Bedbugs, mold, friendly neighbors, or brand new upgrades – these are some of the things you chance when you don’t do your research. Your first apartment should be a happy experience, not a nightmare.
If you want to keep it positive, then you’ll need some tips and tricks. What are you looking for? How much space do you need?
What about amenities and utilities? How will you balance those along with the rent? Is parking included or do you have to pay an extra fee?
Get answers to these questions and those like them with our first apartment guide below.
Your First Apartment: Priority One
Alright, let’s talk about what really matters when you’re looking at real estate. Location! Any real estate agent will tell you that location is the most important factor when looking for a place to live.
What is the absolute longest commute you’re willing to take to work? Now take that number and subtract fifteen, to factor in traffic.
Now, figure out what that is in the mile radius and create a search for that area.
If your work is close to public transportation, then you can probably live farther and get to work faster.
Priority 2: Amenities
Different apartments come with different amenities. That can mean included utilities, access to a pool, or even a game room. Are there washers and dryers in the unit or will you have to go to a communal laundry room?
Some apartments don’t have laundry facilities at all and you have to go to a laundromat. Loads usually cost around $2.00 per, so make sure you calculate that into your budget.
In big cities, like Chicago, some apartment complexes charge you for a parking spot. Covered or uncovered usually have different costs, if they offer those options.
3. Determine Your Budget
How much money do you want to spend every month? Okay, not want, but can actually pay for rent?
Rent doesn’t cover all your living costs. You’ll still need to pay for internet, utilities, and leasing fees.
Be prepared to have the first month’s rent up front, along with whatever the security deposit is. Some places ask for the first and last months rent, while some ask for that plus a security deposit.
Leasing and application fees also apply, in some cases. Property management companies often run specials where they waive fees if you sign during a certain time.
Ask your leasing agent about any specials they’re running or if they’ll be running any soon.
4. Home Alone or Company?
In a perfect world, we’d all like our own space. But since this isn’t a perfect world and the cost of living in Chicago is what it is, most first-time apartment dwellers need a roommate.
Finding a roommate you trust is easy if you have a big social network. If you don’t, then you’re out of luck. You can try online roommate finding pages, but you never know who you’ll end up with.
If you do meet someone online, meet up with them in person (in public) first to feel them out. When you meet them, trust your gut on whether they’re a good fit or not.
5. Big or Small?
Now that you know what you want, you’re faced with a choice: will you go big or small? Property rental companies that manage large buildings are usually more convenient when it comes to paying rent and fixing maintenance issues.
Smaller complexes, however, may be cheaper but slower. It’s all about what you value as a consumer.
6. How Many Bedrooms?
In general, you don’t find apartments with more than three bedrooms. That’s the standard size for most apartment buildings.
But, there are some locations that have four, even six bedroom options. These are great for a large family or students who want to cut costs.
You can use two of the bedrooms as something else if you have a family of four. An office and a playroom? Why not?
Since Chicago is such a great city, you could turn one into a guest room. You’re bound to have family that wants to come to explore the Windy City. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a space to offer them?
7. Check Your Credit Score
Getting an apartment requires approval. You’ll need a reasonable credit score to get approved. If you aren’t proud of your score, you can have someone cosign for you.
Cosigning is when someone with good credit agrees to put themselves on the line for you. If you can’t pay your rent and get evicted, it affects their credit score – and yours.
Some places will approve renters with bad credit with a bigger deposit and proof of good payment history. If you can afford to pay off some credit cards before you apply, that can raise your credit and help your case.
8. Do the Application
Only fill out an apartment application when you’re sure that’s where you want to live. Applying for an apartment can result in a hard pull of your credit score, which will lower it a few points.
It’s nothing you won’t recover from, but you want to do it at the same time. If you apply to a few apartment complexes, usually the credit companies will see what you’re doing and not ding you multiple times.
Your First Apartment
They say you learn something new every day. Today, you potentially learned eight new things all about renting your first apartment.