Supplementing the Trib’s apartment hunting tips

by Joe Zekas on 4/13/12

Today’s Chicago Tribune has an informative article about apartment-hunting strategies in what’s currently a landlord’s market. It’s generally good advice – as far it goes.

As the Trib notes, apartments are renting very quickly. It’s always been the case that rental services could and would show renters only a limited selection of apartments. That selection has become even more limited as a growing number of landlords have ceased cooperating with rental services altogether or reduced the compensation they offer rental services.

The rapid turnover of apartments also severely undermines the utility of rental services. The services rarely have exclusive listings with landlords, and don’t have up-to-date information about which units are actually available. Working with a rental service can waste a lot of time on apartments that have already been rented.

The frenzied rental market has spawned an unusually large number of new rental services this year. Combine that with a depressed job market, and renters face increasing odds of being teamed up with a rental service rookie who will waste their time – and worse.

If you’re looking for an apartment, the only smart thing to do is to go directly to the landlord. That’s easy to do in the lakefront areas of Chicago from the South Loop to Lake View. You can find virtually every available building at YoChicago’s at-a-glance apartment lists and maps, and many of them have near real-time availability information online. The lists link to the building websites giving you access to accurate information rather than the bait-and-switch hype you often see in ads from rental services.

Our lists, as well as our recently-launched YoRents service, exclude the landlords that we know to be problematic.

Homes and condos listed in the MLS are often competitively priced against managed apartment buildings. The rental services typically avoid showing you MLS-listed properties. We recommend working with an established broker for these properties – preferably one of our advertising clients.

Added – an illustration of what you can expect from rental services.

Click the image to the right for an enlarged screen cap of a rental service listing for a 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment at Eugenie Terrace in Lincoln Park. According to the listing the unit rents for $2,570, has an in-unit washer / dryer and is available May 1st.

If you had gone directly to the online availability check for Eugenie Terrace you would have learned that 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartments start at $2,570, but nothing in that price range was available for May 1st. Eugenie Terrace’s website doesn’t mention in-unit washer / dryers in 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartments. A phone call confirmed that they’re only available in the building’s townhouse units, which start at $3,975.

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