ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

How to avoid signing your life over to a mortgage
Post Reply
The_Bowme
Posts: 44
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:59 pm

ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

Post by The_Bowme » Thu Apr 25, 2019 8:06 pm

I'm moving to Chicago next month! I'm excited for the pizza! And maybe a Shellac show?

I'm going to be working out of a wework downtown, at 515 N State, closest transit stops are Red Line (1 block away) and Brown & Purple Line (5 blocks away). There is also bike lockers I believe.

I like taking transit and I like bike commuting, although I've gotten extremely soft from commuting in Denver winters. Trying to figure out an optimal living strategy when I look for a house. I guess I like cheap ethnic restaurants, rock bars, lean bohemian. Seems like a lot of those neighborhoods are Blueline centric? Anything that fits the bill off the Red Line? Do people end up having to live far out of the city to get good deals?

I will want to be able to leave the city to visit relatives and go camping, but my plan right now is to just rent cars by the weekend if that's what I need.

I'm calling a buddy to talk through this stuff this weekend, but thought it would be great to see if there's any collective wisdom from the wisest collective. Any thoughts are very welcome! I should probably just ask on city-data but I feel like people have insane priors on a place like that.
Last edited by The_Bowme on Thu Apr 25, 2019 10:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
unemployable
Posts: 437
Joined: Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:36 am
Location: Homeless

Re: ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

Post by unemployable » Thu Apr 25, 2019 9:37 pm

The_Bowme wrote:
Thu Apr 25, 2019 8:06 pm
I like taking transit
Living in Chicago will disabuse you of this opinion.

I lived in Lake View for a few years before moving to the Gold Coast. Skipped right over Lincoln Park. If you look long enough, 1BRs in the proper Gold Coast can be surprisingly affordable. Or at least were when I lived there.

I biked most days downtown from Lake View and walked almost every day from the Gold Coast. I got used to cold on the bike; the problem was when it snowed.

I never lived in the quirky neighborhoods, although you can still swing a cat on the corner of Dearborn and Division and hit like eight sushi places.. If I'm working downtown, and 515 N. State counts as that, my priorities would be commuting time and options. If you fly a lot also consider ease and cost of getting to/from ORD/MDW.

SavingWithBabies
Posts: 542
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:50 pm
Location: Midwest, USA

Re: ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

Post by SavingWithBabies » Fri Apr 26, 2019 12:05 am

You want to know the secret to taking transit to downtown Chicago and not hating it? Inner city Metra stops. It's a thing of beauty although you may curse the schedule when comparing it to the CTA. As Metra lines come into downtown Chicago from the suburbs, they seem to have a handful of stops within the city. I spent 4+ years commuting this way and I would hop on my stop on the way in, the train would stop once more and then be downtown and it was just a short walk on the other side. The train part took about 18 minutes and I'd usually stand the whole way as the trains do get packed (easier to get a seat on the way home).

So my advice is, if you're renting, consider taking a close look at the areas around Metra stops within the city. I grew up in Chicago but had no idea about how nice a commute Metra could provide until I got lucky and heard about it through friends. Seems like an obvious thing but I think most of the people within the city limits do not have Metra on their radar as it's a "suburban thing".

I lived on the western edge of Logan Square. The Metra stop at Fullerton & Pulaski was a short walk away. The Logan Square blue line stop was more of a hike but still doable. For biking, you can take Milwaukee to downtown with a lot of other cyclists. I grew up in Lake View and, if moving back today, would be tempted to be closer to the lake and take the red line (so Lake View, Gold Coast, etc -- I would prefer not to go too far north as that increases your travel time on the El to point it would get annoying). You can't beat being within long walking distance of the lakefront. Tough choices.

User avatar
unemployable
Posts: 437
Joined: Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:36 am
Location: Homeless

Re: ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

Post by unemployable » Fri Apr 26, 2019 12:30 am

Metra was my favorite way to get out to O'Hare. More generally it's designed to serve typical commuting patterns into and out of downtown. The more that describes your transportation needs, the better it will work for you.

About bikes. You WILL get bikes stolen. Carried two kryptonite locks around and it still happened. Parts of bikes too, and sometimes the parts that were taken could be explained only by sheer malice. And now thieves are bypassing the middleman and just robbing bike shops. Wasn't just a one-off thing, either.

