Tips & Tricks to Renting an Apartment in Chicago

Spring in Chicago is peak rental season & it can be overwhelming navigating the market on your own. As a real estate broker, I don’t just represent sellers & buyers, I also help renters find their place in Chicago – for FREE. These are a few of my tips I share with my clients prior to them renting an apartment in Chicago.

When to Start

My advice is always to start your search at most 60 days prior to your ideal lease start date. Some over-achievers like to start a few months ahead of time, but unfortunately that is time wasted. It’s good to understand the market, but something online now won’t be available in a few months & the prices may increase/decrease depending on the time of year. Landlords are required by the state of Illinois to provide their tenants a renewal notice of at least 30 days prior to lease expiration & 90 days at the very most. Therefore, most landlords don’t know if the unit will be available until 60 days prior to lease start.

How to Determine Your Budget

Most landlords will follow a simple rule when qualifying their tenants, 3×1 rent to income ratio. Therefore if you net $6000 a month, your rent should be around $2000 a month. You should try not to exceed more than 30% of your monthly income on living expenses. This is a normal metric landlords use to qualify tenants, however there are exceptions to every rule & some landlords will over look this.

Additionally, be aware of your credit. If you have a less than desirable credit situation, be up front about it & see what options you have. Every apartment will require a credit & background check, so before you pay for them to run your credit understand where you are at & be upfront about it.

Choose Your Neighborhood

Chicago has 77 recognized neighborhoods, with numerous sub-neighborhoods in between. It can be a tough choice figuring out what neighborhood is right for you as each is so unique & have so much to offer. There are many things to consider, but the items below should be the most important.

  • Price
  • Proximity
  • Amenities
  • Lifestyle

This is a great article on some of Chicago’s most popular neighborhoods.

What Fees Should You Expect

When renting an apartment in Chicago renters often overlook are the fees associated with renting. Working with a broker is FREE, so that’s one fee you don’t need to stress over 🙂 Depending on the style of building, type of unit, area of the city, etc. fees vary. Below are a few fees you will want to be aware of when signing a lease:

  • Application Fee
  • First month’s rent: due at lease signing to secure the unit
  • Security Deposit or Non-refundable Move-In Fee: due at lease signing
  • Utility costs
  • Move Out Fee
  • Elevator Rental Deposit
  • Admin Fees
  • Renter’s Insurance
  • Lease Registration Fee
  • Pet Registration Fee
  • Pet Rent

Why You Should Use A Real Estate Broker

Finally, my biggest piece of advice is to use a Real Estate Broker. This is a free service to you as the landlords want us to bring them qualified tenants & while third party websites can be a great resource – they are not always reliable. Use a Broker who knows the market & understands the process, don’t waste your valuable time searching endlessly when you can have someone do the work for you. Broker’s have access to reliable, accurate, & available listings currently on the market.

If you do use third party websites, please be smart. Don’t meet strangers off Craigslist or send funds in advance of lease signing. Research the subject address & do your due diligence that the property is actually for rent, the lease is legally binding, & you are legally able to occupy the unit. Know what your rights are – Read up on Chicago Renter’s Rights.

If you have any questions about this information above or are interested in renting in Chicago reach out to me & I will make it easy for you!

Happy Renting!

Last Thursday I hosted a client appreciation event – Past clients, current clients, & future clients (aka friends) all came out for a few hours for a post holiday celebration. Events during the winter in Chicago are always hard & I was worried the below freezing temps would keep people away, but luckily we had a great turn out. I hosted the happy hour at Point & Feather in River North with my preferred lenders Altizer & Paloucek Group. (Fun fact: one of my clients contacted them on Sunday, were pre-approved on Monday & had their offer submitted by Monday afternoon – Yay!)

I wanted to do something to show everyone how truly grateful I am for their support & what shows your appreciation more than an open bar 🙂 In addition to the cocktails, appetizers, & great company, I put together a little gift basket to give away. I’m a huge supporter of small businesses & local companies; I think it’s extremely important to ‘shop small’ & stay local because that means supporting my neighbors & my money is staying in Chicago – and I am here for it!!

