Chicago, the country's third largest city, offers a variety of living opportunities. If you're checking out apartments in Chicago, here's what you need to know before your hunt begins:
The vacancy rate in the Windy City has been hovering between three and four percent for the last few years. This means that everyone's renting, so you'll face stiff competition in your search, especially in the prime neighborhoods on the north side. Also, although the average rent in Chicago is about $1,200 per month, which is relatively low compared to New York and L.A., it will be difficult – if not impossible – to find a one bedroom for that price in the most sought-after locations.
There's wide variability in the necessary paperwork, but you don't often need more than a rental application, a credit check (initiated by the landlord for a $30 to $50 fee) and possibly a recent pay stub.
Searching by neighborhood
In this market, it's a good idea to start checking out what's out there at least 60 days in advance. Here's some information about the most popular neighborhoods for young adults to fuel your search:
In many of the north- and west-side neighborhoods, like Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Bucktown and Wicker Park, people choose an area they like and then take a leisurely walk through the neighborhood. It's not uncommon to find "For Rent" signs in the windows of lovely brownstones that haven't been posted anywhere else.
You can typically get a significantly reduced monthly rate by renting from an individual owner, but be prepared to jump on a good deal right away – even waiting 24 hours might not be a good idea.
Living by the lake is always more expensive. Typically, the further you are from Lake Michigan, the cheaper the apartments are.