In our first post, we’ve advertised our property for rent. Next, we discovered the annual challenge of how to determine the correct rental price. This becomes more and more important in Chicago, as our real estate taxes, which make up the lion share of our expenses, keep going up. After a few years of struggling with rents, I discovered that the apartment rental service companies like Apartment People in Chicago, were more than happy to stop by and give me an estimate of the current rental value. This is extremely helpful.

With our real estate taxes going up, we have to continually add value for our potential renters, so that we can increase the rents to cover the rising costs. (Kinda sounds like the horse driving the cart doesn’t it?) But this is Chicago and we do things our own way here, like most urban areas.

One of the best things that I did to add value was to create private outdoor space for the townhouse. With our cold winters, renters can’t wait to sit outside. So we built a patio, and surrounded it by shrubs for added privacy. Our renters loved it so much that they had a lattice work screen and planter box added at their expense. We also landscaped the property with perennials, shrubs and annuals for blooming and winter color too. All this helped us to be able to increase rents over time. Listening to tenants, learning from them and giving them what they want. Our rents went from $1100 a month before the landscaping, private patio and fencing in 2003 to $1800 in 2011.

We are always learning from our renters and we try to keep an open mind. We noticed that over the years, the renters who call about our townhouses have changed, and so we needed to change our rental listings to let people know what we have to offer. We are seeing more young families who love the 3 bedrooms, the lower level family room that works well as a playroom, and the private yards, and the secure parking spaces. The ornamental wrought iron fence that we installed at great expense a few years after purchasing, has provided the added value of security. It keeps the renters’ children protected from the street, and creates a sheltered place for them to play in the local townhouse community. And the parking space that is out back rather than on the street means they can walk to and from the parking space without having the children near the street and in harm’s way.

Maggie Finegan, ABR, Move with Maggie Chicago Real Estate Team