The thought came to me to put together the ‘Made in Chicago’ basket – A collection of my fav Chicago made items to highlight different neighborhoods throughout the city. Everyone seemed to love each thing I chose to include & had plenty of questions about everything, so it was fun to talk about each & what neighborhoods they represented.

The biggest hit was most definitely a candle from Wrightwood Candle Company, based in Lincoln Park – because everyone loves a new candle! This company was started by a friend who I went to high school with & I was excited to collaborate with her to include her amazing candle in my giveaway. Wrightwood Candle Company creates eco-friendly, clean burning, and sustainable artisan crafted soy-coconut candles – each scent if hand picked from premium grade fragrances infused with essential oils.

Next were six craft beers from a few my favorite breweries in Chicago:

And finally, the ever popular RXBARS & RXBAR Nut Butters, a company based out of River North. I have been an RXBAR fan for years & once I found out they were headquartered just a few minutes away from my office, I had to include. Oh, & of course a triple-insulated water bottle because everyone can use that 🙂

I wanted to do something to THANK both my clients & friends who have all been so supportive of my business; whether using me as their Broker or recommending me to their friends & family who are looking to make a move in & around Chicago. I feel too often that people don’t show their appreciation for their clients, so I want to make sure everyone that works with me knows that I truly appreciate them & am so thankful that I get to wake up everyday to a job I love working with people I adore.

For those who braved the cold – THANK YOU – & for those who couldn’t make it, there will be many more in the near future 🙂 A HUGE THANK YOU to the Altizer Paloucek Group for co-hosting with me & answering everyones questions. I look forward to working with many of you in the near future as this spring market, and hopefully the freezing weather, heats up. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me for all of your real estate needs: renting, buying, selling, or investing – I’m your gal!

December in Chicago

Chicagoans will always tell you there is no time to be in the city like Summertime & they just tolerate the winter… I BEG TO DIFFER. There is no time better than December in Chicago. There are endless activities & options throughout our cities 77 neighborhoods, but in an effort to keep it short & sweet, I have chosen my top 11 things to do during December in Chicago & I hope you can fit them into this crazy holiday season.

