Are renters and landlords losers with Chicago Apartment Finders?

The Habitat Company, for those of you who may not be familiar with it, is in the top-tier of professional management companies. In its more than 40-year history Habitat has developed more than 17,000 residential units, and changed the face of Chicago. The company’s founder, Daniel Levin, is a legend in the industry and his spouse is a former ambassador to The Hague. Valerie Jarrett, the company’s former CEO, is a Senior Advisor to President Obama.

Habitat manages some of Chicago’s most popular apartment buildings in some of its most sought-after locations, including 1225 Old Town, the sponsor of our Old Town Apartment Guide.

To Chicago Apartment Finders (“CAF”), however, Habitat buildings appear to be nothing but negative comps. A “negative comp” is a property that a real estate agent compares unfavorably, usually on price, to one he or she is trying to rent you.

Take a close look at the Habitat-managed apartments advertised at CAF’s website and what’s actually available for rent in the buildings. We have, of course, saved screen caps fully documenting what’s reported below.

Asbury Plaza
CAF advertises this River North building as being in the Gold Coast. CAF’s website has ads for a 1-bedroom renting for $3,085, and a 2-bedroom, 1-bath for $3,950.

According to Asbury Plaza’s website, available 1-bedrooms rented from $1,472 to $1,505. Deluxe 1-bedrooms were $1,565 to $1,657. Two-bedroom, 2-bath units (the only 2-bedrooms in the building) ranged from $2,273 to $2,463, but none were available.

Columbus Plaza
CAF advertised a 1-bedroom at Columbus Plaza for $1,858 and a 2-bedroom, 2-bath for $2,628. According to the building’s website, available 1-bedrooms rented from $1,597 to $1,715 and 2-bedroom, 2-bath units for $2,346 to $2,523.

Elm Street Plaza
CAF’s website advertised a 1-bedroom at Elm Street Plaza for $1,793 and a 2-bedroom, 1-bath (not available in the building) for $2629.

Elm Street Plaza’s website reported 1-bedrooms available for $1,571 to $1,700 and 2-bedroom, 2-bath units renting at $2,358 to $2,425.

Kingsbury Plaza
The CAF website had the following ads for Kingsbury Plaza: Studio, $1,753; Convertible, $2,083; 1-bedroom, $2,723; 1-bedroom plus den, $2,385; and 2-bedroom, 2-bath, $3,759.

Kingsbury Plaza’s website offered these availabilities: Studio, $1,594 to $1,678; Convertible, $1,627 to $1,1714; 1-bedroom, $2,380 to $2,607; 1-bedroom plus den, $2,478 to $2,493; and 2-bedroom, 2-bath, $2,715 to $3,113.

Lakeshore Plaza
Lakeshore Plaza ads at CAF’s website were for a 1-bedroom renting for $1,505 and a 2-bedroom, 2-bath for $3,020.

Lakeshore Plaza’s website offered 1-bedrooms at $1,475 to $1,487 and a 2-bedroom, 2-bath at $2,066.

How are mistakes on that scale possible?
You may find the answer to that question on this list of the twenty-five things rental services won’t tell you.

CAF overstates the rents in Habitat-managed buildings so systematically, and to such an extent, that I can’t believe it involves anything but a deliberate intent to steer renters visiting CAF’s website away from Habitat buildings. Is there no one at CAF who will blow a whistle and stop this? Is there any possibility that CAF’s online behavior isn’t mirrored in offline dealings with renters?

You’ll find almost all of the images in CAF’s ads for Habitat-managed buildings at the building websites. Anyone want to guess where the images originated, and who paid for them? In my book, the obvious answer adds insult to injury.

CAF has drawn a number of scathing reviews at Yelp. There are good reasons to be skeptical of anonymous reviews, but apparently genuine commenters at CAF’s Facebook page also slam the company. My guess is that those comments may be gone by the time you visit.

Chicago Apartment Finders has been on our radar for some time, and was a charter member of our rental service do-not-call list.

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NOTE: At the margins YoChicago competes with rental services for landlord marketing dollars, so we have an indirect financial stake in keeping the competition honest. Make whatever you will of that.

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