- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Chicago Guide (PDF)
Finding accommodation in Chicago is relatively easy. However, the rental market is competitive, so it’s best to start the property search as soon as possible. There are some unique and interesting housing options available in Chicago to suit every budget and lifestyle, and expats are likely to find something ideal for their situation.
Types of accommodation in Chicago
Chicago is home to a wide variety of housing types. There's no one particular architectural style that is typical to the city.
Two-flats are two-storey residential buildings which house identical residences on each floor. There is usually a common entrance to the building for both apartments. While some were specifically built as two separate residences, many of these started as single-family double-storey homes but have been converted.
Bungalows are popular housing options in Chicago. These sturdy brick homes were mostly built between 1910 and 1940 and were often built in clusters of two or more homes in a row along the same street. The bulk of these homes housed Chicago’s working classes back in the day, but today the occupants of these homes are diverse.
Apartments and condos
There are many types of apartment buildings in Chicago from older and smaller six-unit blocks to modern high-rise buildings. These can be found in numerous neighbourhoods, extending from the suburbs to the inner-city areas.
Condominiums (condos) are also popular in Chicago. These can consist of mid- or high-rise properties, with some old mansions in Chicago even being converted into condominiums. These properties usually offer amenities such as swimming pools and tennis courts for all residents to enjoy.
Finding accommodation in Chicago
Finding accommodation in Chicago is relatively easy. Online and the local classifieds are filled with real estate listings. Perusing these is a good way to get an idea of the property market and common prices. It’s also possible to enlist the help of a real estate agent or apartment locator.
Companies in Chicago offer short-term corporate housing, and most expats who are new to Chicago will want to agree to short-term rentals or subletting before moving over to more permanent accommodation. Good deals can sometimes also be found on larger, shared accommodation.
Factors to consider when house-hunting in Chicago
As in any large city, finding accommodation in Chicago varies greatly according to preferred style, price and location. For many, avoiding long commutes into work is the most important factor.
The greater Chicago area is enormous and many commute from suburbs and nearby cities into Chicago daily, making properties in the city centre and near public transport lines much more expensive.
Living in the Chicago city centre is particularly appealing to young and single expats as it offers a dynamic lifestyle full of nightlife and entertainment. Families usually live farther out from the city because of the larger opportunities for space, the lower rent and the higher standard of safety.
Renting accommodation in Chicago
Once a suitable new home has been found, it’s best to act quickly and file an application with the agent or landlord right away. It's common to have to provide proof of income and be subjected to a background check as part of the application process.
To secure a property, a security deposit of at least one month’s rent is typical, as well as the payment of the first month’s rent upfront. The security deposit will be returned at the end of the lease period, provided there is no damage to the property.
A lease is normally signed for one year, although shorter-term options are available. It’s important to establish what exactly is included in the rental agreement and if there are additional monthly payments, such as utility and maintenance costs.
The cost of water and heating is often included in the monthly rental price, but other utilities such as electricity, phone and internet are usually an additional expense. However, this varies from lease to lease.
►The Areas and Suburbs of Chicago page is an excellent resource for those deciding where to live in the Windy City
Are you an expat living in Chicago?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Chicago. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
GeoBlue is one of the best international health insurance plans for US expats abroad or internationals residing in the USA. The GeoBlue Xplorer plan includes worldwide coverage and great customer service with access to a premium international network of hospitals and doctors including the Blue Cross Blue Shield network in the USA.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.