When you think of a real estate agent, you generally think of buying a home. However, a real estate agent can be helpful when you are looking for a rental in a new city — especially if you are moving a long distance and aren’t sure about where to move. A real estate agent can send you number of choices that fit your needs, take pictures, and do the legwork of finding eligible situations. Then, the real estate agent can help you handle the paperwork involved.
My family recently relocated across the country, and we used a real estate agent to find our rental. We were happy with the process, and our real estate agent was great. If you decide to use a real estate agent to find a rental, here are some things to keep in mind:
Work with Someone Who “Gets” You
Choosing a real estate agent in any situation can be difficult. After all, this person is going to help you identify where you should live. When you are looking to buy a home in your local area, you have the luxury of meeting with different agents, talking with them in person, and getting a feel for how they operate.
Even though you can’t meet with the agent in person, it’s still possible to get a feel for how he or she will operate during your rental search. I looked up real estate brokerages and agents in the area I was moving to, and made a few phone calls. Some agents barely listened to what I was looking for before launching into their latest listings.
The agent I ultimately chose took five minutes to chat with me, asking about my family’s size, lifestyle, and preferred amenities. Because she took the time to try to understand us, she was able to narrow down the options and make a recommendation we were happy with.
Consider the Types of Properties You are Likely to Qualify For
Jim Esposito, a real estate agent with Intercoastal Realty in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, points out that, in many cases, it makes sense to work with a real estate agent if you are looking for certain types of properties. “Using a real estate agent for a rental is a good idea if you are looking at middle to high-end properties,” he says. “Real estate agents receive a commission and landlords of less expensive rentals often do not want to part with any of their revenue.”
When working with a real estate agent, understand that he or she will receive a commission from the involved rental management company. If you really want someone to show you places that don’t pay commissions to real estate agents, you might need to be willing to pay the fee yourself.
“The highest quality rentals are usually offered only through the MLS, so using a real estate agent in these cases is almost unavoidable,” says Esposito. “As a general rule of thumb, the more expensive the rental, the more likely that you will require the services of a local real estate agent.”
Know What You Want
If you are working with someone long distance, it’s especially important to know what you want. While you don’t have to know the area, you should know what you like in a home, as well as what you prefer to have nearby. “Make sure you have money for a deposit, and the first month’s rent,” says Michael Tempel, the president of Nexus Real Estate Services in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. “Know the size of the rental needed, and your move-in date.”
When we talked to our real estate agent, we told her that we like easy access to shopping and schools, but we don’t like to have a lot of noise. We also like green spaces, and we want to try the apartment lifestyle (community pool and a fitness center), but would like something spacious. We also gave the agent a timeframe, so that she could ignore rentals that wouldn’t be available for a while.
In the end, since she knew our preferences, our agent found an apartment community near a main highway that allows access to amenities, but it is set far enough back that we don’t even know it’s there. She found an end unit apartment on the top floor with wooded views. It’s perfect for us.
Knowing what you want saves everyone time and hassle, and allows the agent to focus only on what you actually want.
Read What You Sign
Finally, make sure that you read everything before you sign it so that you understand what you are getting into. From the lease terms to the paperwork that acknowledges that you are working with a real estate agent, you should be aware of what you are agreeing to.
In some cases, you might be signing a document that empowers the agent to act on your behalf for the transaction. Make sure you understand what that means. “In many markets, it’s extremely common to have a new rental go on the market at 9:00 am and have a renter by 9:30 am,” says Tempel. “If you are out of state and wait to make a decision, you will lose out on many rental opportunities.”
Technology makes it possible to sign documents electronically, or print out paperwork, sign, and then scan and email it back. This speeds up the process and makes the cross-country search a little easier, but it can also encourage you to overlook items in your haste. Read over everything, and only sign if you feel comfortable.
I’ve been happy with my experience, and if I ever need to move long-distance again, I will likely use a real estate agent to help me locate a rental.