Finding an apartment in Chicago can seem pretty daunting.
After all, Chicago is the third biggest city in the entire United States, with over 2.7 million people calling it home. However, that also means it has one of the most dynamic, varied and vibrant housing markets in the country.
Your perfect apartment IS out there – you just need a few pointers on how to find it.
Read on for our ultimate guide to finding an apartment in Chicago.
Location, Location, Location
The golden rule of apartment hunting applies just as much in Chicago as anywhere else on earth. Where do you need to be, and what areas can you afford that are within easy reach?
Step one is to get out a map. Begin first by highlighting the place you visit most often – whether that’s work, parents, school, wherever. That’s your first point of reference.
Then work out how you’ll get there – by car or public transportation.
This will help you rule areas in and out before you’ve been swayed by attractive properties or appealing rents.
Remember, eye-watering parking or transport costs could soon make more affordable rents seem a lot less of a good deal. Make sure you do the math before you commit.
Write a list of desirable amenities and divide them into three categories – need, want and bonus.
Things on the need list should include services you can’t live without like laundry if you wear clothes, parking if you have a car or public transport links if you don’t.
Be realistic – if you know you need easy access to a pizza place or a park for early morning runs, then factor that into your search.
Some apartment buildings have washer dryers installed in every unit – a definite bonus. However, many still have communal laundry rooms or nothing, leaving you reliant on a local laundromat or laundry service.
While this may seem like a minor inconvenience at first, again, do the math. These costs can add up, and waiting around for other tenants who may be less than considerate in their use of the facilities can also cause major aggro.
Be Picky About Neighbours
When viewing properties on your Chicago apartment search, be sure to view with your ears, as well as your eyes.
It can be good to try to schedule an apartment viewing at a time when other tenants are at home, and you can gauge the noise levels.
This may reveal your apartment is underneath a couple of overgrown frat boys who love nothing more than hosting drunken parties most nights of the week.
Ask the realtor about the neighbors as well. Get a feel for the building. Is it a family place? Home to an established community, with older residents? Or is it close to a university and serving as overspill student housing? Keep a lookout for telltale signs
With a recent survey indicating that 30% of us have moved or thought about it at some point due to bad neighbors, try your hardest to save yourself the hassle and move somewhere they won’t be an issue.
Tap Into Local Knowledge
You can analyze maps, Google stuff, and your math till your blue in the face, but there are some things you can only find out from a living, breathing human… who lives in your target area.
If you’re very fortunate, you bump into a friendly soul who’s willing to give you the lowdown on the neighborhood around the time of your viewing. Chances are though that you won’t.
Speak to friends, colleagues and get on local forums to get a real insider’s perspective on the area. Ask the realtor for their honest take on the area.
Check Out Maintenance Arrangements
Your landlord or landlady may seem really nice and it’s always a good idea to get off on the right foot with them.
That being said, there are always maintenance issues with apartments, and it’s worth discussing arrangements that are in place to deal with these before signing on the dotted line.
If they use a property management company that’s a bonus. That’ll give you a dedicated number to call or person to email should any issues arise. It means that they have to liaise with the landlord, saving you that hassle.
They may also have their own staff such as plumbers and electricians, who are on call 24/7. This means that you won’t have to wait around frustrated for your landlord to coax their plumber buddy out of bed at 1 AM while water rains down on your furniture from a broken pipe.
Heating and Cooling Arrangements
This is an easy one to overlook, especially if you view the property on a mild day. However, forget it and you will have major regrets – and potentially major bills – to face in future.
Checking there’s a central air system is a good place to start. If there isn’t one, make sure you ask about window air conditioners and heaters.
Remember that temperatures in Chicago range from a balmy 81? in July to a chilly 31? in January. Heating and cooling are not wanted – they’re needs with a capital N.
Different buildings have their own policies on heating and cooling, and whether they are controlled by individual tenants or not.
Speak to your landlord or realtor before signing up to see how they meet this requirement.
Finding an Apartment in Chicago – The Takeaway
Whether you’ve got megabucks to splash, or are looking to squeeze every last drop out of your income, finding an apartment in Chicago that will work for you is definitely possible.
Work out your needs and wants, know what you can compromise on and tap into local knowledge. Put this all together and you’ll find somewhere you can enjoy in the Windy City for years to come.
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