Have you used Chicago Apartment Finder?
April 1, 2008 8:35 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any experience with Chicago Apartment Finders?

I'm moving to Chicago from out-of-state in August, and I'll only have one or two days in June to find a place. (Side question: is this a good time to find an apartment for August?)

While I've found a lot of leads on Craigslist, I don't think it'll be very easy for me to score an apartment in such a short amount of time with this method because I have to find a place while I'm there. Therefore, I'm looking into using a no-fee apartment finder like Chicago Apartment Finders.

Have you used them before? If so, how was the experience? Or, have you used a different no-fee apartment finder in Chicago and willing to recommend them?

This guy used them and seemed to have pretty good luck, but I'm looking for more information!

P.S. I'm looking for a 2 bedroom in a decent (safe, North) area for under $1200.
posted by nitsuj to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I drove up to Chicago one day in 2000 and a nice fellow from Apartment Finders drove me around to check out different apartments. I found a REALLY nice one-bedroom apartment in Wrigleyville.

(Ended up moving 2000 miles west, but that's not the point. It was a nice experience. Hopefully things haven't changed too much since then.)
posted by pea_shoot at 8:57 AM on April 1, 2008

I found my last apartment via The Apartment People. It's a gorgeous apartment. However, there was a bit of back and forth with the first apartment we'd signed for - turned out the guy who owned it rented it to someone else from under our nose.

You'll probably find an apartment that day, but it might take a little longer to get all the paperwork straightened out.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:17 AM on April 1, 2008

If anything, using a service like Chicago Apartment Finders complicates things, and makes it harder to get everything done in a day or so. The neighborhoods you are interested in are lousy with apartments for rent right now - just walk around and look for places, and use the Reader and Craigslist as a fall-back. In this market, I would not use a service under any circumstances unless you absolutely have to have your hand held, and then you will be paying for that (in terms of the apartment you end up with and what you end up paying for it).
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 9:36 AM on April 1, 2008

Oh, drat. I went around with The Apartment People, not Apartment Finders. Sorry.
posted by pea_shoot at 10:35 AM on April 1, 2008

I used them to find my current place in Logan Square. As far as I could tell, they have a database of units that they get from landlords - what I found out is that a lot of the smaller buildings or smaller organizations aren't in the database. You'd be fine using CL or the Reader or even the Trib. And they weren't particularly helpful in terms of navigating neighborhoods. I think two days in June is plenty of time, but it strikes me as a tad early for August.
posted by sachinag at 11:40 AM on April 1, 2008

I'm almost sure that we used the Apartment People service (though it's possible it was Apartment Finders?) in early 2004. They were outstanding- I had to fly in for an interview on a Thursday, made an appointment for Friday morning. The guy who drove me around knew the neighborhoods really well, (I'd never been to Chicago) and he went above and beyond to show me nice places. We ended up finding our apartment, AND they helped us negotiate a better rent. Fabulous experience, I wish every city had a similar service.
posted by BundleOfHers at 12:21 PM on April 1, 2008

I had a good experience with Apartment People (7 years ago) and a bad experience with Apartment Finders (3 years ago). Though I ended up renting from neither.

Apartment Finders showed us bottom-of-the-barrel apartments that were overpriced and didn't match our basic requirements, and the sales rep was dismissive.

Apartment People was more professional, and showed us apartments that we considered, but we went with something listed in the paper instead.
posted by limeswirltart at 1:57 PM on April 1, 2008

I found an apartment with The Apartment People just this past August, and had a great experience. I had exhausted all other avenues, and with the Apartment People, we looked at three places in the morning and rented one of them by that afternoon. I've also done the craigslist/walking around for two other apartments, and found good places that way, too.

The main denominator for me was how many people were living together. This last place was with four of us, so having someone drive us around during a set time was a big help. My first place was on my own, so there was a lot mor flexibility in picking a place, and just having a bunch of listings to look at on my own was fine.

FYI, when I moved to Chicago, I came to town for a few days in June looking for a place in August. Didn't have any trouble and found a nice studio. I've found that in Chicago, looking for a place about 30-60 days out, with the best time around 45-50 days out is the way to go (and my experience is with northside apartments).
posted by bibbit at 2:30 PM on April 1, 2008

When I moved up to Chicago I went through The Apartment People and Apartment Finder (If I'm remembering correctly).

I found both to be similar, they were both pretty pushy in pressuring me to sign because "it'll be gone this afternoon!" I found that the places they took me were pushing it in terms of saying it's in this or that neighborhood. They were also apartments that were just plainly not very good, especially for the prices they were listing them at. Also, I had to keep the people on track because they were steering me to areas I really wasn't interested in and had told them so. I don't know, I probably would not use one of these services again, unless I was out of town and had no other way.

In the end I found my place through the Chicago Reader and couldn't be happier with my place. I found the reader easier to navigate than craigslist.
posted by Sreiny at 3:00 PM on April 1, 2008

Don't know about Apartment Finders, but I tried both the Apartment People and Apartment Guys last summer. I felt the Guys' apartments were a bit nicer overall, but in the end I didn't get a place from either of them (Chicago Reader, again). The "it'll be gone this afternoon!" is not necessarily all talk--I had three apartments snatched out from under me, even after applying and writing a check. But the Finders, People, and Guys all have offices in Lakeview, if you wanted to try a couple of them in one day.

Also, I think June would be a good time to search for August 1.
posted by gueneverey at 5:33 PM on April 1, 2008

It might be helpful to understand how any of the no-fee apartment finders work. They don't just have this big database of all the apartments in the city available for rent. Instead, they have a database full of apartments that landlords were unable to rent for several months, and are now willing to pay a few thousand dollars commission to anyone that can lease their space.

The better landlords and buildings don't ever list with no-fee apartment finders because they don't have to. The landlords that do list are doing so because a) the apartment is overpriced; b) it is a very large building with so much natural turnover that the landlord really needs help keeping occupancy high; or c) there is something undesirable about the apartment or neighborhood.

Despite the good experiences people may have had with some of these companies, realize that what you'll be shown is the leftovers. The only exception is in periods of very high vacancy, when decent stuff might appear in the no-fee finder's databases.

A better approach would be to figure out what you can afford to spend. Then research a few neighborhoods that you think you might like. Then start looking in the reader and Craigslist for places in those neighborhoods. Make some appointments. Spend your first day visiting a few different neighborhoods. Spend your second day zeroing in on the one you like best.

Since you are new to the city and have some safety concerns, I'd advise you to stick with the popular lake front neighborhoods to the north. Although the South Loop is very popular and safe too. In order of increasing distance from the loop, check out: River North, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lakeview and Andersonville. Price goes down the further away from the Loop you go. If you will be working in the loop, try to live within 6 blocks of a Red Line or Brown Line El station. Closer if possible. Google displays the El stations marked on their mapping service, which makes it a great aid for an out of towner.
posted by centerweight at 8:07 PM on April 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Update: FWIW, I'll be in Chicago for four days in June. I'll spend the first two days on Craigslist, the Reader, and walking around, and I have appointments booked with two no-fee agencies on the last two days, just in case I don't find anything on the first two.
posted by nitsuj at 11:43 AM on May 14, 2008

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