After driving uptown to one of the Emissions Testing facilities (see yesterday's post for that)--and my car passed--I headed over to the Lakeview offices of an apartment-finding agency called Apartment People. I had heard of this agency through friends who swore by it, so I decided to give it a try. The concept is simple: this agency helps you search through their own listings of apartments, helps you pick out 4 or 5 potential apartments, shows you all of these apartments, and then helps you fill out the paperwork for the apartment of your choice. Rather than charge a commission, they take your first month's rent as their payment, which they take from the landlord, who pays for the service of having his/her apartment filled ASAP.
So I headed into their offices and filled out a form, with my basic contact information, my price range, and my preferences for location and amenities. I hadn't made an appointment in advance, so I left them my cell phone number and headed off for lunch while they tried to find me a spot during the day to take me. One of the only downsides of this whole experience was the wait. I walked up and down Broadway, had lunch at Melrose's Restaurant, and wandered back to the offices without any news from them. It was almost two whole hours before I got a call from someone. By then, I was waiting in their lobby, so I headed right upstairs and met one of their representatives.
This guy sat me down at a cubicle/desk in a large room that appeared to be a sort of shared office, asked me for clarifications about my price range and neighborhoods, and then walked off. A few minutes later, a woman came by and introduced herself as Lisa, my apartment-finding expert.
She used the computer sitting on the desk to start a series of rapid-fire searches in their database of available apartments. As she quizzed me on my likes and dislikes, deal-breakers and daily routine, she brought up listings and showed them to me. What was really useful about this whole encounter was that she seemed to know a lot of these buildings already and/or knew the property management company, so she would pipe in with "This building has a huge courtyard," or "These guys keep the place in great shape," or even "They're putting in new hardwood floors next month."
After picking out 4 or 5 potential places, she went to the "key room" to get keys for the buildings. Yes, you read that right. Apartment People has an arrangement with these landlords that they give them a copy of keys to the apartment once the apartment has become vacant. Since almost all of the apartments I was looking at were already vacant and available to move in right away, she was able to take me directly into each apartment building, without having to wait for the landlord / superintendent to let us in and show us around.
As we were zipping all around the Uptown and Wrigleyville area, Lisa chatted with me about food and nightlife and other such stuff. As it turns out, she knew of a fancy imported cheese store down the street from her offices, so once we were done looking at all the apartments, we stopped in there to buy a few cheeses. I was thrilled to discover that you CAN get raw milk cheese in Illinois, but only if it has been aged more than 60 days. This means that many of the soft, creamy and smelly cheeses aren't available with raw milk, but many of the harder ones like comté, tomme de chèvre and manchego were all available. Yay!
I had a pretty easy time deciding on apartments, since one of them was less expensive, better-located and better-maintained than all the others. There's even built-in cabinetry in the bedroom! I won't have to buy a dresser, after all. We got back to the offices and Lisa went off to get the paperwork for my application to rent the apartment. After a few minutes of filling out paperwork and getting everything ready, I paid the first month's rent (in the form of a commission to Apartment People) and headed home. Later that night, I faxed a bunch of my paystubs and scholarship stuff to them so that they could include it in my application.
Cross your fingers! I really liked the place that I decided on, so I'm waiting for the results with baited breath. If I get it, I'll take a bunch of pictures of the interior and post them on here for everyone to see. I have all sorts of plans for painting!
P.S. I went on Yelp.com (and consumer rating site) and noticed that there are a slew of negative reviews for Apartment People. From the descriptions and narratives being left on there, it sounds like I lucked out with the only honest broker in the building. Here's hoping the rest of the deal goes through well!