Chicago Rentals Direct Blog
Our thoughts, tips, and trends on renting apartments in Chicago.
Do you dread opening your mailbox? Does that stack of bills pile up every month until it becomes an unmanageable heap? An apartment comes with a multitude of different expenses. Besides paying your rent each month, you most likely have to pay your utility bills, which include gas, electric, heat, cable, Internet and any other expenses you are responsible for in your building. Every month I have to keep up-to-date on my utility bills as well as my credit card bill, tuition payment, and rent. Keeping everything in order and paid on time took awhile to get a handle on. Let’s just say I had to pay a few late fees! Here are some tips on how to manage these monthly bills and make it to the end of the month without any extra fees.
My problem is keeping everything organized. With so many bills to pay each month, the biggest challenge I face is just keeping everything in order. Once I started organizing all of my bills and keeping track of what I owed, my life became infinitely easier and my checking account a little heavier. My biggest piece of advice would be to stay organized and always know what you owe.
Process Your Mail Right Away
I used to let my mail sit for days (and to be truthful, weeks) when I brought it in from the mailbox. One time my mail piled so high that I accidentally threw my electric bill away with a bunch of old take-out menus and forgot to pay it that month. Now I go through my mail daily and separate the bills from the junk mail.
Keep Your Bills in a Designated Place
It’s easier to stay organized when everything is in one place. I keep mine in the top drawer of my desk and at the end of the month when the bills need to be paid I put them in a basket by the front door so I never forget them on my way out in the morning.
Designate a Specific Time to Pay Your Bills
Procrastination never helped me in school and it certainly hasn’t helped when it comes to paying bills. I’ve learned that if I set time aside each month, I’m less stressed out. I usually set time aside on the weekend when I have less going on to pay my bills and review my bank balance.
Pay Your Bills Online
Almost every utility company and bank offers you the ability to pay your bills online. Paying online is more convenient and saves you the trip of having to walk to the mailbox. Go one step further and see if your landlord will let you pay your rent online. It’s one less bill you will have to worry about keeping track of at the end of the month.
Submitted by WilliamPaid.com. WilliamPaid lets renters & roomies pay rent online, automatically, with more flexibility and it's FREE. Users can also build credit with each rent payment.
It comes as no surprise that many young professionals today are renting by choice, rather than foraying into the currently uncertain territory of homeownership.
For Chicago landlords, this has opened up a huge new market of potential tenants; it’s a fresh group of people with a different set of wants and needs to appeal to.
To help landlords get a better idea of what will attract these tenants, we’ve rounded up the following attributes that many young professionals look for in a potential rental home:
Walkability & Lifestyle -- Often, young professionals choosing to rent an apartment will be devoting their free time to maintaining an on-the-go urban lifestyle, since they don’t have to spend time or efforts on the maintenance and upkeep of a house they own. When appealing to this group of potential tenants, emphasize places that are walkable in your neighborhood, such as grocery stores, coffee shops, public transit stops, restaurants, parks, trails and nightlife attractions.
Convenience -- Young professionals typically want modern conveniences in their rentals -- and will be willing to pay accordingly. Attractive to one of these renters, for example, would be a dishwasher and in-unit or on-site laundry.
Atmosphere -- Aesthetics tend to be important to young professionals. Nice selling points include beautiful views, tall ceilings, picture windows, hardwoods, fireplaces and so forth.
Touches of luxury -- Touches of contemporary luxury throughout a unit will help attract potential renters who are also in the market for condo living. Granite countertops, luxurious bathtubs and updated kitchens with stainless steel appliances are just a few examples.
Outdoor space -- Though these renters are choosing to live in multi-family dwellings with shared walls and common areas, they still want their privacy. A great perk that a rental space can provide is private outdoor space, such as a private balcony or secluded porch.
As a landlord, you’ve got a lot of responsibilities on your plate to keep your properties looking appealing, from adding fresh coats of paint to the walls, to refinishing hardwood floors, to adding beautiful touches to the landscaping.
But beyond these cosmetic upgrades, you’ve also got to keep your property in good working condition. One such way to keep your rentals in proper working order -- and keep tenants safe -- is by choosing an experienced, reliable electrician to properly service your space.
When choosing a professional to do the electrical work for your rentals, keep the following tips in mind:
Do your homework: Get recommendations on which professional to hire from friends, family and neighbors. Inquire about how long and how often your contact has used the contractor’s services, and be sure to ask about the electrician’s quality of work, promptness, efficiency, professionalism and price. On top of that, do your research online by seeking out the contractor’s website, as well as consumer reviews of the electrician. Angie’s List is a good resource for such consumer reviews.
Talk to the potential contractors: You don’t have to choose your electrician solely based on the recommendations of others. Take initiative and talk to your potential contractors yourself to get a better idea of how much you’d like working with him or her. When talking to the electrician, ask him or her about work experience/history, licensing and insurance information, client references, billing and any guarantees that might come along with his or her work. Take into account how well he or she communicates. Additionally, during this conversation, you can also discuss getting a quote.
Shop around: You shouldn’t necessarily go with the first electrician you come across who can do the job, and you also shouldn’t necessarily go with the electrician who can get things done the cheapest. Doing extra legwork may be worth it in the long run, just as paying a bit extra might be worth it, as well. Take time to carefully compare the pros and cons of each electrician’s services before settling on your final choice.
Do you have more tips for choosing an electrician?
If you’ve just moved to Hyde Park, you’re in for a real treat. Your new home is in one of the coolest neighborhoods in the country. There’s a list miles long of the fabulous things you should see and do in Hyde Park, but here are our suggestions for where to start:
Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House -- The Robie House, completed in 1910, is considered one of the most important architectural structures in the country. It is of the Prairie style of design, and is currently in the process of being restored. Visit The Robie House on the University of Chicago campus Thursday through Monday for a public tour.
Barack Obama’s house -- While we don’t suggest trying to visit the Chicago landmark at 5046 South Greenwood Ave., as it’s under strict security by the Secret Service, it’s really cool to know that the Obama house is in your neighborhood, right?
57th Street Books -- While you’re browsing about in this amazing bookstore, be sure to check out its legendary mystery section.
Museum of Science and Industry -- The Museum of Science and Industry is one of the largest science museums in the world. It boasts such attractions as an exhibit detailing the science behind lightning, tornados and avalanches; a full-scale Curiosity Mars Rover model; and a submarine you can tour.
57th Street Beach -- It’s a beach! What’s not to love? Lounge about, take a leisurely beach stroll, build a sandcastle and have yourself a picnic. Don’t forget the sunscreen and sandals!
And this list is just scratching the surface of things to do in your new neighborhood! For those Hyde Park veterans out there, be sure to share your favorite neighborhood activities in the comments section.
Welcome to Hyde Park!
Does your new Chicago apartment have a balcony? Yes? Well, congratulations, because an apartment with a balcony is pretty rad! Well, it is in theory, anyway. If you’ve never had a balcony before, it can be tricky to figure out what exactly to do with it to make it morph into a quiet escape or a perfect barbecue spot.
But not to worry! We’ve got plenty of ideas. Follow our tips below to make your balcony awesome:
- Kick off your shoes. Bring an outdoor rug into your space to make it into a comfortable extension of your indoor living space, where you can really relax and feel at home. This is especially helpful if your balcony flooring is a bit rough or ugly!
- Sit back and relax. Add comfortable outdoor furniture that fits into the space you have while also fitting the aesthetic and feel you’re going for. Want a quiet reading and breakfast space on your small balcony? Try adding a storage bench or bistro set to the balcony. Planning on having the balcony serve as a sunbathing and relaxation area? Your furniture go-tos will probably be outdoor loungers or a hammock. Turning your large balcony into a grill-out respite? You’ll probably want a bigger dining set with an umbrella to accommodate your guests.
- Go green. Greenery will breathe life into your balcony space. You can opt for containers such as flower pots, hanging baskets or window boxes, where you can grow whatever plants fit your space, needs and taste, from vines to flowers to herbs to vegetables. And if you have a brown thumb, you can always try one of these great houseplants for beginners (or there is always artificial plants).
- Make it your own. Add personal touches, like furniture or shelves, to your balcony to make it into a place you’ll want to spend your time. To do this, you can add some unique lighting, cool sculptures and other art, or decor that celebrates your favorite sports team or your alma mater. Just be you!
By following these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to the balcony of your dreams. Enjoy!
Getting the word out about apartment vacancies is crucial for landlords. Effective marketing and advertising is essential not only to simply fill vacancies and continue making money off your property investments, but also to garner a large number of coveted high-quality tenants -- those who pay rent reliably, are respectful toward their neighbors and keep your property in good shape.
So how do you get the word out and set yourself up to attract (really good) tenants?
Put Up Signs Outside The Building. Don’t underestimate the power of grabbing the attention of passersby. Advertise vacancies in your rental spaces directly outside your building, and also at busy intersections nearby. Be sure to provide details about the vacant rental spaces -- number of bedrooms, cost, availability date, contact information, etc. -- to give potential tenants a good idea if your space offers what they’re looking for.
Use Social Media. Post photos and details about your available rentals on Twitter and Facebook. Sharing on these high-traffic sites is quick and easy, and can help you get the word out.
