The first step in finding your first Chicago apartment

Perhaps the biggest mistake that first-time Chicago renters make is not focusing on exactly where they want to live. That’s an easy pit to fall into if you’re new to the city and unfamiliar with rental costs and locations, but it’s one that should be avoided.

Your first and most important step in finding your first Chicago apartment should be focusing on location. Don’t begin your apartment search until you’ve narrowed it down to a relatively small area based on proximity to work or school, to friends, to recreational or nightlife opportunities – whatever you prioritize.

Once you’ve locked into a location, be flexible on space and amenities if you have a limited budget. You’ll find that living in a convenient location is a lot more important than having granite countertops.

Start your search at least 60 days in advance and begin by identifying the management companies that have multiple properties in your target area. Monitor their websites and sign up for their early notification process if they offer one. Walk the area to learn whether it’s one where FOR RENT signs are posted on buildings. Scan reputable broker sites for MLS-listed condos for rent – they’re often bargains compared to managed apartment buildings.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Remind yourself that “it’s only for a year,” and decide on a place that appears to be “good enough.” The closer you get to your deadline for moving, the fewer “good enough” places you’ll find and the perfect ones will all be gone.