Finding temporary housing in Chicago

Marjorie on

Chicago SkyscrapersMoving to Chicago? If you’re from one of the more cost-prohibitive cities in the nation, like New York or Boston or San Francisco, you’ll be happy to know that rent in the Windy City is considerably lower than what you’re used to -- i.e., sticker shock won’t be a health hazard. Those moving from other similarly-sized cities, on the other hand, will find the cost of living fairly comparable.

Here at Moveline, we’ve helped more than a few folks move from one part of the country to another, and we’ve picked up quite a bit of institutional knowledge along the way -- including some of the best ways to find temporary housing in a new city when you’re not quite ready to put down roots.

Where to start

As with any city, your search for short-term housing should start with friends, colleagues and relatives. Use all of the social media sources you have. Get the word out, and let your network help you.

Of course, if networking and social media fails, you’ve got lots of other options. For overall information on the real estate situation in Chicago, go to Curbed: Chicago, and for a terrific mix of information on the city in general, check out Chicago Now, an aggregation of Chicago-themed blogs that cover just about any topic you can think of -- the music scene, city life, the Cubs, food, drinks, dining and lots more.

According to an Apartment List survey, the most popular Chicago neighborhoods are Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Wicker Park, Wrigley Field and Logan Square. If you choose one of those, they “hope you like paying $800 plus in rent (for a share)” and standing in line at all the best restaurants.

Andrew Schrage, the founder and CEO of Money Crashers, offers some first-person advice on finding short-term housing in the city: “When I moved to Chicago, I chose to go with temporary housing in the beginning so I would have time to get to know the city and make a better choice on permanent housing. The sublet market is rather tight… but if you do enough looking around, you will definitely find something. Two of the best neighborhoods I found for temp housing were Bridgeport and Hyde Park -- I ended up renting a place in Bridgeport and the experience was very good overall. I found several options in both neighborhoods… I used the city data website, I read reviews on Yelp, I looked on Craigslist and used Temporary Housing Chicago. I’d advise anyone looking for this kind of housing to investigate the safety of the neighborhood, find out whether shopping and other conveniences are nearby and exactly what the rental includes. Always ask the rental manager whether the rent is negotiable. “

Search tips

Keep in mind that temporary housing has lots of other names -- sublets, vacation rentals, corporate rentals, furnished apartments, and so on. When Googling your way to your first place in Chicago (or any city, for that matter), try all of these search terms to make sure you’re not missing out on the perfect place for you.

One Chicago-based apartment search site,, features rent calculators and useful neighborhood maps. Although primarily meant as a source for people looking for permanent housing in Chicago, domu does have a sublet category as well. On it we recently found a 600-square-foot one bedroom sublet in the Lakeview neighborhood for $1350 per month.

Another option: Oodle, the largest aggregator of classified sites in the U.S. When we put “short term” in the keyword search box for Chicago, for example, we came up with a one-bedroom in Ravenswood with a deck and outdoor space for $1035 per month.

One of our favorites no matter the city is, a site created by the wife of a professor who turned her search for a place to stay during her family’s sabbatical into an international business. One of that site’s listings for Chicago is a two-bedroom in a Lakeview neighborhood high rise with a newly-renovated kitchen and bathroom, plus requisite views of the Lake, for $2000.

And unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past few years, you’re probably aware of Airbnb and Craigslist. But if you want to start your search with a Chicago-based site, go to where you’ll find properties from studios to five bedrooms. A sample: a one-bedroom, 3 blocks from Old Town with a back patio and a parking permit is listed at $2500 per month.

Don’t go it alone

Looking for a roomie? Be sure to check out the blog posts available through Apartment List’s roommate app. They’re funny and instructive to boot. One written by John Havel describes the prototypical inhabitants of some of Chicago’s most popular neighborhoods, political correctness be damned. Here’s how he describes a “typical” resident of the River North neighborhood (just north of downtown): His one bedroom apartment costs $2050 per month, his occupation is as a consultant at BCG (Boston Consulting Group), you’ll probably find him “passionately defending red wine poached eggs at The Publican” (a trendy restaurant in the Fulton market area) and “his secret spot is loitering around a TEDx conference giving out business cards only to attractive women.” The app itself works a lot like a dating site, matching up people with compatible profiles using personal info -- schools attended, age, gender and data that users provide about budget, interests and desired neighborhoods.

If you’re not averse to sharing space, a place in someone else’s apartment may work out well when you first move to Chicago. There are plenty of nationally-based roommate finding sites:, and, to name a few. Of all of these, has the most amusing approach, as well as a promise that any sketchy roommate submissions “get tossed in the trash.”

Corporate housing

This is usually the most expensive option, but it’s also the easiest -- corporate housing folks are all set up for this kind of temporary stay and have the whole system figured out. They know what kinds of amenities you want/need and what locations are most convenient to your work, and their properties are generally well-run. The national biggies in the field are Oakwood, ExecuStay and BridgeStreet. For a local version, take a look at At Home Inn. Their site lists two-bedrooms in a high rise loft-like apartment in the South Loop with a balcony that looks out on the lake for $3600. Another local possibility is Manilow Suites.

Vacation rentals

Another term for “short term rental,” vacation rentals are often a good option for anyone moving to a new city. The giants around the country are VRBO, Homestay (which owns VRBO) and Cyber Rentals. Another player is FlipKey, which recently listed a 700-square-foot one bedroom condo on the Gold Coast, a vintage 1890’s walk-up that’s “walking distance to everything” for $1590 per month.

Get moving

Whether you’re moving to Chicago or any other city in the US, it doesn’t have to be a stressful event. Moveline compares moving quotes on your behalf and takes the hassle out of the inventory process, letting you use video technology to get the right pricing for your move, with no surprises, no headaches, and no broken promises. The best part? It’s free. Check out the Moveline experience if you want to take the headache out of your move to the Windy City or anywhere else you choose to go.