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Renting 101: When You Call A REALTOR About A Rental

Through some means or another, when you’re looking for a rental home, you may end up contacting a REALTOR.  Here are a few things you might find helpful to know:

1.  By default that real estate agent works for the landlord, even if he or she does not work directly for the landlord or even know who the landlord is.  You can, however, talk to that agent about working as your tenant agent.

2. You may think it’s in your best interest to find a rental home by calling the listing agents rather than by hiring an agent to help you personally.  The general assumption is that the listing agent will be able to help you more, perhaps incentivized by the idea that they will get paid more and not have to split their commission with another agent.  That’s usually not true.  In fact, many agents won’t even show their own listings… and if they do, often they’re not very excited about it.  Generally speaking, we’d prefer you have your own agent.

  • Speaking strictly statistically, prospective tenants making inquiries are less serious and are less likely to be qualified than those working through their own tenant agent.
  • For a REALTOR, meeting someone you’ve never met before is always a security risk.  Unfortunately, there are “bad guys” out there and we’d rather not show them a home.
  • Many people will look at a few homes before choosing one… if 5 agents show you 5 different homes, and you only choose one, then only one of those agents will get paid for their time and efforts…. that means 4 won’t.  By contrast, if you are working with one agent, and see 5 homes with that agent, of which you choose one, then that agent will get paid for their time and efforts.  Put yourself in the agent’s shoes… who is going to get your best efforts?

3.  When you call a REALTOR, whether you wish to hire them as your tenant agent, or if you are just making an inquiry, before setting up an appointment to see the home, expect a few things:

  • Agency Questions… The agent should ask you if you’re represented by a tenant agent, and explain who they represent.
  • Discuss the Property… The agent will discuss the property itself with you and try to answer questions you might have.
  • Prequalifying Questions… The agent should ask you about what you’re looking for in a home, how many people the home is for, if you have pets and when you’d like tomove.  The agent will compare that with the information they have about the home, and make phone calls to get additional information if needed, before scheduling the appointment.
  • Application Process and Qualifications….The agent should review with you the qualifying criteria for the rental (income, credit and rental history requirements) and ask questions to make sure that it seems that you will be qualified for the home.  Remember, everything will be verified, so be honest!  Misrepresentation is material, and could lead to your application being denied or even to your eviction later if the application is accepted.  The agent should also discuss terms like application fees and deposits and when they are paid.
  • Schedule Appointment… If it seems like the home will be a good match for you, then the agent will likely schedule an appointment with you to see the property.  While same day appointments are possible, expect to be scheduling a day or two in advance.

4.  If you’re calling a REALTOR, there is a pretty good chance that you are calling in reference to a home that is not part of a rental community.  Renting in a rental community (think: Apartments) is much different than renting through a private landlord, whether or not the property is professionally managed.  You might want to check out these other posts to help you understand the difference:

Renting from a Private Landlord

Renting at a Rental Community