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What’s more exciting than finally finding that perfect pair of jeans that fit just right? For me, it’s turning over that price tag and seeing those two little words: “ON SALE!” I love a deal, and if you do too, it’s no different when you’re shopping for apartment rentals in Chicago. In this business, building owners offer “concessions,” which is real estate jargon for specials. These specials are given for the same reasons as most retailers—to create a sense of urgency and to move inventory. And that’s good news for you and me!

There’s a bit of seasonality to Chicago apartment rentals, so if you’re looking to move between September and April, don’t be surprised if there is an incentive attached. Now, building managers realize this, so they try to end their leases during busier spring and summer months, but no matter how you slice it, moving during the fall and winter months can save you a few sheckles on Chicago rentals. Let’s take a look at some of the specials that we should all be thinking of.

The “Look and Lease”

I love “Look and Lease” specials because they are really straightforward and easy to understand. You “look” at an apartment, and if you “lease” within a certain time frame, typically 24 to 48 hours, the property will give you a discount. The special is generally in the form of waived administration and application fees, typically saving you $300 to $600. The downside is that you have to make a decision quickly, but if you are serious about your search, and working with a skilled agent, you should be able to see all of your best options in a day or two and take advantage of the special.

The “Month(s) Free”

The “Month Free” special can really save a significant amount of money, even allowing you to afford an apartment that was originally out of the budget. These specials are typically offered in the form of one, one and a half, or even two months free on leases ranging from 12 to 24 months. Look for them during an apartment lease-up (code for brand new building) during the slow season, or when there is an excess of inventory on a specific unit type within the building. How these specials impact your “net effective rent” can be confusing at first, but with a bit of simple math, let me try to help.

  • Let’s say you have your eye on an apartment that is $2,000 month on a 12-month lease.
  • Your total rent for those 12 months will be $24,000 (12 x $2,000).
  • If you get a month free, paying only 11 of those 12 months, you will pay $22,000 (11 x $2,000).
  • To find the “net effective rent” you will be paying each month, take the total rent over the entire lease term ($22,000) and divide it by the months in the lease term (12).
  • The result is a “net effective rent” of $1,833.33 per month.
  • Literally, the average amount you will pay per month will be almost $170 less because of the free month. How awesome is that!

Now, just a heads up. Some Chicago rental properties will let you pay that $1,833.33 per month over the life of the lease. This is called pro-rating the savings. Other buildings will require you to skip one month of rent payment (free rent) but pay $2,000 each month for the other 11 months. In either case, your total rent for the lease term is $2,000 less because of the one-month free special, and no matter how you calculate it, that’s a good thing, especially in the sometimes pricey Chicago rentals market.

The “Move-In Credit”

I like to think of “Move-In Credits” like bonuses. They typically range anywhere from $500 to $1500 and can vary even on units within the same building depending on unit size, floor or move-date. For example, a property may offer a $500 move in credit for a studio, but offer a $1500 credit for certain one bedrooms. It might also be offered for move-in by a certain date, such as “for move-in by October 31”. This is where that pesky math comes in handy, so don’t be afraid to ask us to break it all down. Many properties now price their units like the airlines so it can be a little tricky to keep track of it all.

The “Free Parking” Special

If you’ve landed on “Free Parking”, you should absolutely pass go and collect your $200. But, the good news is you are probably going to save more than that! On-site parking averages $225-$250 per month and is offered either monthly (30-day cancellation notice) or matching the terms of your lease (say 12 months). A common parking special might include 3-6 months of free parking, which could be as much as $1,500 in savings. As my dad used to say…” beats a kick in the shorts”.

Overall, a Chicago apartment rental special is really just that: SPECIAL! They aren’t negotiable, traditionally are not grouped together, and can be pulled at any time. But, they can save you a lot of money and help you afford to rent that apartment you love. Most are time sensitive, expiring once a property has reached its sales goals and many are implemented for a very short time, getting little or no public advertising.

So, if you find yourself scanning countless online ads for apartments for rent in Chicago, trying to make sense of it all, contact HotSpot Rentals. We get daily updates on the latest apartments for rent in Chicago, and we can help find you the unit that’s perfect for you. Who’s ready to go shopping?

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