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Using a Real Estate Agent to Find a Rental

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Apartment hunting takes time, preparation, and research to ensure snagging the perfect place. If a busy schedule or lack of knowledge is complicating your search, enlisting the services of a realtor can simplify the process.

If you are considering hiring a real estate agent to help you find a rental, read on for some helpful tips.

Determine your budget

Before contacting a real estate agent, calculate your monthly budget, including the amount you can spend on rent. This will prevent you from wasting time (and potentially money) viewing apartments out of your price range and paying the fees to submit rental applications.

Carefully add up all of your monthly costs and bills to determine how much you spend (such as car payment, car insurance, cell phone bill, groceries, entertainment, cable, and health insurance), as well as how much you would like to put in your savings account each month. Subtract the total from your monthly income to determine how much you can afford for rent--don't forget to consider utilities, which may not be included.

Make a list of wants

Before your realtor begins searching for places, he or she will want to know what's most important to you in a potential place. Some factors to consider:

  • How big of a space do you need?


  • Is proximity to public transit a necessity?


  • In what location are you searching for an apartment?


  • How many bedrooms do you need?


  • Are on-site laundry facilities a must?

Separate your list into "Wants" and "Needs". Imperative amenities go under "Needs" and apartment features that you desire, but can live without--such as walk-in closets or a pool--will be designated as "Wants".

Have all the essential paperwork prepared

The rental industry is fast-paced--if you are not prepared with the required documents, you may be quickly passed over for another applicant. Make sure you have all the necessary paperwork prepared in advance to supply to your agent.

To rent an apartment, you will need:

  • A letter from your employer stating your job, position, duties, salary and length of employment


  • Three most recent pay stubs


  • Three most recent bank statements


  • Most recent tax income W2 form


  • Copy of your photo identification


  • Money for the application fee

TIP: While the application/credit check fee is usually non-refundable even if you are not approved for the apartment, it can sometimes be transferable to another property. Ask your agent about this possibility.

Ask about finding fees

Many real estate agents charge a finder's fee for helping you secure an apartment. The fee can vary from several hundred dollars to one month's rent, so be sure to inquire about the amount before enlisting the agent's services. In some circumstances, the landlord will pay half or the entirety of the fee, while some agents will not charge a fee at all.

Why Use a Real Estate Agent:

You don't have time to research yourself

The pressure of a busy schedule does not always allow for apartment-hunting. Your realtor can search for listings that meet your demands, arrange all of your appointments to view the properties, and even handle the application process for you.

They can negotiate for you

If you are not confident in your haggling skills, a real estate agent can negotiate rent price and other lease terms with your landlord on your behalf.

You are searching for apartments in a different city

If you are unfamiliar with the area you plan to rent, a realtor can help you weed out undesirable neighborhoods and provide insight. Also, if you are unable to be physically present in your new city to search for rentals, having an agent there to handle everything will be a great help.

You are apartment hunting for the first time

If you are new to the process, enlisting the aid of a professional can protect you from being swindled or scammed. A realtor can also help you to understand the terms of your lease and the importance of things like renter's insurance.

Nicole La Capria  Posted by Nicole La Capria on August 28, 2013

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