Chicago rental services closing offices, rebranding, testing new business models

As Chicago’s rental market strengthens and vacancies decrease, a number of landlords have been cutting back on their use of apartment rental services (also known as locators and finders) and reducing the fees they pay them.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that the crowded rental services field is undergoing a transition. A number of smaller companies have vanished from sight, and several larger ones are shedding old skins and donning new ones.

Rent Smart Chicago, formerly Blue Property, and once one of Chicago’s larger apartment rental services, recently shuttered all but one of its offices. The remaining office has been rebranded as iMove Chicago.

We’ve written about Rent Smart a number of times, most recently here.

Homescout Realty, also one of the larger firms, closed its principal office on Broadway, which was once home to dozens of agents – not all of whom were properly licensed. The company garnered 100s of filtered, i.e. suspect reviews at Yelp.

We’ve also written about Homescout and its principals.

Michael Krasman and Jeff Ellmann, Homescout’s principals, have been involved in a number of businesses catering to Chicago newcomers, including an employment agency and an events promotion firm. Last year they quietly launched UrbanBound in beta form.

According to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, UrbanBound is raising $1 million in equity funding under Regulation D of the Securities Act of 1933, which provides an exemption from registration for certain types of securities. As of last August UrbanBound had raised $250,000 and planned to pay Krasman and Ellmann $180,000 from the proceeds of the offering.

UrbanBound strikes me as just a front for a rental service business and an attempt to leverage more revenue streams from its unsuspecting prey.

If you’re looking for a new home or apartment, acquaint yourself with the twenty-five things the rental services won’t tell you. Check out some of YoChicago’s resources for finding your next place, including our rental Guides and at-a-glance apartment lists.

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