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Dorothy, a Chicago-based leasing agent, and her happy customer, Ali, smiling for the camera!

I was going to do a piece called “Apartment Hunting? 7 Reasons You Need A Leasing Agent”, and then I realized. You don’t need an agent. You need an amazing, rock star expert who does this for a living. No more of that part-time Uber driver doubling as an agent on the side kinda stuff.

Your time is valuable, and you shouldn’t work with anything but exceptional. So, let’s look at this apartment finding process and help you get, and stay, on track!

Why Is Apartment Leasing So Difficult?

Searching for a new apartment sounds fun, right? A fresh start. A new neighborhood. Maybe even a new city (hellooooo, Chicago!). And finding the perfect apartment sounds easy. Afterall, everything’s online.

And then…you begin. You search. You compare. You send emails. You Google. You Zillow. You Craigslist. And, you find approximately 948 apartments that look ah-mazing!

But then reality sets in. That’s A LOT of apartments, and if you are anything like me, it feels like that moment when I go to the store to buy wine or coffee. Do I really know what I am doing here? Which has the prettiest label? Coolest name? I should pick one that is priced right – not too high, not too low.

Personally, I hate this feeling, and it frustrates me because the fact is, I don’t really know how to buy wines I’ve never tried. There’s just too many.

I’ve been a leasing agent in Chicago for over 10 years when I started Hotspot Rentals with my husband in 2012, this is exactly the problem I wanted to solve. 

“Let’s be different”, we said, and we focused on three things we knew would make a difference:

  • Hire only full time, career oriented people who were service focused first
  • Excessively train them on the market, but also on people, like you!
  • Support the heck out of them- be hands on and always available for help

Along the way, we’ve learned a ton about people and that one common thread applies to almost everyone: “It’s hard to find what you are looking for when you don’t actually know how to describe what you are looking for.”

Helping folks figure this out isn’t easy, but it is valuable. So, let’s look at 7 reasons you most definitely need an amazing leasing agent if you’re looking for a luxury apartment in downtown Chicago.

1. It’s Free

First things first – our services are free. Yup, I’m serious. Unlike New York City, apartment leasing agents in Chicago will not charge you a broker fee. We do not take a holding fee and we do not make you sign a contract.

So, we hear it all the time – what’s the catch? No catch! So how do we make money? Simple – we earn a referral fee from the building when you sign your lease. 

Chip, a Chicago-based apartment leasing agent, his client Ericka and her friend Gabby, ready to sign a lease.
Our agent Chip with Ericka and her friend, Gabby. Smiling faces ready to get that lease signed!

Now I gotta clear something up. One misconception is that people think if they lease through an agent, they won’t get as good of a deal on their apartment. Not true. Buildings budget for broker fees as part of their marketing budget; they do not pass this fee directly to you. Think of it like getting a free market expert, paid for by your future landlord!

2. Finding an Apartment is Overwhelming

Have you googled “apartments for rent in downtown Chicago”? At first, it feels promising. And then, a little confusing. And finally, I’m-gonna-pull-my-hair-out discouraging.

I hear from customers all the time that they feel like they’re seeing the same apartment on different websites with different photos. Here’s the thing – you are! You can spend hours (and hours and hours and hours) comparing square footage, features, amenities and neighborhoods and at the end of it, feel like you’ve been running in circles.

I beg you – close those multiple browser tabs, take a deep breath, and find an amazing leasing agent you love- and trust. The good ones will really help you get in touch with your specific wants and needs (as opposed to the wants and needs of your agent).

“He listened to exactly what we wanted and curated some spot-on options that we loved. Without him we wouldn’t have found the perfect apartment that we ultimately decided on. The process was quick, easy and seamless from start to finish..”

– Desi, HotSpot Customer, April 2020

3. Information is Power 

Even if you’re positive you know what neighborhood you want to live in, and even which building you want to rent in, chatting with a leasing agent is a great way to:

  • Talk through the options
  • Ask detailed questions
  • Get a reassuring second opinion 
Infographic that refers to apartment search statistics

A whopping 79% of our customers end up signing on to an apartment they didn’t find on their own? That’s crazy! But, here’s why.

First, we do this for a living, and we can draw information out of you that you didn’t even know was important to you. I talk to customers who think they need to settle for one thing and end up thrilled when presented with options for possibilities they didn’t know fit their budget.

Second, we have “insider information” that you don’t. Okay, we’re not the CIA, but we receive daily updates from properties on specials that apply to select units, new units that came onto the market, and we have relationships with these properties that can help us “pull a few strings”.

Lemme give you an example. I just worked with someone who said, “I want to live in River North but I know I can’t afford to rent a one bedroom- and a studio just feels so small”. After a little question and answer, we found a convertible apartment (a roomier alternative to a studio) in River North that came in under their budget. AND, it had hardwood floors and a balcony.

“I was hesitant to reach out to anyone for help, because I figured with everything accessible and online anyone could do it themselves. Turns out you need HotSpots’ help. Trust me; they will not only point you in the right direction but find an apartment you didn’t even know you’d love.”

