There are three words that leap into the minds of locals when they hear that people want to move here: Plan, plan, plan! You want to start planning for your move as soon as humanly possible. If you can schedule the timing, try for any season but winter. It's bone chilling cold at times along with snowy and icy. Not enough to be a problem when you actually live here but face it, if there is going to be a bad weather day it will be when you are attempting to move into a place.
You will probably want to assemble a portfolio for every member of your family as well as your pets. While the town itself is pretty relaxed most of the time competition for great places can be rough in certain neighborhoods. A credit report will be run and, ironically given that this is Illinois, land of the Governors Wing to Federal Prisons, a criminal background check is also likely. Due to local ordinances, make sure that you include a copy of proof of recent rabies vaccination for your dog. If it's a big dog, say over 25 pounds, consider getting a house. Many apartments have a weight limit on pets. Relax if your furry companion is a bit hefty, they go by the breed standard on the weight issue.
What Will It Cost?
You are on your own! Bottom line is that there is no standard when it comes to rental prices though they are a gazillion percent better her than on the coasts or even in nearby Chicago! The issue has to do with amenities, renovations and location. This is a great town to negotiate the price of a place because although there is competition in some areas there are a high number of vacancies in others. As an example, you can get a beautiful renovated 1 bedroom in a historic building in one place and then a block away pay the same price for a 4 bedroom ultra modern that is next door to a studio with all bills paid that costs less than a month of your favorite daily latte! This is why you want to start searching early and be ready to plunk down your security and pet deposits when you find a place.
There are some interesting distinctions between the neighborhoods here. Mostly it's about where a person or family is in their economic life. Young people just starting out tend to stick close to others in their demographic while those retiring after successful careers are in their own area.
Oak Park Ave:This neighborhood is, in a word, stable. Everything about it screams stability. Most of the residents are married, most have advanced degrees and most are near or at the top of their various respectable and extremely stable careers. The schools are outstanding as is the local weekend grass cutting competition. You will find doctors, lawyers and professors here. Other than cutting the grass on weekends the locals are obsessed about the futures of their children, whether or not their dogs are better than breed standard and whether or not the wine is the appropriate temperature for its class. Not a serious issue if you are renting because there are almost no rentals here, not that this should surprise you. If you do find one it will be expensive, small and you will be a renter among the those who are owners. $$$$$
North:It's better here than in Oak Park, mostly because people haven't yet inserted a stick into their nether region and forgotten how to be human. Nice homes and friendly people. The schools are great and most of the parents here seem to remember that children are, after all just kids and let them play. A little. The Tiger Mom would fit right in here, the soccer mom not so much. Upper level professionals, mid level doctors and attorneys who have made junior partner tend to live here. There are few rentals so be ready if you find one.$$$$$
Division:This is an upper level income area of apartments, homes and power brokers. There is a decent vacancy rate here but you are still going to pay a decent amount for a place. You can try bargaining but the general consensus seems to be that it's better to leave a place empty than lower the rent. It's an interesting way to do business. most of the places are fairly small with a huge place clocking in at a whopping 3 bedrooms. The typical is 1-2 bedrooms. Don't expect to host many out of town guests in many of the places but some are still very nice and the buildings have all of the amenities that you could ever want. Expect an urban population of attorneys, professors and CEO types in this area.$$$$
Ridgeland:This area is filled with historic homes that have been converted into small apartments. 1-2 bedrooms is the norm here but the prices are good. You will find a healthy mix of professionals as your neighbors and the area is popular with upper to middle level management types as well as IT professionals. Make friends with a neighbor and maybe she will give you a discount on computer repairs. It can't hurt to try!$$$
Adams:In a nutshell, the residents here are upper income and highly educated. There are a few vacancies but those are in demand so if something opens up you want to grab it before it gets away. Many of the properties are older and this is an established area so you can expect it to be quiet and safe as well.$$$
Fillmore:Mid level executives like this area a lot and you will find them firmly ensconced in their apartments and homes here. This is an established neighborhood with most residents having been here for more than 5 years. That makes it nice knowing that you can make friends that aren't planning on relocating anytime soon. Of course if you have a neighbor from hell that could be an issue. It probably will not be an issue because moving into this neighborhood is tough. The vacancy rate is low. Bummer.$$
Washington:The residents of the Washington neighborhood tend to be retirees and young families. There are good schools, nice places to live and the rents are reasonable. Which of course means that getting this neighborhood is tough because the vacancy rates are so low. Plan ahead if you can and watch the marketplace. As soon as something opens up grab it. That's about the only way to get into this area. Many people actually rent the place sight unseen. This is not really a big gamble, it's easy enough to find someone to take it off your hands if you really hate it a lot. In the meantime, you have a place. $$
Harlem:No, this is not the infamous Harlem, that one is in New York. This Harlem is actually a nice neighborhood with a decent vacancy rate that keeps the rental cost lower than average for this city. This is an area with several young families and is known mostly for the younger population that is starting out and trying to pay down those pesky student loans. Expect to find executive and professionals of all stripes living here as they get their careers going and plan for their eventual move into some mythical paradise that includes mowing the lawn on weekends and worrying about the breed of their dog. This area has decent commuting times and a high number of people with advanced degrees. They are clearly going places and thanks to the short commute time, it shouldn't take them long to get there!$