Moving to Chicago: A Transplant’s Checklist
Tips for the new college grad moving to Chicago
You’ve graduated from college and decided you’re going to be moving to Chicago. Maybe you found your dream job, maybe you didn’t. Don’t worry, there’s time for that, but the time is now for finding your new apartment.
Finding an apartment when you’re moving to Chicago takes a bit of smarts, wiggle room, and let’s be honest – luck. Moves are hard, but here are a few tips to make it a little easier from someone not far removed from finding her first city apartment.
Apartment Hunting Priorities for the Transplant
1. Nail down your price range.
As a general rule rent should not exceed 30% of your income. Use a rent calculator to find an apartment budget that works for you.
Those gorgeous downtown apartments with floor-to-ceiling windows may seem tempting, and so will a lot of neighborhood charmers, but your checkbook comes first. Start there and keep the door shut on budget-busting temptation (the parking tickets will take care of that).
2. What do you need (I mean, what do you really need)?
Is a parking spot important to you? Do you hate doing dishes or hitting the Laundromat?
A fine line (or an obvious one) separates what we need from what we want. You might expect a parking spot, an in-unit washer and dryer, and an updated bathroom, but when you’re moving to Chicago, you’ll have to accept that those are luxuries (unless you nailed a great job!).
It’s not difficult to find an apartment with heat and electricity included (consider that standard), but gas, cable and Internet are usually billed separately. The city is full of quirky and charming “historical” buildings, but they can come with a cost in the hot summer months, so budget for an air conditioning unit if necessary (and trust us, it IS). Updated appliances or in-apartment washer and dryer can add a couple hundred dollars to your monthly tab.
Have a pet? That’s probably going to cost you – if you find a place that allows them.
So decide what you need before you start your search. For more detailed budgeting information look at these average Chicago utility price ranges. If you want to get more specific, ask the landlord (or current tenants if you’re real lucky) if you can see any previous bills.
3. Choose your location carefully.
Will you be commuting to work? Do you have a vehicle or will you be taking public transportation? Chicago has quite a few transportation options. Study the CTA maps while looking at apartments to know where the closest El and bus stops are located. Even if you plan to drive to work, it’s much easier to commute via train or bus for spontaneous trips into the heart of Chicago as parking can get expensive ($6.75/hour in the loop!). And that time adds up – if you have to hop the train daily, a few blocks can add up to an hour a week walking to the train in a hurry.
You’ll also want to do your neighborhood research (what, you thought Chicago was all the same?). The city’s neighborhoods are famously unique, and you can surely find one that fits your style, but you’ll want to read up. Here’s a good start from the folks at Dreamtown.
There’s a lot more to consider, but hopefully this gives you a start and makes moving to Chicago a bit more stress-free! Please share your tips in the comments below, or catch me on Twitter if you have questions.
About the Author
Jessica Funcannon is a Social Media Community Manager at Lightspan Digital, a Chicago social media company. Funcannon moved to the city in the summer of 2012, taking a crash course in apartment hunting that sent her to the Edgewater neighborhood she loves. You can follow her on Twitter @jfuncannon or connect with her on Google+.