– Maggie, HotSpot Customer, October 2019

4. You Want “The One” (But, What is “The One”?)

Most folks who are looking for a new apartment in Chicago are doing the best they can. They search, they sift, they sort, they go on tours and hope and pray that they find “the one”.

But in my experience, most people don’t actually know what “the one” looks like. It’s a bit like dating, so let’s have some fun and compare working with a leasing agent to having a friend set you up on a date!

You’re online shopping for your new man- find me Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome, you say. As you swipe left and right, your best friend chimes in- “T, D and H is great and all, but what about all those times you mentioned you wanted someone loyal, considerate, and introverted (but ambitious enough to kill spiders?).

Where’s he hiding?

See where I’m going with this? You see high ceilings, plank floors and a rooftop pool. Your leasing agent (aka match-maker friend) is there to capture important questions about your needs, wants and lifestyle- many of the seemingly less sexy items we often forget about that make a house a home.

Maybe for you, those things are split bedrooms (so you can’t hear your roommate) or a prime location that keeps you close enough to work to avoid that $100 CTA card (and the 25 minute commute). And yes, a rooftop pool is a must have!

See? Maybe I should change my title to matchmaker 🙂 

5. You’re Relocating

Moving to Chicago? Yay! You’re going to love this city. I’m actually a transplant myself (from New York City) and Chicago has much of that same big city energy but is just so easy to live in. It’s transportation-friendly, busy, clean and bustling with things to do. Yeah, yeah, it’s cold. You’ll get used to it! 

Working with a rental agent during your relocation is 100% the right move. We’ll save you time, money and give you the peace of mind you need at an otherwise stressful time. 

So can you really rent an apartment without seeing it first? YES! We help people do this every single day. I’m actually writing this during COVID, and ALL of our leases are virtual or sight unseens (and we’re jammin). Here’s how it works: 

First, we chat. If you’re unfamiliar with Chicago neighborhoods and need some advice, we’re here to lend it. We’ll talk through the location of your workplace, your lifestyle, your needs and your wants. Establishing trust is super important as we’ll be your eyes and ears here in the city. 

Next up – tours. If you’re not able to be in Chicago, we’ll take you on a virtual tour. We call these sight unseens and they are a fantastic way for people to lease an apartment from afar. You can either come along for the ride on FaceTime or we can send you video tours. 

“I moved after a decade in NYC and Luke from HotSpot made the process super easy. I was starting to get burned out looking for an apartment that fit my needs and within a few days of contacting Luke, he found exactly what I wanted and made my relocation seamless.”

– Vasana, HotSpot Customer, March 2020

There’s nothing better than when a customer sees their apartment for the first time. It feels like Christmas morning for both of us! I’ve been doing this forever and I STILL feel giddy every single time.

6. Time is of the Essence

I hate talking about this topic because it can come across as a little “used car salesy”, and no one wants that! But, the reality is, it is important to understand a couple things when you are doing your apartment searching. 

Here are some things we are definitely keeping top of mind on your behalf, but you shouldn’t be afraid to ask:

  • Are there multiple units available that meet the criteria of “the one”?
  • How “in demand” is that apartment (traffic, showings, time on market)?
  • Are there any promotions or specials that are time sensitive?

Apartments rent fast! Yeah, yeah, yeah, who cares. Seriously though, many apartments do rent quickly, but really, the only thing you should be worrying about is:

“Is the apartment that I love (“the one”) likely to rent quickly.” 

Everyday I watch people lose out on their first choice apartment because they thought it would be there in the morning. Our help here can be the difference between you getting and losing your dream apartment (and sometimes that requires a friendly push).

“I reached out to Shannon and within hours, she identified several apartments and was able to schedule same day tours. By the end of the day, we had a new apartment that we absolutely love.”

– Christina, HotSpot Customer, February 2020

In many cases, the sense of urgency is coming from your end. If you need to tour apartments today…if you need to sign a lease today, we’ll make it happen! We always have an agent on our team ready to help.

7. It’s Nice to Have Someone on Your Side

Let’s be honest. For some of us, when it comes to getting help- well, we aren’t the best at it (guilty as charged over here). Sometimes it’s stubbornness, sometimes laziness, and sometimes I’m just being cheap. But with an amazing leasing agent, you really have nothing to lose.

Problem solving and market knowledge should be high on the list of skills when working with an agent. Many of the questions and decisions you are going to face are things you incur once every 2-3 years when you move. 

We are faced with these same questions daily, and typically that means we have some pretty good answers. Stuff like:

  • Will my bed fit?
  • What are my parking options?
  • How long can they hold the apartment?
  • I don’t have any credit history. What now?
Stephanie, an Chicago-based apartment leasing agent, and her customer, smiling for the camera.
Our agent Stephanie with her customer, turned friend. Okay, it sometimes happens!

The other thing you get is, well, a friend. Okay, maybe we aren’t going out for drinks and getting our nails done together, but you should get someone who is looking out for you. Someone who you can ask the silly questions, the same questions three times, or just someone who can explain those silly pro-rata rent specials that require a math degree. 

Finding the right leasing agent and apartment should be both rewarding and stress-relieving. Nobody’s perfect, but we’re completely dedicated to helping you find “the one”. So if you’re ready to make your move, what do you say we find you an apartment you will love, love, love? 

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