The biggest apartment search mistakes – Number 1, failure to focus

Joeff Davis photo, Belmont Harbor

The biggest mistake that Chicago apartment seekers make is failing to focus their search on one or two relatively small areas where they’d genuinely enjoy living and can comfortably afford. If you’re looking all over the map you’re likely to end up in a bad apartment in a worse location.

Chicago’s neighborhoods vary widely in livability, ranging from “I’m in paradise” to “I can survive this for a year” to “I need out of here now.”

Everyone, of course, has their personal definition of what constitutes paradise in a neighborhood, and you should clearly articulate yours. It might involve proximity to friends or living among people like yourself, a short trip to work on foot or public transit, a thriving bar / nightlife scene steps from your front door – or a walk on the wild side.

Whatever elements go into making up your urban paradise, spell them out and focus on a few small areas where you’re certain to find them.

Notice that we haven’t said a word about your ideal apartment. Where you live, especially if you’re a first-time renter in Chicago, is likely to determine your overall quality of life much more than the place you live in.

If you focus your search on the goodie-laden dream apartment you might find yourself living miserably in it, dreaming about the things you’d love to do if it didn’t take so long to get to them.

If your budget isn’t unlimited, give some serious thought to trading down (even way down) on apartment features or size, and trading way up on location. Odds are you can survive a year without the dishwasher and granite countertops. If it’s your first year in Chicago, you’ll have a lot better focus at the end of it on where to find your urban paradise.

YoChicago’s rental Guides are one of the tools you can use to narrow your neighborhood search, and our downtown / Lake View and Lincoln Park at-a-glance apartment lists will help you to understand what’s for rent in those areas. More Guides and Lists are coming soon. You can find neighborhood boundaries, photo slide shows and more at our neighborhood pages.

This is the first in a series of posts. Next: starting your search too late.

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