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Apartment hunting from a distance?


IntriguedStudent
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I've finally accepted an offer to attend graduate school! However, the school I'm attending is in Chicago. I have never been there and live a few states away. I'm planning to move up there in about a month and a half and have started looking at apartments, but am feeling completely lost. I do plan on visiting roughly 2 weeks before I move to visit some apartments, but even narrowing down a list is difficult right now. Given the city's reputation and the variation between neighborhoods, I'm doing all of the research that I can. Has anybody else had to do something like this? Where did you begin? Any advice?

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Try Zillow, crime maps, school ratings, ForRent, services like Promove (they are a free service that make a kickback when you put their name on your application, basically a real estate agent. They exist in ATL only but I assume there are similar services in Chicago), or if you want to pay a real estate agent.

 

It is really hard to not be there and see it for yourself. Some large complexes have virtual tours though. That could help too.

 

Worst case you pick wrong the first time and find a better apartment 12 months later, but with all the resources above you should at least get into a decent place for you.

Edited by <ian>
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Thanks for the advice, both of you! I'll definitely look into those options. @<ian>, it's funny that you mention Promove. I currently live in ATL. Maybe I can find something like that in Chicago? 

Edited by IntriguedStudent
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Contact current graduate students.  They have to live somewhere and they will be very candid as to whether they like or dislike where they choose to live.  Also look at the citydata forums for Chicago.  It's a great source of information although I have found that a lot of people visit that site to convey negative information which may reflect only one incidence and not the whole. 

Google Earth is friggin fantastic.  If you know the location of the apartments, you can use Google maps or Google Earth to roam about the neighborhood using street view.  You'd be surprised how much you can learn from using that! 

I moved across country for grad school so I used all of these methods while researching places to live. 

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Contact current graduate students.  They have to live somewhere and they will be very candid as to whether they like or dislike where they choose to live.  

This times a million. Especially in Chicago, as someone said before, neighborhoods can vary pretty greatly in safety and convenience.

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Definitely agreed about contacting current grad students. In addition, see if there's a grad student list (either in your department or across the whole university) where you could find housing ads and info.

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I live in Chicago now, but I'm moving to Portland at the end of the summer.  I've only been to Portland for one night, so it's overwhelming. 

 

You can actually have a real estate agent search for you. They charge the owner of the apartment, so it would be free to you. Proximity to public transport (CTA) is really important. Winters here in Chicago can be brutal at times so you'll want to spend as little time getting to the bus/train as possible.  I believe all Chicago universities offer university students reduced priced CTA cards. If you have questions about Chicago, feel free to message me! 

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Contact current graduate students.  They have to live somewhere and they will be very candid as to whether they like or dislike where they choose to live.  Also look at the citydata forums for Chicago.  It's a great source of information although I have found that a lot of people visit that site to convey negative information which may reflect only one incidence and not the whole. 

Google Earth is friggin fantastic.  If you know the location of the apartments, you can use Google maps or Google Earth to roam about the neighborhood using street view.  You'd be surprised how much you can learn from using that! 

I moved across country for grad school so I used all of these methods while researching places to live. 

These are all great pieces of information. Thank you! I actually have used Google Earth to do some of my searching and it's proven to be very useful. 

 

Thanks everybody for the help. It's definitely overwhelming trying to move to a new city, but I'm looking forward to the adventure. Chicago seems like such an amazing city from all of the research that I've done so far. 

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I live in Chicago now, but I'm moving to Portland at the end of the summer.  I've only been to Portland for one night, so it's overwhelming. 

 

You can actually have a real estate agent search for you. They charge the owner of the apartment, so it would be free to you. Proximity to public transport (CTA) is really important. Winters here in Chicago can be brutal at times so you'll want to spend as little time getting to the bus/train as possible.  I believe all Chicago universities offer university students reduced priced CTA cards. If you have questions about Chicago, feel free to message me! 

Yes, I did see that my university provides us with CTA cards at a reduced price. Which is incredibly useful since I plan on getting rid of my car before I move. My move is officially in less than 2 months, so I'm planning to take a trip up there in probably a month. Hopefully that'll help settle some of my worries. 

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I attend UIC and my piece of advice for you is to live along the blue line. It is so incredibly easy to get ANYWHERE by living near the blue line. Living off the red line is also good, but will involve a transfer to the blue line. 

 

Logan Square, Lakeview, Bucktown, and Rogers Park seem to be the top neighborhoods where my fellow students and I live. Good luck!

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I attend UIC and my piece of advice for you is to live along the blue line. It is so incredibly easy to get ANYWHERE by living near the blue line. Living off the red line is also good, but will involve a transfer to the blue line. 

 

Logan Square, Lakeview, Bucktown, and Rogers Park seem to be the top neighborhoods where my fellow students and I live. Good luck!

So you'd say living along the blue line is a big benefit? I've been struggling between deciding to live on the blue line or the red line. There seem to be pretty good options along both. How would you say the commute is from somewhere like Logan Square or Lakeview?

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Depends on which school you are attending. UIC? UChicago? Different neighborhoods, different worlds.

I will be attending UIC. Preferably, it seems like I should live in the northern neighborhoods (along the Blue or Red lines possibly)? I'm actually going to be making a visit to the city next week, so I'll hopefully get a better idea of what neighborhoods would work well. I don't mind a bit of a commute, but I'd like to keep it under an hour. I will be leaving my car in Georgia, which is stressing me out a bit! 

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For UIC I would say Blue Line is a great option! I really like the neighborhood of Logan Square, which is right along the blue line. There are a lot of affordable apartments and it's a very trendy neighborhood. Alternatively, along the blue line you also have the neighborhood of Jefferson Park, which is more of a family oriented neighborhood if that is something you are more interested in. I'll admit I am a bit biased as a life-long Northsider. But I hope this helps all the same! I am moving to Nashville for grad school in July, but feel free to message me if you have any other questions about UIC/Chicago. ^_^

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