Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Thursday, February 29

Gapers Block

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Craig / March 23, 2004 12:37 PM

Having just spent the past month searching for apartments with my wife I would say...

1) Patience.
2) The Reader's website. Keyword searching is, well, key.
3) Check-off sheets for each apartment so you don't forget to ask the important questions... this is also a good spot for notes like "2 bedrooms" really meant 1.25 bedrooms.
4) Nicknames for the various aprtments you see, because addresses all start to run together. 1620 N Winchester doesn't jog the memory, but "stinky nacho house" does.
5) Lots of money. First month's rent + Application fee + 2 months rent security deposit = A lot of effing bling.

Pete / March 23, 2004 12:43 PM

Not sure if this meant "things to bring with you" or "things the apartment must have." Regarding the latter:

1. Landlord-paid heat.
2. Reasonable on-street parking.
3. No rave kids living next door.
4. Street door which locks from outside.
5. Nearly-empty box of rat poison discretely hidden.

Naz / March 23, 2004 12:45 PM

We meant the latter but the former is pretty interesting too.

Pete / March 23, 2004 12:45 PM

Make that:

4. Street door which locks from inside.

(I discovered the value of this through a rather painful, traumatic and expensive incident.)

anne / March 23, 2004 12:51 PM

Windows that open without shattering. Found out the hard way. Mine either don't open or break into bits.

I have added "windows" to my checklist.

Jeff / March 23, 2004 12:56 PM

I hear that it helps if you have money, good credit, and a job. But this is all secondhand, as I know nothing of any of these things.

Naz / March 23, 2004 1:03 PM

1/ Hardwood floors
2/ Open space
3/ Good light/sunlight/lots of windows
4/ Deck/porch
5/ Pet-friendly

Other things to account for: proximity to tranportation, decent environment, nice neighbours (but you never find that out till later do you?) and a good landlord.

emily / March 23, 2004 1:13 PM

I'll answer the latter since Craig answered the former. The top 5 apartment characteristics are different for everyone, but here were ours:

5. A bedroom that is bigger than 6x6. (Craig wasn't kidding about the 2 bedrooms actually meaning 1.25. Some of the "bedrooms" we've seen are ridiculous.)
4. Ample storage. Although we just signed a lease on an apartment with just two bedroom closets, (no linen, pantry, or coat closet) we will have a huge storage room right outside our back door. It could even be described as a second bedroom.
3. Accessible laundry. After being threatened by homeless men, forgetting the whites in the washer, and having our dryer massaged with a cheeseburger by a little girl with ADD at the laundromat(long story,) we are more than ready to be able to wash our dainties at home (for free!).
2. A dishwasher. My husband is thrilled to have a machine do his dish duty from now on.
1. Location, location, location. Moving from Evanston (beautiful lakeside apartment but a good long walk to the el and only one restaurant close by) to Wicker Park (walking distance to our three favorite sushi joints, bars, clubs, shopping and a closer el stop) is exciting. I will miss being on the lake, though.

paul / March 23, 2004 1:16 PM

1. a gas range/stove
2. an open wifi node
3. a bathtub big enough to actaully take a bath in
4. a stairway/hallway big enough to get your big-ass couch through when you move in
5. a legal place to put your weber grill

hooizz / March 23, 2004 1:44 PM

1) the most important thing to bring is your checkbook!!! without your cbook you could lose your dream apt to the next schlep that walks up.

2) digital camera- take lots of pictures!

3) good credit

Al / March 23, 2004 2:12 PM

I think these are my 5 apt luxuries:
1) Vintage no-pilot gas stove that's as big as a buick but SO pretty to look at
2) Picture molding
4) Built in book shelves/kitchen shelves/drawers
5)back porch

I'm going to miss my apartment so much when I move. I'll be trying to replicate its many lovely features for the rest of my life.

jenn / March 23, 2004 4:41 PM

I suppose one must learn somehow! I used to care about built-in hutches and bookcases, faux fireplaces, and back porches. Now, all I care about is:

1. Water pressure.

2. Water heat. I lived for a year in an apartment in which you had to let the water run for 15-20 minutes before it was showerable.

