Rental Basics in Chicago>Question Details

C Jones, Renter in Chicago, IL

Why is it so hard to find a rental agent who can follow through and deliver?

Asked by C Jones, Chicago, IL Wed Jun 26, 2013

Hello all. I thought to ask on here because this has been bugging me for the past 6 months, and I'm frustrated. I have basic, but necessary, requirements, which haven't been met in listings I've been shown.

In dealing with different agents or agencies, basically one of three things has happened:

1) There's no follow-up with initial inquiry, or first follow-up from agent doesn't produce suitable options, and no further contact to me is made.

2) There are continuous listings sent, but nothing is promising, and agent doesn't seem to understand basic requirements despite explanation.

3) Agency has listings that look promising, but they withhold basic information like address, square footage, and what floor unit is on. I don't have time to waste trips on units that aren't likely to fit my needs.

I don't know if any agents who read this think they can do better, but at this point I am open to most anything. Also, any insight you might have would be appreciated. Thanks!

Help the community by answering this question:


As someone who has done dozens of rentals in the past few years I agree with everything that has been said. But I would like to add a few additional points for the successful rental search. You need to be ready to make a fast decision and be prepared with completed application and current credit report in advance. I have worked with many clients who were not ready or able to make a decision and wanted to keep looking even though the place met their must-have list. By the time they made their decision, the place was long gone. In addition, if its a really nice place that is reasonably priced, expect to be in a multiple bid situation. This is where being prepared with a generic application and credit report that can be immediately turned in will put you ahead of others in line where the paperwork still needs to be done. Finally, what is your credit like? If you haven't run a report on yourself, I suggest doing so. Many people get tripped up when looking for a place because they have no idea what their credit report looks like. This is not something that you want to find out when you are declined. If there are problems you need to be prepared with a strategy to overcome them. A little advance preparation can pay off big.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 26, 2013
Absolutely on point, you get out what you put in.

If you are not exclusive then neither is your agent. The agent doesn't get paid until the job is done and if you're looking around on your own or open to working with other agents then he/she will divert their time/efforts where it has the highest probability of return.

Are your demands realistic? Sometimes, if too many filters are used in an auto search the returns are going to be less in number, more importantly you may miss out on a great opportunity because the filter prevented the listing from showing up in your results. Makes sense?

Good luck!
2 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 26, 2013
In my reading between the lines, it sounds like you do not have a dedicated agent with whom you have a mutually exclusive relationship. As you do not have time to waste, many good agents will not waste time with part time clients. If you are working with several agents, AND shopping around on your own, no one agent will give you their best for fear you will just take to another agent. Find ONE agent and tell them EXACTLY what you want: location, size, price points, amenities, unit features. They can set you on an automatic feed that you can get up to twice a day that will give you all the details about properties that are currently and actually on the market. If you are only getting the feed off their web sites and not a MLS feed, you are only getting part of the picture.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 26, 2013
...also, why have you been looking for 6 months. If you are looking more than 2 months in advance, you are looking at properties that will not be available when you want them. If you do not have a time definite to move, then set one. If you are looking more than 2 months in advance stop!!! You are only spinning your wheels.
Flag Wed Jun 26, 2013
It sounds like part of your frustration is about things that are beyond any agent's control. An agent for a renter can't control how listings are posted in the MLS. Therefore, you are receiving listings from an auto-search that may not meet all of your criteria because the listing agents haven't completed the listings completely or accurately. I find that with rental listings, the less specific the search criteria, the more chances you have of finding a good listing that might not have been picked up if you add too many specifics, such as having an elevator. Rental agents are notorious for not putting much info in their listings. That's not YOUR agent's fault. It also sounds like you have many criteria that may not be reasonably met, so if an agent has been working for you and you don't like anything you've seen, the agent may have given up. And yes, we don't have access to everything that's out there. Frankly, it sounds like you need to do this on your own, unless you can commit to one agent who will work tirelessly for you and be compensated for his/her time and effort. If you can't make that commitment, then don't blame the agents for not committing to you.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Jun 30, 2013
I'll be honest here, the rental market- at least in my area is on fire... I am not saying you personally are to blame AT ALL. However my experience has been this....

