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.

Q : 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?

A : No worries! All of our agents offer video and/or Facetime tours so you can actually see where you’ll be living before signing anything. Leasing a unit sight unseen can be stressful, but we’re here to ease your mind and make it convenient for you. Our locators will send you pictures/videos of the unit (so you can show your best friends and start mapping out your furniture), and if you have specific priorities like the ability to fit your sneaker collection in the closet or whether the unit has a wine cooler, let us know so we can be sure to check it out for you!

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

A : This is a big one. While we can definitely start narrowing down potential neighborhoods and apartments, we won’t truly be able to start the search process until we’re about 60 days away from move in because that’s when we can get accurate info on availability and pricing.

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

A : This is our full time job! 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, best bars to meet new people, and definitely our favorite restaurants–we’re all foodies around here!

Q : What neighborhood should I live in?

A : This one is actually tough because there are so many different neighborhoods that we love! Some of our favorites include Uptown, Streeterville, and Lincoln Park/Lakeview. But ultimately there are a lot of other factors that determine which neighborhood is best for you including your budget, work location, what you like to do for fun, and more! Don’t worry, we’ll be sure to ask you all the right questions to ensure you choose an area you’re confident in.

Q : How do I set up electricity/utilities?

A : 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 concierge team is here to help with everything on your move-in checklist, including utilities, internet, and renters insurance. This is just another free service to thank you for choosing Smart City!

Q : What movers should I use?

A : Reach out to the Smart City Concierge team by calling or texting 407-362-5463 and we’ll connect you with the movers we partner with!

Q : What are my transportation options?

A : 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.

Q : Are pets allowed?

A : 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 probably very sweet) then your options will be more limited–but they do still exist!

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

A : 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.

Q : Fridge, Microwave, Parking?

A : 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.

Q : Do you offer furnished and/or short term leases?

A : The Smart City Concierge team works to take the guesswork and inconveniences out of moving, so that you can easily go from leasing, to moving, to living. We’re happy to connect you with our partner services for furniture rental, CORT. They even offer our clients a special discount!

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 even double the rate! We always tell people that if they’re planning on moving here for at least a year, it’s worth it to sign a 12-month lease and save the money!

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