3. Ample electrical outlets.

4. Quietish neighbors. A former neighbor, whose backyard was just outside our kitchen, woke up every morning at 7am during the spring/summer hours, proceeded to blast XRT from his backyard, all while hocking up phlegm every 45-55 seconds. He had a lovely garden, and would spend the entire day on his hands and knees trimming the lawn with lawn clippers. XRT and the phlegm would finally return indoors around 9pm.

5. Water pressure.

jenny / March 23, 2004 4:41 PM

1. Location. Near an el stop, a grocery store, a decent video store, at least one good restaurant and at least one good friend. If it has all of that, it's probably a safe neighborhood and a pleasant one.
2. Water pressure!!!!!!!
3. Landlord-paid heat.
4. Room to cook.
5. Parking if you're me.

And next time...a front porch, room for an office, near a park.

pj chmiel / March 23, 2004 5:24 PM

1. Building must be made of cinderblocks, perfectly rectangular in shape, devoid of any architectural detail ("less is more") preferably with no windows on sides, even if the adjoining lots are empty
2. Sliding-glass doors on front of building which open out onto 6-inch deep "balcony" with iron railing
3. Please, God, let all the drywall interiors be painted white or off-white; and again, hold the architectural flourishes
4. Must be located on the site where something remotely-interesting once stood, be it an "un-rehabbed!" house, a small business, or even low-income housing
5. Must be a Starbucks, Blockbuster and Tanning Salon within a block; possibly even at the ground level of my building...and have gated parking for my SUV

That should be easy enough to find on the north side...

susan / March 23, 2004 11:09 PM

Things the apartment should have:

1. A doorman who will hold packages (I have had several fellow Hyde Park residents tell me about having to go to Cabrini Green to pick up packages, so I don't have a lot of guilt about being a princess here).
2. Landlord-paid heat.
3. Apartment must be DSL-ready; failing that, the landlord should inform you that the apartment is not DSL-ready so that you can avoid having long angsty conversations with the SBC people.
4. Neighbors who do not fall asleep with the TV blasting and scream at you for waking them when you politely request that they turn off their TVs at three in the morning. Every night. For three months.
5. I love water pressure.

There are other things that are nice--on-site laundry, corner apartment, etc.--but those are my essentials. As far as what one needs in looking for an apartment, I guess it all comes down to patience. Or booze.

brian / March 24, 2004 8:26 AM

I can and have dealt with a lot of crappy apartments. The #1 quality as far as I'm concerned has to be sunlight. The amount of light a place gets will make everything else ok with time.

My 2nd and 3rd rules of housing: always live 15 minutes from a subway station and within walking distance of a liquor store.

If you live within walking distance of a liquor store, all of the problems with water pressure, ugly carpet, loud neighbors etc. can be overcome.

Kenan / March 24, 2004 9:12 AM

I don't understand what's so great about landlord paid heat. Doesn't that often mean that you can't control your own heat? I'll shell out the extra 40 bucks a month or whatever for heat. What's next, demanding the landlord pay for cable?

But I'm new to this city. Perhaps I don't understand.

emily / March 24, 2004 9:29 AM

We are leaving our landlord heated apartment, and after being forced to leave the windows open during a blizzard because it is so hot the doors are warping and then stacking on every blanket we own on the bed because it's 3am and -10 outside and the heat hasn't turned on yet, I won't miss it one bit. Even if I will be paying an exorbitant amount of money to People's Gas every month....

miss ellen / March 24, 2004 9:59 AM

I agree with the recent postings - what's so great about LL-paid heat? Sounds like a drag, if you ask me.

Naz / March 24, 2004 10:09 AM

The deal with not paying your heat is this: it gets mighty expensive. If you pay for a gas heated apartment and the bigger it is, the more it's coming out of you. I lived in a three bedroom with two girls a few years back. It was my first pay our own heat apartment. That winter was bitterly cold that the heat was on all the time. January's bill was $300. The apartment was big but not that big. February's bill was about the same. When you're already paying phone, internet, electricity and cooking gas, having to shell out an extra hundred for heat is a kick in the balls. I was paying about 250 extra for amenities. On top of rent.

