Working With a Realtor to Find an Apartment

Working with a realtor to find your next rental apartment can save you a lot of time and stress, especially if you are moving to a new area or city that you are not very familiar with.

Although most people associate realtors with buying property, many big cities also have plenty of real estate agents that can help you search for a new living place even if you only want to rent.

In most cases, realtors earn their income either as a commission or a fee based on the price of the rental. This sum is typically paid be the renter, but in cities with high vacancy rates, they may be covered by the property owner. The additional cost of using a rental realtor dissuade some people from taking advantage of the services they offer, but there are several other pros and cons to consider before deciding whether you want to use a real estate agent or not. Renew the following sections for more information about rental real estate agents and what you need to know to make the most of their help.

Pros and Cons of Using a Real Estate Agent to Rent

If you are still on the fence about whether or not to use a rental broker, you should weigh the pros and cons of a realtor for your specific situation and city. If you are moving to an unfamiliar neighborhood, real estate agents are the best chance you have of finding an apartment that fits all of your qualifications, particularly in terms of neighborhood amenities, transportation and the like. Along the same lines, realtors often have access to many more listings than the public or even unlisted available properties that you could not have found on your own.

In bigger cities or areas with low apartment vacancy rates, the benefits of a realtor are often felt even more. The most important benefit of using a rental broker for many people is the amount of time it can save. Whether it be from sifting through hundreds of listings or visiting apartment after apartment for a viewing, your real estate agent can take care of all the most time-consuming parts of finding an apartment. Some rental realtors can also take care of all the leasing paperwork for you, saving you all sorts of headaches from hours of gathering signatures and faxing documents.

On the other hand, there can be some good reasons for finding an apartment without using a realtor. In some cases, you may have to cover the agent’s commission fee, although this is not always the case. This fee can be a percentage of the annual rent or may be equivalent to one or two months of rent. Depending on where you are renting and what your price range is, this fee could come to hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Beyond the price tag, real estate agents can also have more influence in your renting process than you would prefer. If you choose the wrong agent, she or he may waste your time with properties that do not fit your qualifications or that involve shady contracts. If you are very unlucky, you may run into an agent that runs bait and switch scams, advertising one apartment and then telling you that it has just been sold but that there are other apartments in the area you can check out.

What should you look for in a rental broker?

If you do decide to go with a rental broker, you want to make sure you choose the right one. The best way to know if you are choosing the right one is by doing some good research. Check out a potential realtor’s internet history and online reputation. If the realtor is a member of a large agency, you may have more protections. If he or she is from a smaller agency, make sure the website is up to date and not full of broken or repeated links.

A good agent should have multiple available listings on her or his real estate website. Here are a few questions you may want to keep in mind before signing on to work with a realtor:

  • Is the realtor showing you what you asked for or trying to push your limits too far? Only go with a realtor who is following your instructions and making you feel comfortable.
  • Is the realtor punctual at responding to your questions and requests? Does the realtor use the same sort of communication channels that you do? Communication will be key to moving into your next apartment in a timely fashion.
  • Is the realtor clear about associated fees? If you are picking up on anything that makes you uncomfortable, go for another realtor.
  • Is the realtor asking you to sign more documents than you expected or none at all? Do not sign anything you do not understand, and feel free to ask questions.
  • Does the realtor expect you to sign an exclusivity agreement? These are unnecessary and usually a bad sign.

What is your role when renting with a real estate agent?

Even if you do decide to go with a rental agent, you cannot put all the work of finding your perfect apartment on them. Unfortunately, you will still have to participate in some aspects of the rental project no matter how involved your rental realtor is. Here are some tips on what you will want to remember when working with a real estate agent:

  • Be clear about your expectations : Be as clear as possible about your high-priority apartment specifications. Expecting your rental agent to only show you apartments with west-facing windows without every mentioning your desire for this characteristic is not realistic. If you would like your agent to pick you up and bring you to various apartment viewings, clarify this from the beginning. If you only communicate by text, make sure your agent knows. Be honest about your monthly budget for housing.
  • Make sure you are both working on the same timeline : If you need to move into your next apartment within a month, make sure to get a real estate agent that can realistically help you in that period of time. If you have decided to work with someone and you can tell within a few days that you may not be on the same calendar page, you should still have enough time to switch agents and find someone who can better meet your needs.
  • Be professional : You cannot expect your real estate agent to treat your relationship professionally if you are not professional yourself. Be on time for appointments, reply to emails punctually and otherwise act how you hope your realtor will act. Being professional at all times will also protect you if you have to take any legal actions for the contract at any point in time.
  • Clarify the pricing structure : Find out how the agent expects to be paid and when. Find out whether the fee must be paid by the renter or the property owner. If the realtor does not offer you this information in a signed document, ask for one. Inquire about methods for payment if you would like to use a nonstandard method of transfer.
  • Do not ask for legal advice : Real estate agents are not lawyers or legal experts. If you have a legal question, you can ask your realtor but you may want to double-check anything your realtor says for accuracy.
  • Do not initiate contact with a listing yourself : Starting to make your own calls to listings will erase many of the benefits of having an agent in the first place. Even worse, it could make things get confusing and put you at a significant disadvantage during negotiations. Let the agent do the work.
  • Find out the realtor’s open house protocol : Different rental real estate agents have different ways of approaching open houses for finding the best place for you. Some prefer to go themselves before showing the units to you, while others ask you to check units out yourself before contacting the property owner. Make it clear what you would prefer and listen to how the agent usually works.
  • Get your own copies of everything : Even if you expect your realtor to handle all of the paperwork, make sure you get copies of every document you are asked to sign. Even more, make sure that everything that is verbally agreed upon is also expressed in written form and signed by both parties. If you are unsure about something, ask to have a witness participate in the process as well.

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