Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Chicago Reader Spacefinder

Perhaps even more basic than figuring out whether a potential apartment is walkable is finding a potential apartment. In my search I used probably fifty individual provider sites, only to find my final resting spot with a couple other alums from my liberal arts college. Apartment hunting, nonetheless, is one of my favorite things EVER-- and Chicago Reader's Spacefinder makes it easier than most.
One major complaint I had in the apartment hunting search is a lack of a consolidated Chicago search engine with consistent, easy-to-read listings. Part of this is due to the number of search features (and coded apartment amenities) each system will accommodate; part of it is due to what I find to be an annoying lack of image-based advertising for individual places.

(Footnote: One of these days a sharp-minded entrepreneur is going to get some decent camera equipment and start marketing internet image-advertising to property management companies for a decent price, and then that person's going to make all the money [while I sit around writing about other people's websites]. But no matter!)

The Reader Spacefinder is better than some not because it DOES feature a stellar search interface and consistent listings, but because enough of its listings do have photos, and because it is a popular place for property managers to cross-list available apartments. Many of the listings will direct you over to apartmentpeople.com, another tool I found appealing (mostly due to the neighborhood map information, which used to include average rent ranges, but no longer does because Life Sucks), and more still will direct you to individual property manager sites, many of which focus in a particular region of the city.

Personally, I love looking through listings by apartment manager-- I have too much fun just browsing and comparing what I find. But while most managers do not have highly developed search engines for their sites (or those engines are less useful due to a limited number of available apartments at a given time), many will list on Reader Spacefinder, again giving it more legitimacy than many search sites.

Any other favorite search engines for apartments in the area?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Walk Score

For a long time, the Not For Tourists series (and their thriving outgrowth communities) have occupied a very cushy place in my heart.

Unlike most travel or locational guides, NFT moves beyond republishing reviews of museums or restaurants and instead focuses on the things (particularly basic locations) residents would actually want to know about when moving to a new neighborhood. Instead of mapping only hotels or other tourist traps, NFT guides pinpoint "restaurants, nightlife, and shopping to parks, public transit, sports stadiums, museums, art galleries, and even hardware stores."

The guides generally come in small, discreet covers you can find at most any bookstore (or, of course, on their website). But another spectacular boon is that you can download ANY of the maps online in .pdf form-- totally free.

So there's a little bit of background on something I've liked for a really long time. But wait! This entry's about to get even better!

Today in reading a post from something through Google Reader (I can't for the life of me remember what), I discovered an awesome new similar online service called Walk Score.

Designed to provide valuable information to real estate operators, renters, and anyone looking to live without a car, Walk Score maps out a ton of neighborhood staples starting from closest to furthest away. Since it uses the Google API to generate a map of how far things are from you, it's incredibly easy to navigate-- and clicking on any of the pushpin icons for different businesses brings up a photo of the storefront and a quick link to Google's "more info"/review dialog.


Currently, Walk Score maps grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, movie theaters, schools, parks, libraries, bookstores, fitness centers, drug stores, hardware stores, and clothing/music sellers.

I hope one day it will include banks, dry cleaners, laundromats, doctors' and dentists' offices, veterinarians, and possibly non-profit institutions.

But for now, Walk Score is outstanding and everyone should use it.


Welcome to Blog!

As a recent college graduate, I'm moving out to Chicago to get a job and pay off some loans. After growing up in the same place for 18 years, I've learned to love travel and exploring new places. I'd be excited to move someplace new under any circumstances, but the ridiculous abundance of websites and web utilities these days has me even more excited to see what I can turn up. I have a handful of great friends I hope to convince to move here before long, so it seems like it might be useful to track where I've been.

This blog will, thus, catalog my favorite finds (online and off) as someone new to the area. I'll be living on the North side and have a penchant for food, volunteering, coffee and bargains, so it's likely these factors will influence what I find.

Thanks for coming!