Now that you have your platform for your search, its time to start looking. Its important to go to war with a battle plan. Determine what you must have in your apartment and what you don’t mind living without. Location, closet space, a spot for the liter box, room sizes, view, patio, elevator, street noise. Roommate and I decided to weigh some parts more heavily than others. We knew we wanted to live in Lincoln Park. It would cut my commute to work in half and you can’t ignore the bar scene. I wanted something close to DePaul as I wrestle with the idea of going back to school in the fall. We avoided the word “vintage” for fear that it would bring us back to those unbuffed floors. We looked for places with some exposed brick or fireplaces to give the place some character. We both like have people over so wanted to have room for all our overstuffed couches so visitors don’t have to sit side by side or on the floor. We decided we could sacrifice bedroom size for living room size. Roommate loves to cook so we needed more than a hot plate and microwave for the kitchen. And for the sanity of my cat, I wanted to have a place where she could look out the window to the street or some trees, not a brick wall. So now we had our stratego.
The actual viewing of potential apartments is a roller coaster ride. Ups and downs as you walk into every apartment. You walk down the street in the perfect location into an apartment the size of your freshman year dorm room and smelling similarly of a certain herbal essence; and nobody wants to go back to that a second time, no matter how close to North Ave Beach it is. Others reel you in with the rustic charm of a fireplace and wood rafters, but when you open the blinds to find you’re sharing in an intimate moment with the couple in the building across from you. My impressionable cat does not need to sit at the window all day long and learn the more complicated Karma Sutra positions. But when you find that place that you can picture yourself cuddle up on your couch in or cooking dinner, pounce. The Chicago rental market is a place comparable to the wilds of the jungle. Only the strong survive. I was thrust into a situation for which I was not prepared when I moved here. I went to see my very first Chicago apartment and it was perfect. Yet at the time I though that since this first place is so awesome, they must all be like this. I sat on the application for a day and looked at other places, which was mistake number one. If you have even a small feeling that you may like the place, splurge on the $25 application fee and fill one out. My second mistake was sending in my application through snail mail. Always take it directly to the management office; whichever application gets into their hands first, wins. This is a sprint, not a marathon.
A closing tale: Roommate and I walked into a building on Clark at Fullerton, followed close by two other interested parties. I can see it now;. The landlord triple booked us and is going to force a “last man standing” cage fight in the apartment. Winner gets the lease. I curse myself for not coming prepared with my brass knuckles. Thank God for pepper spray. We walked through the decrepit halls of the building with a landlord that looked oddly like Crazy Eyes from Mr. Deeds. The dark hall smells like someone made a ramen noodle-and-beer stew and poured it into the carpet fibers. We are both almost ready to bail before even reaching the apartment when Crazy Eyes opens the door into a clean, sunny, open living room with freshly stained wood floors. A kitchen with a dishwasher, two carpeted bedrooms, two marbled bathrooms, two walk in closets, rooftop access with a view of downtown, a fireplace, a goddamn dishwasher! I had to touch the white washed walls to ensure this wasn’t a mirage. Roommate and I gave one knowing look at each other. We had to have it. Who cares that it was a 20 min walk to the El? Who cares that the bar Neo’s was in the basement of the building? Who cares about the pub stew soiled halls? Who cared about Crazy Eyes’ weird eye that’s hovering over us as we excitedly whispered in the corner? The stark contrast from the ramshackled halls to the perfectly manicured apartment made us forget about all the elements we had previously discussed in detail and ranked in importance. In a situation when the other competitors are standing face to face with you in the ring, it’s important to plan surprise attacks. We couldn’t let the other people looking at the place know that we wanted it for fear they may snag the place from under our nose, believing that we saw something they had overlooked. It was a delicate situation. I am no good at delicate situations. In my frenzied excitement I blurted out that we wanted to put in an application as soon as possible. The others quickly followed. The first to have their application in and accepted would get the apartment. It was out of our hands now.
Serendipity hit us on the head when went to see another place while wait to hear back from Crazy Eyes. Emotionally exhausted and determined to sign a lease that day, we went to see one last place. A privately owned condo by a woman that moved to Arizona and has been unable to sell her place with the unspoken recession brimming. We were still delirious over the last apartment and, in a haze, did not realize our ideal location at the intersection of Fullerton, Halsted, and Lincoln. As proud Michigan State alumni, we were only steps from John Barleycorn and O’Malley’s. 2 block from DePaul, my future alma mater, and a quick walk to the Fullerton El stop. We walked into the apartment. Newly remodeled kitchen with marble counters and a breakfast bar, the holy dishwasher, and counter space for Roommate’s next culinary creation. An open living room with a brick fireplace and view out to the street, with room for all our couches. Two bedrooms and two bathrooms with no need to share a bathroom. The largest closets I have ever seen. It was perfect. Location and all. Thoughts of Crazy Eyes drifted from our heads as we heard the rent was cheaper and included utilities. And a bonus we didn’t even know existed in the city. A free parking spot. We proposed a two year lease to seal the deal and we were home.
Some final words of wisdom when you’re losing hope and your eyes hurt from scrolling through Craig’s List posting for 3 hours, from the almighty Steve Perry, don’t stop believe.