Establishing Your Timeline
One of the first things you need to know is when to begin your housing search – and the answer is often the sooner the better. If you are already in Chicago, the end of your current lease is likely to determine your timeline. Apartments are usually listed four to eight weeks before they become available.
If you are planning a move to Chicago, use these guidelines to determine when to begin your search.
- When do you need to be on campus? If you will be starting in a lab or class over the summer, attending a summer “math camp,” the Academic English Pre-matriculation Program (AEPP), or another summer program, your arrival date may need to be as early as June. If you plan to move just before the school year starts, then you may not need to arrive until late September.
- Do you have school-aged children? If you plan to enroll any dependents in the local schools, be aware that registration takes place over the summer, and public school attendance is based on your address. Enrollment in local schools will often mean at least securing housing – if not actually moving – earlier in the summer, so that you have the information when you contact the school(s) you are interested in.
- Does your visa status require you to register an address immediately on arrival? For most international students, you will want to arrange for housing and a phone number before arriving so that your SEVIS registration will be quick and easy.
- Work backwards. Once you have determined when you will arrive in Chicago, allow at least 8 weeks for your apartment search. Some options require even further advanced planning (e.g. the University’s Residential Properties units, which often fill by spring).
- Will you be able to visit Chicago? If so, a carefully planned trip to the city four to six weeks before your move should allow you to see a variety of units, and speed up the paperwork. If not, you will want to allow some extra time to work through the process remotely.
- Don’t Panic. Many times, a landlord will only know that an apartment is going to be available four to eight weeks in advance, and they usually won’t hold a spot open for you for more than one or two weeks. More units constantly become available, and a landlord can often place you on a waiting list for a later opening if you find a building you like.
Before you start, set realistic expectations, and adjust them as you begin to see what is available in your price range. Make a list of your criteria, including budget, size, location, and preferred amenities – this will help guide your search and lead to an informed decision. Be open-minded as you start answering these questions:
- How will you get to campus? Do you want to live close enough that you will be able to walk to campus (as most new students do), are you planning to bring a car (with all the extra costs that entails), or will you use public transportation?
- Do you want to live alone, or share space and expenses with a roommate?
- What is your monthly budget? In addition to rent, remember to factor in other housing-related costs. Will you need to buy furniture or pay for parking? How much are the monthly utility bills? How much is the application fee and the security deposit or move-in fee? Will you have one or more roommates to share expenses?
- What are your most important criteria? Distance to campus? Laundry facilities in the building? Is the neighborhood quiet, or does it have many attractions and amenities? Do you have a pet? Do you have children who will attend school or daycare?
After identifying your priorities, it’s time to start your search. Keep in mind that the better the features (age, amenities, proximity to bus/train station, etc.), the higher the rent will be. Be prepared to make some sacrifices to stay within your budget.