Living in Chicago and Elsewhere
Where to Live
Whether renting or buying, you will find that Chicago and the suburbs are a "buyers" market at the moment. It is quite easy to find something and you will be able to negotiate, especially when buying or renting from a small corporation or private individuals.
Some much sought after Chicago locations for property are in the following neighborhoods:
An area that has grown and, due to its popularity, much more is now called Lincoln Park then before. Inspired by developers to up the prices no doubt. In general Lincoln Park is cosy, bustling with restaurants, bars and shops. Many Dinks or thirty somethings, lots of SUVs, Range Rovers and BMW’s in particular. Parking can be a tad challenging in Lincoln Park, so if you have a car finding a place with parking space could be a big plus.
The area just north of the Chicago river. Mostly high-rise living. Be aware that many high-rises do not have individual balconies or decks, be sure to check if outside space is important to you. Easy access to the lake, many of the downtown clubs and bars. If you have a car make sure to get an apartment
with parking space. Before selecting the apartment, say if this is for temporary housing in a corporate apartment, make sure to double check on the view. Some buildings have a spectacular view.
An area between Near North and Lincoln Park, quite posh, but quite boring as well. It is quite close to Old Town, which has to be the only good thing about the Gold Coast. Unless you are really into quiet city life of course.
Lovely part of the city, between Gold Coast and Lincoln Park. Very sought after, and not a particularly large neighborhood so apartments ar fairly scarce. Fantastic for dining out and many great bars. Easy access to downtown and the North Avenue Beach are definitely a plus. If you are looking actively in Old Town, try to get something that does not directly border Cabrini Green. Cabrini still holds many so-called project-housing buildings and used to be one of the no-go areas in Chicago. It isn’t anymore as many of the high-rises in this area have been torn down and replaced by terraced housing. There are however quite a few left and it still is not an area one would wonder around in later in the evening, although during the day it is fine.
Wicker Park / Bucktown
Some of the best bars and restaurants in Chicago are in this neighborhood, specifically around a half-mile radius of the North/Damen/Milwaukee junction. Renewed gentrification of this once turn of the century (the previous one) turned into ghetto, has started to bring in many hip and happening people about ten years ago. Now it is still hip, although the hard-core artists have been replaced by people in their late twenties mid thirties that enjoy relaxed yet culturally rich city life. Many great live-music bars, fantastic boutiques, non-chain restaurants, and being able to order a simple medium capuccino in a "gezellige" coffee-bar rather then learning new and obnoxious coffee-lingo at Starbucks, is refreshing to say the least.
There are several nice neighborhoods outside of Chicago as well and many families often prefer to move into adjoining suburbs, especially with school-age children. Here some of the nicer suburbs in the Chicago area:
Oak Park / River Forest
These two old suburbs are near-West and adjoin the Chicago. The homes are often older and rentals ofen difficult to find. However, they feature some great architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright and his students designed many of the homes in these suburbds. The public school system is rated very highly and their proximity to the City makes access to and from downtown very easy. For more information click on Oak Park or River Forest for more information.
This is a far western suburb and it will take you a while to get downtown. There is a large Dutch community here and it even has a Dutch school, the Tulip. The public schools here are very highly rated as well. The housing is generally newer than in suburbs closer to the City and you will often find that you will have more living space by moving further out of the city.
The home of Northwestern University. Evanston has wonderful homes, a lakefront and a decent school system. We have heard that the high school has undergone some rough times recently but all in all this is a great place to live and work.
Winnetka / Kenilworth / Wilmette
These are northern suburbs. Homes and rentals here are top dollar. Access to the City is somewhat complicated during rush hour. The public school system is rated very highly throughout the state as well as the country. New Trier High School is the crown jewel. The homes are beautiful here and you will have very good access to the Lake!
Ways to Find Your New Rental
An few ways to find your new place, for rental, are the Chicago Reader (also online at http://www.chireader.com or available for free in many stores and coffeeshops on Thursdays), or through one of the many housing agencies. In many cases though housing agencies do not add as much value as you would hope, particularly not in the current market. Often just walking or driving through neighborhoods you are interested in on the look-out for "For Rent" signs is most effective. Watch out for properties that are built alongside the L, or elevated train. These can be quite noisy.
If you are planning to rent and you are in a rush, you can try brokerage agencies as Apartment People or The Homestead Group. They will drive you around town, showing you several apartments according to your preferences. Be aware, that even though you will not pay a fee, their commission will be reflected in your rent (as the landlord is to pay their commission). The Dutch adage "kijken, kijken, niet kopen" could be useful if you want to get a quick impression of what’s on the market.