How to Know When You Need a Rental Broker

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By Jennifer Chan

Finding the right apartment takes a lot of time and effort. In competitive markets, it can be well worth the extra fee to work with a rental broker, who will help you navigate the ins and outs of the rental landscape. While it's not necessary to work with a broker to land an apartment, it can certainly make hunting easier in some cities.

If you're short on time, searching in a competitive market or just don't want to do the grunt work of sifting through listings, a rental broker or agent might just be the way to go. Here are some reasons why working with a broker might be the answer to your problems.

You're long-distance apartment hunting. The most stressful thing about long-distance apartment hunting is not being able to attend a showing in person. Other worries might include finding a place in a safe neighborhood, or one with an easy commute. If you're searching for a rental from afar, a broker will serve as a knowledgeable resource that can do most of the heavy lifting in your rental search. Research rental professionals, meet with them over the phone and ask about their local knowledge before deciding who you want to work with.

You don't have time. Tired of looking for listings, attending showings and going through application process after application process? In a competitive rental market, finding an apartment takes time and dedication. If you have a busy schedule and apartment hunting seems like a huge time drain, a broker will cut the work you need to do and help negotiate the terms of your lease. Another perk is that instead of waiting in line with the other renters at an apartment showing, a broker can get the keys and show you the unit privately.

One Boston renter looked to a broker to help navigate his search. "If you get a good broker, it's a pretty easy process. There's a level of legitimacy you get when you have a broker," explained Brennan Earley, a recent college graduate renting in Boston. "It seems shady to me to not use a broker and work with a small landlord you don't know. For me, it was worth it to have him around, drive us to properties and let us in the door. Do your research, know what you're looking for and you'll be in pretty good shape by having a broker."

You want local insight. A licensed rental broker knows the ins and outs of the market, has access to listings, is familiar with state and federal rental laws and has a network of connections in the industry. They have strategies and insights that can speed up your search. An experienced broker is familiar with rental property value in specific neighborhoods, and can use that knowledge to help you negotiate cost or length of a lease.

Many apartment buildings will also work exclusively with brokers to fill their vacancies. Not all landlords publish their listings online, so working with a broker can give you access to more inventory. Apartments that aren't advertised to the public see less competition and raise your negotiating power. Be clear about your budget and rental requirements and let the professionals do the work.

In competitive markets like New York, San Francisco and Boston, working with a rental broker cuts down on the time and effort you need to spend looking for an apartment. If the process sounds like a pain to you, working with a broker might just be the answer.

Did you work with a rental broker to find your apartment? Share your experiences with our readers below.

More from Zillow about renting:
5 Tips for Finding a Rental With a Large Dog
Micro-Apartments: Living in Less Than 300 Square Feet
How to Know an Apartment is Right for You

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