A Chicago Renter’s Guide by Beal Properties

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Beal Properties maintains a privately-owned portfolio of multi-family properties located in Chicago’s North Side and North Shore suburbs. With a long-standing, 30-year history of commitment to the Chicago area, Beal is the perfect guide to help you find the rental of your dreams.

That may very well be a Beal property, but no matter which building you choose, we hope you love the place that you call home. Whether you’re moving to Chicago and looking for an apartment, or you’re a current resident who wants a change of pace, keep these tips in mind.

Know Your Budget

Smart renters set up a budget before they ever start looking for a new apartment. This really helps keep you honest in terms of what you can afford. You won’t be as easily wooed by a luxury unit that’s out of your price range. In fact, you may decide to avoid looking at apartments outside your budget altogether.

You can easily find affordable one-bedroom apartments in Chicago, and a recent trend of condo deconversions in the nearby suburbs has only increased your options.

You may want to consult with a rent budget calculator while you run your numbers. Remember to account for any included utilities as well as those you will be responsible for yourself.

Learn About Chicago Neighborhoods

There are 77 recognized neighborhoods in Chicago, and you’ll want to learn enough about them to pick one that resonates with your personality. If you’re a homebody who enjoys peace and quiet, you might value very different things than an active renter looking for a vibrant community outside their door.

Most of us are looking for something in between. However, you might feel an afternoon at an art gallery is the perfect way to spend your day off, while someone else craves a bustling nightlife.

No matter which neighborhood you choose, you’ll spend a significant amount of time there. That’s why nearby amenities, neighborhood demographics, and distance from friends and work make a difference.

Luckily, Chicago enjoys a strong public transit system that can help you get where you need to go no matter where you live.

Through Beal, you can find neighborhood information on the website and can continue to research potential homes by neighborhood name.

If you find an online listing for an apartment, get out and walk the streets in that neighborhood to get a feel for the area. You might even go out for an evening with friends nearby. There’s no better way to get to know your potential new neighborhood.

Conversely, if you notice a For Rent sign at a building follow up with online research. You can find information like average rent, neighborhood demographics, things to do nearby and more — all from your computer or smartphone.

The combined approach will give you a big picture view of your prospective new neighborhood.

If you think it will be helpful to work with a professional to find your dream apartment, there are realtors and rental professionals available. However, that’s not a rule, and many people have success finding apartments on their own. Just make sure to do thorough research — searching online, walking around the neighborhood and visiting the property.

What to Look for Once Inside

Once you get into the apartment, pay close attention to any signs of damage including discoloration on the floor or ceiling and around sinks and appliances. Ask about repairs and make a list of anything you want to be done before you move in. It’s a great idea to get all of these details in writing with a signature from the landlord or representative before moving in.

Taking pictures of each apartment you visit will help you compare them later. If your search is exhaustive, it’s easier than you’d think to confuse them in your mind after the fact. This is especially true if you visit several within just a few days.

As you’re entering and leaving, make sure the building is secure and well lit. Consider how safe you’ll feel coming and going, and if the outside aesthetics suit your taste.

Ask About Required Documents and Get Them in Order

Generally, the rental office or landlord will want to see proof of income and may run a background check before approving your lease application. The Beal Properties application process is accessible online, but others may need documents from you via email or physically in person.

When you call to make a viewing appointment, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask what documents, if any, the building needs from you when applying. This way, you can gather all necessary things well before you’re ready to sign an application.

Some may even want references, so ask your current landlord or management team if it’s something they can provide.

Understanding Your Rights

There are a few things you’ll want to know about the application process to ensure you’re fully prepared.

For instance, the landlord may require a non-refundable application fee, which can vary from one apartment to another if the state doesn’t cap the fee.

Your prospective landlord can only run a background check on you with your written permission. Therefore, this language will probably appear on the rental application, which will require your signature.

It’s acceptable for your prospective landlord to ask questions about past evictions, whether you have pets, if you smoke, what your income is, and how long you’ve been at your current job. They can also ask about your potential criminal history.

However, it isn’t ok to get asked about your race, sexual orientation, gender orientation or identity. Other off-limit questions include military discharge status and domestic violence order of protection status.

Moving into Your New Apartment

When you’ve been approved and gained access to the unit, the next step — and most exciting step — is making it your own. Some find it easiest to shop for known additions before moving the rest of their things in, while others leave the shopping until after unpacking. Either is a fine option.

If you opt to use a moving company, be sure to make arrangements with them in advance. You may want to take photographs of your valuables or even move them yourself. Make sure to ask about insurance and what it covers, just in case something gets damaged in the move.

The same advance preparation is needed if you’re renting a moving vehicle. Find out how to reserve a rental long before you need it to avoid any problems.

Your new building probably has guidelines about moving in. They may limit you to certain days and times or specify a separate elevator or loading bay for move-in access. Find all of this out well in advance so you’re completely prepared. There’s nothing worse than last-minute surprises when your life is loaded onto a truck and you’re paying by the hour.

Remember that before you actually move in, it’s vital to perform a walk-through. You should take pictures and make notes about any existing damages on your lease, asking a building representative to initial your notes. Even if you see no damage, take photos for proof. You don’t want to get into an avoidable dispute later on.

You may choose to take another set of photos after your possessions are inside. This can protect you from any claims of damage from the move itself. If your moving company damages anything, they could be held responsible. This may depend on the agreement you signed with them.

The Perfect Chicago Apartment is Out There

If you have any questions about finding your next home, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Beal Properties. Beal’s friendly and professional team is ready to assist you, not only in finding the perfect home, but ensuring the process is straightforward from start to finish.

Happy hunting!

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