Advertise Online. One of your online advertising options is, of course, Chicago Rentals Direct. Our website enables landlords to act as their own agents and provide detailed apartment listings -- with photos, options to schedule a showing, maps, floorplans, etc. -- for free!
Don’t Forget The Good Ol’ Newspaper. Some online apartment listing sites can be rife with duplicate listings, scant information and scams. Oftentimes, frustrated apartment hunters turn to newspaper listings, which are much more pared down in relation to the overwhelming abundance online.
Using these varied channels of advertising and marketing will help you get the word out about your apartments to a diverse audience of potential renters.
What other methods do you use to spread the word about your available rentals? Let us know in the comments section!
Ahhh, Chicago. It’s a beloved lakefront city with a gorgeous skyline, amazing food and vast culture, while at the same time, it can be a tough city that challenges the mettle and patience of its residents. It’s a wonderful place to fall in love and discover yourself, but it can be a cold, cold place to be when facing disappointments and setbacks. All these components of the city, both good and bad, have served as quite the inspiration for the Windy City’s musical artists.
On top of being such a great city for source material, Chicago also boasts an impressive number of incredibly talented musicians that have called the city home and cultivated a long-standing music community. Examples of these Chicago greats include Neko Case, Sam Cooke, The Smashing Pumpkins, Jennifer Hudson, The Staple Singers, Andrew Bird, Da Brat, Herbie Hancock, Kanye West, Wilco, Louis Armstrong and Common, just to name a few.
Lucky for us -- and for you! -- this means we get tons of opportunities to experience the vibrant live music scene, at clubs, at festivals and on street corners, all within our own city limits.
With Chicago’s inspiring atmosphere and encouraging music community, it’s no wonder there are so many amazing songs about Chi-Town, from Chicagoans and others alike.
We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite songs about the city below. Check them out:
Common, “The Corner”
Sufjan Stevens, “Chicago”
Margot & The Nuclear So & So’s, “On A Freezing Chicago Street”
Led Zeppelin, “When The Levee Breaks”
Kanye West, “Homecoming”
What are your favorites?
You put a lot of effort into keeping your rentals’ landscaping looking lovely during the spring and summer -- from planting to watering to mowing to weeding and more. You may think that, aside from raking leaves, you can’t really do all that much to help improve your landscaping into the fall season.
But did you know you can get a head start on next year’s landscaping work by doing a few small things as the leaves begin to drop?
Here are some items you should put on your fall landscaping to-do list that will make spring landscaping go much more smoothly:
- Plant trees, shrubs and bulbs. Get a head start on spring by planting new trees, shrubs and bulbs this autumn. The bulbs you plant in fall will bloom into beautiful flowers the following spring, and the new shrubs and trees will require very little maintenance and watering once the roots have set.
- Aerate the lawn. This gives oxygen, water and nutrients a chance to reach the soil and the roots of your grass, making for a healthier and more attractive lawn.
- Rake the leaves. To allow your lawn to continue to breathe after aeration, you must rake up fallen leaves. Use a rake, a leaf blower or a mulching mower, then bag up the leaves or use them as mulch in your garden beds.
- Cut away dead limbs. Keep your rental properties safe from the dangers of fallen limbs, which often break off during the brutal Chicago winters that are full of howling winds and heavy snow and ice.
Once you check these items off your list, take a nice, long break from yard work! You deserve it!
You know tenants complain about it all the time: “Ugh, my apartment would be so much cooler if only the walls weren’t all the same boring shade of off-white.” While this little cosmetic detail usually isn’t enough to turn potential tenants completely away from an apartment, we have a suggestion that could convincingly steer tenants toward an apartment: Color!
Bright, vibrant colors have been cool for years now -- and not just in the aisles of Target stores. Loud colors are a hit on everything from cars to clothes to home decor.
Of course, bright hues on the walls aren’t for everyone. But if you’re renting out one of the many modern Chicago apartment units that appeal to a young, hip crowd … why not?
Here are our suggestions for adding some color to your space:
Start small. Consider adding a colorful accent by painting just one wall (or perhaps a door!) in a room with the bright color, while leaving the other surfaces neutral. Maybe you could add some flash to the back panels of your built-in shelving or bookcases? Or how about adding some zip to the baseboards? There are lots of ways to get creative without feeling like you’ve gone overboard.
Be daring. Don’t be afraid to opt for colors like lime green, cobalt blue and toxic orange.
Give it time. It may take some time -- even several months! -- getting used to the brand-new brightness in the rental space, but if it’s well-received by tenants, it’s a job well done! And remember, if it turns out they’re not too keen on it, you can always change it back to something more neutral.
One of the greatest perks of Chicago living is that the world’s biggest food festival, Taste of Chicago, takes place right on our home turf each summer! How awesome is that?
Here are the details: This year’s festival -- the 32nd edition of the event -- will be held, as always, in Grant Park. The festival goes from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., starting July 11 and running through July 15. During the five-day festival, dozens of diverse restaurants will be serving up their best fare to festival patrons in the park, along with 15 additional pop-up restaurants that will be cooking up some great eats throughout the city. We’re getting hungry just thinking about it!
In addition to all the great food to eat, there will be celebrity chef events, chef demonstrations, a wine garden with live jazz, a 5k race and a dance. Plus, a whole lot of tunes!
The Taste’s musical lineup for this year includes the following:
- Chaka Khan with guest Raphael Saadiq
- Jennifer Hudson with guest Luke James
- Death Cab for Cutie with guest Calexico
- Michael Franti & Spearhead with guest Fitz & The Tantrums
- Dierks Bentley with guest Lindi Ortega
- And too many great indie bands to name!
Never attended the Taste before? You need to get on that! What other festival gives you the chance to indulge in foods like Chicken Schnitzel Sandwiches, Arctic Shrimp Stuffed Skagen Baked Potatoes, Daeji Kalbi and Guava Gelato? It sounds too good to pass up!
The old saying goes: When it rains, it pours. This saying can apply to a lot of situations, and it seems perfectly applicable when it comes to tenant maintenance requests. You can go quite some time without needing to do any major fixes on your rental properties, then all of a sudden, your to-do list is a mile long!
When you’re overwhelmed with work to do, it may be tempting to save yourself some time by offering a rent credit incentive if tenants put some work into their rental space. However, it really is best to do those repairs yourself or hire someone to do them for you.
So-so upgrades. Even if tenants’ DIY upgrades are done correctly, they may cut corners to save money, leaving you with upgrades that are just passable rather than exceptional.
Mistakes. If your tenants are not experts when it comes to handiwork, they may very well make some very big mistakes while attempting to repair or upgrade the rental space. When being realistic with yourself, you have to understand that this is to be expected if tenants don’t have ample experience or the proper tools to complete a job.
Do know that if a botched tenant repair happens on your property -- as it does often for landlords who allow tenants to do work on their rentals -- there is no question that any possible way you could have benefited from your tenants’ DIY work has been negated, and then some.
Just think of the time and money it’ll take to set things right again!
- Unfinished projects. Motivation can run out pretty easy for people working on a project in a house or apartment they don’t own. Beware of the likelihood of unfinished projects.
While taking this all into account, realize you can still get quality tenants involved in what happens to the rental property by taking suggestions from them to get an idea of what they’d like to see upgraded. Then you can make the upgrades as your budget allows -- and with the help of experienced professionals.
And as always, remember that general maintenance from normal wear and tear is your responsibility. Be sure to be prompt and get around to fixing things tenants ask for; if you make them wait too long, they may go ahead and do a second-rate repair job on their own.
One of the toughest things about apartment living is learning how to use limited space wisely. But trust us, you can improve your space-accentuating decor skills with practice. Who knows … you may just come to love how a small space can force you to get really creative!
So even though you can’t knock down a wall in your apartment or just magically make it bigger, you can do some tricks that open up the space and make the most of it.
Check out our suggestions below:
Declutter. When junk is strewn all over your apartment, of course it’s going to feel more closed in! By getting rid of that excess clutter and freeing up tabletops and other surfaces, you’ll visually open up the space.
Take Advantage of Natural Light. Brighter spaces naturally look bigger. Make the most of the natural light in your apartment by letting sunshine in and reflecting that light with white furniture and other decor. This’ll keep your space from looking like a claustrophobic cave!
Rearrange Your Furniture. Does your bedroom feel cramped? How about your living room? Try moving your bed or couch to another part of the room, and you may be stunned by how much bigger this makes your space feel! This will take some elbow grease, but hey, you never know what sort of great results you might get until you try it out!
Think Vertical. By creating visual interest vertically, you draw the eyes upward and emphasize just how much real estate you have to work with. Try adding some shelving up high, investing in a super-tall bookcase or hanging artwork just a bit higher.
Even the most devoted Chicago faithful -- ones who love the city life and all it affords -- can enjoy experiencing the beauty and serenity of flower and vegetable gardens. Thankfully, with the rise in popularity of urban gardens, Chicagoans no longer have to escape to the outskirts of the city to enjoy breathtaking garden views, brilliantly vibrant flowers and fresh-picked vegetables. Even apartment-dwelling residents of Chicago (like yourself!) can get their garden on by pitching in at a community garden!
