Urban Lux – rental spam as search bait

Chicago-based Urban Lux promises to “change the way people find apartments” as it expands “throughout the US and Europe” – but delivers the bait-and-switch experience that you expect from Chicago rental services.

Urban Lux has built a richly-visual, feature-packed site that lists many buildings and includes MLS listings. What may strike the casual visitor as a great deal of information strikes me as useless search bait, and nothing more.

A video for the site touts Urban Lux’s efforts “To Ensure That You recieve Up-to-Date Pricing & Availablity” and its real-time search results. The spelling errors should alert you to expect a failure to execute.

I sampled several South Loop buildings to compare the promise with the performance. Clicking on the link for “listings in this building” for Burnham Pointe, for example, returned “0 results.” The online availability check at Burnham Pointe’s site shows 22 units available as of 4/29/12, the date I selected in the Urban Lux search. Urban Lux showed nothing available at AMLI 900, while the building’s website reports 10 units immediately available.

If you’d like to make additional comparisons, you can find links to online availability checks for South Loop buildings at YoChicago’s at-a-glance apartment list and map.

If you drill down on rental building listings at the firm’s site you may get the impression that all of the firm’s agents are licensed. If you go to the IDFPR license lookup site, however, and check the license number that’s listed as Alyse Young’s license number, for example, you’ll find that it’s the corporate license number. According to Alyse Young’s LinkedIn profile she’s been with Urban Lux only since March of this year and is likely to be working on a 120-day permit.

ADDED: I’ve spoken with a landlord who refuses to do business with Urban Lux. Urban Lux has pictures of that landlord’s buildings on its website with an invitation to contact Urban Lux about rentals. The pictures were scraped from the landlord’s website and watermarked by Urban Lux without permission or attribution, despite a clear copyright notice on the landlord’s site.

UPDATE 11:42 am 4/25/12: Urban Lux has removed information about most of the landlord’s buildings from its website as of this writing.

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