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All you need to know before starting your apartment search

If you plan to lease a new apartment, these apartment-finding tips will help ensure you’re on the right track.

Apartment Checklist

Looking for a new place can be overwhelming, consume a lot of time, and with so many options out there, you may end up feeling lost or unsure where to start.

Your first step is creating (and following) a checklist. It’s a great way to compare all the options you saw and evaluate which one will fit your needs better!

Here are some popular categories you should be looking at - of course, you can add specific wants and needs, but it will give you a great starting point!

  1. Location: Make sure the apartment neighborhood is a place you would be happy living. Here you should consider what you like doing outside, which kind of activities you have nearby, where your favorite restaurants are, or how close it is to your work!

  2. Apartment features and finishes: now, it’s time to decide what features you want in your unit. This may include stainless steel appliances, floor-to-ceiling windows, lake or city views, your private balcony, and which sun exposure the unit has (if you have plants, you will understand it).

  3. Building amenities: Have a list of the amenities you would like to have in your new building. Dog-run, parking, EV charging stations, fitness center, and business center may be non-negotiable. Some buildings have basketball courts, golf simulators, and tennis courts - so make sure to add them all to your wish list!

  4. Safety: It’s critical that you feel secure in your new home, so look into the safety features that your unit or the building provides. Check to see if there are secure entry systems, doormen, or other measures in place to give you safety and peace of mind.

  5. Apartment policies: before signing a lease make sure the building policies match your needs: lease term, decorating, subletting, pet, etc.

The apartments you view may not check every box, but as you compare different units, having a checklist will help you determine which home hits most of your requests.

What should your timeline look like?

Everyone’s apartment hunting journey is unique, but having a timeline will help you to make sure you get the best deals and have good options to choose from - the rentals market in Chicago is very particular and you don’t want to start looking for a place 10 days prior to your move-in date and don't find options you love.

As a general rule of thumb, you should start looking for your new apartment 60 days before your current lease ends. At this point, you want to focus on budgeting, researching, and creating your checklist! This is the initial stage and will help you determine what kind of apartment you can afford and where you should consider moving.

Between 30 and 60 days before moving, you want to tour all of your prospective apartments and apply for the units that interest you. Apartment communities will take the unit out of the market after you apply, but condos will not. Make sure to have a plan B (and C), in case you decide to apply for a condo unit!

As soon as you decide on an apartment and receive confirmation of your approval, be sure to book movers. To make the process easier, you may also want to slowly pack up items you don’t need in the interim (and maybe donate what you won’t use anymore).

15 days before move-in day, it’s time to make sure you have everything ready to avoid last-minute stress. Transfer or schedule utility set up, book the service elevator and verify your move-in day and how you’ll get your keys.

During the last week, you can wrap up your packing and final steps, such as changing your mailing address.

What other costs should you consider beyond the rent amount?

Most apartment communities will have extra costs you should consider when renting an apartment. There are some common charges you should ask.

  • Utility package: some properties have a utility package on top of your rent for basic things such as water, sewer, trash, and others also include electricity, internet, and cable.

  • Pet fees: some properties will charge you pet rent monthly.

  • Parking: if you are looking in Downtown Chicago, your cost for parking will probably be on top of your rent. You should expect to pay anything from $200 to $300/ month for a parking spot.

Why do apartment prices fluctuate daily?

Just like airplane tickets can regularly change due to supply and demand, so can rental prices. The market in Chicago is frequently changing, and that’s reflected in the price of apartments.

There are a few common factors that impact apartment prices:

  • The time of year

  • The time of the month

  • The day of the week

  • Dynamic pricing software

  • Strong growth market

  • Location

When is the best time to rent an apartment?

Timing can affect the cost of an apartment. So, what’s the ideal time of the year to sign a lease? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for.

If you’re searching for the broadest selection of apartments, the end of the summer is a great time, but if you’re hoping to get the best deals, you can generally find the best prices in the winter - February, and March. You may not be excited to move in with snow outside, but facing the cold (and snow) will likely save you money.

What is a Rent Concession?

As you are on your apartment hunting, you may run into rent concessions. If you are unfamiliar with this term, concessions are incentives property manager or landlord makes to lease terms to attract tenants.

Rent concessions are often offered if property managers anticipate or experience empty units. It helps ensure they can still secure renters, despite a slower market or other circumstances that may lower rental demand.

The most common concession types you will run across are:

  • A free month of rent (or more)

  • Discounted monthly rent

  • Reduced security deposit

  • Renovations and upgrades

  • Free amenities

  • Move-in fee credit back

  • Wave pet fee

  • Free-month parking

If you’re ready to begin your apartment search and put these tips to practice, connect with us today!

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