Can I pay a realtor to help me find a house to rent in a rural town?
April 27, 2014 10:50 AM   Subscribe

I am moving to a city of 10,000 people in rural America (and across the country from the city that I live now). After months of using Trulia and other online tools, it has become clear to me that I need the help of a local realtor to show me around and help me find a house to rent. There is just so few rental listing online. However, I don't understand how compensation works in that situation. Do I pay them a commission if they find me a place? Does the homeowner?
posted by Spurious to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Related question from me (the OP): Is it okay to contact multiple realtor's in the town about helping me find a place or is it only okay to contact one of them?
posted by Spurious at 10:52 AM on April 27, 2014

The one time I used a realtor to find a rental, her fee was equivalent to one month of rent.
posted by postel's law at 11:17 AM on April 27, 2014

Rental agents are paid by the owner of the house to market it and usually to collect from and deal with the tenant. I have a house that I'm renting out and I'm paying 10% of the monthly rent to my realtor. This is in the SE united states. Unless there's a different customary arrangement in some other part of the US, I wouldn't think you owe the realtor anything as a would-be tenant (as always with service relationships, maybe a gift card as a token of appreciation if they go above and beyond...)

For SALES of houses, working with one realtor in a locale is sufficient, as they have access to the MLS (multiple listing services). Just be aware they'll steer you to their own listings first.

For rental, it may be that you need to talk to different agents who represent different houses, although I think at least some of those listings show up on MLS.
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:34 PM on April 27, 2014

Realtors can generally only show you houses listed on the MLS, and they are paid their commission by the property owner. That is how it works in the US.

You should only contact one, or at least one at a time. They represent you, not a property, and all have access to the same MLS listings; if the first one you pick isn't helpful, discontinue that relationship and find another. Realtors are not the same thing as property managers (though many property managers, who are actively taking care of specific properties as paid to do so by the owner, may incidentally be Realtors as well).

Don't expect this to be significantly more productive than craigslist/local paper listings, though, unless it's just the custom in that region. Many people do not list their rentals on the MLS, usually they are selling but are be willing to rent if that happens first. (As far as I know, Trulia et al are only accessing MLS listings as well, but maybe that's changed in the past couple of years.)

We did this to find our first place in California. She was actually a high-end Realtor in a fancy part of town, but that didn't stop her from helping us find a very modest house in a different part of town. She also negotiated our rent down $50 with the property manager, just because she's that kind of person. I had actually previously seen the house listed a couple of other places, but the property manager was a lot more responsive when she contacted him than when I did originally.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:57 PM on April 27, 2014

Just possibly, you have not found where rentals are advertised on this particular town. If/when you call an agent, ask about local customs in advertising rentals.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:10 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

My experience in renting in a lot of semi-rural American cities is that using a realtor to find a rental is not a common thing. Unfortunately, most of the house hunting in these areas happens by driving around and writing down numbers on signs in yards, and then calling (and calling, and calling) those numbers. The only time I've seen a realtor involved was for a property that was for sale, but that the owner was willing to rent.

It's possibly that some areas are different, but my experience in outskirts of Syracuse/Cleveland/Akron/Pittsburgh was that it's basically a lot of legwork, and you're stuck doing it yourself. Last time I moved (to the rural areas north of Pittsburgh), we seriously considered posting a Craigslist ad saying that we'd pay someone $x to drive around and write down the phone numbers of properties for rent. It didn't come to that, but you may need to consider something similar. My bet is that you're not seeing all, or even most, of the properties in those areas--many smaller towns haven't made the jump to internet listings for anything yet.
posted by MeghanC at 1:10 PM on April 27, 2014

Just FYI, in a rural town of 10,000, I would look for classified ads. You are likely to see rentals listed in the local paper or the free classifieds you see at diners. You may be able to access those online.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:00 PM on April 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

During the downtown, a lot of cash investors, many of them foreign, bought a lot of properties to rent out. The smart Realtors got into property management services for these investors if they weren't in them already. Renting, maintenance and repairs, rent collection, problem solving--because that makes them attractive to other absentee investors. Full service, etc. Not in all markets, but in a lot of markets.

So while many won't be able to help you, a Realtor listing property management as a professional focus likely will be, whether directly or via a referral to a rental agency that she's had satisfactory dealings with.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 2:52 PM on April 27, 2014

some of the realty companies in the town of 20,000 that I live in also have property management businesses. so it can't hurt to call.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 2:58 PM on April 27, 2014

Subscribe to the newspaper from that town and watch the classifieds.
posted by tamitang at 4:44 PM on April 27, 2014

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