Here are some of the top benefits of urban gardening:
- Neighborhood pride -- One of the greatest ways to showcase your neighborhood pride is through neighborhood improvements and beautification processes. Urban gardens are the perfect way to show how much you love where you live!
- Stress reduction -- Gardening can be an incredible stress-relief technique. The fresh air, sunshine and physical activity are excellent for helping you melt away the pressures of the day.
- Nature -- Not only do urban gardeners get to experience the beauty of nature in the form of flowers, vegetables and herbs, but if they’re lucky, they’ll also get to enjoy the presence of butterflies and other lovely forms of life that gardens attract.
- Food! -- One of the coolest things about urban vegetable gardening? You can enjoy the results of your hard work through tasty dishes made with fresh ingredients from your garden.
- Health -- Boost health with help from an urban garden by supplementing your diet with fresh, local foods and by breathing in cleaner air provided by the presence of more plants.
Want to experience some of the greatest gardens in the city? Take advantage of The 44th Annual Sheffield Garden Walk, where you can go on garden and architectural tours, take in some live entertainment, and enjoy excellent food and drink.
Long, long gone are the days when rental properties were limited to apartment buildings catering only to college students and young singles.
Now, according to the Chicago Tribune, single-family homes account for more than half the rental housing in the country. While this may come as a surprise, the rental market has actually skewed toward single-family homes for the past decade or so.
If the rise in popularity isn’t enough to convince landlords that single-family homes are an excellent investment option, the following statistic alone speaks for itself: The single-family home rental market value in the United States is estimated at $3 trillion, according to CoreLogic.
In part, mounting demand for single-family rental dwellings can be attributed to the effects of an incredible number of homes being lost to foreclosure. Many families who lost their homes have no choice but to rent, but they still want to enjoy the privacy and space of a house rather than moving into an apartment. Also contributing to the demand for single-family home rentals is the weak job market that has left many Millennials without the means to afford a down payment, even as they’re beginning to desire to have the space and privacy that only a house can provide.
Interestingly, the benefits that come along with making these investments could actually serve a bigger purpose beyond putting money in the landlord’s pocket. According to Forbes, a move toward single-family home investments could even save the housing market.
For both small and large investors alike, the current conditions make for an excellent time to snap up foreclosures and make the most of them. Will you go for it?
OK, so one of the worst things ever for any renter is when you’re searching online for an apartment and you find your dream space … only to quickly realize that your dream apartment is actually a scam crafted by some scumbag sitting at his computer in boxer shorts. Even worse is when you don’t realize it’s a scam until it’s too late!
Here are our tips to help you avoid a nightmarish apartment scam situation when looking for a new place to rent:
Do Some Digging. During your apartment search, do your best to find verifications that the rental company or landlord you’re looking to work with is legitimate and professional. Request information about the company’s credentials and affiliations within the real estate industry. Seek out online reviews of the landlord or rental company. Also be sure to secure a phone number and speak directly with the landlord or rental company on the phone to get a better idea of who you’re dealing with.
Pay Attention To Inconsistencies. Scammers will often communicate through multiple email addresses and give you inconsistent information regarding the pricing, location and availability of the rentals.
Beware Of Requests For Wired Funds Or Detailed Personal Information. If it seems like someone might be trying to steal your money or identity, they probably are. Be wary of those who try to get you to fork over money or personal information before meeting in person.
… and just in case:
- Keep A Record Of All Communications. If you happen to get hoodwinked, any information that you have regarding the scam could help law enforcement track down the scammer.
And to get assurance that you’re searching for an apartment through a reliable source, look no further than Chicago Rentals Direct.
As most landlords know, finding quality tenants can be quite the challenge. That’s why it’s so incredibly important to keep up to date on any and all new ideas for attracting the best renters in Chicago.
One of these approaches to setting yourself apart from other landlords and becoming more attractive to potential renters is by making green investments into your property. These upgrades include adding solar panels, installing bamboo flooring, installing water- and energy-efficient appliances, adding insulation using green materials and replacing old windows or adding storm windows.
While you may be wary of making any of these investments, here’s how they could help you attract quality tenants and definitely be worth your while:
Sustainable, Healthy Environment. Green upgrades definitely add appeal to your rental property by making it more environmentally friendly, and it also does so by making it a safer, healthier place for your tenants.
Supply And Demand. By making green upgrades to your rental space, you’ll be making the most of a market with a high demand and a low supply, driving quality tenants your way.
Utility Savings. On top of all the other positives of associated with a sustainable rental space, green investments will also help save your tenants considerable money in the utilities department.
Long-Term Profitability. These upgrades will save you money in the long run, as well, by helping you attract the best tenants, keeping any shared utility costs down and giving you the absolute most for your money.
Did you know that Chicago offers its cyclists more than 110 miles of bike lanes, 50 miles of bike paths and 12,000 bike racks throughout the city?
Now in its 22nd year, Bike Chicago celebrates our commitment to being the best big city for bicycling. Enjoy all kinds of bike-related activities, including free spinning in Millennium Park (all week long) and a guided Loop tour from Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tours (Thursday, also free). The weeklong celebration concludes with the Bike to Work Rally this Friday, June 15th, beginning at 7:30 a.m. All cyclists will receive a FREE T-shirt, breakfast and bike parking!
See the full schedule of events from WGN News:
Get your bike on, Chicago!
Living in an apartment can be totally awesome. After all, you get a legit grown-up place to live (that isn’t your parents’ house), but without all the hassles that come along with homeownership -- like mowing the lawn, fixing the toilet and repairing the roof.
What’s often not awesome about apartment living is where it all begins: the search. It can often seem “fun” at the outset (“Cool! Look how many cute places there are out there!”) but quickly turns into a major pain, even with all the convenience the Internet has to offer. Let’s be real: Most of the time, online apartment listings stink. And here’s why:
- Listings Are Posted Without Photos. And you’re supposed to decide if you’re into this potential new place … how?
- Listings Are Posted Without Floorplans. Well, this way, it’s easier to hide that the bathroom doubles as the kitchen.
- Listings Go Up Without Square Footage/Misleading Photos. People need to know how big a place is, period. Photos are great to have, but fisheye lens trickery is prevalent online.
- Too Many Duplicate Listings. Argh! Does the same apartment really need to be listed online 17 different times? There are too many listings to sift through even without all that tomfoolery!
- TOO MUCH CAPSLOCK! Seriously. Stop. You’re not Kanye on your MacBook Air.
- And Of Course, The Scams. We’ve been trained to be skeptical when a Nigerian Prince emails us asking for money, but geez, it’s a big bummer to get sucked into a less-obvious apartment scam. Blech.
Are you over all the frustrating aspects of searching for a Chicago apartment? Look no further than Chicago Rentals Direct. With us, you’ll get all the “awesome” that comes along with apartment living, but without the frustrations (and the middle man!) that often come with the traditional apartment search. To get your hassle-free apartment search started, check out Chicago Rentals Direct.
As a landlord, you have no doubt had your fair share of terrible tenants: destructive, noisy, late with payments and so forth. They are the bane of the existence of the rental property industry, and maybe we should swap stories about bad tenant experiences one day.
Yet, what about the others? What about the ones who follow the rules, aren’t disruptive and always pay on time (or even early!!)? How do you show them how much you appreciate them?
You can’t always keep your tenants. They change jobs and move, they start families and need a house with a yard, etc. But you can cut down on losing your best tenants unnecessarily by avoiding some of these reasons good tenants move out.
You’re absent when they need you. Even if your interactions with the tenant are friendly, you’re still the person they send a large sum of money to every month, so when there is a problem with the unit they expect it to be fixed. After all, it’s what they are paying for. If you can’t fix it right away, you still need to communicate promptly when you will have it finished.
And if it is going to take more than 48 hours, you may have to bite the bullet and hire a professional repair guy. That money spent can save you from losing a good tenant.
They’re unaware of other options. Some tenants may move out to find a 2 BR unit while you had one you were trying to rent. Talk with them about what they are looking for if they want to move, and try to accommodate them.
They are uninformed about rent increases. Outline where increased expenses are going -- repainting, better security, new water heater, etc., otherwise they may just think you want to take a vacation with their money.
There is no incentive. Reward their positive -- even a small $10-15 discount for on-time payments can show you are appreciative of their responsibility. Build the cost into your rent from the beginning so you don’t lose money, but tenants still feel rewarded.
You don’t tell them how good they are. Just send a note or tell them in person.
Getting renewals from good tenants is much better than having a missing 15- to 30- (or more) day period where you’re showing it to new tenants, doing background checks, cleaning, painting and not collecting rent.
As a landlord, protecting yourself and your tenants from economic catastrophe is a must. Securing renter’s insurance is easy step to help avoid losses and keep both you and your tenants happy in case of a small disaster.
Here are three things you should tell every new tenant about renter’s insurance when it’s time to sign the lease.
You’ll Fix The Toilet, Not Replace The Mat
If the toilet becomes backed up and causes flood damage as the landlord you will fix the pipes, toilet, valves and flooring if necessary. But renters need to know that in order to be protected they need renter's insurance to cover the loss of their personal property.
Few things can turn an ideal tenant into an angry one, who will no doubt complain about their service on Facebook and Twitter, faster than an argument over money and responsibility. Be up front about damage and replacement concerns before the water starts to overflow.
