You have finally decided to move to Chicago, the Windy City. But do you know where to start the search for an apartment? You may somehow be lucky as Chicago’s rental market isn’t as cutthroat as in cities like New York.
But let’s be honest, though: looking for an apartment is hard work. And the process of sifting the clutter to find your dream apartment can be overwhelming. If you don’t meet with hoards of duplicate ads, then it will be tons of deciphering misleading jargon from the gods of real estate.
But finding an apartment that balances between your preferences, budget, and other factors like commutes isn’t entirely impossible. You only need to put in a little work and follow our recommendations below on how to find apartments in Chicago.
Steps To Find An Apartment In Chicago
The apartment hunting process may be daunting. There are a million things to consider and too much information to process. You’ll need to make numerous decisions, from where you want to live to with whom and everything in between.
Simply put, it’s setting clear considerations in the hunting process to lead you to the apartment of your dreams. That way, you’ll have clear goals that will make the rest of the process a pure breeze. And, here are the significant steps we recommend to get you from start to finish.
Determine Your Rental Budget
Now, it’s time to get genuinely realistic. You’ll need to get your financial numbers right. No overestimations here, nor including money you aren’t sure will land into your account. Determining your rental budget ensures you get an apartment you can truly afford and be happy with it. Or else, rent burdening may force you to move sooner than you planned.
According to RentCafe.com, the average rent for an apartment in Chicago is $1908, a 4% decrease from the previous year. And luckily, there are conventional pearls of wisdom on rent budgeting, which we gladly recommend. But our favorite is based on the 1981 National Housing Act, which says, “your rent payment should be at most a third of your total monthly income.” Straight and simple. And rent should include all the utility bills related to your apartment. If you are stuck anywhere, you can use a rent calculator to simplify the process further.
Decide on the Location
Chicago is vast, and we don’t think you’re planning to comb the whole city. The best way to find apartments in Chicago is by deciding on the specific location and narrowing it down to a neighborhood. Remember, the community determines the overall quality of life you’re likely to have more than the apartment itself.
And you need to have a list of specifics here: the proximity to your workplace, availability of parking, the location, the activity levels and vibe of the neighborhood, closeness to amenities like parks and grocery stores, among other considerations. For instance, avoid a setting with frequent block parties if you love tranquility. And, you won’t like a location whose closest grocery store is an hour away, especially in winter. Use sites like EveryBlock and CPD’s ClearMap to check other location-specific details like crime reports.
Tour the Apartment and Meet the Landlord
Here’s the thing; you’ll find truckloads of apartment listings, some very legit and others utter bullshit from career scammers. The best way to blow scammers out of the water is to request a physical tour of the apartment. And while at it, make it mandatory you want a chat with the landlord or the agent.
In other words, you need to see it before you spend on it. Touring the apartment gives you the correct picture of room sizes and overall designs. Besides, you get to imagine how the space will transform into your abode.
Also, don’t forget the essential questions and answers session with the landlord or the agent. You need to know what happens behind the scenes and possibly a sneak peek into the lease’s fine print. Ask anything about the apartment, from packing availability, heating equipment installed, pet rent, and utilities included and excluded in the rent, among other details. Don’t leave the house before you know all the ins and outs of the property. And for all its worth, get to know if your landlord is a slumlord.
We have been discussing how compatible the apartment is with you, but this step flips the coin. Here, the landlord or agent has to assess your suitability for the apartment you’re in love with, and it’s only possible through a rental application. And most importantly, the rental application process requires honesty, and you have to provide as much of the required details as you can.
Remember, the process is as necessary to the landlord as it’s to you, and missing crucial documents may result in disqualification. Also, sometimes you may be required to pay an application fee, which is refundable or not. You’ll submit all your information, such as your personal information and financial records. Also, be upfront on issues that may affect your application, like your credit situation, because someone will run it for sure.
Once the rental application goes through, you’re free to move into your new apartment. Though let’s warn you, it’s not as easy as it sounds and can be the most challenging of all the steps. But with a foolproof plan and a checklist to back it up, the process can quickly become a no-brainer, save for the packing, tying, and fastening fatigue.
Complete all the crucial tasks such as managing utilities, changing address, moving your belongings to the new place, furnishing the apartment, and others. And don’t forget to end your former lease as required. Plus, internalizing the fine prints of your new lease entirely before signing on the dotted line is crucial.
How To Find The Best Apartments In Chicago
Finding your dream apartment in Chicago becomes a whole lot easier if you know where to look. And trust us, the housing market needs a strategy to track the available stock without falling for scammers. Well, you may be lucky to spot a “for rent” sign in a neighborhood you love–if you’re the incidental type. But you are more likely to get the best apartment in Chicago by searching in the places we recommend below.
Something you should know upfront, good apartments get snatched up fast. But an apartment-finding app keeps you in the know in real-time, scanning the city for available apartments by the second. And the good thing is, they run on smartphones and have websites too! These apps are an easy way to find Chicago apartments for rent by the owner, as flats are primarily under the landlord’s or manager’s user account.
Rental apps also pack additional features like the option to submit a rental application and credit reports and the ability to pay rent directly via the app. Some allow you to filter apartments by various criteria such as rent range, pet policy, or room sizes. In addition, you can narrow the search to a neighborhood, get detailed data on locations, and even find a roommate. To top it up, you can set the app to be alerting you every time a new apartment that meets your criteria is available.
