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Choosing the right apartment

Choosing the right apartment

7 Important factors to consider when choosing where to rent?

1. Price

Can I afford this? There are many factors that go into whether or not you can afford the apartment. Working through a budget is key for many families. There are some great online resources to help you sort through your monthly obligations. For the purpose of Apartment Rentals, most landlords want to see that you make at least 3 times the monthly rent in GROSS annual household income. Gross income is what is considered is because levels the playing field for all applicants to help owners remain compliant with the Federal Fair Housing Laws. The reasoning behind this is based on the 1/3 rule: 1/3 taxes and medical insurance, 1/3 expenses, savings, and debts 1/3 rent.

An easy way of looking at this figure is to take the rent and multiply it by 3 and then by 12. Example: Rent $1,600/mo x 3 = $4,800/mo x 12 = $57,600/annual gross household income required to rent an apartment that is $1,600/mo.

So What is My Annual Gross Income?

If you and any other adult living with you are paid an annual salary this is easy to figure out, however, if you are paid hourly it can be a little tricky. The most common mistake people make is to start taking out health insurance, taxes, 401K contributions, child support payments, garnishments, etc. Removing these items from your total income is your net pay and not a level playing field for all applicants.

Here’s an example of how to figure out your annual gross income when working with an hourly wage rather than an annual salary.

*It doesn’t matter whether you get paid bi-weekly or weekly the total will still be the same if you figure your hourly wage multiplied by the number of hours you work per week.

Wife works 35 hours per week and makes $15/hour

35 x $15= $525 (gross weekly income)

$525 x 52 =$27,300 annual gross income

Husband works 40 hours per week and makes $19/hour

40 x $19= $760 (gross weekly income)

$760 x 52= $39,520 annual gross income

Total Annual Household Gross Income for this example is $66,820

Apartment Solutions staff is always happy to help you sort out whether you make enough to qualify on the income side for an apartment and if not we have properties that accept less than 3x the monthly rent and additional resources that we can refer you to.

2. Location


When renting in the suburbs of Chicago you want to consider your commute time. Of course, there are plenty of Chicago apartments to take a look at online so there’s a wealth of choice for those looking for their new home in the city. The closer you live to a Metra station or a major highway the more expensive an apartment will be. Some of my clients don’t mind driving and prefer to get a better bang for their buck by living 10-15 minutes away from a highway entrance or exit. Most of my clients prefer to have the convenience of living near the train or highway.


Another major factor when considering a location is the school district and specific schools the rental feeds into. This is not always determined by distance away from a school. Apartment Solutions has updated information for all of the properties we list with the District Number and names for all of the Elementary, Middle and High Schools. This information is key for those who may be between homes but don’t want to interrupt their children’s routine and/or for families new to the area that are moving here for the multiple A+ rated school districts. There are also a number of colleges in the Chicagoland area including community colleges with significantly reduced tuition rates for living in the county the college is located in.

To learn more about PreK through High School ratings, click here.

For information on area colleges, click here.

Aging in Place

Lately, there has been a trend of partially or fully retired adults looking to rent apartments rather than live in independent or assisted living facilities. For many, the reason for this is to keep their independence and to continue to feel young and active. For others, the cost of assisted living is not something they can afford and the services they need are minimal. It’s what we call Aging in Place. An apartment rental may be the perfect option for you or someone you love. Snow removal, lawn care, and appliances are no longer your responsibility plus many properties have elevators or walk in first-floor apartments. When additional care is needed there are many medical and non-medical assistance services that can come directly to the apartment that way you are only paying for what you need rather than paying for a full-time staff at an assisted living facility. There is a fantastic non-medical assistance service available to people of all ages. HomeWatch CareGivers is a client favorite. They provide extra helping hands to everyone from new moms to elder care and everything in between.


Living near a certain hospital or doctor’s office is another common request we get for a variety of reasons ranging from new mom’s wanting to deliver at a specific hospital, HMO insurance, and people with chronic health conditions who need specialized care.

Working with an apartment locator can help take all of these factors and more into account to help customize a list of properties that will fit your specific needs.

3. Lease

With any contract, you will likely want to have a general practice attorney or real estate attorney review it before you sign. Not everyone chooses to have their lease reviewed by an attorney.

Below are 7 areas you will want to make sure you understand before you sign.

