Are you Unintentionally Scaring Your Leasing Agent?

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Real estate agents have a reputation for being attractive, friendly people that carry high tech devices and spend a lot of time going into closed, unfamiliar buildings with strangers. It’s a recipe for disaster. When you are a leasing agent or Realtor working one-on-one with apartment hunters, there is a heightened risk of becoming a victim of a crime.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of 27.25 agents died annually due to person-on-person violence on the job from 2011-2014. 17.75 of those deaths were homicides. In fact, on the job violence is the highest cause of fatalities for agents – by contrast, an average of 21.5 agents died annually from car accidents on the job, the next highest cause of death, during the same time frame.

As a former agent myself, I can tell you that I was constantly bombarded by reminders of proper safety practices that every agent should take to protect themselves while working. I also had several well-meaning clients who made me very uncomfortable by innocently undermining the steps I was taking to ensure my own safety. Continue reading Are you Unintentionally Scaring Your Leasing Agent?

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

Craigslist Rent Rate Survey, Chicago, Summer 2016

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I’ve written before that no source of rent rates in Chicago is entirely accurate. But let’s be quite honest – if Craigslist ever released the stats on the rent rates of listings posted to their site we’d come pretty close. Over 2500 apartment listings appear on Craigslist every day. Many of them are duplicates and some of them are fake, but they do have the most listings in the city.

So I decided to create a script that checks the rent rates on … well, let’s not say that I checked Craigslist. Because using automated methods to crawl through Craigslist is completely against their terms of service. I coded up a crawler that browsed through apartment listings site that was absolutely NOT Craigslist.

This crawler grabbed the last 2500 listings posted in a day, and then crawled through each of them (automatically waiting between 5 and 15 seconds per page) to grab the rent rate, bedroom count, latitude and longitude. It discarded any listings that didn’t have maps. I ran it 2-3 times a week for a month, starting around 5-6 pm each time. It captured data from 13,356 listings, which I then sorted by neighborhood and averaged.

I then cross-indexed it against my database of neighborhood boundaries to come up with a bunch of maps. They’re quite large, so I’ve posted them on a separate page. Included are color-coded maps of both rent rates and total listings available, broken down by individual Chicago neighborhood and by apartment size.

Chicago Rent Rates Summer 2016

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RentConfident is a Chicago startup that provides renters with the in-depth information they need to choose safe apartments. Help us reach more renters! Like, Share and Retweet us!

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

Questions to ask your next Landlord about Security

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When you’re hunting for apartments it’s easy to get wrapped up in checking out the features of each building and forget to ask important questions. Nobody likes to dwell on potential problems, and a landlord certainly won’t volunteer any negatives about their property unless you ask them.

I’ve provided two lists of questions previously in this blog, one focusing on applications and fees, and the other on maintenance and hiring practices. Today I’ve got another set of questions to add to your list, this time about building security.

Security is an incredibly important thing to consider, and one that far too few renters think about until they become victims of a crime. There are some definite best practices to follow, so in this case I’m going to deviate a little from the format of our previous lists and also provide recommended answers that you should hear when asking the questions below.

