If you talk to longtime Chicago residents or landlords they will tell you that Chicago has a very specific apartment rental season and the implication is that if you miss it you are screwed - whether you are a landlord or a tenant. The only thing is that there is a lot of mythology floating around out there about when exactly this season is - there might even be two different peaks - and how important it is.
So I decided to do what I always do when faced with random speculation: check the data.
First, I looked at Google Trends to see what search term might most reflect what people are looking for online and then to determine when they are looking for it. The best search term appears to be "Chicago Apartments" and you can see the weekly Google Trends data for that term for last year displayed below. Note that the vertical axis is merely some kind of Google generated index of relative activity. It doesn't represent a real quantity.
It's somewhat surprising that people start looking for apartments on January 1 and continue at a pretty steady pace until the end of July when their activity starts to die off. It flattens out at the beginning of November and really does take a huge jump back up on January 1.
But what about the leases themselves? I went into the MLS and pulled the data below for last year and it has a much stronger seasonal pattern than that exhibited by the searches above. Also notice that the seasonal pattern for rentals is not that different than for home sales and most leases start in July (presumably July 1), which means they were probably signed in June.
My take on this is that there are many renters that get a jump on their search process early in the year, a bit before they need their new lease to start. As the year progresses the number of people conducting an early search dwindles and the apartment searchers out there are operating on a shorter lead time. Once you get through July a lot of the renters are done for the year so the searches start to die down.
However, it's not like the rental season is binary. At least 1000 leases begin every month of the year and I'm sure that as the number of apartment searchers dwindles so do the number of available apartments. So all is not lost if you're trying to rent or find a renter in the off season.
Gary Lucido is the President of Lucid Realty, the Chicago area's full service discount real estate brokerage. If you want to keep up to date on the Chicago real estate market, get an insider's view of the seamy underbelly of the real estate industry, or you just think he's the next Kurt Vonnegut you can Subscribe to Getting Real by Email using the form below. Please be sure to verify your email address when you receive the verification notice.