5 Tips for Apartment Hunting in Chicago

Here I am. I’m alive! I know I’ve been totally MIA this month, but it’s been a crazy past few weeks. I’m not sure how some of the daily bloggers do it, especially mom bloggers! So my hats off to you, hopefully one of these days sometime next century I’ll be able to pull it off, but life just gets in my way! Ok so here’s an update, over the weekend, Max and I signed a lease on a new apartment in the West Loop. We’re both really excited to start the next part of our adventure together in a new neighborhood. The place we found couldn’t be more perfect, granted it took a bit of rockiness to really lock it in, but everything fell into place, despite my assumptions that it would. So pat on the back for that one, got it done!

The only major downfall about the place, which honestly isn’t even a downfall, is that we don’t move in until Oct 1 and our current leases end the 31st of this month. Which, you guessed it, creates a whole “homeless” situation for both of us. Silver lining here is we get a month off of paying rent which is nice, non-silver lining, staying at the parents and training it to work for a month. Woooof. We’ll make it work though, at least it’s September and won’t be crummy weather yet?

But the reason for the blog silence was basically every day this month, I’d get home and just post up on all the rental sites on the interwebs to make sure I was on top of anything that was posted that day. Renting in Chicago is a bitch. And you gotta be real savvy in order to beat the system. So today I want to share a few of my tips with you since this will be my 4th rental since moving down here in 2007.

5 Tips for Chicago Apartment Hunting


1. Keep a close eye on ALL the rental sites.  This includes DOMU, Lovely, PadMapper, HotPads, Zillow and everyone’s favorite, Craigslist. The first one is Chicago-based only, the rest I imagine work as equally efficiently in other cities. I think the first five allow you to set up alerts for your specific criteria and neighborhoods and get emails or mobile alerts (if you download the apps) right when a new listing is added. This is key! They’re all pretty good and work a bit differently in terms of search criteria, so be sure to check all of them out.

2. Pictures aren’t everything. For awhile I always set my search to include pictures because I assumed if there weren’t pictures, it was trash. This, as it turns out, is not the case. I let down my guard on one particular search and came across what sounded like the greatest deal ever, but had no pictures. I reached out anyway and when we ended up seeing the place, it turned out to be everything we wanted and more! Good thing we’re moving in in October! But I will say for some listings, be weary of the pictures. If they’re very blurry or grainy, or have a watermark, there’s a good chance the pictures you’re looking at are NOT of the advertised unit.

3. Speed is everything This may not be the case for everyone, but of the last three places I’ve lived, the reason that I’ve been able to secure them is because I acted fast. You’ve got to respond as fast as you can. And make sure that you make it clear that you’re interested up front. A line I like to use is “I was wondering if your unit was still available and if so,  could we could set up a showing ASAP, I know the good ones go fast!” This let’s them know you’re serious about seeing it, and they definitely take that into consideration.

4. Have your shit together This is key. Make sure you’ve got everything together for what you’ll need to give the landlords. Everyone may want something different, but always make sure you’ve got your checkbook with you when you see a place so that if you love it and the landlord loves you, you can put money down on the spot and secure it. Also, make sure you know your credit score, you can check it at CreditKarma or Quizzle.com for free. Also, when you’re talking to them, whether it be phone, email or text, make sure you continually ask if there is anything else you can do to help yourself, they like people with a serious interest.

5. Ask Questions This is probably the most important one on the list. Make sure you ask all the questions that you could possibly have a question about, because a place may LOOK great, but underneath it’s not as hot as you’d like. Ask about what utilities are included and what your utility bills will generally look like. Check the water pressure. Ask about security and if you’re not familiar with the neighborhood, ask about the overall safety. Ask about neighbors. Ask about parking. Ask about pets, even if you don’t have one, maybe there’s a noisy dog next door.  Just ask everything you can think of!

Do you have any tips for finding rental properties? Share them with me below! Hope this helps if you’re in the market for moving, luckily I wont be dealing with this craziness again for at least two more years! Hooray!