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The first step in finding your first Chicago apartment

West Loop aerial view

Perhaps the biggest mistake that first-time Chicago renters make is not focusing on exactly where they want to live. That’s an easy pit to fall into if you’re new to the city and unfamiliar with rental costs and locations, but it’s one that should be avoided. Your first and most important step in finding your ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on July 29, 2014

Free Chicago rental services and great apartment deals

Belmont Harbor aerial

Chicago’s piratical rental services would like renters to believe that their services are free. There are renters gullible enough to believe that, just as there are renters who are naïve enough to believe the claim that rental services will negotiate the best deal for them. Chicago’s rental services aren’t that naïve. They’re fully aware that ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on July 24, 2014
Downtown / LoopTips & adviceRenting

Should renters claim the broker bonus at 73 East Lake?

73 East Lake Chicago

Not all Chicago landlords cooperate with rental service brokers, but the ones that do typically pay a commission equal to a month’s rent. Several of the newer buildings have rented up successfully while paying rental services a flat fee per unit that’s well under a month’s rent. The new Loop apartment tower at 73 East ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on July 21, 2014

Calling ex-rental service agents to speak out

Craigslist screen cap

Recruiting ads for new rental service leasing agents on Craigslist lure the naïve into thinking they’ll join a fast-growing elite firm, be trained for a career with high earnings potential, and be supported with the latest technology. The reality is that working at a rental service is a miserable experience for many new recruits, who ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on July 15, 2014

Chicago condo smoking bans and more

2626

The smoking ban at the 2626 N Lakeview condominiums is old news by now, but you’ll get an expanded look at some of the legal backdrop in the latest issue of the Chicagoland Cooperator. The publication focuses on issues relevant to local condos and co-ops. The June issue of the publication has a roundup of ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on July 14, 2014

Are Flats Chicago’s Short Stay apartments properly licensed?

Airbnb Flats Chicago

Chicago’s vacation rental licensing ordinance (“Ordinance”) imposes a number of restrictions and requirements on short-term rentals for transient occupancy. For starters, it requires licensing and a payment of a fee of $500 per unit every two years. Flats Chicago’s Short Stay units at 4875 N Magnolia in Uptown are clearly subject to the ordinance, but ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on July 8, 2014

Some amusing Yelp reviews for Vesta Preferred’s Joe Rush

Yelp screen cap

A new agent starts at a Chicago rental service and, within a matter of days, is receiving five-star reviews at Yelp from people writing their first-ever review, and writing in a way that doesn’t seem to reflect an actual apartment renting experience. That’s a pattern you’ll see repeated time after time in Yelp reviews for ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on July 1, 2014

Bypass 1,000s of Craigslist apartment spam ads with a single click

Kardas aerial

Chicago’s rental services promise to make your apartment search swift and painless. To encourage you to use their services they attempt to make your Craigslist search time-consuming and painful. We’ve singled out the 10 worst Craigslist apartment ad spammers and find it difficult to understand why anyone would work with a company that’s so flagrantly ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on July 1, 2014

Is a special assessment in the works at Fulton House?

The Board of Directors of the Fulton House Condominium Association was scheduled to meet Monday evening to discuss, among other items, levying a special assessment against unit owners for façade repairs and roof replacement. If we’re able to learn the results of the Board meeting and the amount of any special assessment we’ll pass along ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on June 25, 2014

A rental service agent trashes his former rental service

Gold Coast view

Live Here Chicago is a rental service that’s on our our do-not-call list and our list of the top 10 Craigslist apartment ad spammers. We’ve also written about the company in connection with fraudulent reviews at Yelp. A comment was added to that post yesterday from someone representing himself as someone who had worked at ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on June 24, 2014

Stay in a new Streeterville high-rise with Airbnb

Streeterville aerial

Airbnb has been around long enough, been the conduit for enough rentals, and refined its policies and checks often enough that you might not have any qualms about signing up for a short-term rental through Airbnb. You should be wary. I recently saw listings for short-term rentals through Airbnb at 500 Lake Shore Drive and ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on June 23, 2014

Follow new Chicago developments at Flickr

Hubbard Place

We typically visit almost every new construction site in Chicago’s lakefront and near-lakefront neighborhoods at least once a month and shoot updated images of the property. We post some of those images at YoChicago and upload others to Flickr, where we currently have more than 13,500 images online in 100s of albums from around Chicagoland. ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on June 23, 2014

Are you paying real estate taxes on personal property?

Barrington kitchen

A number of real estate websites include the sales history of a listed property and include both the price reported in public records and the price reported in the Multiple Listing Service. Those prices are often, surprisingly, identical. I say “surprisingly” because the value of personal property included in a real estate purchase should be ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on June 20, 2014

If you’re smart, you’ll stay away from Renturway

Renturway

The public relations “profession” is notorious for making shotgun pitches to websites without having even the dimmest awareness of how a particular pitch might be received. Yesterday’s email included a pitch from a PR person on behalf of Renturway, a company touted as having a “remarkable business model which differs distinctly from other rental agents ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on June 19, 2014

Oscar Wilde’s take on using a Chicago rental service

Oscar Wilde

What Oscar Wilde said about marriage perfectly sums up the experience of using or working for a Chicago rental service and trying a different one if the first proves unsatisfactory. “Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence. Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.” Don’t miss our list of the twenty-five things ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on June 11, 2014

Apartment People CEO admits to shabby business practice

Yelp screen cap

We’ve previously written at length about when a rental service should cash a renter’s deposit check. The short answer: not until the renter’s application has been approved by the landlord or management company. In my opinion, it’s outrageous conduct for a rental service to cash a check without knowing that a lease application has been ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on June 6, 2014

More enforcement capability for new Illinois Division of Real Estate

Pat Quinn

Chicago’s rental services have a long history of advertising abusively on Craigslist and in other venues in flagrant violation of a number of provisions of Illinois law. In a move that has received little public attention Governor Quinn signed an Executive Order on March 31 creating a new Division of Real Estate within the Illinois ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on June 6, 2014

ApartmentList.com is still a garbage dump

Lincoln Park

Just over a year ago we spotlighted ApartmentList, a website that claims the following mission: As renters and landlords ourselves, we understand the widespread frustration with the current rental landscape. Our mission is to turn the renter/landlord relationship into one of trust and transparency. Finding your next home should be a delightful process, and we’re ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on June 5, 2014

Rising prices and thin sales volumes spell danger

Aerial, East Garfield Park

If you’ve been an observer of Chicago’s real estate cycles for an appreciable amount of time, you’ve seen the current script played out repeatedly. Call it Apocalypse Tomorrow: it begins as an action adventure movie and frequently ends as a horror show. The protagonists are affluent, young, would-be home buyers who can’t afford the home ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on May 28, 2014

How to avoid the rental service wait-and-switch

Aerial view Lincoln Park

If you’re working with one of Chicago’s rental services and renting in one of the large, professionally managed apartment buildings on our at-a-glance lists, the on-site leasing staff takes control and shunts your rental service agent off to the periphery of the transaction. You can expect to receive straight answers and timely updates about the ...

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Posted by Joe Zekas on May 27, 2014