Apartment hunting in Chicago can be daunting. Aside from the mad dash of apartment season and competing with 1,000s of other renters, it can be difficult to cut through the noise and find a great place. Pair that with scams and sketchy Craigslist ads and some renters are left wanting to pull their hair out.

When most people think of real estate agents, they think of home buying. But there are many agents that specialize in rentals and they have access to many apartment finding tools that the average consumer does not. And best of all: it’s free! In some cities, agents and brokers charge a fee. Lucky for you, there’s no such thing in Chicago!

Why would an agent help me apartment hunt for free?

To an agent, helping renters find an apartment is a great way to network and meet future home buyers. Not to mention they make a commission when they close an apartment, so it’s actually in their best interest to be as helpful as possible. In their eyes, if you have a great experience with them as a renter, hopefully, you’ll think of them when you’re ready to buy.

An agent knows more than you

Apartment hunting chicago
Despite what you think you know, real estate agents probably know more. They know more about the current state of the market than likely anyone else. They’ll know if your expectations for pricing are realistic or if you need to look for something you may not have considered. What’s more, they also know where to find the best deals. Since an agent is already helping buyers, they’ll know what neighborhoods are trending for renters. An agent is also good to have on your side if you’re not sure an apartment is a good deal or not. A big mistake a lot of renters make is thinking they know the city and can find something themselves. While it might be true that you know the city you live in very well, you probably don’t know as much as you think about the current rental market. So use your agent as a resource and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

“While it might be true that you know the city you live in very well, you probably don’t know as much as you think about the rental market”

An agent has more access

Apartment hunting chicago
At the end of the day, an agent simply has access to more apartments than you ever could have. Many of the apartments you see on sites like Apartments.com, Zillow, Zumper and even Craigslist are syndicated over many sites and are likely duplicates. Plus by the time you inquire and schedule a showing, it’s very likely someone has already submitted an application. An agent has access to the MLS, or Multiple Listing Service, which is the source of all apartment listings. Apartments appear on the MLS first before they are advertised and syndicated to apartment search sites. A lot of seasoned agents also have exclusive or even personal connections to landlords. Using an agent will guarantee you’re the first to know about new apartments on the market so you can grab the best ones before anyone else does.

Yes, using an agent is free…but you still need to be responsive

Apartment hunting chicago
That’s right, all of the above is completely free! This is always the case because agents are motivated by closing sales and meeting potential clients, aka you. However, you should realize that an agent will not waste time with a renter who is unresponsive or not willing to give feedback. If your agent sends you 10 potential apartments, make sure you look through them and respond to things you like or don’t like. Be honest. It’s ok to say you don’t like specific apartments or even certain neighborhoods. And feel free to request as many showings as you’d like. A good agent is happy to drive you around to various apartments you’re interested in.

As with any professional relationship, communication is key. Tell your agent exactly what you’re looking for and when you want to move in. If all goes well, it shouldn’t take more than a few weeks to find an ideal apartment and sign your new lease!

How do I find a great rental agent in Chicago?

It is very important to find an agent who works for a real estate brokerage and not a property management company. Agents who work for property managers will likely only show you the properties they manage which can be very limiting. You can find real estate brokerages by doing a quick google search. Once on the brokerage website, simply look to see if they offer rental services.

You can also go to any apartment search website, search for an apartment, and scroll to the bottom of the listing to see the listing agent. Most times you can contact the agent directly and they are happy to send you more available apartments. Zillow and Zumper usually work well for this strategy.

Alternatively, you can use Digs! We employ licensed real estate agents that specialize in apartment rentals.

Working with Digs

Digs is the only company that helps you find an apartment AND save for your first home purchase. We understand that most renters would like to become homeowners in the future so we’ve developed a unique savings plan that allows you to earn cash back and move-in bonuses on the apartments you rent. In a few years, you’ll be able to use the money you’ve saved with us for a downpayment and other costs associated with the home buying process.

Get Started by Signing Up Today

If you’re looking for an apartment in Chicago, simply fill out this form to get started with your apartment search. A Digs agent will contact you shortly. You can also open a Digs Savings Account here.

Happy apartment hunting Chicago!

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