We had a list of criteria that any potential apartment had to meet. For instance, being within walking distance to the El was a must, since my husband and I both work in the Loop. We also wanted a dedicated parking space for the car, so as to avoid the stress of trying to find street parking on Saturday nights and so forth. And although those were the two big things, other factors -- such as windows, access to laundry, and of course price -- had an impact on how appealing any given apartment was.
We knew from the start that we'd be paying more for pretty much anything we found. Basement units are cheaper in general, and we have an even sweeter deal right now because pretty much all of our utilities are rolled in with the rent thanks to the landlord living upstairs. But our thinking was that having more space (and some natural light) would be worth the added expense.
But with all that being said, finding something desirable within a reasonable price range turned out to be harder than expected. Several of the apartments we looked at suffered from a frustratingly inefficient use of space, sacrificing on the size of the kitchen or the bedrooms for the sake of a large dining room that we knew we would hardly ever use.
This was just sketched from memory, but it's pretty representative of a couple of the apartments we looked at: bedrooms so cramped that they wouldn't be able to fit much other than a bed, and a large semi-separated dining room that was unwanted and unnecessary for our needs. But floor plan issues aside, other apartments suffered from more serious problems like a lack of laundry on the premises, roaches in the lobby, etc.
The anticlimactic end of this story is that we decided not to move at all -- or at least, not yet. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot out there in Chicago and if we'd continued looking long enough, maybe we would have eventually found the Perfect Thing. Although it seemed more likely that we would end up spending dramatically more money on an apartment that's just as imperfect as our current one, albeit in different ways.
Overall, I think looking at what was available, and for what prices, made our current apartment look all that much better by comparison. Our revised plan now is to bide our time, bask in the cheap rent for a while longer, and hopefully save up for a down payment on a place of our own. But the reasoning on that, and an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of doing so, is probably a subject best saved for a future blog post.