Category Archives: Apartment Hunting Advice

Students are Back!

Students have a lot on their mind, especially ones new to the city.

Renting a place for the first time in a new city can be stressful and a challenging.

Here are some common problems, and how an agent can help.

1. They don’t know the month they’re moving, or if they’re even moving at all!  They don’t know where to start.

This is how an agent can help: I can let you know when is a better time to move as far as when you’d have more options (September over October) and how far in advance to start looking (about two months). The important thing is to be settled before classes begin.

2. Some students have come to me saying they want to spend “$x/person” but they’re not sure if  their friends will be moving with them. “Studio or three bedroom” is not a number of bedrooms.

This is how an agent can help: I can’t find an apartment that is at the same time a studio and three bedroom. Get non-flaky friends. The positive side to living with others is that the price per person goes down.

3. They don’t know how much they can spend or what they can get for the money.

This is how an agent can help: Thirty percent or less of your income is what you can spend. Start there. And Lincoln Park is more expensive than Rogers Park. Walkable areas always cost more. People underestimate Craig’s List to do a survey of what’s out available.

Finding a place in a new city can be tough. We’re here to help.

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Why Making Appointments “Just to Look” Before You’re Ready to Move is Stupid

People do this because:

1. They like to feel like they’re getting their best for their money.

2. They like going to open houses just to “see what’s out there.”

Don’t do this. Why? Because:

1. Why worry about what you “could have” gotten? You’re not going to get it. It’s like researching  for a vacation you’ll be taking five years from now and expecting rates to stay the same.

2. You can “see what’s out there” by using Craig’s List. Granted, sometimes the information isn’t completely accurate. But you can ascertain the bare facts.

In short, the only thing looking at an apartment is good for is to ‘get a feel’ for the place and confirm what’s in the ad to see if you could live there. And those things don’t matter until you are actually looking for a place to live.

Pinterest for Apartment Hunting

I’ve noticed that lots of people like looking at apartments just for fun. It’s fun to have a vision board of how your new place will look. It’s good to have a point of reference, like bringing a picture when you go to get a hair cut.

So we’re on Pinterest, too. I pin apartments that we have from time to time, but mostly ideas about decoration, cool architecture.



And food and drink.


Follow Me on Pinterest

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OMG GOING FAST!! Why Finding an Apartment Can Be Tough

Last weekend, I had several appointments fall through due to the prospective units being rented before I could even show them. This summer is gearing up to be a tough rental season.

When I can tell my clients like a place, I brace myself for the inevitable question: “Do you know if there’s been a lot of people looking at it?” Which could be code for “How long can we put off making a decision?” Because making a decision about where to live for a year seems hard. And I know that’s the cue to say “OMG GOING FAST!!” but I don’t.

Maybe I should. Because the unit will probably be rented within a few days or even by the next morning, depending.

Here’s why:

1. Management companies can list with a bunch of apartment finding services, who have a bunch of agents. Since sales aren’t as robust as they once were, some Realtors are doing rentals as well. I saw a guy in a nice BMW who was waiting to get keys to show a $900 apartment. Great sales people with mad hustle are in the rental market now more than ever.

2. If an apartment is listed exclusively, Realtors still have to post the listing on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This means that other Realtors can show those apartments, too. This means lots of showings, and lots of running around, lots of chances to find a perfect match.

Things usually don’t stay on the market long.

So if you see a place that you like, take it.

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What is “West Bucktown”?

You may see ads for apartments in “West Bucktown” or “West Wicker Park.”

West Bucktown (and “West Wicker Park” for that matter) have been invented because Bucktown and Wicker Park have seen rent rates rise a lot in the past few years, and the demand has exceeded the supply.  If you see a Bucktown unit listed for less than other units you’ve seen in Bucktown, the most likely reason is because it’s not actually in Bucktown, but it’s close by.

This is Bucktown, West Bucktown, and Humboldt

Both Wicker Park and Bucktown are bound Western to the West and Ashland to the East.

West Bucktown is bound by Fullerton and Armitage to the north and south but it’s as far west as California and goes as far east as Bucktown.

Wicker Park is south of Bucktown, bound by the north and south by North Avenue and Augusta. West of Western below Armitage is Humboldt Park; “West Wicker Park” doesn’t exist. It’s code for Humboldt Park.

There are plenty of walkable areas and neighborhoods in Chicago. If you have questions, feel free to give us a call: (773) 697-5100.

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What Are You Looking For in an Apartment?

These are the questions I ask my clients. These questions may seem obvious, but having something to point to is the best way to get over ambivalence. I find it helps clarify our goals, and is a great way to focus our search efforts. When you’re looking for a place, ask yourself these questions.

1. Number of bedrooms you need

2. What pets do you have?

3. Do you need parking or to be near public transit?

4. Price range

5. Where do you live now? (neighborhood)

6. Desired neighborhoods (your top two)

7. Move in date

8. Anything else that you think may be helpful

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How to Not Go Insane Looking for an Apartment

Yes, it’s real. BLOB MONSTER!! (at 400 N Noble- at Hubbard)

The reasons that people move can be spiritual or practical, but are usually both. They want to find the perfect apartment where they feel comfortable, yet also want a place that speaks to them and their dreams. They’re afraid to narrow it down to Andersonville when they fear their ideal apartment could be languishing in Lakeview.

