Five Renter Resolutions for 2011–make this your most livable year yet

Nothing like New Year’s. There is so much hope and fresh energy in the air, and it won’t be too much longer until I can go golfing again. But it is also a time to reflect on the past and think about what improvements you hope to make in the year ahead. We asked our leasing agents what advice they’d give to help renters make it their most livable year yet. So renters everywhere, take heed! Before you start your apartment search this year, consider the following tips:

  1. Put the pressure on. The funny thing about human nature is sometimes we are too nice and timid for our own good. Don’t be afraid to turn on the shower and test water pressure in the new places you are scoping out. Go for it! Assuming you shower frequently, bad water pressure can really be an annoyance. By all means, test the shower, faucets and even the toilet to make sure everything is flowing as it should.
  2. Ditch your crappy roommates. There is little worse than a passive aggressive roommate. Well, maybe a disrespectful slob. Whatever variety of bad roommate you are suffering from, don’t put up with it any longer. Home matters and not having a place you enjoy being at can really drag your spirits down. According to Adam Perres, director of leasing at our Belmont leasing center, this issue is far too common. Consider a studio apartment or assess your network for potential roommates that better match your lifestyle. We know moving isn’t fun, but a few days of work could result in years of happier living.
  3. Stick with your budget. Poor money management afflicts many young adults but an apartment lease is not the time to be unrealistic about your cash flow. And believe it or not, that goes both ways. We’ve seen many people get an apartment on the cheap only to be desperate for an upgrade in a matter of weeks. Sit down and make a realistic budget about what you can afford. The proverbial “rule of thumb” is to spend no more than a quarter of your income on rent.
  4. Be open to new neighborhoods. I think this is the best tip we can give you and it comes from Andrew Croegaert from our State Street leasing center. Chicago is a big city with many great neighborhoods. Don’t be stuck on one of the more well-known places and you can find a gem of an apartment. Where ever you end up, you can be sure you’ll be near great restaurants, coffee shops, bars and green spaces. Be open to other neighborhoods and you will get more for your money.
  5. Build your credit score. For anyone that’s found their dream apartment only to feel at the mercy of the application process and whims of the property manager, this one will really hit home. According to Leasing Manager John Herriott of our Edgewater leasing center, if a property manager has several applications for an apartment, they may choose the applicant with the best credit. So it is in your interest to at least know what your score is and do anything you can to get it in better shape. Not everyone will be able to make quick fixes, but in some cases, a few adjustments can be enough to get your score up.

A Rare Moral Lesson from Reality TV

This past Monday night America found itself in uproar as “The Bachelor’s” Jake Pavelka chose the girl America – along with the rest of the girls in the house – loved to hate, Vienna Giardi. Vienna is rough around the edges, often blunt, and as the tabloids have pointed out has anything but a squeaky clean past. Jake shockingly chose Viena over Tenley, the girl who is angelic, sweet, and someone that any guy would be happy to bring home to mom- the more obvious and sensible choice.

However, upon delving deeper into the circumstances, it seemed Jake had spent his life thus far making the safe and obvious choices. He would listen to those around him and tune out what he actually wanted causing him to end up unfulfilled and unhappy. Through “The Bachelor” Jake has said that he stopped learning to care what others wanted for him and started listening to himself. As much as I did not care for the image of Vienna portrayed on TV I say “bravo!” to Jake for finally trusting his own instincts.

Now, it is rare that pop culture will ever give us moral examples of what to do, but hear me out. Upon moving to Chicago, many often go straight for Lincoln Park, or Bucktown without actually knowing anything about these areas. It is simply that they have heard of them before or that their friends live there- so they make the “sensible” decision that it must be right for them, too. DON’T DO THIS!!! There are SO many great neighborhoods in Chicago. Many less obvious and less explored, and yes, even less popular choices but just as fantastic. Plus, you may just get more for your money.

When looking for your next place, don’t just go straight for the popular choice. Explore Chicago and try to find what neighborhood truly suits your personality- not what others tell you does. Who knows, you may even end up like Jake and discover your true love of Chicago in the process.

As it blizzards (yes, it can be used as a verb)

All right, Chicago-

Here are two musings (more like tips) for this cold weather- which, by the way, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. They’ll be sure to save you some money.

For starters- because it’s much darker in the winter and you will probably be home more, replace incandescent bulbs with EnergyStar compact fluorescent lights. In doing this, you will use less than one-third the energy. Replacing just 5 bulbs will save you $65 per year.

Also, insulate and weatherize! Air leaks are the BIGGEST contributor to energy loss, so this is important. While your landlord is not obligated to further modify the apartment after a lease is signed, it doesn’t hurt to ask! Hold your hand near windows and if you can feel cold air, you are losing money. Respectfully explain the issue to your landlord and ask if s/he can come out and caulk and weatherstrip. If they say no, ask for permission to do it yourself. Use removable rope caulk or shrink-film plastic on drafty windows and over in-wall air conditioning units. Removing window plastic sometimes takes paint with it so it’s important to get the owner’s permission.

Neither of these sound exciting, I know, but saving money does. Implementing these two pointers couldn’t take more than a few hours of your time, so give em a shot.

And use the extra money you’ll saving to buy a Jimmy Buffett CD, a floral shirt, and some pina colada mix….oh, and think warm thoughts.

WARMEST regards,


Don’t laugh

While the image of this so-called chimney balloon might conjure a chuckly, saving up to 30 percent on winter heating bills is nothing to laugh at! Not surprisingly, one of the biggest complaints we hear this time of year is cold apartments. Read how this innovative inflatable can not only keep you warmer in your apartment, but save you big on energy bills:

Latest innovation in saving on home energy bills.

Slushy shoes, the bane of my existence

Keep this out of your apartment.

Thank you Apartment Therapy Chicago for the great post on dealing with slushy shoes available here. I bet the pebble-filled boot tray is best. Nice thinking Martha Stewart.