  1. Christkindlmarket – Inspired by the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, which began in 1545, the Christkindlmarket Chicago brings a cherished German and European tradition with international flair and local charm to Chicago. Different from the magnificent mile, the vendors at this open-air market offer unique & classic items that can’t be found elsewhere. My favorite booths to visit: Beer & Spiced Wine tent obviously (don’t forget to get the souvenir mug!), German Steins & Souvenirs, Dinkel’s Bakery for some strudel, &  Frank’s Ornament House for glass blown ornaments.
  2. Christmas Around the World at MSI – The Museum of Science & Industry is an often overlooked tourist attraction, but people don’t know what they are missing! Located in the beautiful Hyde Park neighborhood, just steps away from Lake Michigan & minutes from downtown Chicago, MSI has one of my FAVORITE Christmas exhibits, Christmas around the World. More than 50 trees & displays to represent holiday traditions from cultures around the world & one magnificent, floor to ceiling 4 story tree.
  3. ZooLights – Hosted by Lincoln Park Zoo, ZooLights is a family favorite activity with musical light shows, carolers, live ice-sculture carvings, adult beverages, & more. A fun, free event that I make sure to attend year after year. Make sure to pick a warm(er) night as it can get pretty chilly strolling around the zoo at night – or go in & check out the exhibits; my favorites are the Africa Experience (specifically Mr. Hippo) & the Primate House.
  4. Butch McGuires – A well-known restaurant & bar in the Gold Coast, Butch McGuires provides a spectacular holiday experience. With over 45,000 lights, a 2 tier model train, wonderful Christmas displays, & ‘Christmas in your Mouth’ shots.. December in Chicago is not complete without this quintessential holiday visit IMO.
  5. Christmas shows – Full disclosure: I have NOT seen any holiday shows, but I plan to because Chicago has some of the best shows & world-class actors. The shows on my list are A Christmas Carol & The Nutcracker.
  6. Ice Skating at Millennium park / Maggie Daley Ribbon – Just below The Bean sits Millennium Park’s McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. Admission is free & skate rental is available for a nominal fee. Just east of the park is the new Maggie Daley Ribbon. Unlike a traditional rink, the Ribbon provides an unconventional skating experience that is really fun. Both have the gorgeous, sweeping Chicago skyline in background & are a must visit – perfect for date night!
  7. Ride the Polar Express – If you love the Polar Express like I do, then you will definitely want to check this out. A magical one-hour trip through the tunnels, rail yards, and neighborhoods along the Chicago River set to the sound track of Polar Express.  You’ll be able to punch your golden ticket before hot chocolate & cookies are served by dancing chefs.
  8. Winter Wonderfest – For those who have children, or are a child at heart, this is a great activity for some family friendly fun. I remember going to this when it first opened & it truly was an incredible experience & memory I will always cherish. Visit with Santa, ride the rides & giant slides, indoor ice skating, and holiday decor that will be sure to get you in the holiday spirit.
  9. Holiday Flower Show at Lincoln Park Conservatory – For a warmer activity, stop by the Lincoln Park Conservatory to check out the holiday flower show! The conservatory is a favorite of mine year around, but this holiday season they will be featuring poinsettias, trees, sparkling lights, and a model trains that traverse through the plantings. This year will feature photos from 1940s through 1960s, celebrating memories of holidays past.
  10. Music Box Christmas Sing-A-Long – Music Box Theater is a vintage movie theater in Southport Corridor & has been hosting a Christmas Sing-A-Long for the past 35 years. It is such a fun, unconventional, & old-fashioned Christmas experience I am always recommending to people who want to get away from the hectic downtown tourist attractions. You walk into the theater & have the usual movie theater offerings like popcorn & candy, but also a full bar to aid in your singing abilities. Once seated you are welcomed by Santa Claus himself who leads the audience in singing some cherished Christmas carols with the lyrics projected onto the screen. Be sure to come ready to sing & if you’re seeing a It’s A Wonderful Life, don’t forget your jingle bells!
  11. Millers Pub – Years ago my boyfriend & I were at the Christkindlmarket & en route to the Christmas Tree in Millennium park, but it was FREEZING & my hand was in a cast from breaking it the night before (long story) so I begged him to let us go inside somewhere to warm up. We stopped in Millers Pub & have made the visit a tradition ever since. We grabbed two seats at the bar & ordered their infamous ‘Tom & Jerry’. What’s a Tom & Jerry you ask? The drink starts with a carefully prepared batter made from eggs, sugar, cream of tartar, vanilla extract & ‘enough spices to fill a Christmas stocking’, including cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, & allspice. The batter traditionally lives in a punch bowl, ladled into mugs, add rum & brandy, then pour in hot water or milk, and stir quickly; the egg whites will rise to give the drink a foamy crown. If that doesn’t spark your interest, they have other warm holiday drinks & as well as an impressive cocktail & spirits list.

As always, Chicago is full of amazing ways to spend this holiday season; these are just my tried & true suggestions. Am I missing a favorite of yours? Let me know how you plan to spend your time this season.

Neighborhood Spotlight - Andersonville Chicago - Kelseyshawchicago.comAndersonville was one of the first neighborhoods I got to experience outside of the usual tourist attractions when I was growing up. In high school my photography class took a field trip to Uptown & I wandered over to Andersonville. I loved Clark St. & the ‘restaurant strip’, the quirky atmosphere of eclectic shops, & the overall diversity that the neighborhood offered. Later, I took dance classes at Gus Giordano Dance School which advanced my love for the neighborhood.

Distinctive to Andersonville is a lack of national chains. Most businesses are local to Chicago & that is something I really love. Bakeries, antique stores, bars, coffee shops, boutiques, & breweries – There is something for everyone.

