Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Sew Cute Home: How we found our apartment!

Hello everyone! In today's Sew Cute Home post I am going over how we found our apartment. I want to preface this post by saying we apartment hunted during the Coronavirus. So our challenges may be different compared to you if you are referencing this post later! We for sure had some additional obstacles due to the crisis. But, we still managed to find a great place so I wanted to share our tips and tricks to finding our apartment.   

Apps and websites are a major resource when finding apartments now and days. The main websites and apps we referenced were, Apartment List, and Zillow. When we were looking for our Chicago apartment in 2018 we mainly used Zillow because we weren't looking for larger buildings or complexes. In Chicago most listings are on Zillow as they are individual property owners or smaller three flat buildings. For our current apartment we were looking in the Chicago suburbs which mainly has buildings and complexes which are listed on more apartment focused sites like and Apartment List. 

My personal favorite app I used was Apartment List. This app is essentially Tinder for apartments. You can heart apartments, give it a thumbs up which is a maybe, or thumbs it down and rule out that property. Fare warning though, when you heart an apartment it sends your contact information to that building. I did not know this ahead of time! So I was bombarded with calls and emails from these properties. I'm sure there is a way to change this in the settings but I wanted to throw that out there as that was a mistake I made! The great thing about this app is though all of the details you get. It tells you pretty much everything about the property! What units are available, prices of the units, amenities, additional monthly fees like parking, and more. In my opinion it gave the most well rounded info of all of the resources we used. It also gave me a super easy place to check out the buildings on our list. The app also allows you to basically create a wishlist. Then it shows you perfect matches and matches that you may have to compromise on certain features. This allows you to see what's in your price range and meets everything on your list! is also a great website to reference! You can map out an area you want to search on a map which I found super helpful. We were considering multiple cities so this was a great way to search without having to individually search each city. 

To help keep our thoughts organized my boyfriend and I created a Google Doc spreadsheet. If you know me I am a very organized person. I am all about charts, lists, and planning. This spreadsheet was actually super helpful to us! I've removed the information for privacy reasons, but this can show you how you can track all of your prospect buildings you are considering. We wanted one place to see all of our options and see the total costs for move in fees plus our monthly cost. Essentially this helped us budget to know how much each property would cost per month. Then it also helped us compare features, space, and other factors while making our decision. Another great advantage to creating a sheet like this is everyone can edit and see it! If you are moving in with roommates or a significant other everyone can add and work on it. Then everyone is on the same page and can weigh out all of your options. 

A category to note that was important to us was the level of finishes. Some buildings we looked at had three levels of apartments. Partially finished, standard unit, or fully renovated units were common at most of the buildings we considered. So it was important to us to add this to our sheet so we can compare what we are getting for our money. Are we getting a partially renovated unit for the same price as a fully renovated unit in another building? These are questions we asked ourselves while outweighing our options. 

  • Go in having a prioritized list of what you are looking for. What are you willing to compromise on to get what you want? For us we really wanted a two bedroom so I could have an office. Some two bedrooms were out of our budget so those buildings were automatically out. Maybe you really want amenities or a certain location. Layout these deal breakers ahead of time so you know what to look for and what to pass on. 
  • Create to a budget and stick with it. At some points we wanted to extend that to get certain features, but in the end we found the best balance of price and features. I look at it as would you rather have extra money to maybe eat out or do other things in your budget OR have a really nice apartment and not be able to do anything extra. If you are okay without eating out, shopping, etc. that is totally cool! Personally I like having the flexibility of not overextending myself when it comes to monthly costs. 
  • Consider all of your monthly costs added to the rent. The rent may be lower at one building but are there a ton of hidden fees? Are you paying for parking, what utilities are included or not included, does that building require insurance, etc. We've found out that a lot of these places have hidden fees! For example the first unit we applied for said free parking. Turns out it was free parking for one car. We have two cars and were getting a two bedroom unit, in my mind that didn't make sense. Plus the parking was an outrageous monthly fee for being in the burbs! So we ended up passing on that unit. There were other problems that building I will get into below! 
  • Create some sort of spreadsheet or list to keep track of your favorite units. As shown above we created a spreadsheet and I thought it was super helpful. When apartment hunting you are looking at multiple sites and listings and it's hard to keep track. If you keep everything in one spot it is much easier to organize all in one document. 


Thankfully we moved into our place and had no real issues! Prior to move in we physically were not in our unit. This was mainly due to the coronavirus. They were not giving in person tours to units. We did take a Facetime tour with the property manager which was super helpful. Prior to deciding on our current place we did apply for a different property. We were pretty set on this property, applied, and were ready to go. Once we got the lease we realized there were a ton of hidden fees we did not know about. The reviews said there was a trash concierge fee of $20 a month, so we asked the property manager about this when we spoke with them. She said the reviews were false and they didn't have that. Turns out the did have that fee and she pretty much lied to us. That really rubbed me the wrong way. We specifically asked a question and they lied about it. Then the property said there was free parking. Turns out there was free parking for one car, but we have two cars and were getting a two bedroom. When we asked why we had to pay for the additional car they went on a whole rant about how they are missing out on millions of dollars in parking because they don't charge you for one car. It was a very rude response in my opinion. To top it off during our application they raised prices in the rent. So we thought we were signing on at one price, but they raised the price in the middle of our application. That made the price go up for our unit. On their website it discloses they can raise prices daily. They for sure lived up to that! So be aware of those disclosures because rates are constantly changing at these larger complexes. Between the extra parking fee, the extra trash fee, and them raising their rates while we were applying we got a bad taste in our mouth. This is when we decided to walk away from the property.

Although we lost our application fees I think it was the right decision. I was already annoyed and I hadn't even moved in! From this I think we learned if it doesn't feel right you need to walk away. You don't want to be somewhere for 12+ months and be annoyed. Plus we kind of learned to trust some of these reviews. The reviews at the first place were half good and half not so good. But our current property most of the reviews were great! So far we've had a great experience.

Hopefully this post helped you a bit if you are currently or going to start looking for an apartment! It isn't an easy process but if you find a great place it is worth it. 

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