Finding Apartments in Chicago – How to find the Right One?

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If you are moving to Chicago, or you live in Chicago and are wishing to upgrade your living accommodations, then you are about to embark on the dreaded apartment search. The majority of people will live in a home that is too small, or unsatisfactory for some reason rather than approaches the task of apartment searching.

Finding the right apartment is a process, but it does not have to be torture. Before you begin the search, you must prepare yourself mentally for the task at hand. You need to get organized and look at this as an adventure rather than a chore. Your outlook can affect the outcome of your efforts.

Make a List

The first thing that you have to do before you begin to search for an apartment is to make a list. You need to consider how many bedrooms or how much square footage you have to have. Jot this information down.

You need to decide what other amenities you need an apartment to have. Do you need to be in a good school district, or would you prefer to be closer to activities like ballparks, clubs, and such? This will help you decide what section of town you will be most interested in.

Your list should be detailed, and when you look at a place check off the list of things that the apartment has that you like, and then write down the things the apartment has that you do not like. This will allow you to create a pros and cons list so you can compare the available places and choose the one that is best for your needs.

Consider a Professional

Hiring a professional Chicago broker to help you locate the perfect apartment can reduce the stress of the search. A professional will do all of the looking for you and will suggest to you only the places that fit your criteria for the right place to live.

You can provide the broker with all of the things you are looking for, including the price range you are thinking of, and then wait for them to comb through listings and find the right place for you.

This is the digital age where sharing information is easier than ever. Hiring a broker or agent to help you find the perfect place to live makes things easier. The agent can set up virtual tours of the properties they want you to see. You can view the premises from the comfort of your own home or office, at your convenience.

Set a Budget

You need to set your budget so you can know the maximum amount you can comfortably pay each month. To do this consider what your take-home pay is. Your rent should only be one-quarter of your take-home pay. I know that this is hard to live by when you live on minimum wage, but try to at least keep your rent at less than half of what you bring home each month.

Consider apartments that offer all utilities paid as being priorities because you do not have to worry about utility costs fluctuating as the weather changes. If you rent a place that requires you to pay the utilities then you want to check and see what the normal cost of utilities is for the people in your building.

Ask the Right Questions

When you are talking to the prospective landlord you will naturally ask how big the place is, and how many bedrooms it has. You also need to ask some other questions before you move in.

  1. What type of heating and cooling system does the building have? You need to know if the building is operating using a standard 2 pipe system that controls the heat and air for the entire building. In the 2 pipe systems, the apartment either has heat or it has air conditioning. The building maintenance will turn the air off when the temperatures start to drop so the tenants have heat, and they will turn the heat off when temperatures start to rise. You will not have as much control over the temperatures in your apartment.
  2. How old are the building and the electrical wiring in the building?
  3. Is there an electrical breaker box in your apartment that controls the electric supply to the outlets?

  4. How old is the plumbing?

  5. Is the building well-insulated?

  6. Are the windows double-paned? Double-paned windows help to keep the apartment at the temperature you like. They also reduce the amount of money you will spend on utilities each month. You want to check each window and see if they open and if they have secure locks on them.

  7. Are there smoke detectors in the apartment? You also want to ask if there is an emergency exit plan should there be a fire in the building.

  8. Is there a maintenance person on-premises? If something breaks in the middle of the night you want to know if the person that does repairs lives in the building, or if you will simply have to call a number and leave a message.

Take Pictures

When you find a place that you want you should take detailed photos prior to moving in. You are going to have to pay a security deposit prior to moving in, and when you move out the landlord will not refund the deposit if they find anything wrong with the apartment.

You want detailed photos of every room, the floor, all windows, all cabinets, and all light fixtures. If you see anything that appears to be damaged get a photo and make sure the landlord lists that damage as being pre-existing.

It is best if you can get the landlord to allow you to photograph them with any damaged places like scuffed floors, so you will have unquestionable proof when you leave that the damage existed prior to your occupying the apartment.

When you move make sure that you take detailed photos of how the apartment looks when you are finished packing and cleaning. If possible, take the photos from the same angles as the ones you took when you were moving in.

Family Friendly

If you have children you want to make sure the apartment you rent is in a family-friendly location. You will want schools, parks, and things that entertain children to be in close proximity. You also want the people who live around you to be family-oriented and more tolerant of children, noises, and all of the things that come with children.

If you do not have children, or you want a very quiet residence then you might want to look into apartment complexes that do not allow children or pets. You also want to make sure that you do not rent a place that is close to a park, a local bar that has live music, or near a busy intersection. If you really want an apartment that is quiet you should look at residential neighborhoods that are not in the heart of a city.


You want to know what transportation services operate close to the building. How you will get to work and around town will be important.

If you own a car make sure that you understand where you will be parking the car. You also want to know how much the parking will cost each month, and if the cost of parking is included in the rental cost of the apartment.

If you use public transportation like buses you want to know where the closest bus stop is.

Final Thoughts

Finding the right apartment is a balance between finding an affordable unit, and finding a place where you can enjoy living. Do not be too quick to jump at the cheapest apartment you find. If the price is too good to be true, then there is usually a reason why.

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