Establishing Your Timeline
If you are already in Chicago, the end of your current lease is likely to determine your timeline. As you begin your search, keep in mind that apartments are usually listed four to eight weeks before they become available to move in, because current tenants have until 30–60 days before the end of their lease to decide whether to renew. Management companies won’t usually know sooner than that which, if any, units will be available to a new renter.
Use these guidelines to determine when to begin your search.
- When do you need to be on campus? If you will be starting in a lab or class over the summer, attending a summer “math camp,” the Academic English Pre-matriculation Program (AEPP), or another summer program, your arrival date may need to be as early as June. If you plan to arrive just before the school year starts, then you may only need a lease that begins in mid-September. If you have school-aged children, the local public schools begin in late August, and enrollment for specific schools in July is based on your address in Chicago.
- UChicago doesn’t have temporary housing or dorms if your lease starts after you arrive. If you are interested in temporary summer housing on campus, International House has availability in June, July, and August. For more information about that program, visit the International House website.
- Does your visa status require you to register an address immediately on arrival? International students should arrange for housing—and perhaps a phone number—before arriving so that your SEVIS registration will be quick and easy. It’s not a good idea to arrive without somewhere to live already lined up.
- Work backwards. Once you have determined when you will arrive in Chicago, allow 6–8 weeks for your apartment search. You can find a roommate before then, but this is when the actual apartment hunt begins.
- Will you be able to visit Chicago? If so, a carefully planned trip to the city four to six weeks before your move should allow you to see a variety of units and speed up the paperwork. If not, you will want to allow some extra time to work through the process remotely.
- Don’t Panic. A landlord will only know that an apartment is going to be available four to eight weeks in advance, and they won’t hold a spot open for you for more than one or two weeks; they will lease it to someone who will begin to pay rent on the landlord’s preferred date. More units constantly become available, so contact several management companies, and give them your preferred dates, budget, and other criteria so they can stay in touch.
Before You Search
Before you start, set realistic expectations, and adjust them as you begin to see what is available in your price range. Make a list of your criteria, including budget, size, location, and preferred amenities. This will help guide your search and lead to an informed decision. Be open-minded as you start answering these questions:
- How will you get to campus? Do you want to live close enough that you will be able to walk to campus (as most new students do), are you planning to bring a car (with all the extra costs that entails), or will you use public transportation?
- Do you want to live alone, or share space and expenses with a roommate?
- What is your monthly budget? In addition to rent, remember to factor in other housing-related costs. Will you need to buy furniture or pay for parking? How much are the monthly utility bills? How much is the application fee and the move-in fee? Will you have one or more roommates to share expenses?
- What are your most important criteria? Distance to campus? Laundry facilities in the building? Do you have a pet? Do you have children who will attend school or daycare?
- Know what to expect in your price range. You’ll get more space for your money—and more options in more areas—if you focus on 3 or 4 story walk-up buildings with radiator heating that are common in Chicago. You’ll get more amenities at a higher price point in high rise buildings or new construction, which are concentrated in certain neighborhoods.
After identifying your priorities, it’s time to start your search. Keep in mind that the better the features (age, amenities, proximity to bus/train station, etc.), the higher the rent will be. Be prepared to make some sacrifices to stay within your budget.
Where to Stay if You Visit Chicago
If you do decide to visit Chicago to conduct your apartment search, it is a good idea to line up your appointments for showings in advance. Making sure that your visit includes a weekday may be helpful, since not every management company will be open on the weekend. Once you have decided to visit, there are a few ways to arrange accommodations during your stay.
- Contact your school or department and ask if any current students might be willing to put you up during your stay.
- Consider a hostel, such as the HI Chicago in downtown, the Freehand Chicago in River North, the Urban Holiday Lofts in Wicker Park, or several others, which you can find on HostelWorld.com or Hostels.com.
- If you have the budget for a hotel, options in Hyde Park include the Hyatt Place-Chicago South/University Medical Center and the Sophy Hyde Park.
- There are hundreds of hotels across the city, so feel free to explore for more ideas. But pay attention to location: a hotel far away in the suburbs may still bill itself as a “Chicago” hotel. Use Google maps to be sure you can easily access the areas you are visiting.
Please note that the University does not endorse or promote any specific non-University company, vendor, or rental agent; the third-party companies mentioned here are offered for informational purposes only.