A hybrid bike with front shocks works best; less rolling resistance than an MTB and holds up to Chicago streets far better than a road bike would. Don't spend too much on one, though.

The_Bowme
Posts: 44
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:59 pm

Re: ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

Post by The_Bowme » Fri Apr 26, 2019 6:50 am

Great advice. My friend has an empty apartment under lease for two months since he bought a condo recently. I might see if I can pay him to stay in it for a month so I can figure out housing on the ground. $1300 a month is what he's paying for it but might be worth avoiding trying to choose a place long distance.

I definitely prefer hardy junker bikes I can tinker on so thanks for the tip there.

Metra idea is interesting, I hadn't really considered that vector but I will now!

jacob
Site Admin
Posts: 11317
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:38 pm
Location: USA, Zone 5b, Koppen Dfa, Elev. 620ft, Walkscore 73
Contact:

Re: ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

Post by jacob » Fri Apr 26, 2019 7:17 am

If you're going to do Metra, you can also take a look at the suburbs. We live close to a Metra stop on the BNSF line. However, when I was working I still opted for taking the (pink) L (hint, if you start near the end of the line, you always get a seat! And when you leave work, if you're willing to spend an extra 7 mins riding the longer way around the loop on the way home, you also get a seat) because of the flexibility in timing and leaving work. Thinking out of the box, there's the possibility of living in Whiting, IN and avoiding the IL/Chicago taxes :)

Also consider Divvy bikes.

You said a house? Did you mean that? If so how much are you willing to spend on buying it or renting it? Bohemian is obviously Wicker Park which is hipster central (blue line and good bike commute). Ethnic I'd say Albany Park (end of brown line) which actually happens to be the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the country. I do not know what a rock bar is. Is it made out of rocks? You might also want to consider Evanston (if you want something more suburban/college). It's at the end of the purple line but they have express routes.

For rentals, the best way is to walk around in the neighborhoods and look at for-rent signs in the windows. Then call the number. Bring a check book and be prepared to sign on the spot (also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secretary_problem) as things go quickly and will be gone if you want to sleep on it. The second best is to get a local RE agent who also does rentals. The worst way is craigslist.

@Smashter recently moved to Chicago and I gave a lot of advice back (more detailed description of the various hoods) then and I'd hate to repeat myself too much. I forget how much of it was via PM, but you should check out his threads from about a year ago.

PS: The red line is also known as the bed bug line.
PPS: Crime rates are very block centric. There can be a "war" on one side of the street while it's peaceful on the other side. I strongly advice looking at some crime heat maps.
PPPS: I also like judgemental maps :)

The_Bowme
Posts: 44
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:59 pm

Re: ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

Post by The_Bowme » Fri Apr 26, 2019 7:38 am

Thanks, I'll look up that prior thread!

Housing I just meant a place to live, I would be shooting for an apartment.

A rock bar is a bar that hosts bands with distorted guitar music :)

I probably will avoid the suburbs for now as I would like to get a feel for the city proper to start.

The_Bowme
Posts: 44
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:59 pm

Re: ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

Post by The_Bowme » Fri Apr 26, 2019 7:41 am

I never know how to calculate stopping problem in practice, but I guess n is the housing in neighborhoods of interest times vacancy rate? Could be a lot of viewings!

sky
Posts: 908
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:20 am
Contact:

Re: ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

Post by sky » Fri Apr 26, 2019 5:20 pm

There was a guy who lived for years in a permanently parked bus under the El bridge on Fullerton (or maybe North).

taemoo
Posts: 43
Joined: Wed Oct 13, 2010 3:59 am
Location: Madison, WI

Re: ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

Post by taemoo » Sat Apr 27, 2019 8:11 am

When I was serious about FIRE, I lived in Albany park/ravenswood area off the Rockwell brown line stop. Rent was $600 back in 2012, good ethnic restaurants and and was able to get a single seat on the brown line during rush hour. Biking to downtown wasn’t bad with streets with bike paths

Off the redline, I lived near the Granville stop and it was FIRE friendly. Cheap shopping at Aldis, express bus and cta to downtown and also near the lakefront bike path. Not sure about the music scene

SavingWithBabies
Posts: 542
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:50 pm
Location: Midwest, USA

Re: ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

Post by SavingWithBabies » Sat Apr 27, 2019 9:59 am

Rereading my post, I wanted to highlight how good Metra can be but if I was moving to Chicago today, I would search by budget first. That is why I was so far west by that Metra stop. It was $825/month + utilities (own meter for gas furnace so we paid for heat) for a 2 bedroom in a 6 unit building[*]. I'm sure rents have gone up since 2010-2014 although I just looked and if you go a little further west, you still see things like this:

$900[**] for 2 bedroom with heat: https://chicago.craigslist.org/chc/apa/ ... 48178.html

Not saying I'd go there necessarily but more that if you search, you might find an overlooked area that suits you. There are interesting things like express CTA trains from Evanston that can make some commutes not quite as bad as expected too.