  1. Where do you store your copy of the keys to this apartment?The answer to this one should be off site, in a secure location such as a key safe or a locked cabinet. When a landlord keeps all apartment keys on site, it’s very easy for someone to gain access to every apartment in the building in one hit.
  2. How many employees have unsupervised access to apartment and building keys?There is no exact number that a landlord should give in answer to this question, but they should be able to provide you with a number of people.
  3. What policies do you have in place to make sure keys are returned to your storage location?Landlords should have a consistent check-in/check-out policy for apartment keys.
  4. How many people have touched copies of the current apartment keys since the locks were last changed?The best answer to this is “we change the locks every time someone moves out, so you shouldn’t worry about it.”
  5. How many different keys must someone use to get from the street to this apartment? To the storage area? To the parking lot/garage?The answer to this should be at least three – one for exterior building access and two (deadbolt and doorknob) for the apartment itself.
  6. What sort of additional security do you offer to renters? Are there cameras? Are there guards?This one has no specific answer. It may, however, be a deciding factor for you as you choose between all the apartments you see on your search. Extra security is definitely a worthwhile perk.
  7. Can renters install burglar bars on the windows and windowed doors?Some landlords are so concerned about their building’s exterior appearance or the condition of window frames that they don’t allow installation of burglar bars. If you’re renting an apartment within 10 feet of the ground you should be allowed to install bars on the windows, and every renter should be allowed to install bars on windowed doors.
  8. If there are security cameras, how long do you store their footage? Where is it stored? Who has access to the footage?Old videotape based systems might top out at 2 weeks of footage. Newer digital systems can store up to a year. For most apartments a month is fine. Video recording hardware should be stored in a secured location and accessed only if needed. There’s a fine line between additional security and the invasion of privacy.
  9. Is the lighting for common areas and outside areas set on a timer or a daylight sensor?Daylight sensors are far more reliable when it comes to common area lighting, as they keep up with the seasonal changes in daylight. I can always tell which buildings have their lighting on timers, because they’re always dark in the evening after the switch away from daylight savings time each fall.
  10. How many tenants in this building own firearms and keep them in their apartments?There is no “right” answer to this other than your own level of comfort. A good landlord will know the answer, though. This is not just a matter of personal safety and comfort – a landlord who knows which tenants own or are likely to own weapons is a landlord that know their tenants well and is aware of what’s going on within their property.
  11. If there is a laundry room, is it a coin system or a card system?Coin-based laundry systems are common targets for thieves. If a thief knocks over the laundry machines, they can be down for quite a while.
  12. Does this building have a crime-free lease addendum?Crime-free policies are double edged swords. They allow landlords to speedily remove anyone who causes police to be called to the property, but they also discourage crime victims from calling for help when needed out of fear of eviction. Chicago does not have a law in place that requires landlords to use crime-free lease addenda, but many suburbs do.
  13. How many times have the police been called to this property in the past year? How about to this block?The landlord may not know the answer to this one. I wouldn’t necessarily hold it against them if they don’t. However, the local police department certainly will know and you should check with them before renting anywhere.
  14. How many agencies currently have keys to show this apartment?Chicago’s non-exclusive leasing model means that many apartment locator services could have copies of the keys to your apartment. Even if a landlord has good in-house policies regarding key storage, they have very little control over what happens with keys that they distribute to these agencies.

Have you experienced a security problem in your apartment that could have been prevented by asking a particular question before you moved in? Let us know in the comments and we may cover it in a follow up!

RentConfident is a Chicago startup that provides renters with the in-depth information they need to choose safe apartments. Help us reach more renters! Like, Share and Retweet us!

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

10 Life Hacks to make Apartment Life Less Painful

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Living in a small rented space can be really annoying, especially if you have to share it with roommates. To help make things a little easier, here are some of my favorite pointers that I picked up from observing renters over the years that you might find useful in your own apartment.

1. Put glow in the dark tape on the corners of your dishwasher and oven door so you don’t bark your shins on them if you leave them open in the middle of the night.

Continue reading 10 Life Hacks to make Apartment Life Less Painful

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

We Analyzed 100 Crowdfunding Campaigns for Victims of Apartment Fires. Here’s What We Found.

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Content Warning: This article may be upsetting to those who have lived through apartment or home catastrophes.
Editor’s Note: The quotes included in this article have been included without alteration from their respective campaigns. We have chosen to leave spelling, grammar and profanity intact out of respect for the victims.

“The couple did NOT have renters insurance. They literally lost EVERYTHING, Car keys, drivers lisence, credit cards all personal items gone. They had $100 on the dresser and ran without thinking of grabbing it. Can you imagine loosing items that was your grandmothers, your family items to be passed down for generations to come? ALL GONE.” – https://www.gofundme.com/jeffshannonfire

Renters insurance exists to help you recover your lost and damaged items after major apartment catastrophes like fires, floods and hurricanes. Savvy renters know that renters insurance should be on their list of things to obtain immediately upon signing a lease. It Some landlords have started to require proof of insurance. It’s relatively inexpensive – according to the Insurance Information Institute (iii.org), the average cost of renters insurance in Illinois was $172 per year in 2013. Even so, III estimated that only 37% of US renters had renters insurance in 2014.

Lately those who find themselves struggling to recover from major catastrophes have turned to crowdfunding site GoFundMe to help solicit cash from friends and family. We decided to turn to GoFundMe to see what sort of impact apartment fires had on those with and without apartment insurance. Continue reading We Analyzed 100 Crowdfunding Campaigns for Victims of Apartment Fires. Here’s What We Found.

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.