More Chicagoans are choosing the convenience of high-rise rental apartments and with good reason.
The benefits from living in one of these apartments can be substantial: a doormen to accept packages while you're at work, fitness centers and pools to make gym memberships obsolete, staff on hand to fix things when they break, among countless others. High rises are on the rise.
But not all high rises are the same. One "$1,800 1 bedroom" apartment can vary dramatically from another just down the street. One might be in the quieter, commuter oriented South Loop while the other is in a hub for dining and nightlife (River North). One might have excellent shower pressure and WiFi, while the other doesn't have heat for the first two weeks of winter and paper thin walls. One might be above Whole Foods, while another is 15-minutes from a grocery store.
These details are why we started AptAmigo. Every one of our apartment reviews can help you find your perfect place.
So what makes a "5-star" experience?
Onward to the data!
More than 1,300 of our reviews (to date) were on "full-amenity" apartment buildings. Each of these reviews gave feedback on their overall experience as well as the quality of a building's surrounding neighborhood (dining, nightlife, safety, etc.), in-unit experience (WiFi, shower pressure), property management (responsiveness), amenities (gym, communal area, elevator waits), and doormen/security (safety, effort).
We did a simple regression of these categories (neighborhood, in-unit experience, management, amenities, and doormen/security) on overall experience. We also took a look at the distribution of these categories, subject to a "5-Star" experience, which is what everyone deserves.
Ranking by category
1. In-Unit Experience
In-Unit Experience is really really important. In fact it's almost twice as important as the second most important category (Management).
This makes sense to us. We spend way more time in our apartment than we do anywhere else!
In-Unit Experience is really really important
To give you a sense for just how important: we had 411 5-star reviews for high-rise apartments. 79% of these gave 5-Stars for "In-Unit Experience", while 99% gave at least 4-stars.
If a building you're looking at doesn't have at least 4 stars for this category, you may want to look elsewhere.
Note: every AptAmigo apartment review drills down one level deeper on "In-Unit Experience", including feedback on shower pressure, WiFi, and temperature control, all of which aren't apparent in pictures or a walkthrough.
Management clearly matters a lot. It's nearly as important as the next two categories combined (Neighborhood and Amenities).
Our hypothesis: apartment renters understand that they're paying for convenience and expect a lot from buildings. If a management team doesn't respond or address issues quickly, it can drag down an otherwise great experience. That said, many happy renters were willing to accept less than perfection.
Good thing every AptAmigo apartment review has qualitative and quantitative feedback on management :).
The number and variety of Chicago's neighborhoods make this city awesome. However, with variety comes tough decisions. Are you a "West Loop" or a "River North"? A "Streeterville" or a "Lincoln Park". You can take the same apartment in Lakeview, move it to the Loop and have a tremendously different experience.
It's no surprise that a neighborhood's feel as well as access to restaurants, nightlife, grocery stores, and the CTA are really important to high-rise renters. Neighborhood commentary is among our most common qualitative feedback.
Based on the distribution below, finding your perfect neighborhood and sticking to it throughout your search is the best approach. Even though it may not have the impact of your Unit or Management, getting it right is practically necessary for a 5-star experience.
Many of our reviewers have shared experiences on multiple buildings and neighborhoods. Most of them wish they skipped the first step and got to where they are today.
If you're looking for a "day in the life" in one of Chicago's top neighborhoods, check out our detailed neighbhorhood guide.
This was easily the most surprising result for us.
Much of the convenience I cited at the beginning of this post shows up as an "amenity" in our apartment reviews (fitness center, pool, communal space, grills, etc.) and yet it has less impact than the three categories mentioned above (1/4 as much as "In-Unit" and 1/2 of "Management").
Our hypothesis: it's a lot easier to understand the value of a nice gym, pool, or communal space before moving in (and that it's included in our monthly rent!). The gap between expectations and reality is much narrower than with In-Unit, Management, or Neighborhood, which are more frequent sources of surprise.
That said, many of our reviewers LOVE their building's amenities. Just make sure you're comfortable paying for them (and will actually use them) before you move in.
5. Attendants / Security
A smiling, familiar face is something many high residents see in their lobby every day. Surprisingly (to us at least), this didn't correlate strongly with overall experience. This category was 1/4th the impact of In-Unit Experience, and about 1/2 of a building's Neighborhood.
If a reviewer felt like there were any security issues with a building, it's basically game over for "5-Stars". So while this might not be the most impactful category, we're confident buildings will continue to invest in high quality staff to the benefit of renters.
Our takeaway: make sure the other four categories meet your expectations before you sign the next lease.
Key Takeaways for your High-Rise Apartment Search
Get feedback from residents on the nuances of a building's in-unit experience (WiFi, ambient noise, cell service, shower pressure, temperature control) since it's where you'll spend most of your time. Pictures and a walkthrough aren't enough. We're biased, but we think the feedback on AptAmigo is pretty great.
Make sure building management is responsive to requests and issues
Do a little extra work to find your ideal neighborhood. So many people we've talked to use neighborhoods interchangeably (i.e I'd love to live in Wicker Park, Lakeview, or Streeterville), but the ratings of those neighborhoods vary a great deal depending on personal preference.
Don't forget to consider commute time, proximity to grocery stores and the CTA and your preferences for nightlife, restaurants, and lakefront access.
Be honest with yourself about how much you value a building's amenities
Smile and chat with your doorman or doorwoman, it can really make your day
Find An Awesome High-Rise Apartment!