A rental service is your worst move when moving to Chicago

If you’re moving to New York, you’ll need a rental service broker to gain access to some of that city’s best apartments.

If you’re moving to Chicago, working with a rental service is a guarantee that you won’t see some of this city’s best and best-priced apartments. And, at some properties, you’ll be shut out of offers of a month’s free rent when you work with a “free” rental broker.

Many Chicago properties don’t pay broker commissions and don’t allow brokers to show their apartments. A number of properties that do cooperate with brokers don’t allow brokers to show their best-priced, easiest-to-rent apartments.

Quite a few Chicago properties pay brokers less than the “standard” month’s rent in commission, while others pay them 150% of a month’s rent. If you’re renting for $2,000 a month, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that a broker is more likely to see “your best apartment” as the one that pays a $3,000 commission rather than a $1,000 commission. It’s especially likely if you’ve played rental service roulette and are working with one of the many desperate rookies who’ve been suckered into a stint in the high-turnover rental service industry.

Finding a great apartment in Chicago’s popular near-lakefront neighborhoods can be very easy if you start with our list of Chicago’s best landlords and our apartment reviews and at-a-glance lists. Finding many of the best apartment deals is impossible if you work with a rental service broker.

It’s also worth noting that rentals in condo buildings sometimes offer a better deal than renting in managed apartment buildings. Traditional full-service brokerage firms typically have exclusive listings on those units and split a month’s commission with the renter’s broker. Rental services generally steer renters away from condo rentals. If you’re interested in condo rentals, search the MLS-listed properties at a brand-name full-service broker’s website.


  • Tony Burton 4 years

    This is a terrible piece. You provide no evidence for any of your assertions, let alone fail to mention any of the firms operating in Chicago you seem intent on disparaging. I am a Chicago native who returned to the city after 10 years in Philadelphia. I elisted the services of a rental broker and have been living in the lakefront condo the agent showed me six years ago, all while paying a below market rent. Perhaps my experience is atypical, but your piece seem more about driving traffic to other parts of your site than anything else.

  • Tony,

    Here’s a list of the Chicago rental services that are useless – and worse.

    People moving here from New York, Boston and other cities often wrongly assume that they need a broker. What’s so terrible about letting people know how easy it is to find an apartment in parts of Chicago, and letting them know that many properties don’t cooperate with brokers?

    Did you fail to read the last paragraph of the post? Or did it just not confirm your evident bias?

    And horror of horrors, I pointed renters to useful lists and information on my site.