Should You Use a Real Estate Agent for a Rental?

Gone are the days when you could casually browse Craigslist or Kijiji, make an appointment to see a great apartment in a couple of days, and then eventually sign a lease after you’ve looked at a few places. Searching for a new apartment is now a frantic endeavour that has renters refreshing apartment listings every few minutes, calling the landlord or property manager right away, and then dropping everything to go to the first available viewing.

In big cities across the country, and particularly in the hot Vancouver and Toronto real estate markets where vacancy rates are just 0.6% and 1.6% respectively, finding a place to rent can be an exercise in frustration. Not only are viewings for the best places often crowded with other hopefuls, but most people have to apply for multiple places before they are accepted and sometimes have to submit bids in

Most busy professionals don’t have time for all of that – but when the alternative is ending up with nowhere to live at the end of the month, they don’t have much choice. One thing that could make their search easier and less stressful is to use an agent to help them find their perfect rental.

Here’s what’s involved in hiring an agent for your rental property search and what you can expect:

What You Should Know About Using an Agent

There are some real estate agents that specialize in helping landlords find tenants and renters find the right rental apartments or homes. Depending on the real estate agent, some charge the renter looking for an apartment for their services, whereas others make a commission from the landlord for helping them find a qualified tenant. Generally, the fee is the equivalent of one month’s rent. Before you sign up with a real estate agent, be sure to find out who will be paying them a commission. For some busy professionals, it’s worthwhile to pay a little extra money in order to find the right place.

You can easily find these types of agents through a quick online search or by going on Yelp to see which agents are well reviewed in your area. Once you find an agent you like, you’ll likely have to sign a representation agreement that commits you from working with their brokerage for a specific length of time.

Clearly State Your Preferences

Since your real estate agent will be searching for properties for you, it’s important that you think through what you would like in your new place so that they will be able to find the right rentals for you. If you’re looking for the perfect Toronto townhouse, be clear about this or they might end up suggesting apartments or Markham townhouses. Tell them what you’re looking for in terms of things like location, price, square footage, bedrooms, amenities, and character of the space. Let them know things like if you want a quiet neighbourhood or one that’s near transit.

If you’re new to the city, you might not know the exact location where you want to live, but you might have an idea of the length of commute you’re willing to put up with and the type of neighbourhood you like living in. Hiring a real estate agent is ideal in these circumstances, because they can direct you to the right place to live in and this will save you a lot of time.

You should also discuss how many options you would like them to give to you. Depending on what’s available, they might be able to suggest anywhere from three to 10 potential apartments. Since many apartments are listed by real estate agents, you might also get advanced information on apartments or townhouses that are about to become available, but haven’t yet been advertised widely. This might allow you to score your new digs before the rest of the apartment seekers even hear about it.

Get Them to Negotiate

One of the benefits of working with a real estate agent when renting is that they can help you negotiate the rental contract. Does the landlord want you to sign a one year lease, but you would prefer a six-month lease? Your real estate agent can help you negotiate for what you want. They can also try to negotiate on things like rent and the size of the deposit. They’re experts at negotiation and so feel comfortable doing it which is helpful for anyone who hates negotiating.

If the property that you’re interested in ends up as part of a rental bidding war, your real estate agent can also help you with that process. They’ll be able to submit a bid for you and then follow up to see if they can submit a higher bid if your first bid didn’t win. They can also give you advice on how much to bid in the first place.

Rental Agents are a Good Idea

While you probably hadn’t thought of hiring a real estate agent for your property search, there are a lot of reasons why doing so could streamline your home search and ensure that you get into the right place quickly and with the least amount of stress. If you’re busy or just find the rental search stressful and exhausting – consider hiring an agent.

About Amanda Reaume

Amanda Reaume is a freelance writer who focuses on personal finance, credit, and real estate. Her work has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, The Windsor Star, and online at Forbes.com, Yahoo! Finance, ABC.com , Time.com, USAToday.com, FoxBusiness.com and many other sites.

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