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Loyola Apartment Hunting 101: A Step-By-Step Guide to Finding an Apartment

Photo courtesy of FastWeb.com  (http://www.fastweb.com/student-life/articles/351-apartment-hunting-questions)

Imagine student living without having to participate in health and safety inspections, without having to sign friends in to the security desk and without having to abide by “quiet hours.” This is a reality for students who choose to live off-campus. Although the transition of moving from a college residence hall to an apartment can be a daunting process, it has many advantages.

The following guide provides a step-by-step breakdown of what students need to make the apartment search an efficient and pain free process.

Step #1: The Plan

Once first and second year full-time Loyola students (who do not commute) fulfill a two-year dorm residency requirement, they are free to join the ranks of over 5,000 undergraduate students who live off campus. According to Akeya Peterson, Loyola’s Off-Campus Student Life program coordinator, students should decide whether they are going to live on or off campus as early as possible. By April or May of spring semester, students who wish to move off-campus for the upcoming summer or fall should have an apartment selected. Those who wish to remain living on campus are required to make a non-refundable $500 down payment to the Department of Residence Life around mid-February, so indecision can be costly.

“If a student decides to live off-campus after making the down payment it’s not a problem, you just won’t get your $500 back,” Peterson said.

Once the decision to move off-campus is made, the first step is to attend one of the mandatory off-campus living seminars. If students wanting to move off-campus fail to attend one of the seminars provided throughout the year, the conduct office will process it as a violation of university policy.

The off-campus housing seminar explains how to look for apartments and brings students’ attention to details such as location, rent, and leases.

“We help to kind of them give them a reality check and tell them what to look for,” Peterson said.

Loyola junior, Emily Taft, said the off-campus seminar was invaluable.

“The housing seminar forced me to start thinking about more details of living off-campus,” Taft said. Living in an apartment-style dorm my sophomore year also made me feel ready to live in an apartment.”

Unlike freshman dorm rooms, Loyola’s apartment-style housing for sophomores and upperclassmen includes a living room and a kitchen.

Other students feel that the off-campus housing seminar should not be required for students planning to move off-campus.

“I went to the mandatory off-campus housing seminar, and I thought most of the facts presented were common knowledge,” Loyola junior Olivia Mavec said. “[Loyola] should still have the off-campus living seminars, but make them optional for those who want more information.”

In addition to the off-campus seminars, Loyola also helps students who want to find compatible roommates. An annual meet and greet held in March provides an opportunity to get to know other students looking for a roommate. While many students choose to live with a friend, it is important to note that friends don’t always make the best roommates. Level of cleanliness and sleeping habits are among the most important factors to discuss with potential roommates.

There are various reasons that students decide to move off-campus, but Peterson explains that one of the main reasons is because it is less expensive. However, Peterson says that it’s all relative, and it is important to choose roommates with similar budgets and priorities.

“It depends on whether you want the highest Internet package or the extended version of cable, and other personal preferences,” Peterson said.

Housing for upperclassmen on-campus in Baumhart Hall can be as high as about $13,000, and just over $8,000 in Fordham Hall.

Another leading reason that students move off-campus is because they want to live independently without having to answer to resident assistants or other Loyola authority figures. However, it is essential for students to recognize that there are trade-offs to living off-campus.

“You are on your own in an apartment, but the reality is that now you have your neighbors to worry about,” Peterson said. “If something goes wrong not Campus Safety, but the Chicago police, could show up at your apartment. You have to decide what’s most important to you.”

 

Step #2: The Research

There are many different factors to consider when moving off-campus, and doing sufficient research about a living space will make for a smoother transition. Loyola provides apartment listings through sources including a housing bulletin board located outside of the Off-Campus Living office in Loyola’s Centennial Forum Student Union (CFSU), listings in the school’s newspaper (The Phoenix) and on Iggy’s List, which Peterson referred to as “Loyola’s version of Craigslist.” An off-campus housing fair takes place each year in March, where landlords and other representatives come to talk to students about different living spaces.

“Most are from Rogers Park and Edgewater, but we do have a few people representing other areas,” Peterson said.

Students are advised to use services or websites such as ApartmentPeople.com, Apartments.com, and ChicagoApartmentFinders.com. These resources pair customers with an agent to help find suitable apartments and drive them to view the different locations and apartments. The Internet is a popular resource to help with the apartment search. According to a 2002 article from the Pew Research Center, “40 million Americans, one third of all Internet users, have looked online for information about a place to live.” A 2008 study entitled “The Internet and Consumer Choice” says that 57 percent of people reported that using the Internet in their housing search reduced the number of houses or apartments they looked at.

“I think it would be beneficial for Loyola to set students up with apartment searching professionals like Apartmentpeople.com, which is what I used,” Loyola junior Carly Mayer said. “Having a professional search for the right place for you, set up the viewing appointments, and help with paperwork was such a lifesaver.”