* Family owned (kids inherited it so I think mortgage long paid off), noise traveled between floors a lot and the wooden floors were attractive but very squeaky/creaky. But top floor was nice in terms of light and breeze. Roof caved in on our bedroom once and we observed couple feet of empty air between our room ceiling and exterior blacktop roof (well, where it would have been). That explained why it got so hot in the afternoons in the summer and why it was a bit chilly in the winter. But still one of my favorite places to live.

** Just noticed those high non-refundable moving fees. Guessing owner is pushing expenses of realtor on to tenant. I didn't pay any of those fees (maybe background check one but that was it -- I don't think even that).

Scott 2
Posts: 1331
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

Post by Scott 2 » Sat Apr 27, 2019 10:25 am

Consider your full web of goals.

Housing markets tend to be efficient within a region. I think you'll find housing prices correlate with distance from the good stuff and crime. Living with others, if you can call that a hack, is your primary option to beat market rent. Also, the fewer 3rd parties between you and the property owner, the better your chance of getting a good rent for the area.

If you are in an industry where performance impacts pay, there's a very good chance you are better off minimizing commute time, using those extra hours to do better at work. That could be getting more sleep and eating better, so you achieve more in 40 hours, opposed to working longer. Or maybe doing social things with your coworkers, for the relationships that give you big future earning potential. It's typically a winner takes all game.

A decent raise or bonus could out perform a time consuming housing hack financially. It could also mean something you get to keep - additional skills, reputation, or even just the precedent of being a higher paid worker. Cheaper places may also be further from the fun things you want to do, effectively moving the savings into additional travel time and expenses. If you gain 20% more fun time for an extra $400 a month in rent, that could be worth it.

The_Bowme
Posts: 44
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:59 pm

Re: ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

Post by The_Bowme » Sat Apr 27, 2019 1:03 pm

This is all really good feedback, thanks so much all!

I talked to my friend, and he just moved into a condo in Edgewater, but has an empty apartment in Uptown until June he's paying rent on. I'm thinking of subleasing it through the remainder of the term ($1300/mo). This works well because north redline neighborhoods are on the table anyway, and it will also let me figure out how things work, visit 'hoods in person, and be a bit more informed before entering a full lease.

Scott 2's statements accord with my takeaway from my urban economics class, where there are just prices on amenity bundles, and the key is just optimizing for the part of the bundle you care about and dropping whatever other people care about that you don't. Also very strong point on not damaging my career by going to hard on an expense minimization strategy. This will be my first job as a software developer, so I think performance will be critical, and good performance could translate into large salary increases in the future. I need to keep this in mind, but also I don't want to "break" my curated cheap tastes, where I adopt habits for expediency and find I now need these "nice-to-have" to be comfortable and happy.

I think I need to understand the metra system, as I could imagine that being a strong contender to get to work comfortable, rather than harried/stressed. It will be fun to have a Chicago-exploration task to find the right place when I get to town, assuming the sublease works out!

Smashter
Posts: 315
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2016 8:05 am

Re: ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

Post by Smashter » Mon Apr 29, 2019 10:47 am

Hmm, for some reason I can't track down all the great info Jacob provided to me. I guess I deleted the PM's. I'm so sorry! But the advice you've already received is solid.

For what it's worth, I disregarded all of Jacob's advice, rented an expensive place in Streeterville, hated it, switched to a fully remote job, moved to Wisconsin, and bought a house about an hour north of Milwaukee. I hope you have a better Chitown experience than me!

The_Bowme
Posts: 44
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:59 pm

Re: ERE housing approaches in Chicago?

Post by The_Bowme » Wed May 01, 2019 6:07 pm

Ha, hope Wisconsin worked out better for you!

Post Reply