I'm moving: can anyone recommend good Chicago neighborhoods and real estate agents?

So, I don’t have an actual offer letter yet, but it looks like I may be taking a position at University of Illinois Chicago! The position looks fantastic and I’m pretty excited. This will hopefully be a long term position, so I’m also planning on buying a house/condo/apartment, which I’ve never done before.

Can anyone tell me about areas convenient to the UIC medical buildings on South Wolcott? Ideally, I’d like to be in walking distance (no more than 2.5 miles), but will also consider transit options. Would prefer not to need to drive. Don’t have kids, so local school districts are not an issue. Would love to also be in walking distance of lots of good food. Looking for a small house or a large (2-3 bedroom) apartment.

Also, this will be a first-time home buying experience for myself and my partner, and I’m terrified. Does anyone know a good buyer’s agent in Chicago?

My best piece of advice for you is rent until you are absolutely sure you want to live in the neighborhood you choose. A few blocks in Chicago make a world of difference in some neighborhoods, and if you buy in an area that isn’t safe it may be tough to resell if you want to leave. The area directly surrounding UIC isn’t the safest.

Wicker Park is about 3 miles north, it’s a nice area, plenty of restaurants and a great walking neighborhood. It is pricey. The Damen bus would be a good option to travel to UIC. There might be an El train option, I’m not really familiar with the El in that area.

Pilsen is an area that’s gentrifying recently. Still has cheaper rents than other neighborhoods and might be a consideration for buying soon. But I agree if you’re not from here you really should rent for a year or two, get to know the areas you’d like before committing to a place you might not be able to unload. Maybe West Loop is more your speed, if you prefer half-million dollar condos filled with douchebags. You really won’t know until you’ve been here a bit and explored. Chicago, just the city, is like 230 square miles. It’s a lot to try to figure out without lots of time.

I hear you on renting first, but if at all practical I’d really like to buy. I know myself pretty well, and I know that I hate moving. If I plan on renting for a year, I foresee one of two outcomes: either I settle into a temporary place, unpack all of my stuff, and never get around to leaving, or I live miserably out of boxes for a year and then move in desperation.

I plan on taking several weekend trips out to Chicago over the next couple months to check out suggestions, and I have family in Hyde Park who are also giving me opinions, so I’m not going in completely ignorant.

FWIW, I’m much more interested in a “recently gentrified” type of area than a “half-million dollar condos” scene.

You might check out Bridgeport - it’s a tad further from UIC than Pilsen is, and it’s not gentrified, but hasn’t had the safety and crime issues that Pilsen has.

Walking options are pretty limited. Tri-Taylor is about it, maybe Little Italy or the Jackson Blvd. Historic District, unless you’re willing to be an urban pioneer in some tough West Side neighborhoods. The CTA Pink Line serves UIC Medical, so West and South Loop are possibilities along that. So is Pilsen. Pretty much anywhere along the L can be reached with one transfer.

What kind of place will you be seeking? High-rise? Walk-up condo in vintage building? New townhouse? Vintage graystone? Are you freaked out by the occasional property crime or gang graffiti on your garage? Do you have dogs to walk or kids to school?

Here are a couple of pages where you can find out about the crimes in any area of the city.

http://gis.chicagopolice.org/CLEARMap/startPage.htm

Fulton Market is a nice place with a very hot restaurant and bar scene.

Can anyone describe the “feel” of these neighborhoods? I’ve been to areas of Chicago that are basically suburban - everyone has their own house and lawn and the only people who aren’t in their cars are walking their dogs.

I’d like to be in an area that has pedestrian activity - people walking to the train, to the local restaurants, going about their business. If that includes some slackjawed youths aimlessly hanging out on their stoops or occasionally tagging graffiti, that doesn’t bother me much, so long as it doesn’t escalate into muggings or harassment.

map of shootings in Chicago since 2010 http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20150707/downtown/where-shootings-have-occurred-chicago-since-2010-map

http://www.domu.com/chicago/neighborhoods

Anyone have strong feelings about Logan square? I’ve been in Chicago for a few years and am thinking of moving.

I’m going to reiterate Wicker Park (and Bucktown). Very walkable. Lots of restaurants. About 3 miles from UIC. Definitely a mix between new construction and vintage housing.

I’ve lived in Logan for about 2.5 years and like it. I’m a single guy in my early 30’s. Prior to Logan I lived in Bucktown for 5 years. Compared to Wicker Park/Bucktown, Logan is noticeably less developed - there are more boarded up storefronts and fewer stroller moms. I’ve never felt unsafe, though. There are tons of bars/restaurants on Milwaukee between the California and Logan blue line stops, and Palmer Square is a hidden gem of a park. Highway access is easy and Blue Line service to the loop takes about 20-25 minutes.

Yeah, and Ukrainian Village, too, for the OP’s needs. If you want youngish, professional, and generally “desirable” neighborhoods with activity, Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village, Bucktown, Logan Square are probably your best bets. Lincoln Park, too, if you want to go upscale. If you’re young and looking to have a lot of fun at places nearby, I would consider those. You might also like the West Loop or even the South Loop–it’s a lot more high-rise condo-y in those locations (almost exclusively so), but they’ve become much more interesting neighborhoods with more of a scene than they had a couple of decades ago, and lots of professionals seem to like it there. Me, I’m more of a Pilsen/Bridgeport kind of guy, but from your description it sounds like you want more activity and while both neighborhoods have a reasonable amount of walkable businesses, they are nowhere near the concentration as they are in the north side neighborhoods.

Personally, I’m not a fan of more than about a 20 minute commute if I’m taking the bus or train every day. I’d look for something commutable along the Pink line if I were working at UIC. Or walkable. It’s a tough spot for walkability, IMO, because of all the highway interchange stuff just north and northeast of the UIC area. There’s a lot of crud to get through on foot from West/South Loop even though it’s not all that far. I consider “walkable” to be through neighborhoods rather than along main thoroughfares - but that’s just me. I dislike a ton of traffic noise/stoplights/large intersections if I can avoid it. Walking through stop signs along residential streets is more my speed, unless there are lots of shops, like along Clark in Andersonville or Broadway in Lakeview. I rather enjoy the 18th Street area in Pilsen the couple times I’ve been there.

If you are moving to a new place in Chicago, you might want to hire a pest control company to check for bedbugs before you move in.

Why? Because of the following news article:

Chicago Tops Bedbug List for Fourth Straight Year

The problem with Logan Square or Wicker Park for the OP is the multiple transfers needed to get to West Campus (the medical school). You’d have to take the Blue Line downtown and either ride the Pink Line all the way around the Loop and out to Polk, or transfer to the Green Line and then to the Pink. Hard to do in less than 40 minutes.

The Damen bus might be an option. It goes through an empty/borderline rough part of the West Side but doesn’t take long to get into Ukrainian Village, which you might like. And part of the yeaqr, cycling that same route is quite practical.

Sounds to me like Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village would be the best fits with the OP’s desires. The Damen and Ashland buses would serve you well. I think you could get from Wicker Park to the medical campus on one Blue Line ride with no transfers, but it would be a very roundabout trip. On the plus side, it takes you through the heart of downtown, so you could hop off for shopping or a drink or whatever on the way home.