My little sister is moving to Chicago in the coming months and has enlisted me to help her and her fiancé find an apartment. Since I love real estate in general, I am thrilled to help, especially since I know the city well and where to look.
I also know that a little homework helps the process move much more smoothly as well. Since she’s going to be assessing the places I find for her from afar, I wanted to make sure I have all her specifics and priorities before I start. Time is of the essence, and I don’t want to waste any of it on unworthy places!
The first step for any apartment hunter—and the first thing she and I discussed—is the big B word: budget. You should have two budget numbers in mind when considering apartments to make sure you see the best array of available places. The first should be the maximum amount you want to pay for rent. The second should be the maximum you want to pay for rent plus all your housing utilities. That includes gas, electricity, water, cable, phone, etc.
The reason to have both numbers in mind is because some landlords advertise their units by the base rent (no utilities included) while others will include certain or all utilities in the total price. So, if you limit yourself by saying your maximum rent payment is $1,200 per month and you won’t look at places above that number, you’re potentially limited yourself from a place that might be listed for $1,500, but includes every utility under the sun.
I personally have always liked utilities-included rents because that means you pay a fixed rate for those services rather than having them vary from month to month. Do your research, though – you should have a general idea of what each utility costs on its own so you can determine whether or not you are getting a good deal!
So, budget is the first step. Next up is prioritizing your wants and needs, but we’ll save that for the next post!