 I get people looking all over the city for apartments. When I ask them to narrow down what they want by neighborhood, they name about half the neighborhoods in the city.

It’s absolutely insane to think that naming half the city counts as “narrowing it down.” But I totally get it because I’ve done it myself.

Home is an expression of self, and helping someone find a place can be personal. The reality is that location is the most important thing. If you’re looking all over the city, it means you’re still in the start of your search, and the idea of what you’re looking for hasn’t gelled yet. When you’re in this stage, you’re not ready to actually look at apartments in person.

I’ll just tell you now to save you the trouble: you’re probably in the right neighborhood where you live now. Visit other neighborhoods, don’t move there. Here’s a post about exceptions to this rule.

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If You’re From Out Of Town: Weirdness About Looking for an Apartment in Chicago

I get a lot of calls from people out of town. They don’t understand the rental market in Chicago- how could they? They’re from out of town.

Here are some scenarios I’ve come across a few times. Maybe they’ll be beneficial to you.

1. I had a client looking for a place in Wicker Park- two to three bedrooms, dining room, lots of space, close to the train, parking spot included. For $1100. I absolutely did not laugh. I tried to let her down gently. She didn’t know how expensive Wicker Park was compared to other neighborhoods, but she had heard good things about it. If you’re not familiar with Wicker Park, a rehabbed, nicer vintage 1 bedroom will be about $1450 in a prime spot (pictured below.) I told her if she wanted to stay at that price and still have space and amenities, she might be better off looking further north or west, as Wicker Park is a very popular (read: expensive) neighborhood. We worked together to find a place that could accommodate her budget and preferred amenities.

Click on the picture. It's available for a move in on 6/1/12.

2. I had someone looking for a place in “West Chicago.” Turns out that that’s actually a suburb north and west of Chicago. In the city where he was from, searching for the major city also included apartment options in the suburbs. Google searching for “apartments in Chicago” will not turn up suburban options. A suburb of Chicago is not Chicago. Be specific in your Google searches.

3. Dogs are harder to find an apartment for. This surprises people who are downsizing from a house and moving into the city. Some have even been surprised that an extra deposit and/or fee is required. Everyone who has a dog insists that they don’t bark, and that they’re well behaved and trained. Landlords have heard it all. It only takes one tenant to let a dog ruin a place for the landlord to say “never again,” unfortunately. And if your dog doesn’t bark when you’re home, it surely barks when you’re out. Other tenants will have a problem with that.

At the end of the day, you get to pick two out of three:

(a) cheap price

(b) upgraded loveliness and amenities

(c) prime location

Part of the fun of the hunt is seeing where you can get the most for your money. We can help you with that. Give us a call (773) 697-5100.

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Why an Ad for an Apartment Might Not Have Pictures

Pictures in the ad are your first look at an apartment that may be your home some day. They are the reason why you decide to make an appointment to see an apartment or not. They’re the key marketing tool for agent.

So why advertise a unit without pictures? That must mean the apartment is not photogenic, right? It is possible. But not likely.

Here are top three reasons for no photos:

1. The listing is new or has been rehabbed, and there aren’t pictures yet.

2. The listing is in the process of being rehabbed and there isn’t a finished product yet. Showing an apartment in the process of being rehabbed is not attractive.

3. The apartment is covered in clothes or pet toys or whatever because the current tenants are moving (or just really messy.) It’s impossible to get a picture of any part of the apartment like this. Showing a messy picture with someone else’s stuff all over the place does not help you imagine yourself living there.

Other reasons there might not be pictures:

4. The pictures were taken at night, and it makes the apartment look bad or creepy.

5. The apartment is ugly, and a sales person thinks they can talk you into it when they show it to you. This is the least likely of the options. Any picture is better than no pictures at all.

Also, I’ve rented some apartments that I personally thought weren’t that attractive, but my clients loved them. And you the client know if a place is right for you.

If you have questions about any of our units, with or without pictures, I’d be happy to answer them. Please give me a call: (773) 697-5100.


When You Don’t Get the Place

Twice this week, I’ve had deals fall through.

As frustrating as that is for me the agent, it’s even more frustrating for the client(s).

No, it wasn’t that my applicants didn’t look great on paper, because they looked awesome.

No, it wasn’t that my clients didn’t have their paperwork in first, because they did.

It was that the landlord picked someone else. Sometimes, the landlord might choose to drag their feet for a day to see what else comes in.

There’s nothing that can be done about it. That’s just the way it goes.

As an agent, I can advocate for you, explain anything that might not look great, negotiate for pets, a parking spot, what have you.

We don’t take applications on units that aren’t available, because that would be a stupid waste of time; we’re here to help you find a place.

In the end, it’s always the landlord’s decision.

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