Accommodation in Chicago
- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Chicago Guide (PDF)
Finding accommodation in Chicago is relatively easy, although the rental market is competitive, so it’s best to start the property search as soon as possible. There are some unique and interesting housing options available in Chicago to suit every budget and lifestyle, and expats are likely to find what they are looking for within a short space of time.
Types of accommodation in Chicago
Chicago is home to a wide variety of housing types and there is no one particular architectural style that is typical to the city.
Two-flats are two-storey residential buildings which house identical residences on each floor. There is usually a common entrance to the building for both apartments. While some were specifically built as two residences, many of these started as single-family double-story homes but have been converted.
Bungalows are popular housing options in Chicago. These sturdy brick homes were mostly built between 1910 and 1940, and were often built in clusters of two or more homes in a row along the same street. The bulk of these homes housed Chicago’s working classes back in the day, but today the occupants of these homes are diverse.
Apartments and condos
There are many types of apartment buildings in Chicago from older and smaller six-unit blocks to modern high-rise buildings. These can be found in numerous areas, extending from the suburbs to the inner-city areas.
Condominiums (condos) are also popular in Chicago. These can consist of mid-rise or high-rise properties, with some old mansions in Chicago even being converted into condominiums. These properties usually offer amenities such as swimming pools and tennis courts for all residents to enjoy.
Finding accommodation in Chicago
Finding accommodation in Chicago is relatively easy. Expats can search online or in the local classifieds. It’s also possible to enlist the help of a real estate agent or apartment locator.
Often companies in Chicago offer short-term corporate housing, and most expats who are new to Chicago will want to agree to short-term rentals or subletting before moving over to more permanent accommodation. Good deals can sometimes also be found on larger, shared accommodation.
Factors to consider when house-hunting in Chicago
As in any large city, finding accommodation in Chicago varies greatly according to preferred style, price and location. For many, avoiding long commutes into work is the most important factor.
The greater Chicago area is enormous and many commute from suburbs and nearby cities into Chicago daily, making properties in the city centre and near public transport lines much more expensive.
Living in the Chicago city centre is particularly appealing to young and single expats as it offers a dynamic lifestyle full of nightlife and entertainment. Families usually live further out of the city because of the larger opportunities for space, the lower rent and the higher standard of safety.
Signing a lease in Chicago
When finding the right property, it’s common to fill in an application with the agent or landlord immediately. A lease is normally signed for one year, although shorter-term options are available. To secure a property, a security deposit of at least one month’s rent is typical, as well as the payment of the first month’s rent upfront. The security deposit will be returned at the end of the lease period, provided there is no damage to the property.
It’s important to establish what exactly is included in the rental agreement and monthly payments, including utility and maintenance costs. The cost of water and heating is often included in the monthly rental price, but other utilities such as electricity, phone and internet are usually an additional expense. However, this varies from lease to lease.