When should you start looking for an apartment? Whenever you want.
Look at all the myriad apartment websites that are out there. Swim. Bask. Imagine.
If you want to make an effective use of your time, though, probably two months in advance at the earliest. Why?
Because landlords usually find out if their tenants will be moving out around that time. Also, because there is turnover in what’s available. What’s available in, say, summer, will be rented by fall. I got an email from one person looking with a move in date nine months from now wanting to make appointments to look at places. I guess this is common practice in other cities, but you don’t need to do that here in Chicago. Also, if someone has a ‘flexible’ move in date, I tend not to believe them. If you don’t have a move in date, you’re still in the swim/bask/imagine period. Committing to a date (give or take a bit) is essential for success.
Landlords are looking for tenants who can move in right after their other tenants move out, so as not to skip a month of rental income. If you’re not ready to move when an apartment is ready for new tenants, there is no point in looking at it in person. The rental market changes drastically and frequently in summer. More units are available and get snapped up as quickly as they come on the market. Once I rented an apartment that had only been on the market for 7 hours.
If you have questions about the rental process, please feel free to contact me: 773-697-5100. I’ll do my best to help.