Anyone on the market for a rental space right now has likely realized that there is a lot of competition for tenancies. Much like in the market for buying real estate, there are so many people looking to rent that finding the right spot for you can be nothing short of a hassle.
This is especially true in big cities like Toronto, where demand is some of the highest in the country. If you find yourself constantly scanning rental ads with no luck, it may be time that you start working smarter rather than harder.
Many prospective renters may not realize that they can actually get help finding a space with the help of a real estate agent. Yes, even if you aren't buying a home, a real estate agent can still help you find a rental! The help of a real estate agent can take some of the stress off of yourself and help you find the perfect rental for you.
However, working with an agent to find a rental is different from doing it on your own. In fact, it's different even from working with an agent to buy a home. In this article, we will look at the process of using an agent to find a rental property and why you may want to consider this option.
For landlords interested in using an agent to help find tenants for your rental property, see our article on that topic here.
Why work with an agent to find a rental
Working with an agent can provide you with some seriously valuable benefits when finding a rental property in a competitive market. Some of these include access to exclusive local rental listings, the ability to rent before moving, and the advantage of working with someone experienced in the market.
A competitive edge
Finding a rental can be challenging in competitive markets, and it can take a lot of time and effort. Working with an agent can potentially reduce that effort.
The main advantage of working with a real estate agent to find a rental is their skills and the tools available to them. For example, agents have access to tools like the multiple listing service (MLS) to access listings quickly and easily. And agents are checking new listings constantly, allowing you to be one of the first to see any new rentals available.
They are also much more experienced in the field than the average renter. This can help interested renters find rental properties, understand leases, and negotiate terms with landlords. Real estate agents make the process go much smoother and give you a higher chance of finding a space to rent.
Renting before moving
Renting is hard enough when you have the time to go to showings and are familiar with the area, but if you plan on moving to a new city, you don't always have these options. That is especially true if you are moving farther away. Trying to land a rental can be difficult and risky if you can't easily see the units or have communication barriers due to timezones. Working with an agent can be a considerable advantage in this case.
An agent can be your representative on the ground. They can help you by recommending good areas to rent in and can take your needs in mind to help you find what works best for you. Agents will also be able to work closely with your landlords to help secure your lease, a beneficial trait as some landlords may be wary of working with an out-of-town tenant. It can take a lot of stress out of finding a rental remotely.
Experience in the market
Real estate agents also know a lot about their local market, a tool that can play a significant role in helping you to find a rental. An agent can help you identify areas to live in with a lot of detail and can help to determine why or why not specific properties may be good to rent. They can also give you a good idea of things like standard rents and lease terms in the area, so you don't get a bad deal on your rental. Local agents may even have connections in their professional network to help them find new opportunities that no one else can.
Why not use an agent
Though an agent can be a big help in finding a rental property to live in, there are some reasons why it might not work for everyone.
For one, you are putting your trust in a second party. Some people simply prefer to have control over every step of the process, even if it means more effort.
Next, agents are often busy, and you won't be their only client. Depending on the agent, this can be frustrating if they cannot give you as much attention and personal service as you would like and can stall the process somewhat.
The final matter may be the payment. This gets a bit more complicated, so let's look at it in more detail.
Who pays when using an agent to find a rental?
No matter how committed and passionate your agent is, they are still real estate professionals doing it for the money. Their services can be a huge help, but they will need to be paid for their services.
When working with an agent, there will generally be two ways the agent is paid.
In most of these deals, the landlord pays the agent's fees. This can be in the form of the first month's rent, a percentage of the value of the lease, or regular payments over the lease term. There is virtually no cost to the tenant if this is the case.
However, this also requires the landlord to agree to the arrangement, meaning if they don't, you could be on the hook for paying your agent’s fees. Agents may also charge a few hundred dollars flat fee upfront from the renter to begin working. Be sure to discuss fees upfront with your agent, so you aren't surprised by any unexpected expenses.
Finding an agent for a rental
Finally, if you want to work with an agent to find a rental, you must first find the right agent. The first thing to know is that not all real estate agents work in rentals. Some specialize in the field specifically, while others may take on rental clients in slower times.
Rather than cold contacting real estate agents, search for local agents or brokerages working in rentals in your area. While you're at it, pay attention to any reviews and testimonials that can give you an idea of how their service will be.
A final thing to keep in mind is that rentals are a less popular area for agents. This can mean a few things. Often, agents will be more willing when assisting renters who they know are serious and on properties where they can make enough money to make it viable. In other words, realtors will want their clients to have steady employment or good credit scores, for example. They may also be more likely to help with higher-end apartments that fetch higher rents.
Real estate agents are experts in the world of real estate, and that extends beyond just buying and selling homes. If you are a serious renter who is having trouble finding a space to lease, especially in a competitive rental market, a real estate agent can help make the process easier, faster, and less stressful. While it won't be for everyone, it is a perfectly viable option for those who want extra help finding their dream rental.