There are two ways to approach the enormous task of narrowing down the bulging real estate market to what you are looking for: 1) Craig’s List 2) Apartment Finders. Here is my evaluation of each:
1) www.chicago.craigslist.org is the cornerstone of free classified ads. I used it when I was trying to find someone to sublease my apartment in Cleveland when I moved. It’s free and well known among the grad students at John Carroll, so after diligently showing my place for about 2 months, I found someone to take over my lease so I could move forward with my glamorous accountant life in Chicago. Subleasing is usually more beneficial for the subleasee. I was so desperate to find someone so I could start my new job in Chicago that I lowered the rent and paid the difference. I got the better end of the deal when I looked on Craig’s List in Chicago and found someone looking to sublease for far less than the going rate a mere hop, skip, and jump away from Wrigley Field.
Craig’s List search filters let you narrow down the hundreds of listing into what you are looking for. How many bedrooms? What neighborhood? Got pets? What’s your price range? And the all important picture included. I never give ads a second look if they don’t have a picture of the place posted. Red flags should go up when a blank screen is more appealing that the apartment itself.
I look to Craig’s List to avoid realtors. I feel better working with condo owners or individuals that own one or two buildings. More flexible, less paperwork. I learned to go through the lease with a fine tooth comb when signing a lease with an individual to watch for loopholes. It can be much smoother and convenient when you and the owner can agree on terms and conditions. Plus you don’t have to listen to realtor’s song of selling.
2) There is a great market for apartment finding services in Chicago. With the abundance of real estate in every shape and size, it’s always less stressful to have a professional on your side, and for free! That what I thought when I walked into the Chicago Apartment Finders and Apartment People offices. But when the agent was the same age as me, I knew I wasn’t going to get much more than an entry-level realtor. I used these companies when I was looking for an apartment for myself and cat only. I told them what I was looking for and saw 10 apartments (5 with each company). Behind all these doors were the same small square rooms with floors that looked they had never seen a buffer. When I said I wanted vintage, something with character, I thought I was eliminating the modern dorm-style high rises; instead I got the city’s equivalent of Annie Wilkes’s cottage in Misery. I felt counter productive when I found myself walking into the same building twice. Once with Apartment Finders and again with Apartment People. Most management companies and landlords will try to rent their apartments through a realtor or themselves (on Craig’s List) and the small apartments that are left, the ones with the view of someone’s bathroom window, they hand off to these apartment finding services to try to sell. It’s the garage sale of the real estate market; one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. I love a good estate sale, but I don’t want to spend 4 hours of my day in a car with a stranger driving around to bottom of the barrel apartments. Again I stress that I know my apartment search could be easy if I settle for practical and livable. But again, I don’t know want livable, I want a lifestyle. So when the roommate and I began our search again, we vowed not to look at 20 bad apartments before we settled on one, which eliminated using the service at all