Best practices for finding new living space, NE Illinois edition.
August 7, 2021 7:28 AM   Subscribe

I’ve got about three weeks to find a new living arrangement with my two small dogs. Northeast IL, I work in Lake Forest. I have coworkers in Waukegan and Zion who are helping but I am worried about the timeline. Is a local realtor best and do you know one/how to find a good one?

This was me and though I’ve known for a couple years(?) I should move out, he had a (kind of scary) meltdown about a minor annoyance two days ago and I have been told to get out. He said the end of the month is fine.

I have lived in this house for 12 years, and I haven’t looked for a new place in 25 years. The prices on apartmentfinder and related sites seem to be behind on rents, because when I go to the actual website of a given property, the rents are all higher than listed on those sites. My options are already limited due to the dogs (who are non-negotiable on the offchance someone was going to suggest otherwise) and many of those limited options do not seem to have availability on my timeline. I’m sure one extra week or so would be fine but I prefer not to ask.

I would love to find a little house to rent in North Chicagoland (I work in Lake Forest), for about $950. Should I find a realtor to help (and do you know one here)? What would I expect to pay a realtor? Should I just go drive around? Waukegan and maybe Zion are where I am starting, with about half a dozen apartment places that take 2 dogs (but limited/no current availability). For a house at that price it looks like I’d need to go further out into the country and would worry more about general safety so maybe an apartment will be best.

The dogs can come to work with me which will mitigate some dogs-in-apartment concerns I have - it just seems like I am going to have to settle for 12-months in whatever is available so I may not even have the option to choose my preference (i.e. an upper unit or 1 bedroom rather than a studio).

Really, any advice related to this situation is appreciated. If I rent a house does the owner keep a key and do I worry they might just go in when I’m not there? I think I read they are required to give notice but should I worry about that?

Complications: 2 small dogs, single 52-yr female concerned about safety (so hopefully no first floor apartments and a pleasant local neighborhood for dog walking). And finally, I did review some questions here with lots of great info on apt hunting basics, just nothing super recent.
posted by Glinn to Home & Garden (4 answers total)
I think you can assume that if you rent a house the owner will have a key but will not go in when you are not there without contacting you first. The same would be true in an apartment building. It sounds like you're concerned that a house further out in the country might be less safe than a house or apartment in a more urban area. I'm not sure that concern is justified. It's not a concern I would have personally.
posted by Redstart at 10:36 AM on August 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Re: realtor, in Illinois if you go that route you do not pay the realtor; they get paid by the owner after the rental contract is signed. With the internet and the prominent real estate sites (Zillow Trulia etc), you should be able to see about 80% of what's available out there. A realtor may have access to some MLS listings that are not available to the general public, so overall there's not much downside of reaching out to any local property rental company (maybe researching for reviews) to have a realtor help out. (The only upside of not using one besides possibly dealing with a pushy agent is that a savvy shopper can sometimes negotiate a better rate if they're not using one, working the "well since you don't have to pay a realtor maybe we can do 40 less a month" angle etc.)

I would do as much looking on your own online in addition to a realtor to get a sense of the market and what's available. For driving around hoping to find rent signs: in a large city this can work, but may be tougher in a low density area and not worth the labor. Any place that is worth renting will have an online listing in 2021.

Just casually looking, here are a few places that meet your criteria for location, budget and pet friendly. Good luck!
posted by andruwjones26 at 12:27 PM on August 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Lake Bluff or Rondout? Even Libertyville is just a drive down 176 to the Lake Forest area.

Maybe apartments in North Chicago near the naval base. But most of North Chicago is sketchy.

Waukegan is OK, depressed areas on the south side may be affordable but the neighborhoods are very insular.

A lot of navy base people pick Zion for homes, I don't like Zion, I call it Illinois's Slice of the South. Beach Park, just south of Zion may be affordable, close to Sheridan too.

There's always Highwood, may be out of your price range though.
posted by Max Power at 9:08 AM on August 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

While the North Shore is generally pretty expensive, I turned up some decent-seeming properties in your price range (and that allow dogs) using this site, designed for NU students (though it doesn't appear to be exclusively student property). A few prospects that allow dogs:

The downside is, of course, that you're in a building with more students than typical.

As a woman who moved a lot on her own in the Chicago area when I was single, I'd probably worry less about landlords coming in to my space, as in 10 different rental units I never had that happen. I always used Craigslist to find places--if you're in a lower price range, I'm not sure how much realtors will be of help. Your coworkers might be useful, though--if you (and they) can put out the word on social networks, you may luck into someone looking to rent out an apartment space to a reliable acquaintance, or who is vacating a great apartment. I do see people putting out the word on my local alumni networks--that might be something to try, if that's a possibility for you.

I'm really sorry you're going through this. Good luck in your search!
posted by carrienation at 1:39 PM on August 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

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