10 commandments of apartment searching in Chicago

Looking for an apartment in Chicago and don’t know where to begin? Take a look at these ten commandments of apartment searching in Chicago and then give me a call! (847.373.8114; andrew@stephenandryan.com)

  1. Thou shalt not listen to false agents. If an agent tells you there’s nothing else available, chances are that he or she is lying.  As long as you don’t have an extremely specific list of wants with a tight budget, there’s usually something else to see.  The agent either wouldn’t get a commission on the deal or is lazy.
  2. Thou shalt not believe in any other neighborhoods than the true ones. There’s no such neighborhood as West Wicker Park, that’s Humboldt Park. Same goes for North Lakeview, that’s Uptown.  Agents know certain neighborhoods are more desirable than others and put that in their ads.  There are maps online that show the neighborhood boundaries.  If you really want to live in Bucktown, there are defined boundaries for that area which you can find.  It’s not as big as some agents may tell you.
  3. Thou shalt not follow Craigslist blindly. It’s no secret that a lot of apartment ads on Craigslist aren’t factual.  Apartments are rented so quickly that it’s impossible to keep up with pictures of actual units.  Most ads show models that ARE representative of the building though.  What you have to be careful about are the ones that AREN’T representative and are bait-and-hook techniques.  That is illegal.   So pass up that $1,200 2 bedroom ad from the Gold Coast, it’s fake.
  4. Thou shalt not steal to live in an expensive neighborhood. If you want to live in one of the more desirable neighborhoods, it’s going to cost you.  Be prepared to pay an extra 25% or more for a similar unit just because it’s on the other side of the street or river.  Chicago has plenty of culture throughout all neighborhoods.  Do you really want to spend an extra $300/month on rent just to say you live in River North?
  5. Honor thy checks and proof of income. Bring a check and proof of income with you when apartment hunting.  If you’re looking during the busy season from April through July, the one place you fall in love with could be gone within an hour.  Chicago is an extremely large city and there are thousands of people looking for an apartment every day.  And it’s not just the people that tour it after you: the ones that came before you may be on their way back to apply.
  6. Remember to keep the search day to one. Try to do your entire apartment visiting in one day.  The best way to find a place is to see a bunch of apartments with a competent agent and make a decision that day or at the latest the next morning.  If you drag out your search over a couple days or worse, weekends, everything you saw in the beginning will be gone and you’ll have to start all over again.
  7. Thou shalt not be pressured into renting the first place. Don’t be pressured to rent the first place you see.  Agents like to make quick sales which allow them to make more sales with other clients.  It’s smart business with real estate.  However, some unscrupulous agents will pressure you into choosing one of a few places when you may not be ready to make a decision.  If you love a place, apply for it.  If you’re unsure, don’t let your agent talk you into applying.
  8. Thou shalt not commit apartment envy. Private rentals aren’t always the amazing gems people think they are.  With a rental building, you get the professional management and maintenance that can be quite beneficial.  Rental buildings usually have better amenities and don’t require a security deposit.  While private rentals can be less expensive, the owner could also be facing foreclosure at any point.
  9. Thou shalt not covet the perfect apartment. No place is perfect.  There is always something you would change about a place.  Trying to find the perfect gem will result in passing up a bunch of good potential.  A residence will always feel homier once you’re settled in it.
  10. Thou shalt not panic. It’s a rental, not your giant lifelong live-in coffin.  If it doesn’t work out, you can move in a year.  It may not be convenient, but being a renter and being able to move around should an unfortunate situation arise IS convenient.

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