In a comment on an earlier YoChicago post Michael Krasman, one of the founders of Homescout Realty (I don’t link to apartment rental services) posed the following question to me:
I know you may not be currently looking for an apartment, but wouldn’t you agree that if you knew little about the city of Chicago OR were a busy individual who wanted someone to help you navigate the marketplace, there would be value in calling a company like Homescout Realty. Our real estate consultants know the available inventory in the city and can greatly reduce the amount of time and energy that it would otherwise take to identify the ideal property for a given situation.
Do I see value in calling Homescout Realty? No, not much. Not enough to make me pick up the phone if I were looking for an apartment in Chicago for the first time. That would be true even if I didn’t already know that the odds are that I’d be working with a recent college grad who’s yet to be licensed and probably can’t afford the apartments s/he’d be showing me.
If you spend a bit of time deconstructing Homescout’s voluminous postings on Craigslist you’ll quickly learn that the majority of those postings are repetitive and represent a fairly small number of large rental complexes. You can easily find those same complexes on ForRent.Com, Apartments.com and any number of other online services. You’ll also find them in the handy pocket-sized apartment guide available at most supermarkets. And you’ll find quite a few others that apparently don’t cooperate with Homescout Realty.
The major online rental sites will give you more complete information (generally including floor plans and higher-quality photos) than you’ll get from Homescout postings, and you’ll have the advantage of getting information from the source. Read some of the less than positive reviews of Homescout on Yelp and you’ll understand why that’s important.
In today’s hyper-competitive rental market you may be able to negotiate a better deal directly with a landlord who doesn’t have to pay a commission on your lease.
The way I look at it, the insane volume of duplicated ads that Homescout and the other rental service maggots post on Craigslist is a desperate attempt to pollute Craigslist and create a need for their services. I view the sheer volume of those ads as an act of aggression against renters, a time-waster and disservice of the worst kind. If someone dumped a half-ton of manure in your living room, you’d want to call a service to clean it up, but you wouldn’t call the people who dumped it there.
If you’re looking to rent in a high-rise or other large apartment complex you can easily find what Homescout has to offer and more. If you’re looking for that ideal 2-flat in one of the neighborhoods or a bargain rent from a condo owner – well, just search Craigslist and see how very little Homescout has to offer in those areas.
You asked, Michael. I’ve given you my opinion. I’m looking forward to our meeting.