Ditch the rental broker if you want a great apartment deal

Chicago’s rental service brokers would like you to believe that they can help you find a great deal on your next apartment. Don’t believe it.

Working with a rental service guarantees that you’ll miss out on many of Chicago’s best apartments and apartment deals

For starters, there are many attractive properties that don’t pay commissions to brokers and don’t allow brokers to show their apartments. Work with a broker and you’ll never see those apartments.

Some properties limit the number of brokers they work with. Work with the wrong broker and you’ll miss out on those properties.

A number of rental services will tell you that they work with a large number of properties but in fact work only with a very limited number of properties.

Many rental agents are new to the business and are clueless about what’s a good deal and what isn’t. Their definition of a great deal is often the one that pays them the highest commission in the shortest time.

Some properties pay brokers less than a full commission, typically a month’s rent, on some or all of their apartments. Work with a broker, and you’re likely to be steered away from those properties.

If you’re working with a broker and looking to rent 60 days or more in advance, you’ll never see the great apartments that are rented from waiting lists or not made available to brokers until 30 days before the lease start date, or made available only at a reduced commission rate. You can sign up for “availability alerts” at many buildings and call others to be notified when apartments become available due to lease non-renewals.

Some properties offer renters an upfront rent credit when they book an apartment online on their website without using a broker. Work with a broker and you take a pass on those credits.

Some of the best apartment deals can be found in condo buildings. Rental services typically won’t show renters units in condo buildings, in part because they only receive half a month’s commission on those deals. Brokers in traditional full-service firms often won’t show renters units in managed apartment buildings since they don’t have relationships with those buildings.

Rental services want you to believe that they’ll negotiate to get you the best deal. The reality is that they’ve typically signed agreements with management companies that explicitly prohibit them from negotiating rental terms. You can negotiate; your broker can’t.

Use a rental broker only if you’re willing to settle for the limited range of apartments the broker can show you. If you want the best deal or the best apartments, start by knowing where you want to live and beginning your search at least 60 days in advance.

YoChicago’s at-a-glance lists include every managed apartment building in the neighborhoods they cover – except for properties we think you should avoid. Our lists link to objective reviews which link to the properties, and include links to near real-time rent and availability info at many of the properties, and to video tours.

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