. “Find out if your landlord lives in the city or out of state and whether they have a maintenance or engineering person on-site or on-call.”
While some people prefer renting condos by private owners, others see more value in a managed rental building.
“Managed buildings tend to be more amenity-rich and have maintenance on site,” said Roth.
Like location, this may seem like an obvious thing to think about but it’s not always that simple.
“So many people begin their searches assuming they want a studio while others assume they want a one-bedroom,” Roth said. “Surprisingly so often, they go with the opposite of what they thought they wanted.”
Those thinking studio are often choosing that for budget reasons not realizing there may be dozens of one-bedroom options out there within their budget.
“Some people also simply like studios and keeping their layout simple, but, those same people fall in love with convertibles — a happy medium,” said Roth.
Top 3 Building and Unit Features
While there are likely dozens of things you may be looking for in your new rental home, figure out your top three building features and unit features that are very important to you.
“I always tell people you’re going to have to sacrifice something to find the perfect apartment — view, outdoor space, location, budget, amenities, or something else,” said Roth.
“Decide what the main things you need in both your building and apartment are, and that can really help narrow and help focus your search.”