Accommodation in Chicago – to buy or rent?

Chicago is known as the windy city, and it covers an area of 60,000 hectares, sitting 176 meters (578 feet) above sea level on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. The city is made up of extensive parklands, including 3,000 hectares of city parks, which attract an estimated 86 million visitors annually.
This American city is multicultural and proud of its 77 diverse and harmonious neighbourhoods, all of which have their own distinct personality. Housing is varied within the urban and suburban areas, and here we consider the pros and cons of buying versus renting as an expat in Chicago. There are considerations and complexities attached to both and we take a look at the type of accommodations that are available.
In the past year Chicago has seen as many Millennials as Baby Boomers and Generation Xers buying real estate. Areas that hold greatest appeal appear to be Downtown Chicago, the West Loop, and the South Loop. This information, created by the Chicago Tribune, seems to indicate that expatriates would be better off buying a property in the city.
Whilst renting offers flexibility and landlords taking care of maintenance, Chicago is considered a pretty good investment for home owners. There is also the sense of independence that comes from having your own home. If you move in to a rented property and you don’t like the main bedroom or kitchen, then you’ll just have to live with it. Homeowners are free to renovate and for many that will appeal.
Despite all this evidence, CNBC recently reported that Chicago was one of the places in the USA to rent, rather than buy. They say that the monthly costs of buying and owning a home are up 14 percent over the past year, more than three times the annual increase in rent rates nationally. According to, rent are up just 4 percent. They add that renting and reinvesting the savings from renting, on average, will outperform owning and building home equity, in terms of wealth creation.
Whatever your preference, you will have a wealth of high-end and luxury properties in sought after areas to choose from within the rental and buying market.
Chicago’s myriad of neighbourhoods each offer their own unique charms, and each one offers accommodation to buy or rent.
For those who want to be where it’s all happening then Logan Square could be the place for you. Five-bedroom Gothic homes or trendy apartments near the bars and restaurants run by world-class chefs, are options for both buying and renting.
Lake Michigan offers gardens, sweeping blue vistas, and urban beaches abound; park-front properties are some of the most coveted in the city. Rental accommodation here is few and far between and bidding for homes to buy is part of the culture.
Edgewater can offer rental options near to beautiful historic districts and is within walking distance of three different beaches.
The West Loop is all about apartments and food, and there are some fine ones to choose from for both rental and purchase.
The city’s elite both past and present have called Gold Coast, Kenwood, and Lincoln Park home. These neighbourhoods are known for Chicago’s stately mansions. The designs will take your breath away, and many still serve as private dwellings, though they are rarely up for sale. To scoop one of these properties, or one of the converted apartments, for sale or rent, is considered a coup.
Lincoln Park is the place for modern living with luxury condos surrounded by historic homes, beautiful parks and gyms. Here the elite of Chicago hang out and there are plenty of rental properties available.
In contrast River North is the perfect place if you want to buy or rent property out of town, but still have everything from the city at your fingertips. Luxury apartments are situated along the river, many with roof decks and garage access.
South Loop is the place in Chicago to find an investment property, so buying is the way forward in this location. Here large houses are close to the lake and Grant Park, which is highly appealing for those who don’t want to be in the city.
Whichever you choose when moving to Chicago, you will certainly have options, and as an expat coming to this diverse city, it is likely to be your own personal circumstances which determine your final decision on whether to buy or to rent.
If you’re moving to the USA, find out how our international removals team can help to arrange packing, storage and transportation on your behalf.