I call- find homes that are within their budget- not what they want all the time, but what I know they said they were willing to pay up to on a monthly basis.

Now say I find 3 homes for a person to look at, I cannot always go by what THEY WANT- I have to go by what they can usually the issue I run into is that the person hates all of the homes, which end up being the only homes in their budget... I don't bother anymore in these cases. I can only find what's within a persons budget.

Now the next order of issues I come across in the rental world is permits... say someone has 5 people, or they require a certain district or school, I may not be able to find a rental permitted for 5 people. Nor may I be able to find something in said district.

This also happens with those with pets, sometimes there are no rentals in specific wanted areas...

With the actual home buying market heating up again, many agents will put rentals at the back burner in order to chase a higher commission. Not because they do not want to help, but because sometimes the requests are just non obtainable and we get swamped with home sales/buyers calling in.

Lastly... most of us will not even bother assisting someone who admits openly that they 'already saw that house' ... this just says that you dance around from agent to agent, and no one wants to waste time or gas with someone whom dances around from one agent to the next. It actually offends us
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 28, 2013
C. Jones,

Unfortunately, the initial barrier to entry in the real estate industry is rather low, so many agents at rental agencies are new and not fully licensed. The problem is not really whether you work with a brokerage that is rental based or sales based - the problem is with the specific agents you have encountered.

In fact, if you are looking for a rental, rental agencies generally know the rental market better. Sales agenecies know sales better. Take that with a grain of salt though - as I just mentioned, it really is all about the individual agent or broker you end up working with.

I'd be happy to see what I can do for you if you would like my advice.

Brendan Ross | Real Estate Attorney and REALTOR®
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 28, 2013
Can you share your requirements? That may help the forum give you feedback as to whether or not they are realistic. The rental market is very competitive right now, pricing has gone up 15-20% over last year in some parts of the city.

Erik Sachs
RpV Realty LLC
Cell 773/38-5515
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Jun 27, 2013
Hi, C Jones:

Sorry to hear you've had such a bad experience. I do have some suggestions that may make your search more effective:

1. When you start working with an agent or agency, ask "Are you representing me in this transaction?" If the agent or agency cannot unequivocally answer "Yes!, " move on to the next agent or agency. An agent who's not working for you won't show you what you want, only what they want to rent. Get an agreement in writing!

2. Watch out for "dual agents." These are agents who "represent" both landlord and tenant in the same transaction. Though state law permits this, common sense tells you that no one can divide their loyalties successfully.

In fact, state law also requires any agent who wishes to handle both sides of a transaction (leasing or selling) to get the permission of both parties to the transaction in advance of collecting any personal information. Many leasing agents unfortunately either don't understand this or ignore this, to the detriment of both landlord and tenant.

3. Why not ask your agent to sign an exclusive representation agreement with you? This will ensure that the agent will represent only your interests in a leasing transaction, and won't practice "dual agency" unless you specifically permit it.

An exclusive representation agreement also allows an agent to represent you in a leasing transaction with a property owner who hasn't listed the property with a broker. In this situation, if you rent the property, you may have to compensate your agent, if the landlord won't.

However, this arrangement opens up every apartment offered for rent in the entire Chicago area, whether or not it's listed with a broker. If the landlord doesn't wish to compensate your agent, expect to pay the equivalent of one-half to one month's rent in commission. This is exactly what your agent would be paid by another broker if you were to rent a property listed in the Multiple Listing Service.

Other than the potential of having to pay a commission, there are few disadvantages to hiring your own representative. In your situation, it might be worth every penny to have someone who can professionally represent you, respond to your needs, and assist you to analyze every possible property that meets those needs.

