Are apartment finders playing you for a sucker?

If you’re using one of Chicago’s apartment finders a/k/a locators a/k/a rental services to look for an apartment, the odds are high that you’re not going to find the best apartment deal.

There are lots of things that the finders won’t tell you about how they really operate. The most important is that they can’t or won’t show you some of the best apartments in Chicago.

A number of Chicago’s major property owners and management companies refuse to pay a commission to rental services, and don’t allow them to show their apartments. Others severely limit the number of rental services that they work with, and won’t let most finders set foot on their properties.

Rental services have their own reasons for refusing to show properties. In a tight rental market some owners and managers are paying less than a full month’s rent as commission, and the rental services typically steer renters away from those properties. And lie about the reason for doing so.

Condos and homes listed in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) are often some of the best rental deals in Chicago. Most rental services – as opposed to traditional brokers that also do rentals – will not show MLS-listed property. The reason is simple: they only receive half the commission on an MLS deal.

A growing number of management companies are requiring rental agents to produce their state license info and matching photo ID at the time of a showing. That keeps the unlicensed agents – a shockingly large number in Chicago – away from those properties.

Any rental service agent who tells you they can show you everything and find you the best deal is playing you for a sucker – or has been played for a sucker by the rental service he works for.

If you’re looking in one of the areas covered by our at-a-glance apartment lists, you’ll get your best deal by working directly with the properties.