I’ve lived in 10 different apartments/houses (!) since going away to college at 17. When living in Chicago, I moved every single year for 5 years. Needless to say, I became pretty good at apartment hunting and was lucky enough to live in some pretty cool places. In Chicago, I’ve lived in a studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom, all in Lakeview or Lincoln Park (for a couple of reasons):
- I love being near the lake since it reminds me of home
- It was the most convenient neighborhood I could afford for my commute to work in the Gold Coast
- Safety (which is relative in Chicago, but still)
*This infographic absolutely nails the stereotypes of the typical resident in popular Chicago neighborhoods* 🙂
Here are my tips on finding an apartment, especially in a busy rental market like Chicago:
- Plan Ahead. Most landlords and apartment companies will start to post vacancies about 1-2 months ahead of time. I used to look throughout the year on Craigslist, just to see if there were some buildings listed that looked interesting/in my budget. That way, when it came time for me to start looking seriously, I already had a good idea of who to call or where to look. Don’t procrastinate or you’ll most likely end up in a less than desirable place.
- Decide on your Budget and “Non-Negotiables” (these are different from “Nice-to-Haves”). For me, I needed an apartment in a good location, in a safe neighborhood, close to bus routes, and with a decent kitchen. For Christopher, he just wanted enough light so that all of his plants wouldn’t die 🙂
- Ask for Help! Take advantage of free services, like Apartment People. I found 3 of my 5 apartments with them. The service is free for renters (the landlord pays 1 month rent to Apartment People), and they have some inventory that you won’t find on Craigslist or PadMapper. You do need to be extremely clear with them on what you want, and they will take you around to see apartments the same day.
- Talk to your friends/coworkers! Everyone usually has an opinion on the best place to live and why- you might learn something new or discover a new building/neighborhood.
- Be Realistic. The Chicago rental market is tough. Money doesn’t go that far here, and you will have to make compromises unless you have an unlimited budget. If you have $1,000 and want granite, dishwasher, and in-unit laundry, you will
probablydefintley need to live pretty far from the city center. Learn to live with the quirks that come with renting. Location is always better than stainless steel appliances (IMO).
- Don’t Hesitate. If you see an apartment and it ticks off all of your “Must Have” boxes, apply for it! Don’t assume that you’ll find something better. Our last apartment was a gem. I found it while hunting on Craigslist, and scheduled a showing for the next day. About 10 other people were there for the showing, and the landlord basically said whoever submitted their application first would get the apartment. We all kind of looked at each other and then raced home as quickly as possible. Luckily I lived down the street and obviously got there first 🙂
Both of us were pretty sad about leaving our last apartment- we felt like we had finally found a great place to stay for a couple of years! It had great sunlight, it was huge and on the top floor, and was in a really good location for us (Roscoe St/Broadway, 1 block from Lake Michigan). As I mentioned, I found this one on Craigslist. 2 Bed/ 1 Bath, top floor of a building with 8 units. For perspective, 2-bedroom apartments in this neighborhood range from $1,300 to about $2,000. There was the best little brunch spot on the corner, and some of our favorite restaurants within walking distance. The express bus was also just 1 block away, which is key when it’s -10 and the snow blows sideways 🙂
A lot of yoga and coffee drinking happened here
Antigua house tour coming soon (it’s the complete opposite of this apartment)!