How to Find a Rental Apartment in Chicago

Tracking down the right rental apartment in Chicago can be challenging. But there are ways to make it easier to find a place that suits your lifestyle and budget.

Start by using a free apartment-finding service. Apartment People, for instance, offers no-cost searches for prospective renters from Hyde Park in the south to suburban Wilmette in the north. Other services include @Properties and Chicago Apartment Finders. The services are paid for by property managers and landlords and made available to the public.

“They will make the appointments and drive you around,” says Diana Pittro, executive vice president of large Chicago apartment manager RMK Management.

You can also use an online app offered by the West Loop’s K2 or RMK Management properties. Both offer virtual tours of apartments so you can figure out if your beds and sofas will fit in the floor plans.

Picking the right neighborhood is important, too. For those unfamiliar with the city’s diverse areas, here’s a guide to areas that tend to attract certain demographics.

Young Professionals

This group prefers short commutes and urban lifestyles, so they tend to live closer to downtown, where rents are higher, Pittro says. If you’re one of them, search for apartments in Streeterville, River North or South Loop, Pittro advises.

In these areas near the Loop and Michigan Avenue, cars and public transportation aren’t necessary. You can walk to work and virtually everywhere else, Pittro says. Median monthly rents in and near the Loop are likely the highest in the city, $1,922 and $2,676 for one- and two-bedroom units respectively, according to Curbed Chicago. Studios go for $1,200 to $1,900, according to Apartment People.

West Town, a short bus or Blue Line train ride away, also is popular with young professionals, Pittro says. Look to pay about $1,800 a month for a one-bedroom and $2,050 for a two-bedroom apartment, based on 2014 median rental rates, Curbed Chicago says. Studios range from $1,000 to $1,600, according to Apartment People.

Young Families

Families with young children like well-established neighborhoods with good schools, library branches, shopping and family-friendly amenities like a zoo, parks, playgrounds, beaches and ballparks, Pittro says.

Lincoln Park, which is a 10- to 15-minute Red Line ride or slightly longer bus ride from downtown, is popular — though expensive, Pittro says. Median rents are $1,540 and $2,295 respectively for one- and two-bedroom units, reports Curbed Chicago.

There are less expensive options northward along the lake. Lakeview has many of the same attractions as Lincoln Park and the commute downtown is only five minutes longer, Pittro says. Median monthly rents are $1,295 and $1,989 respectively for one- and two-bedroom units, reports Curbed Chicago.

Even farther north, Edgewater offers proximity to the lake and some of the same attractions as Lincoln Park and Lakeview, Pittro says. Rents average $1,005 and $1,500 respectively for one- and two-bedroom apartments, says Curbed Chicago. The downtown commute is 20 to 25 minutes on a Red Line train from the Loop, Pittro says.

Oak Park, a leafy suburb 20 minutes from downtown, offers a literate, well-educated populace, good schools and conveniences, Apartment People reports. According to the Oak Park Housing Center, Oak Park studios range from $650 to $795, one-bedrooms from $800 to $1,095 and two-bedrooms are priced $1,100 and up, the center says.

Growing Families

More established families with kids in elementary or middle school may like Oak Park or other nearby suburbs like Evanston, Pittro says. They also might like neighborhoods near the famed “Bungalow Belt” on the Northwest Side, an area characterized by 1920s-era bungalows. Communities like North Center, Avondale and Irving Park offer more room, quick commutes on the CTA‘s Brown Line or Blue Line, and usually more economical rents than lakefront neighborhoods, Pittro says.

Monthly rents range from $1,300 to $1,750 for two-bedroom apartments in the neighborhoods of North Center, Avondale and Irving Park, respectively, Curbed Chicago reports.

Empty Nesters

Once kids have flown the coop, empty nesters often look to trade suburban lifestyles for downtown living. The preference among many is to rent at least a while before buying a condo, Pittro says.

Many choose the Near South Side, close to the lakefront and historic Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium, Pittro says.

Rents there are $1,742 and $2,243 for one- and two-bedrooms respectively, Curbed Chicago says. They are short commutes north up Michigan Avenue to the Art Institute, Lyric Opera Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the library, Curbed Chicago says.

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