Ready to pack up that one-bedroom dump in a bad neighborhood and move on up? Not so fast, eager renter. Before signing your name on the dotted line and coughing up the security deposit for a shiny new apartment, check out some tips on making sure your next apartment is the perfect fit for a new beginning.
1. Air conditioning: Central air is one of those things that you forget is a must-have until your roommate's boyfriend walks in on you sleeping naked on the living room floor during a heat wave. If a place doesn't address A/C in the listing--be sure to ask about it. If there is no central air, ask how many window units the landlord provides, how old they are and how effective they are. If the tenant is to provide the window units, check that the window's shape and size fits a standard window unit and not some obscure, $300 contraption that needs a hose that you're way too cheap to pay for. Otherwise, it's home sweat home.
2. Water pressure: There's no harm in testing the sinks when looking at an apartment. It's a lot better than getting all moved in and situated only to find out nothing but a trickle comes out of the shower.
3. Location: This may be a no-brainer, but be sure to look at the big picture when apartment hunting. There's a reason the gut-rehabbed penthouse is dirt-cheap. Observe the parking situation and realistically gauge public transportation routes, otherwise enjoy sitting in that big old place alone at your birthday party--nobody is going to want to make the trek. If possible, ask the current tenants or inquire about paid parking.
4. Liquor store and Chinese food: If it's meant to be, there will be a nearby liquor store and reliable, greasy Chinese takeout. Trust me on this one.
5. Stairs: This may be a shock--but that fifth floor walk up you just leased? Yeah, you're going to have to haul your furniture and boxes up and down those stairs. My advice: don't tell your crew of misfit friends. They will mostly likely be hungover on moving day and only help you for the pizza and beer you promised them. If they're aware of the stair situation, they might flake on you.
6. Security: Let's face it--a secured entry, doorman and built-in ADT system aren't the standard for most Chicago apartments. Put your (and your mom's) mind to rest by taking a look around the place and asking yourself: "How easily could someone break in?" Your once-pure mind will transform into that of a criminal's in no time. Whoever said it's not good to be a little neurotic was a schmuck. It's the only way to live, really.
7. Paint: Hooray! I can finally have gold glitter bedroom walls! It's always a great idea when you get the green light from the landlord to paint. Not only does the process of painting, well, suck, (and cost a lot) but just remember--you have to paint that disgusting baby pink wall back to white at the end of the lease.
8. Laundry: Ask yourself a few questions--In-unit or coin-operated? How many machines? Then do the math. What is the ratio of tenants to machines in the building? That might give you an idea of how often you get to clean your filthy clothes. And, if you spend $1.50 to wash and $1.25 to dry (but you have to dry everything twice), you could end up spending hundreds of dollars per year.
9. Neighbors: Checking to make sure a quiet, single cat lady who travels every other week to visit her long distance boyfriend lives above you is key. You don't want loud, burly, unemployed dudes who sleep during the day and play "Guitar Hero" all night cramping your style. Same goes for making sure there isn't a crotchety neighbor below you who will come a-knockin' with complaints every time you walk to the kitchen.
10. Landlord: If the landlord is a really cool, young, hot guy/girl, you are probably thinking "Bonus!" But what you really should be thinking is, "Yeah, this guy won't return my calls or texts when the ceiling is leaking and the heat doesn't work in subzero temps." Make sure to ask the landlord/management companies questions about how they respond in emergencies and how accessible they are.
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