Apartment Sites For Renters
Apartment sites for renters are many, but you need to tread carefully here. You don’t want to fall for duplicated ads nor lose your dollars to scammers. Even so, these sites pack some excellent information that can land you right at the door of your dream apartment. These sites are a great way to find cheap apartments in Chicago, as the listing is easy to filter by price ranges.
There are apartment lists, location maps, links to check landlords’ credibility, and options to search apartments by specific criteria. If you need to check if you can swing rents in any neighborhood, you can use the sites’ inbuilt rent calculator. Also, there are tons of rental guides with community descriptions to help you match your personality and needs to the fitting hood. Some popular sites among Chicagoans include Domu, Hotpads, and PadMapper.
Searching On Social Media
According to a recent survey, 3.78 billion people and 97% of Fortune 500 Companies are on social media. Where are we getting with these numbers? The fact is, every player in any industry today worth their salt has a presence in the social media arena. And your next apartment may be a post away on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, among other social media sites.
Search “apartments for rent in Chicago” on any of your favorite social media sites to access the listings. The best part, you can refine the search terms to get listed apartments that genuinely fit your taste. You want a “furnished apartment in Chicago” or “2-Bedroom apartments for rent in Chicago for $700”, search the terms.
Further, you can access the customers’ reviews of an apartment, engage the owner or agents through direct messaging and chat options, and seek other customers’ opinion about the landlord or apartment.
Use A Real Estate Broker
An experienced real estate broker may shorten your apartment search time from forever to countable days or even hours. Many know the property managers and landlords in their area of operations and may even get you a better rent deal. Believe us, the best Chicago apartment finders are better at accessing the information on vacant apartments than you.
Of course, they earn a commission if they convince you to rent an apartment. But unlike in other cities, in Chicago, the property owner or manager pays the brokerage fee. So, why not contact a broker to hold your hand in the apartment search process? Even so, real estate brokers are salespeople, and truth may not be abundant sometimes. It would be best if you did your due diligence before you accept any lease agreements.
Word Of Mouth
Here, you can seek the help of family, friends, or co-workers in spreading the word. Plus, you can involve the people who live in areas with the apartment types of your dreams. Also, ask the neighbors, as most people will hint to their neighbors of plans to vacate or rent a property.
But remember, you need to be clear to people on the specific location, rental price ceiling, amenities you deem essential, and your intended lease duration. You don’t want people going out of their way only to find an apartment beyond your budget or you outright dislike.
The best part of word of mouth is people can vouch for you and you end up getting better and friendlier lease terms. Also, it’s unlikely for a friend or family member to refer you to a troublesome landlord.
What’s the Average Rent in Chicago?
The average rent in Chicago is $1,908. Compared to the previous year, the rent has increased by about 4%.
What’s The Average Apartment Size In Chicago?
749 square feet. However, it’s worth mentioning that this number greatly depends on the unit type. Studio apartments are the smallest, 1-bedroom apartments are slightly bigger, and 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom apartments are more spacious.
Tips for Chicago Apartment Seekers
Regardless of your rental budget, it feels good to get the best bang for your buck. And here are some tips we recommend for cost-saving and keeping you safe when hunting for an apartment in Chicago.
Keep An Eye Out for Scammers
Anything that sounds too ideal is always a scammer’s bait, especially in real estate. Sorry to let you know this, but a $900 a month 3-bedroom Streetsville condo can only exist in dreams. You need to be vigilant in your apartment search or join the Americans who lost about $19.7 billion to scammers in 2020.
Top scammer indicators include too sweet a deal, trouble verifying apartment owner or manager, non-existent realty company, trouble verifying the agent’s employer, and rent is a significantly lower outlier compared to similar units in the neighborhood.
Question and Verify
Be sure to question and verify every ad, especially for new transplants to Chicago. Approach every apartment listing with a cynic dipstick. Do extensive research to prove, and insist on physical visits before paying for anything. And the best of all, use rental apps and sites that mark apartments on handy maps to verify exact locations, and scammers will spend another night on an empty stomach.
Consider Getting a Roommate
If your dream apartment’s rent is $1400 a month, and you can barely afford it, consider getting a roommate. You’re likely even to afford a better apartment with an extra person splitting the rent and utility bills. For example, if your rent budget is $800, which can get you a lovely studio, you can get another person to add an equivalent amount, and you two can then afford a 2-bedroom apartment for $1200, and each saves $200 in the process.
Avoid Moving During Peak Seasons
Demand affects supply, and consequently, prices. Avoid moving during peak seasons, as apartment demand is usually over the roof. Consider season determinants for where you’re looking to live, such as weather and proximity to colleges.
For instance, July and August are peak months in many areas, as renters hurry to change apartments before it gets colder. Many landlords are likely to offer better deals during off-seasons, and you may save money by striking at the right moment. And when you get a great deal, jump on it right away, as rents can change overnight.
The key to successfully finding the best apartment in Chicago pegs on preparing well beforehand for the search process. Now that you know hunting basics and where to hunt, it should be easier to plan the strategy and have a checklist to keep you on track. Getting everything in order beforehand ensures you get what you deserve and want. We wish you happy and successful apartment hunting in Chicago.