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Apartment Hunting Tips for Chicago’s Booming Spring Rental Market

  • March 27, 2012

by Don DeBat

Oakwood 200 Squared

The forecast for the spring apartment rental market in the Chicago area is looking sunny, analysts say.

“Chicago renters seem to be more interested in new rental options and moving to new apartments. Rental traffic is very strong,” said Lori Postma, director of marketing for Reside Living, managers of 2,000 apartments in 20 communities, mostly on Chicago’s North Side lakefront.

Reside Living is forecasting spring rent increases in the 3-percent to 5-percent range in hot North Side neighborhoods such as Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Edgewater and Rogers Park, but there still are plenty of available units on the market.

Here are some apartment hunting tips from Reside Living to make your spring rental search easier:

Start early.

Begin your search as early as possible. It’s a good idea to begin looking for new digs two to three months before your existing lease expires. An early start gives renters more options because there can waiting lists for units in popular buildings or neighborhoods.

Location key.

This is the single most important factor in choosing a new apartment, Postma said. Think about what’s really important to you. Is there easy access to public transportation? Is shopping convenient? Will it be easy to meet friends at a cool pub or great restaurant?

Stroll around the neighborhood to see what’s there and how that area feels to you. Ask yourself: “How easy it will be to get to work? How much will I enjoy it on weekends and on a great summer evening.”

Management pros.

Choose a professionally managed community, Postma advises. The benefits will be 24-hour maintenance and modern conveniences like paying rent online and a mobile website, so you can take care of things like submitting a service request, on the go. A single-owner apartment can have its charms, but you’re always taking a chance that you are getting an unresponsive landlord, she said.

Check websites.

Look at the company or community website to see if it has the necessary renter information you’re looking for. A professionally designed website will give you insight into the management company, the property and the neighborhood.

Neighborhood tour.

Drive or walk by the community. Pay close attention to how well it’s maintained. If the outside looks unkempt, it’s a good bet that the building’s common areas will be less than perfect. This also applies to the apartments and how well the maintenance team is going to maintain them and respond to service requests.

Amenities add value.

You can expect to pay a little more in today’s rental market, but don’t get caught up in the price alone. Look for valued-added amenities and services. Does the building or community offer free WiFi, business centers with free use of printers and faxes, exclusive residents programs that include discounts with neighborhood merchants and retailers?

High-tech rentals.

To make sure you’re getting the full benefit of today’s technology, look at how tech-savvy the community is and whether it is keeping up with the latest in trends and technology.

Are you going to be asked to write checks and only call the office during business hours? Or can you communicate when it’s convenient to you via phone, email or text? This type of thing also tells you whether the management company is self-focused or resident-focused.

Resident feedback.

If possible, ask a current resident in the building or community you like how they like living there. If there’s a feature on the community website that shows resident feedback, be sure to read what they say.


Don DeBat’s weekly real estate column is syndicated by DeBat Media Services. For more home-buying information visit his website at:

See other articles related to: renting, rent chicago apartments, rent chicago

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1 Comment

  1. Joel said at 4:52 pm on Tuesday April 17, 2012:

    Thanks for writing this article, Don. As somebody who talks to a lot of folks that are apartment hunting in Chicago and elsewhere, it’s clear that the preparatory steps you outline are valuable. Especially your point about starting to hunt 2-3 months before the end of your lease.

    Another tip is to setup email alerts to find out when new apartments that match your search criteria become available. Without alerts, monitoring listings can be a full-time job!

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