How fast your agent gets paid may bias which apartments you see

A recent comment at YoChicago:

I am hearing thru the grapevine that some agents are actually quietly boycotting some buildings and management companies.

The management companies that have been boycotted have been super late on paying out commissions and have clearly made demands about advertising and marketing that clearly makes agents feel that it’s a waste of their time when they can get a private landlord and get paid right away.

Maybe they should look at their policies.. 2015 will not look good for these management companies since a ton of new units are coming online!!

The comment appears to have been intended as a threat to slow-paying management companies, but it reveals a great deal about the integrity of apartment rental services. Start with the contempt for the renters they promise to help find the best apartment with the least effort. Then note the attitude that “demands about advertising,” which I read as insistence on compliance with Illinois law, make working with a company “a waste of time.” Compliance with the law would stop rental services from wasting renters’ time by cluttering Craigslist with 10s of 1,000s of unauthorized ads.

Some management companies do pay rental services more slowly than others. Some rental services have also been known to lie to their agents about when commission payments are received, and deliberately slow-pay their agents or stiff them when they leave in frustration. Those practices become more common as rental service cash flows decrease during the slow winter renting season.

Major management companies typically will not allow a rental service to accept payment for the first month’s rent on their behalf. They require that payment be made to the management company and that the rental service submit an invoice for its commission.

Some management companies and many private landlords allow rental services to collect and retain the first month’s rent as their commission. This practice puts renters, who are often cash-poor, at risk. Rental services often cash checks or ding credit cards before an apartment application has been approved. If the application is not approved they then slow pay the renter, sometimes to finance their cash-poor, seasonally-slow business, sometimes in an attempt to force the renter to continue using their “services.”

If you’re considering the use of a rental service you need to be keenly aware of what they won’t tell you. You need to research and know your rental options on your own: you simply can’t trust a rental service to do that for you. Rental services have too many rookies, too many liars, and too few honest, competent, experienced agents.

If your apartment hunt is focused on the near-lakefront neighborhoods from the South Loop to Lakeview, you’ll find virtually all your managed-building options on YoChicago’s at-a-glance lists. The lists have links to objective reviews, near real-time availability checks, video tours and more.

The smart approach to rental services is to use them only to set appointments and drive you to apartments you’ve pre-determined you want to see. And, of course, you’ll negotiate a rebate of a portion of the commission for that limited service.

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