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What You Should Know About Relocating to Chicago

No doubt you’ve heard Chicago referred to as the “Windy City,” but you might be surprised to learn that this has nothing to do with the weather. The name actually came from an 1893 editorial in the New York Sun referring to the hot air bellowing from the city’s politicians. Like many midwestern cities, Chicago has warm, humid summers and cold, freezing winters (both of which are accentuated by the proximity of Lake Michigan).

The Bean in Chicago
Chicago at a Glance

Chicago is currently the third-most populated city in the U.S. (behind NYC and Los Angeles), with a population of nearly 2.7 million residents spread across 237 square miles. The population is currently undergoing a decline as more and more people move out to the suburbs; as a result, rent has been steadily decreasing over the past few years. Renters can still expect to pay slightly more than the national average, but far less than they would in most other major cities.

Chicago’s central location has made it a hub of transportation and commerce for over a century. Its job market has remained consistently strong, especially when compared to the national trend, with the finance, publishing, manufacturing, and food processing industries dominating. Oprah Winfrey may no longer be operating out of Chicago, but plenty of Fortune 500 companies—including Walgreens Boots Alliance, State Farm Insurance, Boeing, and United Airlines Holdings—are still based here.

In addition to its diverse economy, Chicago also boasts a number of world-class universities and sports teams, miles of beaches and waterfront along Lake Michigan, and over 550 parks. Traffic can be challenge, but Chicago makes up for it with its public transportation, bike sharing, and overall walkability.

Downtown Orlando apartment kitchen
Best Places to Live in Chicago

Whether you’re looking for the fast pace and convenience of the Loop, the elegance and tranquility of Gold Coast, or the offbeat bohemian vibe of Wicker Park/Bucktown, our Chicago Neighborhoods page can help you nail down your options. And when you’re ready to start your apartment search in earnest, remember Smart City is standing by and ready to help.

What do I do if I have to move in and start work by a certain date, but I’m not able to visit Chicago beforehand?

No worries! Leasing a unit sight unseen can be stressful — photos don’t always do apartments justice. Our agents are happy to do a detailed video walkthrough or FaceTime tour so you feel 100% confident about where you’ll be living.

I need to move to Chicago 5 months from now, are you guys able to help?

While you can narrow down potential neighborhoods and apartment complexes ahead of time, properties typically don’t provide updated availability until 60 days out from your move-in date.

What if I am coming to Chicago for only one or two days to look at apartments?

This is our full-time job, and all of our agents work pretty much all the time. If you’re coming in on a Saturday, just let your agent know and we can have updated availability and pricing for you to look over before you come. We love touring out-of-towners because we get to show off how much we love this city. We can show you the different neighborhoods, the best bars to meet new people, and all of our favorite restaurants — we’re foodies around here!

What neighborhood should I live in?

There are a ton of factors that go into choosing the perfect neighborhood like budget, work location, and lifestyle. Browse through our neighborhood guides to get a feel for the city, and definitely ask your agent for recommendations!

How do I set up electricity/utilities?

Each property is different, so you’ll want to be sure to check out your Welcome Home Letter. The most common providers are Clearview Energy, Spark Energy, Champion Energy Services,  or ComEd. Our Connect Team is here to help (and save you money) with everything on your move-in checklist, including utilities, internet, and renters insurance!

Q : What movers should I use?

We recommend (and can get you discounts with) a number of both national and local movers! Check out our Smart City Connect page to browse our partners and get discount codes.

What are my transportation options?

The Chicago Transit Authority, aka the CTA (and the second largest public transportation system in the US), operates Chicago’s ‘L’ train lines and 120+ bus routes, making it convenient to travel throughout the entire city. 

The Metra Rail is a high-speed commuter rail that connects the ‘burbs to downtown. It’s a fast and easy way to get in and out of the city.

Are pets allowed?

Chicago is pretty dog-friendly, specific neighborhoods very much so! The majority of apartments will allow non-aggressive dogs as roommates (with a deposit and/or monthly fees). If you have an “aggressive” breed (we use quotations because we know your pitbull is sweet) then your options will be more limited – but they do still exist!

What do deposits and upfront costs look like for renting in Chicago?

Deposits vary depending on the property but average anywhere from $250-$500 (sometimes higher if there are credit issues). You can also expect to pay a $50-$100 application fee per person, as well as varying admin fees. We’re pretty good at finding deals though, so you shouldn’t expect to pay more than $500 total for application and move-in fees if you have good credit.

Fridge, Microwave, Parking?

Luckily in Chicago, refrigerators are almost always a sure thing and it’s rare to find a unit without a microwave — but they are out there. Parking relies heavily on location and is typically either a parking garage (most commonly Downtown) or open parking. Some properties collect additional fees for multiple cars, so be sure it ask your agent if you’re bringing more than one.

Do you offer furnished and/or short term leases?

We’ve partnered with CORT to provide our clients the option to rent furniture instead of outright purchasing everything. Get 50% off your first month when you use the code SMARTCITY50!

As for short-term leases, the minimum lease term we work with is 6 months, but pricing is usually MUCH higher for short-term leases — sometimes double the price. We always tell people that if they’re planning on moving here for at least a year, it’s well worth it to sign on for a 12-month lease to save money.

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