  1. Breaking a lease: Under what circumstances can this be done without hurting your rental history? Are sublets or re-lets allowed? What are the fees associated with ending a lease early? How much notice is required to break a lease?
  2. Pet Policy: Are there pet buildings and non-pet buildings? Is there a maximum number of pets a tenant can have? What are the property’s breed and pet restrictions?
  3. Noise Policy: What are the property’s quiet hours? How are noise violations handled? What is the insulation like between the walls and floors?
  4. Parking Policy: Will there be a parking fee for outdoor parking? Where do overnight guests park? Do you offer indoor parking or assigned parking?
  5. Smoking: Is this a non-smoking property? If it is a non-smoking property: What are the ramifications if someone smokes on their patio/balcony or has a guest who smokes? How is this enforced?
  6. What are my lease term options? Can I lock in my rate for a longer lease or pay extra to have a shorter term lease? Under what circumstances would you not renew a lease?
  7. How much of my security deposit is refundable? What would I need to do to ensure that I get my entire security deposit back?

4. Amenities

When renting an apartment consider the amenities the property offers. If you are on a tighter budget you may have to make a few compromises along the way. One way to help sort out where you are and are not willing to compromise is to make a list of your must-haves and preferred amenities.


Must Have:


Pet-Friendly (lab 60lbs)

Covered Parking

Less than 2 miles to the nearest Metra

On-Site 24 hour Fitness Center


In Unit Washer/Dryer

Elevator Building



Fenced Dog Park on Site

5. Pet Policy

Fees/Deposit/Pet Rent:

Almost all landlords and management companies will charge some type of pet fees these can be in the form of a one-time pet deposit, one-time pet fee, or a monthly pet fee or a combination of any of the above.

Apartments generally charge a pet fee upon move-in. The average fee for a pet is generally between $100-$500 per pet. Many management companies have a flat fee for the first pet and a lesser fee for an additional pet. This is a one time fee that may or may not be refundable.

Apartments and landlords can also charge a monthly pet rent. This is a fee that over the years more and more management companies have added to their rental requirements. Depending on the type of pet, the number of pets, and who manages the property the fee will vary. Monthly pet rent is a per pet fee that is non-refundable and can be as low as $10/mo per pet and as high as $50/mo per pet.

Private owners are less likely to allow pets. This can be because of the condominium or homeowners association rules and restrictions but it is often the landlord’s preference. Some landlords will market their property as non-pet friendly in hopes of keeping their renovations in good working order and therefore being able to turn over a property faster. Some of these landlords may still consider someone with a pet as long as they pay an extra security deposit. The security deposit amount will vary depending on the landlord.

Breed and Weight Restrictions

Rental properties have to have insurance on the property and with those insurance policies, there are likely going to be restricted breeds. The most common breed restrictions are as follows: Pitbull Terrier; including American Staffordshire Terrier, Doberman, Rottweiler, Chow, Akita, Great Dane, German Shepherd, Siberian Husky, and Presa Canario.

There are also weight restrictions that vary from property to property. Some have a combined weight limit and some have a per pet weight limit with a maximum number of pets allowed. Additionally, some managers will restrict larger pets to first floor apartments and have smaller weight limits for pets on upper floors.

It is important to note that just because you see a German Shepherd living on a property doesn’t mean that it is not a restricted breed. The owner could have the dog as an emotional support animal or the dog could be grandfathered in under previous management’s rules.

6. Utility Cost

When choosing an apartment you will want to be sure and ask what utilities the property covers and what utilities you are responsible for. It is extremely important to know whether the utilities are individually metered or divided up by all of the tenants in the building. If at all possible ask to see sample bills or call the utility companies ahead of time to get the last 6 month’s average. Of course, homeowners will usually be able to bring down their utility costs through switching providers. They can do this by comparing something like Chariot Energy rates against their existing rates to see if they can make a saving.

Rough Estimates for Budgeting Purposes:

Studio $90/month

1 bed 1 bath $100/month

2 bed 1 bath $150/mont

2 bed 2 baths $200/month

3 bed 2 baths $250/month

7. Parking

Depending on your specific needs and concerns the following list of questions should be reviewed to help you determine what questions to ask the leasing agent when visiting a property.

  1. How many cars are allowed per apartment?
  2. Where do overnight guests park?
  3. Do you have assigned parking?
  4. Is there a fee for parking tags or stickers?
  5. Do you offer covered parking? What is the fee

Caryn Outlaw

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