Expanding your rental apartment trade-offs

It’s a common tendency among renters (and home buyers) to go for the max – to rent or buy as much housing as they can comfortably (almost) afford.

Once renters determine that they can afford, say, $2,000 a month, they typically begin looking for apartments in that price range. The trade-offs are often narrowly conceived: a larger apartment in a less attractive neighborhood, or a smaller one in a prime area, assuming comparable common-area and in-unit amenities.

I’d advise renters who are new to Chicago to opt for the best neighborhood they can afford, even if it means renting a less desirable apartment. “Best” will, of course, mean different things to different people, but there’s fairly common agreement about which parts of the city serve up the most fun for young renters.

If you’re new to Chicago it’s easy to misjudge the cost of living here in a way that allows you to enjoy the city in all its richness. That enjoyment comes at a cost – for drinks, meals, theater and event tickets, cab fares, clothes, the occasional escape from the city, etc. etc. Too often renters discover, too late, that the cost of being well-housed forecloses the possibility of living as well as they’d like in Chicago.

If you haven’t looked at apartments that are well below your target rent, perhaps you should. You can find a nicely-updated $1,200 a month apartment in a great neighborhood and begin asking yourself whether the in-unit laundry, the balcony, the 24-hour door staff, the indoor pool, the party room and the business center have more value to you than the other uses you could make of an additional $800 a month in discretionary income. However you answer the question, you owe it to yourself to ask it, and to look at lower-rent options.

Our at-a-glance apartment lists and maps make it easy for you to see and compare all of your options in some of Chicago’s most sought-after neighborhoods.

NOTE: The photos are from a resident’s studio apartment at 211 East Delaware, which is owned by BJB Properties, one of our sponsors.

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