How can I find housing in a city I've barely visited?
April 28, 2007 5:20 PM   Subscribe

[Chicago Filter] Moving to Chicago in June. Start work 2 days later. No time to go to Chicago before the move. What's the best way to find an apt? (Everyone on CL wants to meet me first, which isn't possible.)

I just found out that I have to move to Chicago for a full time job. The job starts approximately 2 days after I move there, and there's no way I can get to Chicago before June to scope the joint, so to speak.

I know nothing about Chicago, aside from what I've read online -- and I've posted/read Craigslist ads, but everyone wants to meet me first, understandably. I'd like to meet them first, too -- but I can't. This makes securing housing somewhat difficult, and I can't afford a hotel.

Ideally, I'd sublet for the summer before making an attempt to get a longterm lease in the fall -- but if I could find something longterm and decent now, I'd be a happy camper.

I have never moved across the country, nor have my parents -- so we're kind of in the dark about this. I was wondering if anyone had suggestions for such a move, and what might be the best way to proceed (My employer is small, and all of the employees live in the suburbs, so they're not going to know...)
posted by moooshy to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Get a hotel for the first week and some storage space.
posted by phaedon at 5:21 PM on April 28, 2007

Where will you be working? What are you looking for in an apartment?
posted by raf at 5:24 PM on April 28, 2007

Response by poster: Working near State and Michigan. I'm looking for something 30-40 minutes away via public transport, though I'd prefer to bike along the lake...
posted by moooshy at 5:25 PM on April 28, 2007

You need to get right on a hotel with weekly rates. These can range from seedy cannot-make-month-to-month-rent-and-may -be-using-the-place-to-brew-meth to very-nice-professional-suites.

For the second, your major hotel chains will offer some version of this -- for example Marriott ExecuStay:
posted by WetherMan at 5:28 PM on April 28, 2007

Good areas for a single professional: Highland Park, Lincoln Park...
posted by WetherMan at 5:29 PM on April 28, 2007

What type of neighborhood do you want? Do you want family? Hip and trendy? Working class? How much do you want to pay. How many bedrooms. I can give you suggestions, but need more information. There are tons of options.

During the summer, there are LOTS of sublet options around college campuses in the city as lots of students go home for the summer and are looking to sublet out just for the summer, or a month or so. If you can't find something right now, I wouldn't sweat it.

Check The Chicago Reader apts. section.

I've also found
Oodle to be effective when searching for apts and sublets.
posted by allthewhile at 5:31 PM on April 28, 2007

Best answer: First of all congratulations on moving to Chicago. It is one of the finest cities in the world... quite possibly the universe. Chicagoans are among the nicest and most helpful big city people you're likely to come across ever! Our (mine and yours now!) city is beautiful and welcoming!

Given your situation I would dig around on Craig's List and look for temporary housing. This time of year many people are transitional and either looking to rent out rooms or whole apartments on a weekly or monthly basis.

If you can secure a room or apartment for a month or so that will give you a chance to get your bearings and find more permanent housing.

The rules for housing in Chicago are pretty simple. The city is laid on on a grid with each 800 in an address being roughly equal to a mile. So if you live at 1600 S. State St. you'll be two miles south of the Loop. Keep this in mind when you're looking at addresses. Special attention should be paid to proximity to L stops (our subway) and nearby bus routs particularly in regards to your work.

Go to your nearest Barnes and Noble and do a crash course on Chicago guide books.

When interacting with people I think there is a tendency to rely on email too frequently which given the nature of Craig's List tends to add a certain level of sketchiness to interactions. Make sure you're very up front about explaining your situation and go out of your way to speak with people by phone to further make your case. A personable phone call will go a long way. If it matters offer to overnight a deposit via FedEx.

PS - baseball season is in full swing (heh) so pick either the cubs (shitty team, nice stadium) or the sox (great team, meh stadium) and stick with it.

Lastly, I'm looking to sublet my Gold Coast studio this summer, if you're interested my email is in my profile.

Welcome to the Second City!
posted by wfrgms at 5:39 PM on April 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I lived in Lincoln Park, at Clark and Fullerton, for a brief time right after college. These guys managed the property and they were very professional. This was back in 1999, so YMMV.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:10 PM on April 28, 2007

(looking at these ridiculously cheap rents is making me sad and nostalgic)
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:12 PM on April 28, 2007

Best answer: Congrats! I am headed to Chicago for the summer, and found my sublet using Craigslist, via a remote search. It was difficult, but not impossible. Ended up finding a great (or, what I hope to be) a great place in Lincoln Park. Pound every ad posted on Craigslist.