Tenants Are Responsible For Injuries
Renter’s insurance liability coverage can cover costs of personal injuries sustained in the apartment. Even though you own the building, in many cases the tenant is liable for injuries in their space. Warn them about the dangers of liability as connected to personal injuries and recommend at least $100,000 in liability coverage.
Give Them Preferred Vendors
As the owner of multiple properties you’ll have good contacts in the insurance world. Renter’s insurance in Chicago is fairly inexpensive. Ample personal property and liability coverage can usually be found for around $15-25/mo.
Work with an agent who will give discounts for to your tenants or who will give you discounts on your property. But pass the savings on to your renters for doing the right thing and protecting themselves and avoiding potential lawsuits against you from an event that should have been covered by renter’s insurance.
Chicago isn’t a stranger to lively parades, marches, political rallies, the occasional sports celebration and more. If you’re a longtime resident and landlord in Chicago, you’ve seen it all, but what about your tenants? How prepared are they?
Here are a few things you can do to help ease the stress of your Chicago renters.
Street Closings and Checkpoints
CDOT posts street closings and traffic restrictions for daily traffic and for all large organized events. Alert tenants at least two weeks ahead of time and check back for updates throughout events. For highly volatile situations, like the upcoming NATO conference, make sure all renters are aware and prepared with identification and proof of residence during the events.
Double Check Your Building’s Safety Precautions
For your building, make sure all multi-user doors and locks are secure. While residences are rarely the focus of demonstrators, doorways that are located near a commercial business could be jeopardized and residual damages could occur. Work with other building leasers and landlords to make sure you have an emergency-preparedness system in place.
It is also a good idea to give an emergency exit refresher course to all tenants and encourage them to park off-street if possible.
Emergency Services and Critical Care
In your alert letter to tenants, make sure they know in advance to get prescriptions filled, to have plenty of gas in their car and have access to other necessities as movement and resources may be limited.
Chicago Police, Fire and Emergency crews could be overwhelmed with the influx of visitors, so wait times for emergency calls may be longer than normal.
In the event of a public emergency, reliable information becomes scarce. Whether you are in the area of the large events or not, be sure tenants know about alertchicago.com and notfifychicago.org as sources for accurate emergency notifications, severe weather alerts and other useful information.
Whether or not you agree with the politics or actions of activists shouldn’t influence your buildings or tenants preparedness for any emergency. Most important, you need to be prepared to answer questions your residents may have.
Being seen as proactive and caring about the safety or your residents is not only good business, but it’s also the right thing to do.
There’s no question: Old apartment buildings and old homes converted into apartment units are awesome. They’ve got unique charm, romantic whimsy and, very often, odd floorplans that just don’t come with brand-new pads. These unique spaces often make them the stars of drool-worthy photoshoots in the best home magazines and blogs.
There’s just one problem. How often do renters actually have the cash, DIY skills and time to make a weirdo apartment look magazine-worthy? Like, how can a normal, non-Remodelista person really make a scalene triangle-shaped bedroom look good? Yeah ... not so easy, right?
While it’s not likely that you can transform your odd-shaped apartment into a space worthy of a Dwell spread overnight, there are some things you can do to make the most of your strange place. Check out our tips below.
- Embrace The Weirdness. OK, so your apartment has kind of an “interesting” layout and shape. That’s fine! Get excited about the creative opportunity in front of you instead of fretting about how challenging it might be to make it perfect. Find comfort in knowing that your unique apartment is already cooler empty than a cookie-cutter space is when fully decorated. Anything and everything you do will add to the coolness factor. So accentuate the positive!
- Make Your Furniture Work For You. Stuck with some odd angles in the apartment? Try using corner bookshelves to make the most of the space. Got super low ceilings? Make your plight into a stylish bonus by adding some fabulously low midcentury furniture -- which is super in right now, by the way. Wondering how to divvy up the space of your studio? Use room dividers to break up the room, and think vertical by lofting your bed over your desk and hunting down bookcases that stretch toward the ceiling, optimizing vertical space.
- Put Your Thrifting Shoes On. Don’t underestimate the fabulousness that items from the second-hand store can bring to your old apartment. Think about it: Your space is old, so old things (that are clean and in good condition!) will probably look good in it. Because design is so cyclical, you’ll stumble across plenty of vintage finds that look old and new at the same time. That, and you’ll have unique items in your home that none of your friends have, all while saving your precious dollars at the same time. Nice.
- Give It Time. Once you live in your new space for a while, you’ll really get the hang of what works best for you. Don’t get in too much of a rush to make your place perfect. Anything good takes time to achieve.
Becoming a renter for the first time can be quite thrilling, but it can also be a bit daunting at the same time. As a soon-to-be new renter, you’re about to embark on a time in your life that’s rife with excitement, independence and, if you don’t do your homework, a whole lot of missteps.
Chicago Rentals Direct is here to help you avoid first-time renter frustrations with our no-hassle apartment-search services. But before you start looking, get educated! Ask yourself the following Q’s before and during the rental search, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a super-savvy first-time renter.
1. How Much Can You Afford?
Math time! Chicago renters are advised to put 30-35 percent of their after-tax income toward rent. This range can vary depending on other financial responsibilities you may have, like your cell phone services, groceries, Internet, utilities, transportation and so forth. Be sure to factor these other bills into your budget.
Remember, too, that there are up-front costs that come with renting. You’ll be paying an application fee and a security deposit, as well as some initiation fees associated with things like cable/Internet hookup and startup for your utilities. Don’t forget that you’ll need to outfit your apartment with necessary household items and -- unless you’re down with sitting and sleeping on the floor -- furniture, as well.
2. What Do You
Think about what you want in an apartment and what you really need in an apartment. Be honest with yourself and prioritize accordingly.
3. Have You Scoped The Scene?
Seriously, go see the apartment in person. You’ll get a better feel for your potential new neighborhood and discover any surprises (either good or bad) the space may hold.
4. Do You Understand The Lease Terms?
Read through lease terms carefully and get any and all questions answered before you sign anything. It never hurts to consult a professional before signing a lease.
5. Are You Insured?
Don’t skip out on renter’s insurance. It is an absolute must have as a renter. It’s affordable and can often be added to an existing insurance policy, like your car insurance. Trust us: You’ll be glad you got it.
The faster you can identify good potential tenants and separate those from the ones who are unprepared or unable to meet your criteria, the better it is for both you and the applicant. Here are five questions to ask all potential candidates in your first conversation that will help identify whether or not you should book time in your calendar to meet with them.
1. How did you find the property?
This question can be an easy reference to see what outlets (like Chicago Rentals Direct) are driving leads. Additionally, you can save yourself time by identifying serious prospects who know what they are looking for from the people who are contacting a dozen landlords that night while apartment searching and can’t remember which property you represent.
2. Why are you moving?
Did they just take a new job? Get a promotion? Or do they simply hate their current landlord and want to get out? While we all know there are good and bad landlords just like there are good and bad tenants, how they talk about their current landlord could indicate what it will be like to have them as a tenant.
3. When are you available to move in?
If they aren’t planning on moving for a couple of months, don’t spend time showing curious customers today. Be kind and helpful, but most importantly, get their contact info and when they are moving out. Then call them back when the time is right with a list of available properties.
4. Is there anything I should know about your credit report?
There are plenty of reasons someone could have a less than perfect credit report. Give potential tenants an opportunity to discuss this up front and give you their reasons instead of being blindsided by it later. Did they lose their job in 2010 and miss a few bills but have been on time for everything over the last 18 months? That is something you can work with. Did they declare bankruptcy last month? Maybe not this one.
5. This unit requires $X to move in. Is that going to be a problem?
Moving costs money. Not only do tenants have to spend money on a truck and gas and potentially buy new furniture, but most also have to have two months rent upfront and a security deposit. They should know what your requirements are and what flexibility you offer before you show them around.
As an apartment dweller, you may at some point be faced with the choice of whether you should live alone or continue sharing your space with roommates. No one choice is better than the other; it really just depends on what you’re looking for.
Thinking of branching out on your own? Then take a peek at our Pros And Cons Of Solo Living list below to get an idea of if this living situation is ideal for you.
Pros of Living Alone.
- Having a whole apartment to yourself. Peace! Quiet! Solitude! Or, you know, rock ‘n’ roll!
- Waving goodbye to silly spats with your old housemates.
- Being able to be your strange self without anyone giving you the side eye. Hey, it doesn’t really matter if you sing along to embarrassing music or put ketchup on your cereal if no one is there to see you!
- Avoiding run-ins with that weird, perpetually naked roommate. Or perhaps no longer being that weird, perpetually naked roommate.
- Knowing you only ever have to clean up your own mess.
- Getting plenty of “me” time.
Cons of Living Alone.
- Having a whole apartment to yourself ... when you keep hearing weird noises in the dead of the night. Um, yikes!
- Taking care of all the bills and responsibilities -- every single one of them! -- on your own. Don’t forget to send your rent payment on time and pick up toilet paper!
- Missing those late-night chats and good times with your old roomies.
- Realizing you’re on your own when you get sick. Ugh.
- Getting too much “me” time.