Must Visit:

  • George’s Ice Cream & Sweets – As you are aware by now, I LOVE ICE CREAM. Despite being lactose intolerant… George’s is the spot in Andersonville for something sweet.
  • Reza’s Restaurant – Come here with an appetite & with a group as the portions are large & it’s common to share – reservations accepted
  • Hopleaf Bar – Belgian-inspired kitchen & insane beer collection. My favorite item on the menu is the Mussels & Frites. No reservations—first come, first served
  • Jerry’s – Don’t miss this place! With so many options in Andersonville I sometimes forget about Jerry’s but whenever I go I wonder why I don’t go more often! Interesting decor, great menu with a lot of solid options, & great beer list. Pro Tip: Get the House Jalepeno Poppers, you won’t regret it – reservations accepted
  • M. Henry – Andersonville has numerous spots for Brunch, but M.Henry is a classic. Straight forward & delicious, you know you will be happy if you come here for breakfast, brunch, or lunch. A late summer sunday brunch is best enjoyed here. – No reservations—first come, first served
  • Octavio – New to the neighborhood, Octavio is a new age Mexican restaurant with an insane collection of tequila + a bright & inspired menu. Also, I will say I come here often for the cool interiors, I am a sucker for design so I love this space. – reservations accepted
  • Lady Gregory’s – By far my fav go-to spot in Andersonville. You always know what to expect: good food, great cocktail, & a huge rotating beer menu. Don’t miss the brunch, because the Brioche Custard French Toast is as good as it sounds. – reservations accepted

Must Do:

  • Midsommarfest – First week of June: The annual street festival along Clark Street between Foster and Catalpa for two days and three nights of music, dancing, kids’ entertainment, and delicious food.

As always, these are just my most recommended & only a few of my favorites, but if you’ve been to Andersonville tell me your favorite spots!

Chicago property taxes

In Chicago, specifically referencing Cook County, property taxes rose in 2018 & everyone is left wondering – What now?

This year, 2018, was a reassessment year for all of Chicago, so homeowners & hopeful homeowners will receive increases – for example, I had clients who’s taxes went up a shocking 83%.

So, as a Seller, should you lower your asking price because of rising taxes? As a Buyer, should you low ball the Seller & justify your offer price due to the anticipated tax increase?

My opinion to both of those questions is: No.

This past Spring & Summer we were in a Seller’s market, so the chances of Seller’s having the hindsight to adjust their asking price to outweigh the impending tax burden were slim to none. While the market is starting to stabilize into the Fall, I still advice my Buyers against submitting offers asking for a significant tax proration, due to the lack of inventory the ball was still in the Seller’s court so we need to be reasonable, but definitely take the impending tax hike into account.*

While this tax bill hit everyone with some ‘sticker shock’, we need to recognize that the previous reassessment figures sent out in the 2015 Triennial were based on 2012-2013-2014. 2012-2013 was coming off the worst real estate crash since the Great Depression, so those previous assessed values were low – because the market was artificially low.

My best advice is ALWAYS do your due diligence, talk with your Broker & Attorney on the anticipated increase & be sure to understand how it will affect your bottom line. Be aware of exemptions that may alleviate the tax burden & be explicit with your questions so you are fully aware of what you are committing to with the sale or purchase of your home. Communication is key.

The good news, if you did purchase or are currently an owner in Cook county, you can appeal & most homeowners appealing to the Assessor’s Office do not use an attorney. 51% of residential appeals to the Assessor’s Office are successful; the amount of reduction varies, however. If you are looking for more guidance I do know a great tax appeal attorney – so reach out to me to discuss your options.

If you’re appealing your property taxes: 

  • Someone appealing does NOT have to (do) the work. The assessor’s office will look up comparable properties for them. If someone wants to submit their own list of comparables, that is, of course, fine. We just make it clear that appellants don’t have to worry about how “long” it’ll take to file an appeal. It is a one-sided form which takes approximately five minutes.
  • Appeals are for the purpose of reducing the Assessor’s valuation of a property. They do not automatically reduce a future tax bill. Dollar amounts of tax bills are decided by the tax rates and levies in individual communities (school districts, etc.). Most property tax revenue goes to public schools.
  • If someone “loses” an appeal and does not receive a reduction, their assessed value will NOT go up. It stays the same for the three years between triennials (unless they appeal the following year and win).
  • If you are successful in one of your appeals, the reduction will be reflected on the second-installment tax bills to be mailed in the summer of 2019.

Helpful links:

Click Here to Appeal Online

Illinois Property Tax Calculator

For more information on this, check out this article.