How did you find your awesome Chicago apartment?
January 21, 2015 2:38 PM   Subscribe

What's the current best service for finding apartments in Chicago if you know the general area you'd like to live in? I'm checking out Craigslist and Padmapper, but would love recommendations for specific realtors or apartment-hunting services or basically anything you've had luck with.

I'm relocating to Chicago in April! HOORAY! I'm told that after apartment hunting in New York, I'll feel like a kid in a candy store. The hitch is that I have limited time to actually be out there before I have to move - a week in February and a few days in early March, so previous suggestions I've read of walking around neighborhoods might not be practical.

(Some neighborhoods I'm interested in, if that's useful: Ravenswood especially, Roscoe Village, Lincoln Square, maybe Bucktown/Wicker Park but unlikely. I'm commuting to the Loop and I'm on something of a budget.)
posted by fast ein Maedchen to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've lived in Ravenswood/Lincoln Square since 2008, in a few different apartments (last moved in 2013). The single best #1 I-cannot-emphasize-enough way to find an apartment in this neighborhood is to walk around and look for "For Rent" signs, then call the number on the sign. Most decent places will be owned by small-time landlords who tend to suck at the internet. (My current place, which is an amazing dream apartment - a cheap rehab with a big backyard - had a six-word ad without pictures on CL; the landlord was SHOCKED that I found it that way.)

I know it's old-school and a PitA and you're short on time, but it is the best way to find a place, especially in this neighborhood.

Apartment hunters largely suck, and they do not know the LS/Ravenswood area AT ALL. They will show you places in Wrigleyville and pretend that it's the same. Ugh, avoid.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:58 PM on January 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

Since you're short on time, it might be worth getting an airbnb or sublet in the neighborhood for a couple weeks - you'll find a lot more is available for a May 1st move-in than April, anyway.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 3:02 PM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've found all my apartments through craigslist and the walking-around method you don't have time for. There's also Domu, a Chicago-only apartment listing site that is pretty nifty, though it is definitely dominated by corporate landlords and high rises near the lake. Having done both the single-building-landlord-we-see-every-day thing and the management-company thing I actually prefer the latter, because Blandcorp LLC doesn't walk in on me while I'm sleeping or scream at me for cooking with garlic, but ymmv.

Practically every part of the city is affordable by NYC standards.

Yes, avoid the apartment finder guys.
posted by theodolite at 3:08 PM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Since you probably won't be ponying up nearly as much "key money" in Chicago as you would in NY, it might make sense to get a sublet/executive apartment (OAKWOOD!) for a month while you look for your perfect little home.

Put your stuff in storage (the movers can do that for you) and then do the walking and sign looking. Perhaps you can Task Rabbit this out to someone so you have things lined up to look at when you hit the ground.

Good luck to you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:09 PM on January 21, 2015

"For rent" signs really are the best, but if you're in a pinch, The Chicago Reader's listings have found me a place or two before.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:34 PM on January 21, 2015

I don't know if I'm just really unlucky or what, but every time I've looked for an apartment I've called dozens of numbers on "For Rent" signs and had zero luck that way; my calls are almost never returned, and when they are it's to tell me that the place has just been rented, but wouldn't you know it, the landlord has another place at only twice the price, a mere four or five miles away.

The Chicago Reader classifieds used to have a lot of good listings that you didn't see elsewhere, but in recent years I've had the best luck with Craigslist. The agents who spam Craigslist with ads for apartments which they don't own but on which they stand to make a commission get a bad rap, but I've found my last two places through people like that and both were great apartments at below-market rents.
posted by enn at 4:06 PM on January 21, 2015

Real estate agents can find rentals too. I had great luck that way 5 years back. Also used the Reader listings but that was 9 years ago.
posted by travertina at 5:05 PM on January 21, 2015

Craigslist was best for us. I agree emphatically with everything that goodbyewaffles said.

You might add Albany Park and Ravenswood Manor to your list. Also easy to the Loop via the Brown Line, cheaper and plenty of housing stock.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 6:44 PM on January 21, 2015

Check your memail - I live in the neighborhood and gave you some ideas.
posted by bibliogrrl at 7:56 PM on January 21, 2015

We used Apartment People when we were in a similar situation and basically had one weekend to come out and find a place before we moved to Chicago. We were pretty happy with them--we needed a dog friendly apartment so that really limited our options but they still were able to show us some decent places and we found one that ended up working well for us (in Lincoln Square). We also looked at some places from CL and they were pretty underwhelming. I really would not have wanted to get a temporary place and put our stuff in storage but I'm sure that people are right that if you are okay with that then you will have wider options and may get a better deal.
posted by pie_seven at 5:24 AM on January 22, 2015

I have an acquaintance who is a rental broker in Chicago and may have some openings that could meet your criteria. She's pretty straightforward yet relaxed, and from what I know of her she'd give honest feedback as she does a showing. Here are some of her current listings.
posted by schnihtzerfoot at 2:19 PM on January 22, 2015

Craigslist and signs are really the best methods. Have tried apartment "hunters" and never had success.
posted by MyMind at 1:13 AM on January 24, 2015

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