The choice is yours when deciding what living situation is best for you. Next time you embark on your apartment search, whether alone or with roommates, make it a bit easier on yourself and visit Chicago Rentals Direct! While we can’t protect you from the boogeyman or clothe your naked roommate, we can help you find a super rad apartment!
Neighborhood Street Festivals are one of our favorite things about summertime in The Chi. There are dozens of fests every year located all throughout the city offering something for all tastes and interests.
Below is your guide to eat, drink, and experience the best of the local music and merchants all summer long. See you around town!
1st-3rd: Do Division Street Fest and Sidewalk Sale
Location: Wicker Park, Division St
2nd-3rd: 57th Street Art Fair (Free!)
Location: Hyde Park
2nd-3rd: SausageFest Chicago
8th-9th: Ribfest Chicago
Location: North Center
8th-10th: Chicago Blues Festival (Free!)
Location: Grant Park
9th-10th: Andersonville Midsommarfest
9th-10th: Printers Row Lit Fest (Free!)
Location: South Loop/Printers Row
9th-10th: Well Street Art Festival
Location: Old Town/Wells St
15th-17th: Taste of Randolph St
Location: West Loop/Randolph St
15th-17th: Festa Pasta Vino
Location: Cermak at Western (Heart of Chicago)
16th-17th: 6 Corners BBQ Fest
Location: Portage Park
16th-17th: Pizza Fest Chicago
16th-17th: Custer’s Last Stand Festival of the Arts
16th-17th: Spring Awakening Music Festival
Location: Soldier Field
21st-24th: Chicago Gospel Music Festival (Free!)
Location: Millenium Park, Chicago Cultural Center
22nd-23rd: Chicago Pride Fest
Location: Boystown (Lakeview)
23rd-24th: Chicago Summerfest
Location: Lincoln Park
23rd-24th: Fountain Square Art Festival
23rd-24th: Chicago Green Music Fest
Location: Wicker Park
24th: Chicago Pride Parade (Free!)
Location: Boystown (Lakeview)
29th-30th: Old St Pat’s Worlds Largest Block Party
Location: West Loop
29th-July 1st: Chicago Craft Beer Festival
Location: Old Town
30th-July 1st: Gold Coast Art Fair (Free!)
Location: Grant Park (Butler Field)
30th-July 1st: Wavefront Music Festival
Location: Montrose Beach
4th-8th: International Festival of Life
Location: Washington Park
6th-8th: Chicago Tribune N Michigan Ave Art Fest (Free!)
Location: Mag Mile
7th-8th: Lincoln Park Arts and Music Festival
Location: Lincoln Park
7th-8th: Rock Around the Block
7th-8th: West Fest
Location: West Town
11th-15th: Taste of Chicago (Free!)
Location: Grant Park
12th: Bastille Day 5K Run, Walk and Block Party
Location: Lincoln Park
13th-15th: Pitchfork Music Festival
Location: West Town
13th-15th: Windy City Rib Fest
13th-15th: DuSable Museum Arts and Crafts Festival (Free!)
Location: Washington Park
15th: Chinatown Summer Fair (Free!)
20th-22nd: Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival
Location: Logan Square (Milwaukee Ave)
20th-22nd: Square Roots
Location: Lincoln Square
20th-22nd: Taste of River North
Location: River North
21st: Tour de Fat
Location: Palmer Square
21st-22nd: Ethnic Arts Festival (Free!)
21st-22nd: Roscoe Village Burger Fest
Location: Roscoe Village
21st-22nd: Sheffield Garden Walk and Festival
Location: Lincoln Park
21st-22nd: Summer on Southport
22nd: Music in the Street (Free!)
26th-29th: Fiesta Del Sol (Free!)
28th: IgboFest (Free!)
Location: West Rogers Park
28th-29th: Taste of Lincoln Ave
Location: Lincoln Park
28th-29th: Wicker Park Fest
Location: Wicker Park
Location: Grant Park
4th-5th: Edge Fest
4th-5th: Lakeshore Arts Festival
4th-5th: Wrigleyville Summerfest
10th-12th: Ginza Holiday
Location: Old Town
11th-12th: Northalsted Market Days
Location: Boystown (Lakeview)
11th-12th: Retro on Roscoe
Location: Roscoe Village
17th-19th: Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest (Free!)
Location: Rogers Park
17th-19th: North Side Summerfest
Location: North Center
18th-19th: Chicago Air and Water Show (Free!)
Location: North Ave Beach
23rd: Clark After Dark
Location: River North
24th-26th: The Boulevard
Location: Logan Square
24th-26th: St Helen School Carnival
Location: Ukrainian Village
24th-26th: Taste of Latin America (Free!)
Location: Logan Square
25th-26th: Greektown Festival
Location: Greektown (Halsted St)
31st-Sept 2nd: North Coast Music Festival
Location: West Town
1st-2nd: Ravenswood Remix
7th-9th: Festival de la Villita (Free!)
Location: Little Village
7th-9th: German-American Fest (Free!)
Location: Lincoln Square
8th-9th: Ukrainian Village Fest
Location: Ukrainian Village
15th-16th: Guinness Oyster Fest
Location: Roscoe Village
21st-23rd: Oktoberfest Chicago
29th-30th: Hyde Park Jazz Festival
Location: Hyde Park
In Chicago as well as nationwide, rent prices continue to increase as occupancy rates rise. According to a report from Axiometrics Inc., a provider of data and analysis on the multi-family housing sector, it is estimated that effective rents will rise by an astounding 5.9% in 2011. This increase in effective rents is the highest the United States has seen since 2005, when effective rents increased 5.8%.
As a result of supply and demand, when occupancy rates rise, landlords are able to increase rental prices while keeping apartments filled. In Chicago, as well as other hot metropolitan areas such as New York City, Denver, Orange County, Austin, Cleveland, Minneapolis, and San Jose, occupancy rates are at or above 95%, meaning that only 5% of apartments in these areas are currently vacant.
What does this mean for renters? If you’re looking to rent an apartment in the second half of 2011, there are a few important strategies to keep in mind to locate the best apartment for your needs. First, get an idea of the neighborhood you wish to live in, and hone in on just one or two particular areas. Also, make a list of must-haves, nice-to-haves, and deal breakers. If you can describe on paper the particular space you’re looking for, it will be much easier to choose an apartment and know it is the right place for you. It is also important to stay on top of the market, as prices and availability can change very quickly, especially in the summer months. Browsing listings online is a good way to get a feel for what your target area has to offer, and once you locate an apartment that is a good fit for you, don’t hesitate! Waiting to see what else is out there often results in disappointment and regret. Do your research and as soon as you find the place that is right for you, be ready to sign the paperwork and take the apartment off the market before anyone else does.
July 22, 2011
This rental season, we’ve witnessed the rental market tighten up as fewer apartments become available and more people are looking to rent them. As a renter, you might be thinking, how can I compete with all of the other people trying to rent the same apartments? Our friends at Jameson-Sotheby’s International Realty, active bloggers on Chicago Now and the authors of the blog entitled “The Condoist”, have written a great article with tips on how to snag your dream apartment in a competitive market.
June 28, 2011
Summer is a great time to take advantage of the many outdoor events that Chicago has to offer, including street festivals, farmers markets, and outdoor concerts. Movies in the Parks is a series of outdoor movies that occur weekly from mid-June to September at various locations throughout Chicago. Admission to these shows are free to patrons and the series is sponsored by the Chicago Park District and Charter One.
This summer, Movies in the Park offers something for everyone, including kids’ movies. This season Chicagoans can view more than 160 films almost daily at parks located throughout the city ranging from current hits to classics. All movies are free and begin at dusk. Be sure to bring a blanket and snacks to complete a beautiful summer night out!
You can download a complete schedule of Movies in the Parks here
June 02, 2011
Although home sale prices in Chicago continue to remain steady or even decrease in some cases, it is no secret that rental prices have continued to rise. As we have been discussing in recent months; the lack of new rental inventory coupled with the increase in renters is keeping vacancy rates to low and driving prices up. Rental rates were predicted to rise by about 10% in 2011, and this has been validated when assessing the top 10 most expensive rental buildings in downtown Chicago. Affordable rental units aren’t the only ones in high demand this season. The Bernardin, located at 747 N Wabash, has raised rents in the building an astonishing 21.4% in the first quarter. Additionally, one of the newest top-of-the-line buildings to hit the market in the West Loop has announced that rental concessions are decreasing and prices are increasing. The average increase is $75-$100 on all available units per month which is equivalent to $900-1200 annually.
The surge in rental prices has not only been seen in Chicago, but throughout the country. As reported by the American Apartment Owners Association, the average apartment rent is set to increase by another 3.4% nationwide for the remainder of 2011 and another 4.3% in 2012. Locally, according to Crain’s, rents in Chicago could increase by an additional 10% this year.
Roughly 12 new rental buildings are slated to open in the next few years in the downtown area and Chicagoans hope the increase in available rental units will be enough to slow price increases before they get out of hand. Subscribe to the CRD blog to stay on top of rental information news and analysis.
May 20, 2011
Finally some warm weather has arrived and that means its time to look for fresh fruits, veggies and homemade goods from local providers.
We had no idea there were so many options! Check out this article in the Tribune for a farmers market near you.
