Five Reasons to Rent Now in Chicago

The weak economy has landlords on the ropes and renters are trying their best to swoop in quickly to take advantage. According to a recent national survey conducted by, more than 95 percent of renters say they plan on moving to another apartment in 2010. Renters are also choosing to make their transitions sooner than usual, with 40 percent saying they will move in the first quarter of the year, up 16 percent from the response in 2009.

If you're a renter living in the Chicago area, or looking to be one soon, maybe you should consider getting in on the action, too. Here are five reasons why Chicago has become a prime spot for renters:

  1. Chicago's rental vacancy rate is significantly higher than the national average, according to the latest numbers released by the Department of Commerce's Census Bureau. In the Chicago area, the rental vacancy rate was 15.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, up from 11.2 percent in the previous quarter. This figure was at 9.7 percent in the first quarter of 2009. This is significantly higher than the national rental vacancy rate of 10.7 percent, which was down from 11.1 percent in the previous quarter. Only 10 of the 75 largest metropolitan statistical areas had higher rental vacancy rates than Chicago in the fourth quarter.

  2. The Morris B. Sachs flatiron building, which is vacant save for a Payless Shoe Store on the first floor, is a prime example of a building experiencing vacancy issues. The Chicago landmark was recently sold by the city for $1 and will have 28 residential units built into it under a new redevelopment plan, 25 of which will be affordable housing units. Clearly, vacant living units present an opportunity for renters to take advantage of great deals.

  3. The survey found that nearly 40 percent of respondents say they're moving because they want to upgrade by living in a nicer apartment in a better neighborhood. In Chicago, renters who are looking to upgrade might want to consider aiming higher than they were planning to, as luxurious units like Echelon at K Station, located in the Fulton River District, are offering enticing deals for renters -- two free months of rent, prorated, on any apartment with a new lease.

    The studios, one- and two-bedroom apartment units have "full granite kitchens, paneled wood cabinetry, ceramic tile and stainless steel Maytag" ovens, refrigerators, microwave ovens and dishwashers and garbage disposals, according to Echelon's Web site.

  4. Echelon isn't the only development offering affordable posh living units. Roosevelt Connection and Trio, both located in the West Loop, and Mondial, a few blocks west of River North, are a few condos that are feeling the pressure to rent out their units as they try to endure the weak economy. This opens up the available options for renters looking to upgrade this year.

  5. Failure isn't necessarily a bad word for renters - it's an opportunity. Take the 219-unit tower in Streeterville, which failed as a condo conversion and was recently bought by a development group. "The group paid about $5.2 million for the unsold condos, or about $173,000 apiece, a price low enough that it can put them back on the market at discounted prices and still turn a profit," according to This seems like a win-win for the development group and the building's future renters.

    And Chicagoans: The city hosts a Web page dedicated to vacant properties, which can be a useful resource for renters looking to get the latest information about properties that could be available for affordable rent in the future.
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