And that's why LL-paid heat is important. You can bitch out your landlord if the heat isn't on, you can officially lodge a complaint with the city if they do not keep the building warm enough and they will do it. And you can harass the building manager until they fix it. You're protected that way.

Craig / March 24, 2004 11:44 AM

I still don't think LL-heat is worth the potential savings. Radiators never seem to be on when I want them and are usually too hot when running-- which, from an ecological standpoint, is highly inefficient-- venting windows to counteract over-heating is a waste of energy! Plus radiators themselves are ugly (it restricts what you can do with a room), noisy (my radiator system sounds like a sledgehammer when it starts), and dangerous (ever burn your arse on the radiator in the bathroom at 5am? Better than coffee I tell ya). Maybe after a few $300 gas bills I'll change my tune...

Naz / March 24, 2004 12:02 PM

It all depends then. Landlords are supposed to keep a temperature of 72 optimally. Since my building engineer lives here, he has a vested interest in keeping things straight. Which always helps.

anne / March 24, 2004 12:11 PM

After dealing with People's Gas all this week (and literally offering them my first born if they would help me out) concerning my inability to pay my outrageous gas bill for Feb. (I live in a studio that's set rarely warmer than 60, and my bill was still $150 for last month!) I have gladly added "LL-paid heat" to my list. I'm tired of People's Gas treating me like a criminal b/c I don't have that much cash at hand. (harumph harumph)

Carly / March 24, 2004 12:53 PM

1) Free heat
2) Close to public transportation
3) Walking distance to a grocery store (if you don't have a car)
4) Hardwood Floors
5) Good closet space/storage

(6)laundry in the building)

Kenan / March 24, 2004 1:04 PM

I'm seeing that people's experiences with their heat vary widely. My guess... it has to do with the age of the building. Old, drafty building with poor insulation = outrageous heating bill. $300 is more than I spend on food every month. It's a completely ridiculous gas bill. I live in an 800 sq ft one-bedroom, and my bill has never been much more than $30, even in January.

Beth / March 24, 2004 1:23 PM

Any problems I have with my landlord-controlled heat are quickly forgotten every time I'm able to step out of the shower and grab my hot towel off the radiator during the winter.

amyc / March 24, 2004 1:38 PM

mmmmmm...radiator-heated towels....

jamie / March 24, 2004 2:02 PM

this is my first year without the landlord paid heat. so far its been much more comfortable this way. also, people's energy has a budget option where your bill is averaged for the year. i've been paying $62 a month since last may, so it's not so bad.

oh, and my newest "can't live without" is in-unit laundry. that and water pressure.

miss ellen / March 24, 2004 2:57 PM

in-unit & preferably free laundry = a must, i'll agree with that.

i was spoiled in college (both houses had it in the basement) & have not been able to give that up. thankfully my condo has hook-ups, i just gotta the washer/dryer, but those babies are getting cheap these days.

Peter / March 24, 2004 3:16 PM

The standard Chicago lease lists that your landlord cannot let the temperature go below 60 degrees. However, the buildings that I have lived in that had ll paid heat, it usually hovered around 70.

The list:
1) Non-squeaky floors
2) Bedroom that can fit a queen bed and a small desk
3) Deck/Porch
4) Non-leaky windows
5) DW/WD

Kenan / March 24, 2004 3:30 PM

Free laundry is a MUST, yes! Like cable TV and broadband internet, it's one of those lifestyle upgrades that quickly become a necessity.

Kenan / March 24, 2004 4:11 PM

Also, I'd like to say that I'm saddened by the complete lack of sex on this thread. Maybe we could do something with "non-squeaky floors"?

Andrew / March 24, 2004 5:03 PM

Why do you think non-squeaky floors are listed?

j3s / March 25, 2004 4:56 PM

A good sense of PATIENCE. I looked at a bunch of disheartening, mediocre-to-dismal places, and then this afternoon I found the perfect place! Well, perfect for me. Just when I was about to give up and settle for something less. Yay, such a relief!

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