Although there is no formal code of conduct, if you have never been to the market before, be sure to check out these tips also from the Trib.
May 17, 2011
Rental prices are already up 6% from the first quarter 2010, what will happen this summer and in years to come?
Some experts weigh in, read the full article at Crain’s Chicago Business
May 12, 2011
Summertime in Chicago always brings familiar activities, from the Navy Pier Fireworks to endless outdoor festivals. In more recent years residents have also noticed the increasing number of film casts and crews that flock to the city, which has become a destination for movie locations.
This summer “Superman: Man of Steel” is on deck. After an estimated 10 weeks of set up, Superman is slated to begin filming in August in the western suburb of Plano. The location was presumably chosen because it resembles Clark Kent’s home town of Smallville, Kansas. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane will play Jonathan and Martha Kent, foster parents to the Man of Steel played by up and coming actor Henry Cavill of HBO’s “The Tudors”.
With an estimated budget of $175 million, Superman promises Chicago an economic boost equal to the one generated by “Transformers 3,” which filmed here last summer. Although the noise and mess were a lot to handle, the film had ad an estimated $20-million impact on the local economy and created about 1200 jobs.
Superman isn’t the only film considering Chicago in 2011; rumors that a number of movies have been considering the windy city for locations have been circling recently. Enter Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, occupying more than 1.2 million square feet at 2558 W 16th, the former site of Ryerson Steel. Cinespace Toronto, the parent company of the Chicago location, is owned by Nick Mirkoupoulos who said he’s building out the first, 450,000-square-foot phase of the project for about $45 million. Cinespace Chicago is set to become the area’s largest host for creators of movies and TV shows and is already busy with its first job — shooting for a cable drama called “Boss” that stars Kelsey Grammer as the mayor of Chicago.
This massive location can house up to 7 stages and is attractive to producers because of the attached office space. Cinespace Chicago received $5 million of state aid on Tuesday, announced during a visit from Governor Quinn saying that that it will be “a real job-creator.” While it remains to be seen exactly how many new jobs will be created, Mirkoupoulos hopes he can generate thousands, many of which will be for union workers involved in set construction.
Governor Quinn’s announcement came along with record spending levels by movie and television makers in Illinois. In 2010, production companies spent $161 million in the state, 54 percent more than in 2009. Last year’s spending totals were buoyed by production of “Transformers III,” “Contagion,” “The Dilemma” and “The Chicago Code.”
“This demonstrates Illinois is attractive not just to traditional businesses and corporations but also to major Hollywood productions.” Quinn spokeswoman Annie Thompson said. “It shows the state’s film tax credit has been a really effective tool in spurring growth of our film industry here.”
For a chart of the economic impact of moviemaking in Illinois, check out: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/Assets/legacy/downloads/20110328superman.htm
May 10, 2011
Going smoke-free is legal, profitable and easy, and the Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project is offering grants of up to $10,000 to help you transition your property to smoke-free.
Everyone deserves to breathe clean air, especially at home. In apartment buildings, between 35 and 60 percent of air is shared air that comes from other units and common areas. So if just one person in your building smokes, each of your tenants is breathing in the dangerous toxins found in secondhand smoke.
Having a smoke-free building doesn’t mean that you don’t allow smokers. Simply put, a smoke-free building is one in which smoking is not permitted in any indoor units or common areas.
The market for smoke-free housing is growing. Renters are becoming increasingly aware of the health effects of smoking and secondhand smoke, and health-conscious and eco-friendly renters want to live in smoke-free buildings. A recent poll of Chicago renters found that 32% were willing to pay more to live in a smoke-free environment.
It’s legal. Just like your policies regarding noise and pets, you can create policies to prohibit smoking to create a better, safer living environment for your tenants.
It’s profitable. Compared with a unit where smoking is allowed, smoke-free units cost significantly less to turn over. Smoking is hard on a building, and owners incur substantial costs from the painting, caulking and general cleaning to remove tobacco odor, plus replacing damaged items such as filters, countertops, carpet, or drapes.
It’s easy. Once implemented, smoke-free policies are generally self-enforcing and require little staff time. By choosing to make your buildings smoke-free, your tenants can breathe easier and you can protect your investment.
The Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project is providing technical assistance and other resources to property owners and managers who wish to explore and implement smoke-free policies. For a limited time, grants of up to $10,000 are available to apartment buildings and condominium associations who adopt smoke-free rules. These grants can support resident education and marketing efforts, and even smoking cessation programming for tenants. For more information, please visit www.ChicagoSmokeFreeHousing.com.
This guest blog post was written by James Meerdink of the Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project.
Landlords: Need a refresher? New online courses just announced from the Chicagoland Apartment Association
May 06, 2011
One of our favorite organizations, the Chicagoland Apartment Association, has just announced this week that they are partnering with the National Apartment Association and CallSource to launch a universal online-based Learning Management System (LMS).
There are over 40 course topics offered in both English and Spanish including Fair Housing, Bed Bugs, Customer Service, Internet and Sales Strategy. The interactive online classes are available 24 hours a day and are designed to last about an hour each.
We highly recommend these courses to anyone looking to expand their knowledge it seems like there is something for everyone and at an introductory rate of $39* who could resist?!
You can see a full course list and descriptions here
*Rates are set to increase after June 1 to $59 for CAA members and $79 for non-members.
May 03, 2011
How much should you be spending on rent? When budgeting, it is recommended that renters spend no more than 35% of their gross income on rent each month. According to a recent study reported by Harvard University, one in four renters spend half their income on rent and utilities. This statistic is reportedly even higher in Chicago, with almost half of all renters spending 50% of their income on rent.
Renting is hot right now. According to Reuters, the U.S. rental vacancy rate fell to 9.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 from 10.3 in the quarter prior, which is the lowest rental vacancy rate recorded in the past 4 years. The vacancy rate in Chicago is even lower, and rents across the U.S. are expected to increase by an average of 4.5%.
The trend of high rents is correlated with the poor economy and housing market and the resulting demand for rental accommodations. Since the housing market has been in a slump, would-be buyers are increasingly choosing to rent rather than buy a home. Other potential buyers may not qualify for a mortgage under today’s stricter lending requirements.
Some homeowners have been forced out of their homes and into rental properties as a result of foreclosure. An additional problem that the poor economy brings is the reduced number of new rental housing being built and the fact that the majority of the units that have been built are higher-end, luxury rentals. According to a report by the Joint Center, it is estimated that the number of renter households in the U.S. could increase by 360,000 to 470,000 each year between 2010 and 2020.
What can you do to help your finances and avoid paying exorbitant rents? Consider searching for apartments in up-and-coming neighborhoods further away from the city center, downsizing to a smaller space, or downgrading to an apartment with less amenities. You may want to think about staying in your current apartment. Many landlords will raise rents modestly or not at all if they are able to retain quality tenants. Consider cutting out expenses such as premium cable, dinners out, and gym memberships to ease tight budgets.
Unfortunately, there is not a lot that renters can do to lower rent prices, but it is important to be aware of the rental market and how it can affect you.
April 26, 2011
Ever since the Dominick’s on Broadway and Wellington burned down in June 2005, East Lakeview and Lincoln Park residents have been waiting for an easily accessible, go-to grocery store within a walkable distance. With the exception of The Marketplace (521 W. Diversey) and the Lincoln Park Market (2500 N. Clark), residents of the area have quite a ways to travel to shop for groceries.
There has been talk for months about a Trader Joe’s opening at the intersection of Diversey, Broadway, and Clark, on the border of Lincoln Park and Lakeview. Multiple sources claim that the store, located at 667 W Diversey, will indeed open on May 6! It will consist of a ground-level store with two upper levels dedicated to parking for Trader Joe’s patrons. Trader Joe’s is an affordable, hip, specialty grocer where shoppers will find great deals on unique items, including organic and locally produced products.
On the other end of town, in the South Loop, residents enjoy a greater selection of grocery stores, including Whole Foods (1101 S Canal St), Dominicks (1340 S Canal St) and Jewel (1224 S Wabash Ave). Trader Joe’s is slated to open across the street from Jewel in the former Sam’s Wine and Spirits location, and will be the fourth choice for groceries within about a one mile radius. Although construction is underway, an exact date for the South Loop’s store opening has not yet been determined.
The two new locations will round out the city’s coverage and bring the total number of stores to 6, including Oak Park. For existing TJ locations, please visit their store index page.
April 19, 2011
Eat, drink, and experience the best of local music and merchants all summer long at the various Chicago neighborhood street festivals. The street fests are some of the most anticipated events of the summer, and you’re sure to find one that appeals to you. Here is the best of this year’s lineup, sure to keep you busy all summer long!
