“We’ll drive you around” is a common refrain from Chicago’s rental services. That’s one of the few promises rental services make that they routinely keep, but it’s not necessarily in your interest to be driven around.
When you’re a passenger, you’re less likely to be paying attention to your surroundings than when you’re driving, and you’re not in control of the route. I’ve heard many a rental agent laugh about taking an indirect route to a property so their passenger wouldn’t see some of the nastier sights along a direct route. If you don’t know the area well, you may not know you were driven out of the way – and you may learn too late what you missed along the way and wish you hadn’t.
Rental agents are often granted preferred access to on-site parking spots that aren’t available to renters. If you’re not doing the driving, it’s more difficult to gain an understanding of the difficulty of parking at or near a place you’re considering.
Most high-rise buildings that have on-site parking will validate parking tickets at no charge after you’ve viewed apartments. If you’re being driven around and parking is an issue for you, insist that the agent park in the on-site garage when there is one. Some of the high-rise parking garages are notoriously difficult to navigate and have cramped parking spaces. Car break-ins have been a problem in a number of building garages. Keep your eyes open for broken glass. Don’t ignore the fact that you may spend a fair amount of time each day on a multi-story parking ramp. 111 West Wacker, which is nearing completion, has two levels of underground parking and spaces on the 4th through 14th levels.
There’s a lot more that you miss when you use a rental service and are unfamiliar with a neighborhood you’re visiting. Identify your desired neighborhood before you look at apartments, and satisfy yourself that all of your requirements will be met. Don’t agree to look at places beyond the boundaries you’ve set. The last thing you want to do is take the advice of rental agents, who are often profoundly ignorant and / or deliberately deceptive.
If you’re planning to live in one of the neighborhoods covered in our at-a-glance lists you may be able to see all of your options within a few minutes’ walk. There’s no better way to gain a feel for a neighborhood than by walking around it.