1. Get help: Apartment hunting is insanely stressful. When you work with a realtor, he or she does the leg work for you. We’ll send you listings, drive you around to see your favorites and help you negotiate a lease. Don’t just troll Craigslist and hope something will come along, you’ll be pulling your hair out a week into the process.
2. One month out is the ideal time to look: Start looking about a month before the day you want to begin your lease. That’s when the most inventory is up for grabs. Some landlords will start to post listings as far as two months out, but know that more availability will be opening up in a few weeks.
3. Know your budget and know the difference from your needs and your wants: Sure it might be nice to have in-unit laundry, but that might not happen if you’re looking for cheaper rent. You’ve got to be willing to sacrifice some things if you’re on a tight budget. It’s OK to want a decent-sized bedroom and a dishwasher, but don’t expect granite countertops and a garage parking spot. Also, remember that a rental is a temporary home. Chances are, you’ll find another place in one year. Settle for now. Once you’re ready to buy a condo, it’ll be another story.
4. The market moves fast, and you need to as well: When you start to look at places, you’ll need to know if something will work for you because you won’t have the luxury to wait around for something potentially better. Summer is competitive, be prepared to apply for an apartment on the day that you see it. Last week, my clients inquired about a particular rental in the South Loop. It racked up 11 applications in one weekend. Crazy!
5. Know where you want to live: In a city with 77 community areas, choosing where to live can be stressful before the moving process even begins. Things to consider: access to public transit, parking availability, proximity to the lake, noise level, outdoor space, etc. If you’re new to Chicago, We recommend turning to the trusted folks of the Internet for some help.