Do Real Estate Agents Deal With Rental Properties?
If you’re familiar with the struggle that is finding an apartment online, the idea of an agent who can help you in your real estate search might sound like a godsend. We all know agents help people buy real estate, but did you know they can also help people find and view apartments, townhomes, and rental houses?
An agent can save you the hassle of tracking down landlords and property managers from Craigslist rental listings, especially in bigger cities, though the services they provide (and the fees they charge) vary by location. Here’s what you need to know.
Real estate agents and rentals
What a real estate agent does to help you find rental real estate depends on the location—whether it’s a large city or a small town—and on the agent.
Sometimes the agent will guide your search for a place to rent from the very start, helping you find the right neighborhood, apartment size, and price range, then go with you to view the property.
More likely, though, you’ll already have a lot of that information decided, and the agent will send you new listings that might be of interest to you, and offer to show the property to you.
No matter what, once you’ve decided on a rental, made an offer, and been approved by the landlord or management company, your agent should help you read and understand your real estate lease.
“Most tenants can find a place without a real estate agent, but they forget to seek out someone who can help them understand what they’re signing when they sign a lease,” says Dillar Schwartz, a Realtor® in Austin, TX.
Your lease has all kinds of vital information in it, including what repairs you’ll be responsible for, the penalties for late rent, security deposit terms, and even the terms for breaking the lease.
You want to be sure you’re not signing any rental agreement that puts you in a bad position financially or violates your rights as a real estate tenant.
Where you’re looking to rent makes a difference
In cities such as New York or San Francisco, with huge populations of renters, it’s common to use a real estate agent to find a rental property. Entire agencies specialize in real estate rentals.
In some cities, it’s more common for agencies that focus on real estate rentals to be called “apartment locators,” to differentiate them from agencies that focus on real estate sales. Essentially, though, they provide the same service.
In places where rentals are not as common, you might find that apartments, townhouses, and condos are more commonly handled by the management company of a complex. People renting out houses in primarily owner-occupied suburban areas, especially those with HOAs, will often use local real estate agents to help find renters who meet the requirements of the neighborhood association.
How do you find a real estate agent who deals with rentals?
“One place to start is realtor.com®, and do a search for rentals in the area you wish to live in, then contact the agents that represent those properties,” says Teri Andrews Murch, a Realtor in Auburn, CA.
Personal referrals are also a great way to find a real estate professional. Ask friends for the names of reliable real estate agents they have worked with. Even if those agents don’t work with rentals, they probably have a colleague who does that they can connect you with.
It’s important to find someone you trust to work with you finding real estate, since that person will be helping you find your new home.
How much are real estate agent fees for rentals?
Broker fees are another thing that vary widely by location. In many places, the landlord pays the real estate agent to help find a desirable tenant. Apartment locator services are almost always paid by the landlord.
In more competitive rental markets, the tenant will often be responsible for the real estate agent fee, sometimes called a “broker fee.” In fact, even if you find the listing on your own, some rentals will require you to pay a fee to the landlord’s broker for listing the property.
Fees can be as low as $50 to $75 for a credit check or application, but more common rates are one month’s rent, or 15% of the annual rent on the apartment. Before you start to work with an agent, make sure you ask what fees you will be responsible for paying.
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