6-8: Cinco De Mayo Festival (FREE)
20-21: Wine Riot
28-29: Randolph Street Market Festival
28-29: Belmont/Sheffield Music Festival
2-5: Mayfest (Lincoln Square) (FREE)
3-5: Eastside Millennium Art Festival (FREE)
4-5: Printer’s Row Lit Fest (FREE)
4-5: June Jam
4-5: Do Division Street Fest and Sidewalk Sale
4-5: SausageFest (Formerly Lake View Music Fest)
10-12: Chicago Blues Festival (FREE)
10-12: Ribfest Chicago
10-12: Party at St. Mike’s
11-12: Old Town Art Fair
11-12: Wells Street Art Festival
11-12: Andersonville Midsommarfest
14-19: Fiesta Puertorriquenas (FREE)
14-18: Just for Laughs Chicago
15-Aug. 20: Grant Park Music Festival (FREE)
17: Peace Fest (FREE)
17-19: Taste of Randolph Street
17-19: Festa Pasta Vino
18-19: Custer’s Last Stand Festival of the Arts
24-25: Chicago Pride Fest
25-26: Green Music Fest
25-26: Randolph Street Market Festival
25-26: Chicago Summerfest
25-26: Fountain Square Art Festival
24-July 3: Taste of Chicago (FREE)
1-4: African-Caribbean International Festival of Life
24-July 3: Taste of Chicago (FREE)
9-10: Chicago Folk and Roots Festival
9-10: Gold Coast Art Fair (FREE)
9-10: Rock Around the Block
9-10: Roscoe Village Burger Fest
9-10: West Fest
14: Bastille Day 5K Run, Walk and Block Party
15-16: Old St. Pat’s World’s Largest Block Party
15-16: Pitchfork Music Festival
15-17: Windy City RibFest
15-17: Taste of River North
16: Edgewater Arts Festival (FREE)
16-17: Lincoln Park Arts and Music Festival
17: Chinatown Summer Fair (FREE)
23-24: Wicker Park Fest
23-24: Celebrate Clark Street Festival
28-31: Fiesta del Sol Festival (FREE)
30-31: Randolph Street Market Festival
30-31: Summer on Southport
30-31: Taste of Lincoln Avenue
6-7: Retro on Roscoe
11-14: Taylor Street Festa Italiana
13-14: Chicago Korean Festival
13-14: Wrigleyville SummerFest
13-14: Northalsted Market Days
14: StreetFood Artistry (NEW FEST!)
20-21: North Side Summerfest
20-21: Chicago Air & Water Show
23-27: Chicago Dancing Festival
26-28: Boulevard Bash
27-28: Taste of Greece
27-28: Randolph Street Market Festival
27-28: Bucktown Arts Fest
2-4: Chicago Jazz Festival (FREE)
3-4: Ravenswood Remix (NEW FEST!)
9-10: Windy City Wine Festival
9-11: Festival de la Villita (FREE)
9-11: German-American Festival (FREE)
10-11: Ukrainian Village Fest
10-11: Wells Street Fall Fest
10-11: Renegade Craft Fair (FREE)
16-17: Oyster Fest
16-18: Harvest Jam
23-25: Oktoberfest Chicago
24-25: Randolph Street Market Festival
24: Humboldt Park Art Fair (FREE)
24: Hyde Park Jazz Festival (FREE)
For more information on Chicago’s summer street festivals, visit the Complete Metromix Fest Guide
April 15, 2011
With all the things we need to worry about these days, the issue of bedbugs might not be at the top of the list for many renters, but should it be? In the last year, across the country, there has been an increasing number of horror stories about these little guys. Once thought to be more of an annoyance than a health hazard, recent studies indicate that bedbugs may be responsible for the spread of over 40 different diseases! Keep reading to learn more, including how to identify bedbugs and what to do if you suspect bedbugs are living in your apartment uninvited.
There are a few things to look for if you suspect that bedbugs might be present in your home: First, they do bite, so you will likely see small red dots or larger red bumps on your skin. They are fairly small, but visible, and they grow larger each time they molt or consume a meal. You may be able to see the bugs lurking on bedsheets, clothing, or in cracks and crevices. It is hard to see them during daylight hours, but they do sometimes leave behind evidence of their existence, such their molten skins, reddish-brown droppings, or leftover blood.
According to the Chicago Landlord and Tenant Ordinance, landlords are required to maintain the condition of apartments by, “Protect(ing) you against rodents and insects by exterminating”. Although bedbugs have become a recent problem in Chicago, local landlords and management companies are prepared to fight back. The Chicagoland Apartment Association has scheduled an education seminar in early May to help landlords become informed and prepared to prevent, treat and manage this problem. If you suspect that you might have a bedbug infestation, contact your landlord immediately and give him or her a chance to fix things.
Bedbugs can be killed using heat, extreme cold, or pesticides but attempting to exterminate the bugs on your own could actually unknowingly spread them even more. Contact a professional bedbug exterminator, wash all clothing and bedsheets in extremely hot water, and seal clean clothing in plastic bags to prevent infestation. You can run but you can’t hide; these pests do travel easily by hiding in clothing, on backpacks, or by running from one location to the next.
Good night and sleep tight.. you know the rest
April 08, 2011
As you may or may not know, Chicago has many sister cities around the world. Beginning in 1960 with Warsaw, Poland, Chicago now has a total of 27 sister cities. Our newest sister city is Bogota, Columbia which joined us in 2009. Sister city affiliations are enacted by a signed agreement between mayors of both cities with the goal of building bridges between governments, businesses and individuals. These cities help promote Chicago globally as well as bring their own cultural flair to the Chi.
One of the most recent contributions comes from our sister city Athens, Greece, in the form of a statue. “The Runners”, designed by Greek sculptor Theodoros Papagiannis, was erected this week on the O’Hare International Airport grounds. The work consists of 5 runners and 5 “negatives” which look like cutouts shadowed behind the runners. We have yet to see for ourselves, but the picture on the Trib website looks awesome!
The project has been a work in progress by the Chicago-Athens Sister City Committee for some time now and even thought it took longer than expected, it was definitely worth the wait. “The Runners is a symbol of emigration, moving — the Greek people in America,” says Papagiannis. The Runners stand along the highway and point downtown with the flow of traffic.
Check out the full story from the Tribune
To learn more about Chicago’s sister cities visit the Chicago Sister City Website
April 1, 2011
Question: When is the right time to start looking for an apartment?
Ask this question to five different people, and you will likely get five different answers, luckily your apartment rental experts are here to give you the lowdown on when really is the right time to start looking for an apartment.
It is possible to secure an apartment for as far out as two months in the future, a week from now, and even that very same day (although we don’t recommend this!) It seems to be ideal to begin looking somewhere from 6-8 weeks prior to your desired move in date. It is roughly 6 weeks out when you’ll find the most available inventory, but yet wont be looking “too early”.
A little insight on how the rental market in Chicago works will help to illustrate this point. When a landlord knows they have a lease that is about to expire, they ask their tenants to give written notice as to whether they’ll be renewing their lease or moving out. Landlords require these notices be returned anywhere from 30-60 days prior to the lease expiration date.
Based on this information, landlords know whether or not to re-list their property for rent. Therefore, if you search too far in advance, you will limit your available options because some potential properties won’t have hit the market yet. On the other hand, if you wait until you have only 2 or 3 weeks left before you need to move in, the selection has been picked over and options will be limited.
The science of renting an apartment may seem complicated, but is easy to understand if you remember one thing: looking too early can be just as bad as looking too late. Stay tuned for more great rental information from the experts at Chicago Rentals Direct. We have a wealth of information to share with you and we will update our blog often. We would love your feedback on this topic and suggestions for others you would like to see discussed.
March 29, 2011
Spring is here! When the temperature soars, so does the number of people who are looking for a new apartment to rent in Chicago. Whether you are a first time renter or a seasoned veteran, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind along the way.
Know what you want.
Make a list of the desired features and amenities for your new apartment and prioritize them. Think about what is a “must have” and what is a “preference” before you begin your search.
Set your budget.
In Chicago, the recommended rental rate is 30-35% of after tax income. Know what you can afford before you start looking.
With your rental application you will be asked to submit proof of income and rental history. Some units may require references as well. If you think you might need a co-signer, get one lined up.
Rental units come and go quickly; if you find one you want, don’t hesitate. Owners will keep an apartment on the market until your application is approved and your security deposit is received. Complete your application and turn it in as quickly as possible.
Be sure to find out which utilities are included and which will be your responsibility. Ask about building policies such as move in and out fees and parking options. Make sure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision.
Check out the area.
Use our convenient neighborhood guide to get information on what is in the area. Be sure you are close to the type of transportation or roads you will need as well as the local amenities you enjoy.
Renter’s insurance is highly recommended and may be required by certain landlords or buildings. It is inexpensive and easy to obtain through companies such as State Farm, Geico, All State etc, and can usually be added to an existing policy.
Update utilities and services.
Activate or transfer your gas, electricity, cable, and Internet services to your new residence. Also, visit http://www.usps.com/ to have your mail forwarded to your new address.
March 24, 2011
This rental season, Chicago will experience a shift in the market that will favor landlords and property managers much more than in recent years. Concessions, such as free rent and bonus gifts, have almost completely disappeared and rent prices are projected to increase by 7 to 8 percent, according to an article written by Mary Ellen Podmolik of the Chicago Tribune. Check out the full article below:
“Dodged a rent increase in 2010? Don’t assume you’ll be so lucky this year.
Demand is outstripping supply, meaning landlords both downtown and in the suburbs have many existing and prospective tenants just where they want them. And property managers know it.
Last year, landlords were able to push through rent hikes of about 7 percent. This year, rents are expected to rise by an additional 7 percent to 8 percent, particularly in newer buildings downtown, according to a forecast by Appraisal Research Counselors.
