So-Cal to Chi-Town: Finding an Apartment

Clip Art of some apartment finding sites

Alright, so the commitment to ICO has been made, but that’s the easy part. How does one now plan a huge move from southern California to Chicago? I’m not sure if there is a right answer, but hopefully through my trial, those in similar situations will have a better idea of how to handle a distant move. I’ll break down the top things on my to-do list in an attempt to give perspective before attending ICO.

First up: finding an apartment.

In today’s day and age, anything can be found on the world wide web. Add smartphones and apps into the mix, and you’ll find the stage where I’m at currently. I frequent 4 different apps on my iPhone that are devoted solely to apartment hunting. For all the apps, you don’t need an account (a plus in my mind.) Just download them to your phone, and you’re good to go! I’ll talk a little bit about the ones I have and find myself using the most.

The first app I think should be on every tenant’s smartphone is Zillow. The interface is simple and the filters can be made to look for very specific listings. Also, the ability to contact the owner or realtor group from the app is easy. Searches in certain areas can be saved so that, as new apartments become available or if prices change, they will be seen first in the list view. Areas can be saved by zip code or even drawn in where you’d like to live. Zillow is used frequently by renters and owners alike, so listings are updated frequently- another definite plus.

I’ll just brush over the next few apps as they are very similar.

PadMapper is next on the list. I’m a big fan of simple, yet effective interfaces. This app has the basic functionality you need while searching for apartments, plus additional filters such as full-term leases and whether pets are allowed (have to make sure Fido/Fifi can come, too!)

Trulia has the addition of a “local info” tab which can superimposes layers of useful information. This tab has a very neat feature of seeing the affordability of the area laid out as a heat map; the more red colored a neighborhood is, the more expensive. Amenities such as restaurants and grocery stores can also be displayed should the user choose to search for them.

The next app is Hotpads. I’ll start by saying the website is more useful. However, this app is very popular and therefore used by many.

Finally, RadPad is nearly identical to Hotpads. Whichever app you choose to be your go-to, it doesn’t hurt to know what the renting market looks like!

Craigslist is the only website I use to look at apartments, and the one avenue that may receive the most skepticism. With Craigslist, and any online listing for that matter, you should be aware of your rights as a potential tenant. I’d advise to never agree to lease without a viewing the space first, as pictures are often “model units” and not the actual unit being advertised. Viewing apartments may be a struggle if you’re like me and are not close to the city for the summer before school starts. The RC at ICO does allow future students a limited time stay for a substantially smaller fee than any hotel would charge. I plan on staying there while I view multiple listings.

A general tip: be sure to ask about any special rates that may be offered to graduate students. Landlords would rather have an individual who is going to be studying rigorously and not out of the house for the first time. Being able to establish a friendly and professional relationship early with a future landlord can only be beneficial to you, the renter. Frequent communication also allows a potential tenant to see if the landlord responds in a timely manner. So, when your dishwasher is leaking and bubbles are starting to take over the kitchen, you know that you can depend on the owner to come to the rescue.

That’s my take on finding an apartment through apps and online for those moving over a great distance. Feel free to let me know what apps/websites you may be using or have used in the past and what sets them apart for you! Happy hunting!

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