17 apartment listing red flags in Chicago

Deciding not to renew your lease and instead brave apartment hunting season in Chicago is a lot like deciding not to have sex with supermodels and instead punch yourself in the groin repeatedly.

The absolute worst part, though, has to be trudging through terribly misleading apartment listings. But before you breakdown from exhaustion and turn to an apartment-finding service that’s really pushing “the good parts” of Humboldt Park, try expediting the process by skipping places with any of these 17 terrible apartment listing red flags.

Flickr/World's Worst Photographer In The World

"Garden unit"
Remember to duck as you enter your basement apartment (no dude, it's not in the garden) that has drafts in the Winter and floods in the Summer. Your block windows won't allow for an air conditioner or any sort of light, but will allow you to hear unnerving segments of every sketchy conversation on the sidewalk.

“Coach house”
See the nice place with the porch swing facing the street? Well, you’re on the third floor of the garage around back, hidden from society in your rear-facing shame shed.

Flickr/Jason McDowell

Too old to be renovated. Has as many lead pipes as it does phone jacks.

"Walking distance to the El"
It's just a 20-minute walk to the Brown Line, assuming you walk fast... maybe even bending your legs and pushing off to pick up your stride (okay, maybe it's jogging distance to the El). You will remember every second of “walking distance” when there’s negative wind chill.

“No photo available”
Either the realtor is lazy, doesn't know how computers work, or ohGodwhyisthefloormoving???

Flickr/kimba Howard

“Cozy, cute, and snug”
Good descriptors for a blanket; terrible for when you bang your bedroom door into your mattress. Once inside, you’ll realize why they didn’t post the square footage.

“Steps from all of Wicker Park's shopping, dining, and nightlife!”
It's in Humboldt Park.

Flickr/Jaysin Trevino

“Won’t last!”
In fact, it’s already been leased out. You have no chance of landing this apartment, short of quantum leaping. But this hasn’t stopped the person who listed it from disappointing all 8,000 responders who emailed within the first hour of the posting.

“Open house showing”
Instead of taking appointments like a civilized human being, the person renting out this place is going to let 25+ people inside to salivate over the apartment, then elbow their way to applications, and up-bid the monthly rent. “Open house showing” will one day be a reality game show on HGTV.

“Granite countertops" 
Because marble counters are for peons, and you prefer tacking on an extra $250 a month to your rent.

Flickr/Jeremy T. Hetzel

“Recently rehabbed”
Probably still under construction, but the smell of cat urine has juuuuuuuust about faded. The landlord promises the bathroom will be mold spore-free by the time you start your lease, which is available right... about... now.

“No security deposit”
But there is a $1,000 non-refundable move-in fee.

“No lease”
Know that your landlord, at anytime, can cut you like a 30-year-old running back.


Each exclamation point multiplies the chances that this listing was posted by an SEO spambot. But hey, there might be some great lake views if you crane your neck around the side of your patio that may or may not be up to code.

“Affordable 2BR”
Make that one bedroom + one room that will just about fit a cot.

“Affordable 3BR”
One bedroom will be vastly bigger than the other two. You will draw straws with your roommates to see who gets this regal master bedroom with TWO power outlets. The losers will propose paying a smaller share of rent, to which the master bedroom renter will say, “I’ll think about it”... but never will.

“Utilities not included”
Sure, you’re looking at this place during the warmest day of the year, but good luck in six months when you're plastic wrapping your windows and huddling around a space heater to save money. Ask for the estimated monthly heat and electric costs and the person showing the apartment won’t hesitate to make up a number between $40 and $400.

Sean Cooley is Thrillist's Chicago Editor and once moved a Baby Grand piano up a second floor deck without dying. Follow him @SeanCooley.