Spring in Chicago is peak rental season & it can be overwhelming navigating the market on your own. As a real estate broker, I don’t just represent sellers & buyers, I also help renters find their place in Chicago – for FREE. These are a few of my tips I share with my clients prior to them renting an apartment in Chicago.
When to Start
My advice is always to start your search at most 60 days prior to your ideal lease start date. Some over-achievers like to start a few months ahead of time, but unfortunately that is time wasted. It’s good to understand the market, but something online now won’t be available in a few months & the prices may increase/decrease depending on the time of year. Landlords are required by the state of Illinois to provide their tenants a renewal notice of at least 30 days prior to lease expiration & 90 days at the very most. Therefore, most landlords don’t know if the unit will be available until 60 days prior to lease start.
How to Determine Your Budget
Most landlords will follow a simple rule when qualifying their tenants, 3×1 rent to income ratio. Therefore if you net $6000 a month, your rent should be around $2000 a month. You should try not to exceed more than 30% of your monthly income on living expenses. This is a normal metric landlords use to qualify tenants, however there are exceptions to every rule & some landlords will over look this.
Additionally, be aware of your credit. If you have a less than desirable credit situation, be up front about it & see what options you have. Every apartment will require a credit & background check, so before you pay for them to run your credit understand where you are at & be upfront about it.
Choose Your Neighborhood
Chicago has 77 recognized neighborhoods, with numerous sub-neighborhoods in between. It can be a tough choice figuring out what neighborhood is right for you as each is so unique & have so much to offer. There are many things to consider, but the items below should be the most important.
This is a great article on some of Chicago’s most popular neighborhoods.
What Fees Should You Expect
When renting an apartment in Chicago renters often overlook are the fees associated with renting. Working with a broker is FREE, so that’s one fee you don’t need to stress over 🙂 Depending on the style of building, type of unit, area of the city, etc. fees vary. Below are a few fees you will want to be aware of when signing a lease:
- Application Fee
- First month’s rent: due at lease signing to secure the unit
- Security Deposit or Non-refundable Move-In Fee: due at lease signing
- Utility costs
- Move Out Fee
- Elevator Rental Deposit
- Admin Fees
- Renter’s Insurance
- Lease Registration Fee
- Pet Registration Fee
- Pet Rent
Why You Should Use A Real Estate Broker
Finally, my biggest piece of advice is to use a Real Estate Broker. This is a free service to you as the landlords want us to bring them qualified tenants & while third party websites can be a great resource – they are not always reliable. Use a Broker who knows the market & understands the process, don’t waste your valuable time searching endlessly when you can have someone do the work for you. Broker’s have access to reliable, accurate, & available listings currently on the market.
If you do use third party websites, please be smart. While I always recommend working with a broker, I have had clients have good experiences with Hotpads, Apartments.com, and Domu. It’s common sense but don’t meet strangers off Craigslist or send funds in advance of lease signing. Research the subject address & do your due diligence that the property is actually for rent, the lease is legally binding, & you are legally able to occupy the unit. Know what your rights are – Read up on Chicago Renter’s Rights.
If you have any questions about this information above or are interested in renting in Chicago reach out to me & I will make it easy for you! Also, check out my favorite apartments hacks here.
Great advice. Thank you Kelsey!