Tag Archives: roommates

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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How to Sublet Your Apartment

This isn’t generally something we help with, but I get this question a lot.

Some of my clients are worried about job transfers, learning to hate their roommates, or realizing the neighborhood is all wrong for them.

If any of these things happen, this is the best way to get out of the situation:

1. Read your lease. This is what the standard Chicago lease says:

SUBLET OR ASSIGNMENT: Lessee shall not sublet the premises or any part thereof, nor assign this lease, without obtaining Lessor’s prior written permission to sublet or assign. Lessor shall not unreasonably withhold permission and will accept a reasonable sublease as provided by ordinance.

2. So get permission from your landlord, and find someone decent to take over your part.

3. Make sure you do the security deposit hand off officially. Because you will never see the money again if you don’t. It doesn’t matter how honorable the person is- they will have moved on and so will have you.

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How to Get a Landlord to Accept a Dog

Chicagoans love dogs, and Chicago is pretty dog friendly. Stores have water dishes and treats outside their entrances, and loving owners parade their dogs around the neighborhood and bring their dogs to brunch. Dogs provide companionship, give their humans a reason to leave the house, and make it easier to get social with people.

And yet, landlords are wary of having dogs in their buildings. They can be dirty, stinky, slobbery, make your apartment smell like them, and somehow generate enough fur to coat every surface. Their bark can always be heard through walls, and annoy other tenants. They chew on everything and urinate on floors. But your dog is awesome: its barking is under control; you walk it regularly; it won’t destroy the apartment.  How can you make a landlord see how awesome your dog is, and that it will be okay dog in his or her building?

Sadie, our office mascott

Sadie, our office mascott

1. Have the landlord meet the dog. If the dog is sweet and eager to please, that will make the landlord like the dog and visualize it being a good tenant. (Hint: take it to the dog park to wear it out. A tired dog is less likely to be obnoxious.)

2. Show the landlord that you are a responsible pet owner. Provide a reference from the last landlord, stating that the dog, like you, was an awesome tenant. Tell the landlord that you walk your dog twice a day at least (because you do, right?) If you work long hours away from home, however, you shouldn’t have a dog. Get a roommate that has the opposite schedule who can take your dog for a walk and burn off its energy. Dogs have co-evolved with us and need us around to look after their needs.

3. Have the right kind of dog. Landlords are more likely to accept dogs under 20lbs. Bigger dogs usually need room to roam. (Weirdly, greyhounds are great apartment dogs.) Choose your breed wisely- some dogs are just not meant for city living. Aggressive dogs that haven’t been trained, dogs that were bred to herd animals, and dogs that need a lot of room to run around should not be kept in an apartment. Puppies are usually not welcome under any circumstances.

4. Offer a larger security deposit. This good faith gesture assures the landlord that you are betting against the dog destroying the apartment. If it does, the landlord protected financially and can use that money to repair any damage done to their investment. Some landlords ask for pet rent or a flat fee instead because they’ve been burned by other dogs.

If you have any other hints, please write them in the comments.

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Is Privacy Worth It? How to Avoid Roommates

One guy looking for an apartment came to me upset: “GOD! One bedrooms in this city are so overpriced!”

Unfortunately for him, privacy is something a lot of people want. And they’re willing to pay for it.

At the time of writing, the median price of a one bedroom in Wicker Park is about $1200. A two bedroom will run you about $1600. But a 3 bedroom will be about $1800.

So if you’re on your own in a one bedroom, your portion of the rent will be $1200 because you’re paying for all of it. Sharing a two bedroom with a roommate would bring your costs to $800. With two roommates, you’d all be paying $600 per person. Compared with living alone, living with two other people could cut your rent in half.

But having to share a kitchen and living room with another person can be annoying, and you may yearn for privacy.  Here’s how you can get privacy but avoid paying more than you want: get a roommate you will never see. Unlike a ghost, you need someone who’ll pay their part of the rent, but never be there. This is called the Chicago Version of Living Alone. Rent a place with a person who travels a lot or works an opposite schedule. (Hint: focus your search in areas within walking distance to a Blue Line stop- that’s where people who need to travel for work prefer to live.) Alternatively, you can find someone who is engaged or close to getting engaged who spends all their time at their significant other’s place. You’ll get all the benefit and luxury of being able to relax in your own space, but pay a smaller portion of the rent than you would to live alone.

And that’s the tricky Chicago Version of Living Alone.

Another option is to be one of those people who works all the time, which is good for two reasons. You’ll never be home being annoyed by your roommate, and with all that working, you’ll have more money. And with that money, you’ll be able to afford your own place.

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How to Look for an Apartment I

Some think looking for an apartment is easy and fun. It is not. The paradox of choice is paralyzing.

As an agent, I have heard this a million times: “Well, we live in [insert neighborhood] now, but we’re open to anywhere, really.”

No. If you’re giving yourself the choice of more than two non-adjacent neighborhoods, you aren’t ready to begin making appointments to see apartments. You are in the swim-bask-imagine stage.

If this seems harsh, it’s because I’ve seen it come full circle many, many times.

Neighborhood is most important. I would suggest adjacent neighborhoods if you can’t find anything in your preferred neighborhood, but don’t look in Rogers Park if you have only lived in Lincoln Park and love it there. Also: Lincoln Square is not near Lincoln Park, or even similar to it.

I would only suggest you look in a neighborhood you’re unfamiliar with if these prime factors below lead you to believe you could be happy living there:

1. where do you work? A long commute decreases happiness. You can’t really escape the awesome convenience of the CTA, so consider: the train (EL) is faster than the bus.

2. do you currently live within a short walk of stuff to do? If you’re used to this, do not underestimate this factor.

3. where do your friends live?

Be specific about what you want, know what’s a deal breaker, and don’t look all over the city because it’s pointless and you might go insane.

How to Look for an Apartment II

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