college+moving= ???
January 6, 2008 6:59 PM   Subscribe

As a high school senior going to a Chicago-land school in fall 2008, what should I know to plan for my first apartment?

I will be moving with my partner in July to the Chicago suburbs to go to school. We're both high school seniors now and have been accepted to one of the Junior Colleges in the area. We'll be living in the north 'burbs, and it will be our first apartment.
Since we will have 7 or so months to plan, I'd like to get as much together as we can beforehand. We're signing a lease by February to lock-in the rates to our one-bedroom apartment. We also have some furniture [beds, dressers, dishes...], but will be getting minor stuff up there.
It will be a long way from our families, as we're both from the South, but we've got most of that under control. It's the logisitcs that we're worried about.

My questions are:
-Is there anything specific to the Chicagoland area that we should know about renting?
-Are there any precautions we can take now to make the transition easier? [ie, what can we do ahead of time?]

extra credit:
-Should we be worried about our safety in the area? It seems to be fairly liberal, but homophobia is kinda subtle.

posted by shesaysgo to Human Relations (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by IndigoRain at 7:05 PM on January 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

which suburb? they're radically different, depending.
posted by melodykramer at 7:06 PM on January 6, 2008

Without knowing specifics, northern suburbs are about as safe as you can get. (Rich and polite. It's where I live, but I tend to not fit in wherever I go. ;) Unless you're talking WAY north, outside the range of the traditional "suburb," and up there you're simply getting into kind of less progressive areas.

I can't think of anything Chicagoland-specific to tell you about renting. Actually, I'm from here and I've never rented, but gobs of friends have and I can't think of anything they've told me that's different from other cities/states I've rented in.

The only thing I can think of, preparedness-wise, is to have stuff you'll need right away easily accessible when you move. You don't want to have to go through dozens of boxes to find sheets, PJ's, soap, utensils, etc., your first night there. So pack those kinds of essentials in a couple boxes/bags so you'll have access to them right away.

Your first apartment is exciting! Have fun! (Oh god, the horror of moving. But even that was fun the first half dozen or so times I did it.) :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 7:15 PM on January 6, 2008

Are you both at least 18? No landlord is going to sign a lease with you if you aren't. As it is, you will probably need a co-signer because even if you are 18 you don't have much of a credit rating yet. If I were you, I would not be so eager to sign a lease 6 months in advance. Rates don't fluctuate a lot in 6 months but you could tie up your deposit for a long time and find something you like better in the meantime. You are making a lot of big changes all at once. Have you considered perhaps doing a house share/roommate situation for the first semester? You would buy yourself some time to get to know the area and not feel rushed to rent something right away. It would also probably be cheaper for you. Good luck!
posted by 45moore45 at 7:18 PM on January 6, 2008

Depending on what type of floors you're looking at, get a swiffer vacuum and swiffer wet mop.

Buy yourself some magic erasers.

Also, if you make a lot of coffee, make sure that goes into the first night very important open first box.

Get some basic pots/pans/dishes/rugs/furniture from Ikea. There's one in Schaumburg and one in Bolingbrook.
posted by santojulieta at 7:19 PM on January 6, 2008

Sign the shortest lease you can possibly sign. You're 18. And a lesbian. And you shut people out when things are tough. Not that I want to be stereotypical, but I cannot tell you how many lesbian women I know who are living with their exes right now because they signed leases early on in relationships. And there's little in the world that makes *me* feel worse than feeling trapped in a bad situation because of a financial commitment.

Aside from that - do what you can to keep finances separate. Have a checking account for each of you and split the expenses however you agree, but under no circumstances would I recommend having a single checking account.

Enjoy your first place.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:53 PM on January 6, 2008

I'm assuming you'll want to come into the city a lot for entertainment - the commuter rail is the metra. It's very reliable and it may be in your interest to locate yourself near a station if possible. The suburban bus service is pace, which will probably only interest you if you don't have a car. Metra is great even if you do.
posted by true at 8:29 PM on January 6, 2008

Have a backup/escape plan, if things don't go well. My brother signed a 3-year lease on a rental with his fiance, with whom he just broke up. He's now looking for a roommate in a college town, in the middle of the school year. Set aside some money, to pay a deposit on a new place, or to pay rent/expenses on the current place if need be.
posted by lemonwheel at 12:41 AM on January 7, 2008

You'd probably get really good specific advice by contacting the gay/lesbian student group at your new college. They might even be able to give you info on specific neighborhoods or apartment complexes that would be a good fit for you. They will be a source of social activities and friendships when you get up here, so you might as well get to know them now.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:01 AM on January 7, 2008

Not trying to be a big fat naysayer here, but I hope you realize that moving to a new place with your high school girlfriend when you're 18 and (I'm assuming) have never lived together AND are starting college may be not the best move. Moving in with someone can be hard without all those other stressors.

If you do end up moving in together, here are some tips, not Chicago-specific, but in general-

On the financial side- You will almost absolutely need a co-signer unless one or both of you has a very high monthly income independent of your parents. You may even each need your own co-signer. A lot of places require a monthly income of up to 3x the monthly rent.

You may also want to lie about being a couple, not just because you're lesbians, but because you're 18. My boyfriend and I (I'm female) got lectured by would-be landlords about the potential of our break-up and how they wouldn't let us move out, etc., so after that we referred to each other as "my roommate" to potential apartment/house managers. I don't think they have the right to ask because of discrimination laws, but IANAL, and I'm sure different states are different.
posted by fructose at 12:33 PM on January 7, 2008

When I was in Chicago I lived in one of the three NASCO co-housing apartments in the Southside near the red line, and it was a decent set up. They share common areas and some chores and groceries, rent is cheap, and are mostly populated by other students. You and your partner would probably get your own separate rooms which is good for a number of reasons, which I won't expound on here. Shared off campus co-housing like this was a great "soft-landing" for me right after school, since I wasn't totally isolated in a 1 BR studio. This is near the Univ. of Chicago and a nice groovy neighborhood to boot.
posted by wowbobwow at 12:40 PM on January 8, 2008

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