If you’re wondering how to rent an apartment, whether for yourself or with a roommate, you might want to call your local real estate agent ASAP. Real estate agents make it their job to know the ins and outs of the housing markets they work in. If you’re selling your house, the idea of hiring a real estate agent has probably crossed your mind. But should you hire an agent to find a rental?
Whether you’re buying, renting, or selling a home, you could benefit from working with an agent simply because the agent has market knowledge the average person lacks. An agent is particularly valuable if you’re moving to an unfamiliar neighborhood and need help finding communities where you might enjoy living.
The agent can also read the lease and make sure your rights as a renter are protected. If, however, your dream apartment ends up outside your price range, you may end up having to trade an amenity or two (or downsize to a studio from a one-bedroom), search in a different neighborhood, or find a roommate to help cover the rent on your lease.
You may or may not have to pay a broker fee
In many cases, landlords will pay agents a fee to find a qualified renter. However, some agents require you pay them a broker fee. Before you sign any agreement or work with a real estate agent who has promised she knows how to find an apartment for you, make sure you understand how that person will get paid so you aren’t surprised.
In New York City, for example, many renters use a broker because the competition for apartments is so high. It’s common there for brokers to require a fee of one month’s rent or 15% of the annual rent.
While most apartment brokers are ethical, some will occasionally ask you, the renter, to pay a fee while they also collect a renting fee from the landlord or property manager. Be careful to discuss the lease and fees with both the landlord and the broker to make sure this doesn’t happen (you don’t want to miss out on the perfect apartment!).
How to find an apartment with the help of a broker
The amount of time it will take you to find a rental depends on several factors, including local market conditions, the specifics of the rental you’re looking for (such as a particular amenity you want), and your own qualifications as a renter (basically, how much rent you can afford).
A real estate agent can help you sort through the details and find an apartment building with a rent you can cover in a good neighborhood.
In a rental housing market with plenty of available apartments and homes, it could take just a few days to find a place you like. However, in housing markets with a limited supply of rentals, you could face competition from other prospective renters and find yourself searching for weeks for a place to live. That’s when having an agent who knows the neighborhood pays off.
One way to ease the process of finding an apartment is to be fully prepared with everything you need to rent, including the paperwork and enough cash.
Check your credit report and pay for your credit score, since a landlord will be checking it as well. (It’s best to know if you need to improve your credit or fix errors before you apply for an apartment.)
Most landlords also want to verify your employment and income and will ask for references, so have that information at your fingertips.
Most rentals require a deposit along with your application. Once you’re accepted by the landlord, you’ll usually need to pay a security deposit equal to one month’s rent before the move-in date along with your first month of rent and possibly some other fees.
The more educated you are about your local rental market, and the more prepared you are to present yourself as a qualified tenant, the easier it is to rent an apartment and sign that lease. Remember, finding that first apartment can be tough—but soon you’ll be in a great place with a monthly rent you can afford.
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