Renting 101: Hiring a Tenant Agent

In Virginia, tenants can hire real estate agents to help them find and negotiate for a rental…. There is a written agreement that must be signed to create this type of relationship.  If you do not have a written agreement, you do not have a tenant agent, even if you are working with an agent.


  • Works on your behalf, promoting and protecting your best interests.
  • Maintains your confidentiality.
  • Streamlines the home search process… She will screen listings, set up appointments and work around your schedule.
  • Will advise you on market conditions, competitive pricing, typical qualification requirements, lease terms, and assist through the application process.
  • Negotiate terms on your behalf.
  • Help to coordinate the move in process for you.


  • If you plan to Rent from an apartment community (Why-Because these leases are not very negotiable, the leasing process is very convenient and streamlined, and they usually will not pay for a tenant agent.)
  • If you are looking to rent for less than a year. (Why – Because your commitment is minimumal, and if you don’t like it, you will be gone soon enough.  Plus, tenant agent fees are regardless of lease length.  The value isn’t there.)


  • If you are relocating.
    • Get advice on commute patterns, and community amenities and services.
    • Get advice on pricing, values, regional standards for renting.
    • If you a busy person, or are already overwhelmed with the idea of moving.
      • Have someone search listings for you and make calls to qualify the homes before you plan a visit.
      • Have someone schedule the appointments for you so that you maximize your time spent looking at homes.
      • Have someone coordinate the administrative parts of the application and move in process.
      • If you’re planning to rent for long term or at a high price point (over $2500).
        • The more you plan to invest (time or money), the more important it is to have someone advising you and negotiating on your behalf.
        • If you have special needs. *
          • Need a home that is wheelchair accessible?  A place you can bring your horse? A landlord that will bill your company?  When you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, save yourself the frustration and hire someone to help you.


TYPICALLY, if you hire a tenant agent, you will not have to pay for the assistance!  You really can’t beat that for value, can you?  We usually get paid by the landlord for helping to secure a new tenant for them.  But that is not always true.

SOMETIMES you’ll find a rental where the landlord is not offering to pay for the tenant agent’s fee.  This is fairly common when you’re renting at rental communities (I’d estimate about 50% of the time), or sometimes when you find a landlord through a private listing like Craigslist or a friend.  In these cases, if you’re unsuccessful getting the landlord to pay the fee (I would always attempt to negotiate that) the tenant will be required to pay the fee, which is usually 25-50% of one month’s rent.

ADDITIONAL FEES…Even if you find a rental where the tenant agent commission is being paid by the landlord, there could be additional fees called “additional commission”, “administrative fees” or “transaction fees”.  I NEVER CHARGE THESE FEES, but if you are using anyone else, especially someone with a large regional or national brokerage, they are be common so be sure to ask.

YOU MIGHT NEED TO PAY A RETAINER… Owners pay agents once the tenants move in.  So, sometimes a retainer is required by the agent up front.  In those cases, the tenant pays the commission up front and then once the brokerage is paid from the owner, that retainer is refunded to the tenant.  A retainer is not always required, but when hiring a tenant agent, this should be something that is discussed early in the process.


No.  But I do!  So be sure to reach out to me if you’re looking for a home in the Dulles area (anywhere in Loudoun County-including Leesburg, Ashburn, Sterling, Potomac Falls, Brambleton, Purcellville, Hamilton, Round Hill; and also parts of Fairfax County – including Reston, Herndon, Chantilly and Centerville).

Vicky Chrisner



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