Working at Home in 2021? Best Questions to Ask During the Apartment Search

Millions of renters found themselves working from their apartments in the past year as the Coronavirus pandemic resulted in the temporary closure of offices, shops, and other places of business. And many companies have fully embraced the remote working model where possible, or at least a hybrid version of it, moving forward. This change also impacted many students who switched to remote learning models in the last year during COVID-19.

As renters face the continuation of work-from-home and remote learning scenarios, they might realize that their current apartment leaves much to be desired as a reliable office for remote working. This post will serve as a guide for renters who need an apartment that pulls double duty of being both home and office/classroom, and which are the best questions to ask during their next apartment tour. 

The Best Questions Apartment Renters Looking for a Home Office Should Ask During the Apartment Search

Here are the best questions to ask if you’re a renter looking to set up a home office in your next apartment:

  1. Are the walls soundproof? Having soundproof walls is sometimes a custom feature found in luxury apartment buildings or condo buildings. That’s not to say it’s impossible to find a quiet apartment, though. Renters should ask the leasing manager of an apartment building about the thickness of the walls, and if possible, try to pause during a showing and just listen to the ambient noise. Is there commotion coming from the hallway? Are conversations easily overheard from the neighboring apartments? True soundproofing is hard to come by, but renters don’t need to settle for paper thin walls in the meantime. With the rise of video conference calls -- and just more work being done at home anyway -- living in a noisy apartment can lead to mounting frustration over the duration of a lease term.
  2. What types of Internet service are available? Chicago has several Internet service providers (ISPs) and the company providing the Internet service to a building or specific apartment may vary depending on its location. A simple question to the landlord or leasing agent might be, “Which company supplies the Internet for most of your tenants?” Also, “Is there Internet service included in the cost of monthly rent?” Most ISPs break their service offerings into tiers, providing anything from moderate Internet speeds to blazing fast home networks. Usually, as the speeds of a home Internet network increase, so does the price. Do some price comparisons to see what’s needed for work and what’s affordable within your budget, of course, but also ask about the network’s reliability as well as its speed.
  3. Are there any apartment building amenities with remote workers in mind? Think about all the resources a typical office in downtown Chicago might contain: hyperfast Internet connections, wireless printers, ergonomic workstations, etc. Now compare those amenities with the DIY set up of a typical renter. Chances are something won’t match the traditional office environment when the office gets transposed to an apartment, whether it’s connection speeds or having a break room. However, this is where a well-equipped apartment building may be able to pick up the slack. Check with leasing teams to see if there’s a coworking station or private office space in the apartment building that’s open to tenants. Some landlords and property management companies have taken the extra step to convert vacant apartments into shareable office space for tenants during COVID-19, so this isn’t a feature exclusive to newly constructed apartment buildings.
  4. What about taking a break from screens and getting some work-life balance? Traditionally, going to and from work each day would be a window of time for renters to decompress and get their minds into a different state as they headed home. But with the work-from-home model expanding, how do renters achieve the separation that used to exist during the days of commuting? The walkability of Chicago neighborhoods will vary from one spot to the next, so renters shouldn’t overlook this crucial component of rental life as it may help achieve a healthy work-life balance. Explore the neighborhood surrounding the apartment to see if there are easily accessible routes to get out of the home office for a few minutes each day, whether that’s for the purpose of fitness, grabbing a cup of coffee, or going on a quick grocery run. And if renters find themselves missing the commute enough, they can always do a “virtual” commute or take a walk around the neighborhood to help reset their minds at the beginning and end of a workday.

Working from Home this Year? Try to Find these Features During the Apartment Search

When renters are searching for apartments in Chicago that will also serve as their home office, here are some helpful features to keep an eye out for:

  • Dedicated space for creating a home office within the apartment
  • A conference room or coworking lounge in the building
  • Lighting -- good light is key for reducing eye strain and plenty of natural light can help maintain healthy sleep patterns
  • Neighborhood amenities, such as coffee shops, grocery stores, and green spaces

Good luck with the apartment search and keep that home office humming along for 2021!