Landlords faced a year of unprecedented challenges and questions in the 2020 Chicago rental market. How can I show my unit while maintaining social distancing? Do I need to clean my apartment buildings more frequently? How many guests are my tenants allowed to have in the apartment? The Coronavirus pandemic is responsible for bringing most of these pressing questions to the fore, yet landlords also have to contend with shifting renter behaviors and rapidly evolving technologies at play in the rental sector.

Price is paramount in successfully leasing Chicago apartments amidst so many changes. On top of pricing advice, here are the proven strategies to help landlords make their Chicago apartment listings stand out and attract interest from more renters.


Renters are highly visual and used to seeing high quality images in online advertising. Your apartment listing is no exception!

Include high quality images in your listing. Have someone else take them if needed. True, there’s an upfront cost to produce great photos. But get them done once and they’re available to use the next time the unit’s on the market. Excellent photos are worth it.

If your apartment listing mentions a feature in the description, include a photo of it. Potential renters use photos as a way to get a feel for the property.

Consider the lighting when taking photos. This is critical! A dimly lit apartment won’t attract as many prospective renters as a nice, bright series of images.

Move around. Show different rooms from many angles if possible.

Pay attention to the order of images in your listing’s slideshow:

  • Show living space first (living room, den, etc.)
  • Kitchens should be second or third in the lineup
  • Any amenities should follow
  • Exterior pics can be included as well, but they don’t need to go at the top
  • Bathrooms should be last. Tip: Remove personal items, like toothbrushes, hair dryers, etc., before taking photos of the bathrooms.

Tips for making apartment photos stand out:

  • Take pictures midday on sunny days when natural light is strong. Renters love apartments filled with natural light.
  • Make sure rooms are tidy and clean.
  • Try to furnish rooms. Don’t have furnishings? Consider a virtual staging service that will populate the empty rooms with 3D rendered images of furniture.
  • Avoid taking pictures directly into a mirror or reflective glass.
living room with grey chaise lounge sofa in Chicago apartment for rent
apartment kitchen with black granite kitchen island and white barstools in Chicago apartment for rent
concrete balcony  of Chicago condo for rent with panoramic view of downtown Chicago skyline
exterior of limestone apartment building in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood


Add a video walkthrough to your listing. Domu lets landlords share videos from Youtube directly on their listings. Video adds another layer of dimension and space to the listing and lets renters imagine what it might feel like to call the space home. Even a 60-second video tour can make the difference in convincing a prospective tenant that the apartment would be a good fit.

Competitive Pricing

Check nearby listings on Domu and make sure that your listings are competitively priced. Neighborhood pages provide median price ranges for units broken out by bedroom count. Explore similar listings in the same neighborhood; landlords can revise their listing's price at any time.

Enter a Tenant's Yearly Income Before Taxes to Figure Out How Much Rent They Can Afford

Low Range
~15% of Income


Find an Apartment in This Range

Mid Range
~25% of Income


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High Range
~35% of Income


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Be Descriptive

Thorough descriptions are vital if you want more interest in your listing. Keep these points in mind while writing your listing's description:

  • Paint a picture of what it would be like to live in the apartment, building, and neighborhood.
  • Convince a prospective renter to inquire about the unit. This is their first impression of the unit, so make it count!
  • Location, location, location -- don't oversell it, but certainly don't forget to mention the perks of the unit's location.
  • Mention any nearby main shopping streets -- are they walking distance? If not, how far of a drive to the nearest shopping center(s)?
  • Access to public transportation -- mention bus lines operating nearby and any nearby train stations.
  • Nearby schools, universities, parks, lakefront, jogging trails, etc.
  • Nearby restaurants, cafes, and other attractions
  • Is the neighborhood bike friendly?
  • Other points to highlight, if applicable:
    • Amenities
    • High speed Internet (this is expected!)
    • Parking
    • Laundry -- is there in-unit laundry or are there communal laundry machines in the building?

Unique Features

Bring attention to differentiators. What makes this listing special?  Talk up that feature!

These details are important to renters:

  • Location
  • Outdoor space like a balcony or porch
  • Natural light
  • Large closets
  • Architectural details like vintage woodwork, stained glass, crown molding, floor-to-ceiling windows, high ceilings, etc.
  • If you have a great view, explain it -- and include photos!

A loft apartment in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood features historic details such as stained glass windows & vaulted ceilings.

Responding to Leads

Fun fact: landlords and brokers who respond to interested tenants within 60 seconds convert up to 4x more leads than landlords who wait longer to reply to inquiries. Now, a minute after renters hit the 'Contact Landlord' button may not always be a realistic window to send over a response. But this really does matter! Take these steps into consideration when replying to leads:

  • Confirm your contact information is correct on your listing
  • Respond to leads as quickly as possible
  • Can't find time for an in-person showing? Schedule a virtual tour instead

Extra Costs

Clearly explain any extra costs to the renter. These might include:

  • Application fees
  • Administrative fees
  • Utilities
  • Monthly pet rents
  • Pet security deposits
  • Association fees (more typical in condo rentals)

Show Renters You Care

By renting your apartment or house out, you're entering into a landlord-tenant relationship that will endure for at least the length of one lease term. Start things off on the best note possible. Demonstrate that you are a great landlord with these simple steps:

  • Show renters that the property is well maintained in photos
  • Show that you are accessible
  • Be helpful in explaining the details and offer neighborhood tips

Security Deposit vs. Move-In Fee

Decide early on which you’re going to ask for, a security deposit or move-in fee. And yes, renters can sometimes balk at the idea of paying *both* for their apartment. Understand the differences as well as the pros & cons between the two. Confused about how security deposits work in Chicago apartments? Read Domu's complete guide to security deposits.

Keep in mind that a move-in fee is a one-time charge and it's non-refundable. A move-in fee does NOT take the place of having a security deposit. But one of the immediate benefits, to landlords at least, in asking for the non-refundable move-in fee is that it goes directly into the landlord's bank account with no receipt necessary. As with most things in creating a successful apartment listing, good communication is key. Clearly spell out which charge your apartment listing is asking for: the traditional security deposit or the move-in fee. 


Be prepared for these inevitable questions from renters:

  • Renters may ask about payment options -- do you accept mobile payments, online payments, direct deposits, etc.
  • Know the most convenient methods for electronic & contactless payment
  • Are you flexible on move-in dates? 
  • Is the apartment pet-friendly?