One last word of advice: make sure the person you hire actually has a license. State law in Illinois allows an agent who is still taking pre-licensing courses to represent tenants for a period not to exceed six months.

Such agents must practice "under a broker's direct supervision," according to the law. An agent practicing under this provision has a "temporary license," a card signed by the sponsoring broker attesting to the agent's status as a pre-license student and intent to take the state exam.

Many apartment rental agencies use this loophole in the law to hire college students on a seasonal basis to help fill the apartments of their property owners. Although some of these "temporary license" agents can provide good service, many neither know the law nor the practice of real estate well enough to do the best job possible for a client. They can make mistakes that at best put you in a mediocre apartment for a year and at worst cost you a bundle of money. Most never take the state exam.

My advice: only hire an agent who has a broker's license. This means that the agent has completed all of the required coursework and passed the state licensing exam. Ask this agent how long they've been in practice and how many tenants and landlords they've represented, and if they haven't practiced long, whether they work with an experienced colleague.

With that simple conversation, you'll be on track to find the place that you really want to rent. Good luck in your search!


Don Pasek, CIPS, TRC, ADPR
Omniterra Real Properties
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 26, 2013
You get what you paid for ...
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 26, 2013
Sit down with an agent, interview them ,talk about what your needs are and your expectations for communication. Be on the same page with those and you will be a successful tenant.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 26, 2013
Hello C Jones

I'm sorry that you are having such a tough time in finding a unit. Please email me your requirments and I will be more than happy to assist you in your search.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Aug 5, 2013
Thanks again to everyone who's offered advice or insight. I've gone over old and new answers and thought of a couple more things I wanted to say.

1) A few posters brought up the idea of paying an agent. To be blunt, I never thought of it. I'm so used to the landlord paying a commission or listing fee that if I came across an agent asking me as the renter to pay their fee, the "SCAM" alarms would probably go off in my head and I'd run away.

2) A few posters brought up the fact that all listings aren't centralized and that many listings' information isn't complete. I realize that agents don't have control over that. However, agents do have control over how they communicate (bringing up the "follow through" part of my original question).

I, and a number of people I've talked to in similar situations, have all voiced frustration with agents either never replying to emails or comments left on MLS pages or whatnot. I understand being busy, but it doesn't leave a good impression when so many agents (not just with me, mind you) can't even say "I've nothing else to show you at this time," or "I'm not finding anything with ABC, try adjusting to XYZ."
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 1, 2013
Hi C Jones,

I see that you have gotten a mixed bag of advice. A lot of good and sadly some just wrong.

Rentals are different from sales and as you have pointed out there is central repository of all the listings. This causes some of your difficulties in the rental market.

It makes it difficult for you to commit to one agent since one agent does not have the access to the whole market you may be looking at. Yes, you can sign a buyer-broker agreement and the person will be representing you and as stated, you may be responsible to pay that agent for his services. The amount paid will be set between you and that brokerage and agent.

Many real estate companies have properties that they have agreements with to show. They will want to show those to you. Some companies are better at respecting your criteria than others but it appears that you might not have shared all of those criteria with the agent. Some companies will just show you what fits their inventory and others will not show you properties since the one you contacted them on is the only one they have that fits your criteria.

Some people prefer to search themselves and use many agents. Problem with that is you will not generally get exceptional service in helping you during your search which for some people is not as important since they will do a search themselves and as long as the agent showing the property is professional works fine. But, if you want someone to truly search for you (as opposed to you to do it) then you do need to commit to that agent. As pointed out, if you are bouncing around from agent to agent and are not committed to one, it is difficult for them to do a lot of work and in the end not get paid.

So, you need to decide, do you want to deal with many agents and look at many properties from different agents or do you want an exclusive agent who should be able to provide exceptional service but it may also require you to pay that agent from your own pocket.

