8 Things to Know Before Renting an Apartment

March 20, 2023 | By Lauren Bozarth
Reading Time: 6 Minutes
things to know before renting an apartment

To ensure the smoothest living experience, there are some important things to know before renting an apartment, especially if you’re a first-time renter.

We’ve compiled a list of crucial pointers based on common questions to help you feel prepared before signing an apartment lease.

1. How Much to Save Before Moving

Prior to starting the apartment hunt, make sure your bank account is as prepared for the move as you are. While the amount of savings needed varies from person to person, you want to ensure you have a nice safety net. 

Capital One suggests that folks should have three times their monthly income set aside when they plan on moving. To help you determine your budget, there are a few significant factors to consider.

Many apartments require prospective tenants to pay the first month’s rent along with a security deposit (often the same amount as monthly rent) before getting the keys. So, let’s say your max monthly rent budget is $1,500, then you want to have at least $3,000 cash set aside for rent.

Then you’ll need to consider whether you’re renting a fully furnished, partly furnished, or completely empty place. Because that will also influence how much extra funds you’ll need to spruce up your space and ensure it’s livable. While the cost to furnish an apartment can greatly vary depending on the tenant’s taste, the size of the space, and other factors, estimates suggest that it costs between $3,000 and $5,000 to furnish an apartment from scratch.

Also, don’t forget about common utilities owed within the first month.

2. Deciding Whether to Live Alone or With a Roommate

Sharing your apartment with a roommate comes with pros and cons. Let’s start with the perks.

From a savings standpoint, living with a roommate will likely reduce your monthly costs. Not only will you and your roommate divide the rent, but you will also split other regular apartment utilities, such as electricity and Internet.

If you are a social creature or someone new to the city looking for friends, a roommate could be a nice opportunity for more social connection. If you have a positive roommate dynamic, that means you have a built-in-buddy to hang with and likely make your living experience more enjoyable. 

Now, let’s also look at the potential disadvantages of living with another person.

The reality is when you have someone else in your space, you have to be more considerate of your living habits. That may mean keeping the common areas tidier, keeping your music down, or having people over less often.

There is also a chance you and your roommate may clash when it comes to living standards or ideals. However, this is one of the reasons it’s pretty important to set expectations and have clear communication before cohabitating with someone else.

3. Finding Out About the Parking Situation

While Chicago is known for its excellent public transportation, if you have a car, you will need to consider parking options as you browse apartments.

Finding a building that includes parking will provide you with an extra layer of safety and convenience.

Parking options depend on the location, price, and amenities associated with apartments, but these are common options:

  • Covered parking: This situation is ideal, especially for those who don’t like dealing with bad weather. It can help keep your car and its belongings protected. Parking garages often have extra safety measures, like attendants or surveillance cameras.
  • Parking lot: If you’re okay with your vehicle being exposed to the winter elements, this option may be cheaper than covered parking. 
  • Street parking: While some streets near apartments offer permit parking, keep in mind that this type of parking is the least convenient option but likely the cheapest.

4. Which Bills Do You Pay

As a tenant, there are some costs you cover and some that fall on your landlord or management company.

Let’s examine the common renter costs:

  • Rent: Every month, renters must pay the landlord the agreed-upon rental fee.
  • Utilities: Typical utilities that renters shoulder include electricity and gas.
  • Internet and cable: While some apartments offer bundled deals that include these costs, renters are often up to setting up and paying for both.
  • Renters’ insurance: The state of Illinois and the city of Chicago do not require renters insurance; however, a landlord may require this in their lease agreement. This is also a recommended insurance for renters to have.
  • Move-in fees: These will be included in the lease agreement, so make sure you know what these costs entail before signing.
  • Parking: This is typically an additional expense that falls on the renter if they choose to purchase a parking space.

5. How to Spot Rental Scams

Typically if a rental deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re looking at an apartment that is suspiciously lower than surrounding or similar units, that is not a great sign.

Also, if the person listing the property won’t meet you in person or wants you to move in immediately without ever seeing the property, that should also make you weary. It’s a bad sign if they ask for rent or a security deposit before signing a lease.

Additionally, don’t move forward if there’s no tenant screening process or you’re asked to sign an incomplete lease.

To avoid being scammed and losing money, always make sure to see the property in person and read through the lease before signing. Also, having an experienced and licensed broker can help ensure you’re not put in a risky situation.

6. How to Get Renters Insurance

As mentioned above, while renters insurance is not legally obligated in Chicago, many landlords require this insurance. Even if they don’t, having this type of insurance policy is wise. It is designed to protect tenants from financial loss due to unexpected events like theft, fire, or water damage.

Renters’ insurance provides coverage for personal property, liability protection, and additional living expenses. 

There are quite a few avenues to obtain renters insurance. Many popular insurance agencies will bundle renters insurance to make your life and payments more streamlined.

Lemonade is also a popular, convenient, affordable route to insure your rental property.

Before choosing your policy and provider, determine your coverage needs and compare different quotes. In Chicago, the average cost of renters insurance is $124 per year or $10 monthly, with Lemonade and State Farm being the most affordable options in the city.

7. What to Look for in an Apartment Lease

Before signing your name on the dotted lines, examining your apartment lease thoroughly is important.

Common terms in this document include the lease term, monthly rent, security deposit, maintenance, and pet policy.

Be on the lookout for an early termination clause, which can result in fees or penalties if the renter ends the lease early. Also, keep your eyes peeled for automatic renewal, which means the lease will renew for another term if proper notice isn’t given.

An experienced agent can help walk you through the lease and make sure it is safe to sign.

8. How to Move into an Apartment

As you sign your lease, you also want to confirm what day you actually get your keys and how you obtain them.

When you have your official move-in date on the calendar, you will want a game plan for moving your belongings.

Decide if you want to hire movers, a moving rental truck, or enlist friends to help you with the heavy lifting.

Also, if you are moving into an apartment that requires taking an elevator, be sure to connect with the building in advance and look into the moving process. Some apartments require that tenants reserve a freight elevator to move their larger belongings. 

You will also want to figure out parking logistics beforehand. Is there a reserved place for moving trucks or a maximum time a vehicle can be parked during a move?

Now that we’ve walked through the important things to know before renting an apartment, hopefully, you feel more excited and equipped. If you are ready to start finding your dream apartment, connect with one of the Luxury Living team members today!

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