Home is where you charge your iPod and escape from the world. It may also reflect who you are, so finding the perfect space to lay your head at night is no small matter. When you are ready for your next move, there are many things to keep in mind including your price range, parking, and a variety of other preferences. The prospect of finding the right apartment can seem overwhelming, but it does not have to be. TheOakParker.com spoke to Head Rental Advisor, Jerry Ehernberger, to find out the right way to go about finding your next apartment.
TOP.com: Jerry, you have been a Housing Advisor for nine years. How many people would you say you have helped find their next home?
JE: That’s impossible to answer, but it never gets old. I enjoy meeting people, especially from out-of-state or other countries, finding out what they are looking for and helping them start on their way to settling in the community.
TOP.com: Let’s start from the top. What should people look for when they are looking for a new apartment?
JE: People ask for all sorts of things. But if you want to nail down the essentials on your check list you should keep in mind the following in this order:
- Move in date
- Number of bedrooms needed
- Transportation (Is there parking? Are you near public transportation?)
- Is the building pet friendly
TOP.com: Let’s go down the list. How do you help people determine what they can afford for rent?
JE: We refer to a Rental Guideline chart (also used by landlords) that helps us know the maximum amount of rent a client can afford based on their combined annual gross income.
TOP.com: How much time does a person need to give themselves to apartment hunt?
JE: This is a hard question to answer. We normally get apartment listings 4-6 weeks before the beginning of each month. Clients are welcome to register with us before that time period to get the process started, but apartment choices are narrowed down significantly. The actual registration process at our office takes about 30 minutes.
TOP.com: So at least a month. So if I give myself two months, would that be better?
JE: Well, not necessarily. You can start too early. If your planned move-in date is too far ahead of when we have listings, then we can only give general information of what to expect. The ideal time to look is 4-6 weeks before your lease expires. Unfortunately, that also creates a bit of limbo time because your landlord probably wants to know about EIGHT weeks ahead if you are going to renew your lease.
TOP.com: What about the number of bedrooms?
JE: The number of bedrooms for Oak Park apartments is determined by a Village Ordinance, limiting two people to each bedroom.
TOP.com: What about transportation?
JE: Oak Park has a lot of public transportation, and also has car sharing options like iGo and ZipCar. It is also very walkable and relatively bike friendly. That being said, sometimes you need to own a car. In those cases, you should be prepared to pay around $65 per month for parking on top of your monthly rent.
TOP.com: Okay, let’s talk about pet friendly apartments.
JE: They are available in Oak Park but not universal, so make a point to mention your pet when you are apartment hunting. Many landlords are cat-friendly and we are hoping more will become dog-friendly. Most building owners will require a pet deposit, but that’s a small price to pay to have your best companion with you in your new home.
That said, Oak Park does have leash laws, and it goes without saying that you will be expected to pick up after a dog during walk times. All in all, we find the community to very pet friendly and owning a pet will just make living here more pleasant for you.
TOP.com: What is the easiest way to find an apartment in Oak Park?
JE: Come see us at the Oak Park Regional Housing Center. You don’t need an appointment (though it’s very helpful to come in at least 30 minutes before our closing time) and there is no cost. We have the most listings of Oak Park apartments in the area. Many of our listings are for vintage units—these apartments have real character and often have a separate dining room. We also have a lot of great modern units that have built-in A/C units and carpeting.
TOP.com: You must have seen a lot of apartments. Do you have a favorite?
JE: Well all along the Courtyard Corridor on Austin Boulevard there are a lot of great places to live. We have some employees that have lived there for a long time. There are also many great apartments along Washington, and of course in the Harrison Art District; but that doesn’t really exhaust the list. There are wonderful little gems of buildings all over Oak Park. I can’t choose a favorite.
TOP: Okay. Let’s wrap it up. Give me a step by step of what I need to do to find a new apartment.
- First come to the Housing Center. We will get you registered and provide you with listings that meet your needs and wishes. Our qualified and experienced Rental Advisors will help you determine what you can afford and amenities you might need.
- Once you find an apartment to your liking, we can assist you in the application process. This usually involves a small credit check fee (done by the landlord) and a deposit to hold the apartment.
- Then you may have to wait to be approved by the building owner.
- If everything is approved you will need to pay the landlord the first month’s rent plus a security deposit which is usually one and one-half times the monthly rent.
TOP.com: Thanks Jerry.
JE: You’re welcome.
The Housing Center is located at 1041 South Blvd, Oak Park, IL 60302
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