Before scouring the city for your dream dwellings, there are a few things you might like to know about life on the Wisconsin-Illinois border:
The Chicago/Milwaukee connection. Kenosha is deeply dependent on big brother cities Chicago (50 miles to the south) and Milwaukee (32 miles to the north), and it is common for Kenosha’s workforce to hop aboard the Metra train every day to go punch the clock in the Windy City. Roughly half of Kenosha residents work outside the city limits (including in places like neighboring Racine, Wisconsin and Waukegan, Illinois), so prepare yourself for a lengthy voyage each morning if you fall in this category. On the bright side, a number of high-tech corporations and pharmaceutical companies call Kenosha home, and more Kenosha residents than ever now enjoy the luxury of both living and working in the same city.
“Kenowhere.” Every city has its share of disgruntles, and those in Kenosha like to call their hometown “Kenowhere.” True, Kenosha is basically a “bedroom community” with an underwhelming nightlife scene (you’ll find no shortage of dive bars, though!) and a modest-at-best sampling of cultural attractions. However, it’s not like there’s nothing to do in Kenosha other than sit around your apartment (your brand new apartment!) twiddling your thumbs. The city boasts a Civil War Museum, the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, and eight miles of parks along Lake Michigan’s shoreline, where you can fish, boat, bike, or just chill (weather permitting, of course). It’s not Chicago by any means, but it’s not “Kenowhere,” either.
The comforts of suburbia. Kenosha is the picture of the American Suburban Dream: a city of strip malls and outlet malls, family restaurants, neatly-landscaped lawns, parks, playgrounds, the works. Like most ‘burbs, Kenosha is geared towards families with children who appreciate some peace and quiet while still residing within a stone’s throw of the bustle of the big cities. Kenosha also comes at a far more pocket-friendly price tag: The average rental property goes for around $750, and even spacious (1100-plus square feet) apartments, lofts, and duplexes are easy to find in the $600-$800 range.
Tips and Tricks
What, then, do you need to know to find the lodgings of your life in Kenosha? Here are a few simple tips and tricks to set you on the right path:
Scout out your ‘hood. Different areas of Kenosha have different looks and feels, so know your neighborhood before signing an apartment lease. Is it your dream to live in a luxury waterfront unit overlooking Lake Michigan? Check out the ultramodern (albeit a bit pricey) rentals available in the Harbor Park neighborhood. Do you want to experience a bit of urban flair in a mostly suburban landscape? There are a variety of lofts, studios, and mid-sized apartments in or near downtown just waiting for leasers like you to claim them. Of course, if you prefer the serenity of suburbia, your options in Kenosha are limitless, whether you’re targeting Pleasant Prairie down south, the rentals along Route 32 on the northeastern edge, or any area between them.
Don’t settle for second best. Kenosha’s housing market is dominated by homeowners, as renters account for only 35 percent of residents. Fortunately, although there’s not exactly an overwhelming surplus of available rentals, there’s not a ton of competition for apartments, either. Modest studio pads, basic 1BR apartments, luxurious lofts, and multi-BR family units are readily available, and waiting lists are nearly unheard of. Because Kenosha doesn’t attract a lot of transient renters, complexes don’t experience major spikes in occupancy at any time of the year, so you can afford to shop the market carefully without worrying about an attractive apartment slipping out of your grasp.
Treat your lease like a serious legal document. After all, it is, so don’t blow it off like it’s a mere formality. A common mistake renters make is signing a one-year lease, deciding six months later they don’t like their apartment, then reacting with shock and outrage when they realize they are legally obligated to buck up for the duration. Landlords have different rules regarding pets, roommates, smoking, visitors, and subletting (among other things), so make sure you agree with every last detail of your lease before signing the dotted line.
Prepare for the long haul. Short-term or even six-month leases are hard to come by in Kenosha, as most leases are good for a 12-month span only. Month-to-month leases are often available (at a slightly higher price) only after a renter has completed his/her initial 12-month agreement, so if you’re in the market for a short-term/corporate special, you’ll find your options are limited.
Bring some backup. When it comes time to inspect your new pimpin’ pad, bring a friend along, since an objective third party is likely to notice some blemishes that your own eyes are too stoked to see. And if something is questionable (weak water pressure, cracks or watermarks on the walls, floors, or ceilings, etc.), bring it up with management before you’ve loaded in. If there’s a major issue (i.e., furnace or air conditioning unit won’t start, light fixtures or appliances are damaged or defective, somebody else is already living there, etc.), don’t move anything in until the issue is resolved.
Set your budget. Don’t forget to factor amenities and necessities like heating and cooling, telephone, television, groceries, and gasoline into your budget (trash, water, and sewer only are usually included as part of your rent). The gas guzzler is king of the road in Kenosha, and even if you live in the urbanized downtown area, you’re likely to need your own set of wheels to shop, dine, bank, work, and play conveniently, so plan accordingly.
One last thing you should know: Chances are, at some point, you’ll find yourself taking the tour of the Jelly Belly factory in Pleasant Prairie, before getting the opportunity to sample every flavor of candied bean imaginable. Our advice: Stick to the flavors you know and love, because the sausage, earwax, and rotten egg-flavored Bellys are as gross as they sound (take it from those of us who’ve learned the hard way!)
And now, bold apartment hunter, you’re ready to begin your hunt! So best of luck and welcome to Kenosha!