- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Chicago Guide (PDF)
Finding accommodation in Chicago is relatively easy but 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 to suit every budget and lifestyle in Chicago. New residents are likely to find something ideal for their situation.
Types of accommodation in Chicago
Chicago is home to a wide variety of housing types. There's no one particular architectural style that is typical of the city.
Two-flats are two-storey residential buildings that contain identical residences on each floor. There is usually a common entrance to the building for both apartments. While some were specifically built as two separate residences, many of these started as single-family double-storey homes that have been converted.
Bungalows are popular housing options in Chicago. The majority of these sturdy brick homes were 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 from all walks of life.
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 several neighbourhoods, extending from the suburbs to the inner-city areas.
Condominiums (condos) are also popular in Chicago. These can consist of mid 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. Online property portals and the local classifieds are filled with real-estate listings. Perusing these is a good way to get an idea of the property market and common prices. It’s also possible to enlist the help of a real-estate agent or apartment locator.
Companies in Chicago offer short-term corporate housing, and most newcomers 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 in 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 daily into Chicago from the suburbs and nearby cities, 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 residents as it offers a dynamic lifestyle close to nightlife and entertainment. Families usually live further afield on the outskirts of the city for increased space, lower rent and a higher standard of safety.
Renting accommodation in Chicago
Once a suitable new home has been found, it’s best to act quickly and file an application with the agent or landlord right away. It's common to have to provide proof of income and be subjected to a background check as part of the application process.
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.
A lease is normally signed for one year, although shorter-term options are available. It’s important to establish what exactly is included in the rental agreement and if there are additional monthly payments, such as 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. This can vary from lease to lease.
►The Areas and Suburbs of Chicago page is an excellent resource for those deciding where to live in the Windy City
Are you an expat living in Chicago?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Chicago. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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