For the prospective tenant looking for a bargain, that means the time to shop for a lease that includes a free month of rent or a flat-screen television is now. By spring, those rent concessions are likely to evaporate, and leasing managers expect to hear back from prospective tenants who thought they’d find a better deal across the street but didn’t.
“The concessions are still out there, but as soon as you hit that April market you’re going to start seeing a lot of push on rents,” said Ron DeVries, vice president at Appraisal Research Counselors.
Many leasing agents say they’re seeing more prospective renters walk through their doors than they typically do at this time of year, and available inventory in some properties is already tight.
“It’s busier than it’s ever been for this time of year,” said Jon Perlman, of State Street Properties Chicago LLC, a real estate brokerage. “The myth everybody has is there are so many apartments and condos out there. The reality of the situation is there are more renters than apartments in downtown Chicago.”
The 2,356-unit Presidential Towers, which just completed a $2 million renovation of its lobby and common areas, anticipates rents this spring will be as much as 8 percent higher than in May 2010.
“Last year everybody dropped the rates to get someone in the door,” said general manager Phyllis Kempton. " Now, everyone is raising their rent. People are accepting of 8 percent."
Meanwhile, at Flair Tower, renters will see renewal rates increase 4 percent to 6 percent, and new renters will see fewer concessions, said general manager Amanda Kopko.
Landlords “never hit the renewals as hard as the new tenants,” DeVries said. “But if the building is 98, 99 percent occupied, they’re going to take a more aggressive stance because they can sign another tenant at the full rate.”
A combination of factors is responsible for the current leasing environment. Consumers with the financial resources to buy properties remain leery and continue to wait for the housing market to bottom; other people are forced into apartments because they’ve lost their homes to foreclosure.
Meanwhile, the supply of individually owned condos rented by their owners, called the “shadow” market, reached a record 5,718 units last year. But with condo construction at a virtual standstill, little new inventory is expected. Also, some potential tenants are fearful of renting condos, fearing that the owners may fall into foreclosure.
Woodstock Institute, a Chicago research and advocacy group, reported Thursday that condominiums accounted for 42.5 percent of all foreclosure activity in the six-county Chicago area in 2010.
Also, delivery of new apartment projects downtown has plummeted in the near term. More than 2,500 new downtown apartments came online in 2010. This year, the only new building is Randolph Tower, with 312 units, followed by potential additions of 650 units in 2012 and 2,000 units in 2013, the year in which rent increases may moderate.
Also, the national unemployment rate for people over age 25 with a college degree was 4.5 percent in January, according to the Labor Department, compared with 9 percent for the population as a whole, so they have the financial footing to seek out, and afford, apartments.
From the fourth quarter of 2009 to the same period last year, 2,000 more apartments were rented in downtown Chicago.
“That’s a huge number,” DeVries said. “Absorption downtown is phenomenal.”
The rental trends aren’t expected to extend to all corners of the city and suburban markets or to every building. Rent increases in older buildings, those generally built before the 1980s, are trailing behind those of newer buildings.
And not everyone has enough confidence in Chicago’s job market to test a rent increase. Arnell Cordero, leasing director of Group Fox Property Management, which manages 2,500 units in Chicago, Evanston and Hoffman Estates, has seen fewer job transferees from other states and more of his younger renters move back home.
“We’re a little more open to negotiation,” Cordero said. “We can ask (for a rent increase), but it doesn’t mean it’s engraved in stone.”
~Mary Ellen Podmolik, Tribune Reporter
March 17, 2011
Chicago Rentals Direct is already making headlines!
Highland Park Native Launches Website Community for Chicago Apartment Seekers
If your son or daughter is graduating from college, looking to leave the nest, or just move to another city neighborhood, a website launched this week by young Highland Park native Stephanie Konow provides an invaluable assist. Chicago Rentals Direct (CRD) www.chicagorentalsdirect.com is a unique website that enables renters to eliminate the middleman and connect directly with landlords, and use tools previously available only to rental agents. It’s a tool that will be especially needed for this spring’s tough market, with occupancies in Chicago rising steadily, and expected to reach at least 94%.*
“This is a totally new concept for apartment rentals in Chicago. Allowing apartment searchers to act as their own agents saves both time and money,” says Konow, who founded CRD with partner Katie Bommarito. Currently, apartment seekers have limited options: either use an apartment finding service and risk incurring hidden fees, or search websites that offer incomplete and spam-filled listings of available rentals.
“We have eliminated the hidden fees associated with apartment finding services, which is of enormous benefit to renters, potentially saving them $100 or more per month,” says Konow.
Chicago Rentals Direct is working with hundreds of the city’s landlords to compile the most comprehensive list of available rental units in the city. Potential renters join CRD for free and gain unlimited 60-day access to listings of the city’s most sought after apartments, many of which are not listed with any other service.
Chicago Rentals Direct is offering an additional benefit to renters to use the site. “We believe so strongly in this concept that we will reward renters with $100 when they find an apartment through CRD,” says Bommarito.
Both former leasing agents, Konow and Bommarito created CRD as a solution to a knotty problem in the city’s apartment rental industry. “Landlords want to directly find tenants, and renters want to directly find landlords, but there was no resource available to make that happen until CRD,” explains Konow. “We have created an online community exclusive to renters and landlords that also streamlines the entire process, from initial searching through signing the lease.”
Chicago Rentals Direct offers apartment seekers many valuable tools, once available only to agents including:
• Customizable map tool that allows seekers to draw exact boundaries
• “Virtual Agent” sends members new rental alerts daily according to their saved preferences
• Comparison basket provides a side-by-side view of unit and building features
• Walkability score for each listing indicates nearby amenities and transportation options
• Rental tips, moving facts and informational pages on Chicago neighborhoods
*According to Jerry Gawlik of Berkshire Property Advisors, LLC, who serves as the current President of the Chicagoland Apartment Association, occupancy is steadily rising and is expected to reach at least 94% first quarter of 2011. Additionally, net effective rents are predicted to increase by 2-3%.
March 15, 2011
Chicago Rentals Direct wouldn’t be what it is today without the help of so many people. While our full time team is only two, we would not have made it without the support of those standing behind us, to all of whom we are eternally grateful:
First, our investors, who recognized a great idea and never doubted us for a second. Our fabulous design team at Chromatic, for doing amazing, detailed work and always being there at any hour to answer our (million) questions. Our awesome development team, Parallactic, for building out this website and honoring our many requests, changes and last-minute revisions. Our PR expert, Mindy Kolof, for her wonderful insight and innovative ideas. Our third leg, Ted, for his advice, expertise and business knoweledge. Our master editor, Debbie, for her incredible editing skills and continuous support. Our graphic designers: Angela, for creating our beautiful flyers and business cards (through countless revisions); and Karina, for creating our awesome neighborhood maps. Our friend, Michael R, for all of his enthusiasm and willingness to help. Bin-Donated founder, Judson, for his great ideas and inspiration. Brent, of Sanders New Media, for his help getting the ball rolling, teaching us about the industry and always having a good solution to any problem. Jason and the Sherwood Law Group, for always having our back. Bill Keller, definitely the most fun accountant we know. Our friend, Jeff, at Web 312 for his help and enthusiasm. Our photographer, Stephanie Sherva, for capturing us in the best possible light :) Our Social Media Expert, Brandon of Dough Nuttz, for teaching us that there is more to life than Facebook. Marketing expert, Jessica Swanson, for teaching us how to market on a “Shoestring” budget. Bryan and Bryan, at Aspiring Solutions for help with many aspects of the business. Our friend Lauren, for her knowledge and always being a great friend. Andrea, Danielle, Rhea and Chris, for all of their valuable feedback on the website. To our first landlords, for understanding our vision and spreading the word to others. Last but certainly not least, our amazing families and friends, for the never-ending support, patience through the rough times and unwavering faith in us.
We cannot thank you all enough!
March 9, 2011
Chicago Rentals Direct was designed with you in mind. As former leasing agents, we know that renters today are savvy, know the market and know exactly what they are looking for. The only thing missing was a reliable way to find new properties and meet landlords. We set out to create a safe place for you to connect with landlords in an open forum without the hassles of spam, middlemen and all the other obstacles that can get in your way.
Direct contact with landlords puts YOU in control.
As a member of Chicago Rentals Direct, you get all the tools you need to find your dream apartment. Search and compare to identify which properties are the best fit for you. Set up alerts so you won’t miss out on new, hot properties! All listings include property addresses and the owner’s contact information so you can go right to the source. Meet with landlords directly and negotiate the terms that work best for YOU. Save time and money by renting direct.
The truth behind those “FREE” apartment finding services.
Yes, it’s true, you aren’t charged directly by the apartment finder to use their services because they make money by charging landlords. Apartment rental agents can earn anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per rental. Why let someone else benefit from your apartment search? As a member of Chicago Rentals Direct, you get all the benefits of having an agent with none of the hassles. By acting as your own agent you can take control of your search and ensure the best outcome.
Discover the difference.
Chicago Rentals Direct offers renters everything you need to search for, contact, compare and locate the apartment of your dreams. Members have access to up to the minute listings 24/7. This rental season, try being your own agent and discover the power of Renting Direct.