Educate Home Life Local

gone apartment hunting

March 6, 2015

let's go apartment hunting!Happy friggin Friday, all!

This week has been insane. So much busyness. So much drama. So many life decisions. I’ve never been happier it’s almost the weekend…

In case you’re wondering what all that vagueness is about (and if the title of this post didn’t give it away)…Ryan and I are apartment hunting! Woohoo!

This will be our second official apartment together. The one we are currently at is gorgeous with seriously insane views, but it’s not ours. It’s a family friend’s. So we pay rent, but a lot of their items are physically there. And sometimes they come and stay in the adjoining room, which we agreed to, but can feel…weird. It just doesn’t feel like our own home. Plus, we’ve been there for two years now. So, while we are extremely grateful for their generosity, it’s time to literally move on.

That said, we think we might have already landed a place here in Chicago! We’ve been apartment hunting for about a month, which (we’ve discovered) is quite different than apartment hunting in Southern California. But between both experiences, we’ve become pretty darn good at the whole process. So, I thought I’d share a few tips that have come in handy when making such a major life decision.

1. Make a list of your most important, can’t-live-without-it needs.

For Ryan and I, we can’t live without storage. When you combine our wardrobes, it’s pretty intense. That, along with our hobbies (DJing for him, painting for me) and our day-to-day needs (Ryan works from home and I love working at a desk), we’re talking some serious storage requirements. We also needed an apartment that was dog-friendly (just in case), had wood floors and was close to things (like a grocery store).

2. Know what you’re willing to give up.

Nothing is ever perfect. You’re going to have to know what you’re okay giving up. For us, that was layout. We can live with built-in cabinets above our bed, if it means more storage. We can live with a galley kitchen, if it’s updated and still open enough to move around in. So think, what are you okay with giving up? Do you need gas/electric included, but you’d be fine paying for internet? Know what you can do without.

3. Know what to ask.

It’s important to make sure your basics are covered. Like, if an appliance breaks, who do you call and how long does it take to fix it? Can you nail things into the wall or hang a TV? What’s included in rent? Do you have to pay extra on anything? Do you have to put a security deposit down and how do you get it back when you leave? How safe is the area? Do people buzz in or are there keys? A door man? What’s a rough age group of the people living in the building (sometimes they can’t say, so just ask for a rough range to get a good of how rowdy or quiet the place will be)?

4. Look beyond the apartment.

While touring, look around. What do the other tenants look like? Is it loud? Quiet? Are the hallways clean? Does anything look broken, rusted or old? Get a good idea of the area you’re dealing with and how well the place is managed.

5. Take pictures.

Pictures on Zillow, or wherever else you’re looking, usually use a wide-angle lens to make rooms and apartments appear bigger. It’s important to take your own phone or camera along for the ride, and take pictures of every single thing you feel is important–closets, kitchen, rooms, windows, views etc. It will help you remember the place once you’ve left, and give you a good idea of how big the space is in reality.

6. Make an immediate pros/cons list after visiting.

If you’re touring more than two apartments, you’re going to quickly forget what you liked and disliked about each one. Once you leave the potential apartment, immediately write down your takeaways: what you liked, what you didn’t like, how it looked, what it felt like, etc.

7. Get organized.

Between the pros/cons list, the photos, the general facts and price points of each, it’s important to stay organized. If you do take pictures, make sure you label them in your phone. Or upload them to your computer and keep each apartment unit in a separate folder. However you do it, make sure you don’t mix up listings or information (or you could end up loving the wrong space!).

8. Do some research.

A building may have all the bells and whistles you’ve ever wanted, but then you do a quick Google search and discover it’s managed by a company who’s under investigation or known for shady financial dealings. There’s so much information readily available, it’s important you don’t just fall for a place without taking a deeper look into the people you’re writing that check to every month.

9. Know the area.

With all this said, these tips will vary depending on where you’re hunting. In Southern California, Ryan and I toured over 15 apartments, never concerned about timeline because there wasn’t a huge demand. Here in Chicago, we fell in love with two different apartments online. Booked times to visit. And by the end of the day, both had already been rented out. Know the area and adjust your timeline/decision-making accordingly.

10. Really read the contract (or have someone run through it with you).

Before signing on the dotted line, take a second to read through what you’re agreeing to. If you have any questions, ask a realtor, the person who’s handing you the contract or even a close family member. We had a 30 day kick out clause with the place we’re going after right now, but once we told the agent we wouldn’t move in because of it, the owner got rid of it. There’s always room for a little negotiation (or room to back out), if you’re willing to discuss and look into the details.

BONUS tip: Trust your gut.

Ryan and I always discuss the vibe we get from the places we tour (I’m lucky that most times, Ryan and I both get a good vibe from the same places). “The feel” of a place means more to me than almost anything because I trust that intuition above all else. You can usually feel when you’re home.

Hope they tips helped, if you’re on the apartment prowl like us!

I’ll keep you updated on whether we get the place or not. And trust me, if we do, there will be plenty of photos and DIYs to follow.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

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  • Reply Alice March 6, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    Even though I’m pretty ambivalent about my apartment, I renewed my lease (about to start my FOURTH year in this place) just so I could avoid apartment hunting! Though there aren’t a ton of options right now in East Lakeview…and none with a closet as big as my current one!

    • Reply nicole March 6, 2015 at 11:52 pm

      Omg a big closet!? Completely jealous. That’s so oddly difficult to find, it seems. In SoCal, we had a huge walk-in…I miss it so much.

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