I also stress that you mention up front what ALL your requirements are so they know what exactly you are looking for. I would also stress to determine what is a necessity and what is a nice-to-have item. If you have been looking for 6 months my guess is your criteria is far too tight.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jun 29, 2013
Thank you to everyone who posted an answer or insight so far. I'll take a moment to address a few points made so far.

1) I didn't post a list of requirements because such a list, and explanations for such requirements, include what I would consider personal information. It's nothing crazy, like "must have Italian marble countertops or "Japanese bamboo flooring." Still, I will send my list directly to any agents who welcome it, but I don't feel comfortable posting it here.

2) To the person who mentioned automatic feeds from the MLS, I have been with agents who provide this service, but this is no guarantee of accurate results. Many times results sent didn't match my requirements. For example, I've stated a need for an apartment on the 1st floor if the building has no elevator, and have constantly gotten results for apartments on the 2nd or 3rd floor in non-elevator buildings.

3) A few people mentioned agent exclusivity, and it's a nice thought, but I don't know how realistic it is. There have been points where I have worked with only one agent, and still nothing came up. There's also the issue of what source the agent is working from. Not everything available is on the MLS. Conversely, some agencies have their own databases, which they'll use the MLS to boost their numbers, but they seem adverse to show anything that's only on the MLS (meaning not commissioned with them directly).

Again, thank you all for your thoughts. I will be in touch shortly with agents who expressed an interest.

- C. Jones
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 28, 2013
C jones, you have already taken the first step, which is you are altering your thinking on this. It is time to ask yourself if you shouldn't loosen up a bit on those requirements.

Consider that multi-family construction like single-family construction has lagged population growth for at least five years. Maybe that doesn't state it with enough impact. There is a shortage of housing!

The rush to get housing has jammed up property management companies all along the Front Range in Colorado. If anyone wants to live here, you had better start looking early, make yourself a list of "must haves" that you might live without for a while, make time to look at what's out there, even if the unit isn't likely to fit your needs.

People are moving out of basements, families are no longer living with relatives and it all started happening in the last 18 months.

If you can qualify for a mortgage, you might look into buying. You will be competing with a big crowd swarming into the market. Homes under certain price points vanish the moment they go on the market these days.

Good luck.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 28, 2013
We are having the same problems rental agents not calling back or following up
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 28, 2013
Rentals don't pay very well unless you really have a system down. It certainly doesn't pay as well as working for buyers and sellers. So where do you think the best agents are going to tend to gravitate?
Web Reference:
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 26, 2013
It sounds like you ran into some bad agents. But the question is, did you dedicate your time to one agent or many? If your not exclusive to an agent, they may not want to put the time and effort into it.

If you were exclusive, there could be other factors at play. Regardless, I hope you find the place.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 26, 2013
I am very sorry that you have had a bad experience in dealing with a rental agent. Poor service is common in all industries unfortunately. I am elated that I received an email from a renter who moved here from SF. She complimented me and told me she loves her new place! She moved in today.
I do a great job for my clients and am proud of my work. I almost exclusively rent my own listings and you will probably be better served working with an agent who specializes in working with renters. If you contact me I can refer you to a great agent.

Thomas G Kossnar
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 26, 2013
Let me know what you're looking for. Your requirements may be impossible to fulfill. Barbara Biederman City Point Realty
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 26, 2013

Most rental agents are new to the industry and most likely not fully licensed as well. I recommend reaching out to a broker who can provide you with access to up to date, current listings and will be willing to accomodate your needs. I suggest setting your expectations upfront before you make the decision to work with any one.

Sohail A. Salahuddin | Founder and Team Leader

Innovative Property Consultants Group | Sales and Leasing

Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty

425 W. North Ave. | Chicago, IL 60610 

O: 312.335.3230 | C: 312.437.7799 | F: 847.805.6030

"Extraordinary Service For Extraordinary Lives"
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 26, 2013
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