One tip for someone heading there in June -- if you are willing to live in Evanston (just north of the city, but still connected via the el an Metra), Northwestern Univ. is on the quarter system, which means their classes run until early/mid June. Students with off-campus apartments (which tend to carry year-long leases) make scarce for the summer and beg for sublets. (Some may be posted on Craigslist, but also try the Daily Northwestern student paper.) The neighorhood has a high concentration of people looking to sublet which should mean a hassle-free experience (and possibly a good deal).

Good luck! And enjoy Chicago. It's a great town...
posted by herc at 6:44 PM on April 28, 2007

As long as you're close to a good grocery store, good coffeeshop and good bar, you'll be OK. Substitute your own requirements as needed.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 7:20 PM on April 28, 2007

Best answer: Herc makes a good point about looking for a summer sublet in a college neighborhood, but Evanston is pretty far from the loop. Allow me to suggest Hyde Park, home of the also-on-the-quarter-system University of Chicago. In late May/early June the University's version of Craigslist, Marketplace, will be awash with students desperate to sublet their summer rooms. If you find a place between 56th and 50th St. near S. Hyde Park Blvd, there is an express bus that runs to the loop. (And, given the el construction that is going to be happening for the next three years, busses are more reliable now anyway.)

Additionally, though most young people working in the loop tend to live north and west, you might find Hyde Park a good place to settle in. It has plenty of parks and the 57th St. beach, lots of cheap restaurants, great bookstores, etc. In any case you'll certainly enjoy it during the summer, should you find yourself subletting.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 8:01 PM on April 28, 2007

Best answer: I live in Andersonville, a pleasant neighborhood about 30-40 minutes from downtown via the Red Line (Berwyn station).

As it happens, I'm moving to San Francisco in May and my apartment will be available June 1. It's a terrific one bedroom with a great view of an historic house. The rent is quite reasonable for the neighborhood and you won't be required to sign a lease. You could leave after a month if you wanted to.

I'd be happy to put you in touch my landlord. Email in profile.
posted by aladfar at 10:50 PM on April 28, 2007

Best answer: Working near State and Michigan

Er... State and Michigan don't intersect. They are both north-south streets and go and go and go for quite a ways. It's like looking at a map of the solar system and saying you work near the Earth and Moon.

If you can pin your work place down to an intersection then some of the neighborhood recommendations may make more sense. If you're working in or around the Loop or the Magnificent Mile (North Michigan Ave.) then you'll probably want to settle somewhere nearby for a few weeks or a month or two until you get your bearings.

A few good guide books and a map or two will help greatly. Generally if you stay within two or three miles of your work you'll probably be okay. Push-comes-to-shove you can walk, bike, or hop a bus and be there within minutes.

I don't want to hate on Hyde Park or CtrlAltDelete's suggestion that you look there but it's as about as far south as you can go in Chicago and still be in Chicago. That equals a looooong commute to downtown. Plus it ain't exactly safe (although Hyde Park loyalists will argue this point.)
posted by wfrgms at 11:02 PM on April 28, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks wfrgms. I thought they intersected, but I guess I have to brush up on my Chicago geography.

I'll be working a bit east of the Mag Mile area, down by the lake.
posted by moooshy at 11:15 PM on April 28, 2007

Like some of the other people here, I'd be glad to give you specific apartment recommendations — but that's why I asked (as did allthewhile) what you are looking for in an apartment. How much space do you need? What kind of neighborhood do you want? How much can you afford? Without knowing this kind of information, it's impossible to tell you anything useful.
posted by raf at 12:30 AM on April 29, 2007

Best answer: I think your chances of finding a place you'd want to stay permanently without visiting are roughly zero percent. Even finding a neighborhood you'd like without visiting is ambitious, but in my opinion judging Craigslist apartments from the postings is impossible.

My advice follows the consensus: find a summer sublet, hotel + storage or similar temporary situation, and then take the next couple days, weeks or months to explore the city and find a place you might enjoy.

Quickie neighborhood recommendations:

Yuppie - Bucktown, Lincoln Park, Gold Coast
Family - Lincoln Square, Andersonville, Roscoe Village
Hipster - Logan Square, Ukranian Village
posted by tsmo at 9:01 AM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

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