The Ultimate Guide to Renting in Illinois for First-Timers?

Being a first-time renter in Illinois can make you both excited and apprehensive. It's exciting because the state has so much to offer in terms of a vibrant sports scene, restaurants, cultural diversity, music festivals, and more. The list is endless. However, it's also nerve-wracking because of the amount of work involved in renting an apartment in Illinois.

So, you're renting an apartment in Illinois but don't know where to start? We're here to help. Today's post is a definitive guide into everything you need to know about renting in Illinois for the first time. So, grab your notebook and pen, and let's dive right in.

Budget Carefully

Renting in Illinois is more affordable compared to states like California and New York, but this doesn't make budgeting any less important. A proper budget ensures you can live comfortably within your means and lessens the likelihood of rent delinquency.

As a rule, rental costs should account for about 30% of your gross income. This 30% should cover the rent, utilities, parking, and maintenance fees. Renters’ insurance in Illinois isn't required by law but may be compulsory under your rental agreement. If so, consider budgeting for it under your rental costs.

Brown and Gray Painted House in Front of Road

Remember, the first month's rent is due when you sign the lease. Owners usually require the full rent and a security deposit similar to the rent amount. Other costs during your first month may include application and pet-related fees. It's worth noting that your landlord/landlady will fully refund your security deposit when you move out.

If you're strapped for cash, consider taking in a roommate. That way, you can cut rental and living expenses by half. Doing so also lets you explore more expensive and probably better rental options.

Create Your Rental Checklist

With a budget in place, your next step is to create a comprehensive rental checklist. This is a detailed list of items and tasks to review or inspect before signing a lease and moving into a rental property. It should contain what you prioritize in a rental property to guide your decision-making. Your checklist may include:

  • Amenities you need (gyms, restaurants, nightclubs)
  • Range of property sizes in square feet
  • Range of rental prices you can comfortably afford
  • A list of special services and concerns (reserved parking, security, pet policy)
  • A list of rooms and their conditions

You can create a checklist or download a rental checklist template online. Alternatively, you can use the template as inspiration for your checklist.

suburban neighborhood

Explore the Neighborhood

Most people renting in Illinois move to Chicago, the third-largest city in the U.S., with a population of about three million. It's also home to more than 100 different neighborhoods, so you have plenty of options to explore. The bad news is that you can't explore all of them. To find the perfect neighborhood to settle in, consider the following:

  • The distance from your place of work or study
  • The distance from essential amenities (health clubs, restaurants, shopping centers)
  • Your preferred mode of transportation and availability of transportation facilities
  • The cost of living relative to other neighborhoods (rent plus living expenses)
  • The security of the neighborhood (crime rate, police presence)

You'll have to prioritize these considerations because neighborhoods that check all the boxes are rare. For example, you can sacrifice living closer to certain amenities for a shorter commute to work. Perhaps you live in a relatively expensive neighborhood with tight security. Of course, you can always get help from a real estate agent for a fee.

Don't Skip the Tours

Once you've found a decent neighborhood, the next step is to look at what it has to offer. The best way to do so is to check online listings on authority websites. Sites like Zillow have large landlord databases and receive frequent updates on the availability of property. Moreover, you can use filters to narrow down your search to properties you can afford and amenities you need.

Narrow down your search to about two or three apartments you prefer and arrange for tours. 3D virtual tours allow you to pre-screen the apartment remotely. This widens your options, giving you a mostly accurate glimpse into what you can expect from the apartment. However, if you're near the apartment, a walk-in tour would be better.

Liaise with the landlord or property management company and schedule a tour at your preferred time. A tour is much more than checking the condition of the rooms and the interior. It's also about immersing yourself in the apartment's atmosphere, gauging the demographic, and knowing your potential landlord.

Once they slot you in for a tour, prepare a list of questions you'll ask the landlord. These questions include:

  • How much is the rent? 
  • What are the most notable lease terms?
  • How long is the lease?
  • Are utilities included in the rent
  • Do you have pet and parking policies?
  • Is renters insurance compulsory?
  • What is your guest policy?

On the day of the tour, arrive on time and get a good sense of the apartment's layout and its features. Also, walk around the neighborhood to get a feel of the community and its environment. If satisfied, ask for the lease agreement, pay the required amount, and plan for your move.

family moving in

Moving In

Congratulations. You just rented your first apartment in Illinois! But before you start celebrating, you still have one last step: moving in.

Moving in can be a considerable challenge, but you make it much easier if you prepare adequately for the move. Adequate preparation entails:

  • Applying for renter's insurance
  • Setting up accounts for utilities
  • Canceling services and memberships in your former place
  • Updating your address through USPS
  • Plan your move-in day

On the day you move in, you might have to complete a move-in inspection list. This is a checklist for assessing the property’s condition when you begin your tenancy.

Complete the checklist and try building rapport with the neighbors to help you with your move. Lastly, move your stuff into the apartment and begin your new life in Illinois.

Renting in Illinois Simplified

Embarking on your first rental experience in Illinois can be both thrilling and overwhelming. However, if you follow the above instructions, you'll be ready to settle into your new Illinois apartment in no time.

Remember to do your digging to find the best apartment for your budget. If you're too caught up and don't have time for apartment tours and similar activities, consider hiring a real estate agent to do the heavy lifting.

Author - Aleksandra Djurdjevic
Aleksandra Djurdjevic          

Senior Content Creator

Aleksandra Djurdjevic is a senior writer and editor, covering jewelry, accessories, and trends. She’s also works with services, home décor. She has previously worked as ESL teacher for English Tochka. Aleksandra graduated from the Comparative Literature department at the Faculty of Philosophy in Serbia. Aleksandra’s love for the environment, crafts and natural products over the years helps her continue to be a top expert at Wooden Earth.


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