Don’t play rookie roulette at a rental service

If you scan Craigslist help wanted ads for real estate you’ll note that Chicago’s rental services are trying to round up rookies in advance of the upcoming rental season. The qualifications: a high school diploma or equivalent, a working car (maybe) and a cell phone. Disqualifications: almost none.

Finding an apartment in Chicago – especially in the lakefront communities covered by our at-a-glance apartment lists – is a relatively easy task. Contrary to what the rental services would like you to believe, you don’t need their services, which all too often prove to be a disservice.

If you’re determined to use a rental service, you should learn the twenty-five things they won’t tell you. You should also insist on working only with a fully-licensed agent who has at least two years’ experience.

Under no circumstances should you just walk into a cattle-call waiting room and play rookie roulette with a rental service. Rental service rookies typically know nothing or next-to-nothing about the range of available apartments, the quality of the landlords, or the neighborhoods. They’re prey for the often unscrupulous individuals who operate Chicago rental services – and you become their prey.

Know who you’ll be seeing and what their qualifications are before you agree to work with an agent. There’s no guarantee of competence or integrity when you work with an experienced, licensed rental service agent –but at least they’re likely to be able to find their way around the city and have some familiarity with what you can afford and the apartments you qualify for.

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