Andrew Croegaert, a senior leasing manager at Chicago Apartment Finders, described the process this service uses to help clients find the perfect living space.

“We talk with tenants about what their wants and needs are then we search our internal database as well as any external databases,” Croegaert said. “After that, we drive clients around to any properties that meet their search criteria, and then if they find a place that works for them we bring them back to our office and help them through the application process.”

From there, all of the work is turned over to the property owners, who will approve or deny the tenants. If it’s an approval, Chicago Apartment Finders helps get the lease drawn up and signed.

Loyola junior, Rosie Atkinson, said she used online apartment database PadMapper to find her apartment, located near Loyola’s Water Tower Campus. PadMapper is a free tool to help find an apartment or sublet to rent. The website provides a map similar to a Google map of the marked with clickable house, apartment sublet and rental listings all over the country.

“I got connected with a realtor who works for the renters, so his service was free to me, and he was extremely helpful,” Atkinson said.

 

Step #3: The Search

If Loyola students choose not to utilize services such as Chicago Apartment Finders or PadMapper, they are on their own to plan their apartment searches.

“A lot of people think the Off-Campus Living office is an apartment search office,” Peterson said. “We are not. We do have a list of apartments, landlords and property managers that we have good relationships with. We provide students with these resources, but we actually don’t look up apartments for them.”

When touring an apartment, there are several important factors to keep in mind. Loyola’s off-campus living guide, provided at the off-campus seminar, includes an apartment evaluation complete with a checklist for amenities like utilities, air-conditioning, and a stove/microwave.

Another major consideration when looking at apartments is the neighborhood’s safety. Peterson explains that students are encouraged to, and most do, stay in the Rogers Park area.

“We encourage students to stay within the Rogers Park Campus Safety boundaries for security reasons, but the reality is that there’s no completely safe place in the world,” Peterson said. “We encourage them to stay within these boundaries for the added protection of Campus Safety in addition to the Chicago police.”

The Loyola Campus Safety web site also describes several important aspects to take into consideration when searching for a safe apartment. These include areas that have trimmed bushes and shrubbery, a well-lit area, no glass near the door lock, and a peephole viewer on the front door.

According to Loyola’s assistant dean of students, Clifford Golz, most students live in the Rogers Park or Edgewater neighborhoods due to their proximity to the Lakeshore Campus. Golz said that of the 5,002 undergraduate students who are non-residential students (commuting from home or living off-campus), 1,282 report living in the 60626 zip code and 530 report living in 60660 for a total of 1,812 students in Rogers Park and Edgewater.  There are another 78 students who reported living in 60611, which is the area near Loyola’s Water Tower Campus.

“While we require students to keep their information updated it’s ultimately self-reported and the actual number [of students living in Rogers Park and Edgewater] is likely higher than 1,800,” Golz said.

Since so many students choose to stay in Rogers Park and Edgewater, it is important to consider the neighborhood’s crime statistics. According to the Chicago Tribune’s crime database, there have been 28 violent crimes in Rogers Park from March 21 to April 20, 2013 alone. This includes 13 reports of robbery, five reports of battery, five reports of assault and two reports of sexual assault.

The Water Tower Campus’s Gold Coast neighborhood in Chicago’s near North Side community area reported similar crime statistics with 23 violent crimes from March 21 to April 20, 2013. This includes 9 reports of robbery, 10 reports of battery, 2 reports of assault, and 2 reports of sexual assault.

While students can research the safety of an area on their own, most services such as Chicago Apartment Finders will not help narrow the search based on the safety of an area.

“By law, we are not allowed to comment on safety under the Fair Housing Act,” Crogaert said. “It’s all completely up to the tenant to do their research ahead of time and decide where they want to be.”

 

Step #4 The Final Stages

            After choosing an apartment with a suitable rent, location, neighbors and landlord, the student and his or her roommates should apply to live in the apartment and, if accepted, review the tenant lease. There are often multiple people applying for the same apartment, so it is important that students present themselves to their landlords as responsible, upstanding adults. Students should read over the Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance in the off-campus living guide to assure that their general responsibilities during the time of the lease, such as making payments and abiding by rules, will be met.

A refundable, or sometimes non-refundable, security deposit will often be required before signing the lease. Before students move in, they should activate all utilities and ensure that they have renters insurance. While many students might think that they won’t need or can’t afford renters insurance, it will help cover unpredictable and inevitable circumstances such as damages to the property or theft of the renter’s belongings. Students will need to plan ahead to bring furniture, appliances, or anything else they might need to provide themselves.

After that, it’s time to move in and call the apartment home, sweet home (at least until the lease is up).  This may seem like a lengthy process—Because it is! The key is to plan ahead to avoid feeling stressed and anxious. Stay organized, remain calm, and happy apartment hunting!

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.