Why are there no apartment yentas, for tight rental housing markets?
July 9, 2014 11:55 AM   Subscribe

If I were looking for an apartment right now I would love to delegate the search and matchmaking to someone who made such searches, and presentation of credit data, references etc, their occupation, and I'm sure that many busy people would also want to use this service. Why aren't there people who do this?
posted by Baeria to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Real estate brokers?
posted by Jahaza at 11:57 AM on July 9, 2014 [10 favorites]

Isn't this what Brokers do?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:57 AM on July 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

There are definitely people who do this. I had one when I got my first job out of college and was moving to a new city. However, he was hired by my new employer so I don't know how they found him or even what his real title was. But it was definitely great to have someone who knew the area, knew all the buildings and could drive the process for me.
posted by primethyme at 12:04 PM on July 9, 2014

Few realtors focus on renting apartments only. Most realtors focus on home sales or property management. Because the profit margin in doing rentals is not that great.

In order to be an apartment "Yenta", you would need to be a licensed realtor, as required by law. Most people who take the time to get that license, pursue the more profitable niches of that business.

But, undoubtedly, there most be some realtors who focus on apartment rentals. How to find them, however, is an issue - because if you call around to various real estate agencies, they will all tell you that they rent apartments.
posted by Flood at 12:06 PM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do you live in a place where there are more houses than apartments? Because there totally are people who do this in places where there are more apartments than houses.
posted by Etrigan at 12:07 PM on July 9, 2014

At least in NYC, brokers that offer this service (whether exclusively or as part of a larger real estate brokerage) are common.
posted by griphus at 12:12 PM on July 9, 2014

There are Rental Brokers, if you Google Rental Broker, it auto-fills with New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

Typically one pays 1 month's worth of rent to a Broker for the service.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:14 PM on July 9, 2014

These people exist in Chicago as well. They seem to be extremely common among the "I am a private owner and would like to rent out my condo now that I live in the suburbs" set.
posted by phunniemee at 12:16 PM on July 9, 2014

Some markets do have services that do exactly this; I've used them in two cities. Some are part of a real estate agency and also handle sales, and some focus on apartment leases only (e.g. The Apartment People in Chicago).

They're not perfect, though; in my apartment-hunting experience, the quality and price range of apartments was no better than what I found through Craigslist, and the brokers typically aren't committed to putting you in the right apartment - they just want to place as many people as possible. But they are good if you want to see four or five apartments in an afternoon and don't want to go through the trouble of setting up appointments.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:21 PM on July 9, 2014

In order to be an apartment "Yenta", you would need to be a licensed realtor, as required by law.

Is this really true? I'll confess ignorance of the law, but it would seem to me that helping someone find a rental is a fairly different thing than helping them buy or sell a piece of real estate. I don't think the person I worked with was a real estate agent, but I guess it's possible. I didn't ask him.
posted by primethyme at 12:23 PM on July 9, 2014

You could probably post on Craigslist or Taskrabbit or somewhere and find people willing to do this. (I've done it before). The results would likely be the same as if you did it yourself, but you wouldn't have to be the one putting in the time.
posted by dekathelon at 12:29 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, this is a thing that exists in many markets. I have used the service in DC, Austin and Chicago. Currently I have an agent who finds me a tenant every time I need one and my sister had an agent who found them an apartment when they moved back to town (Chicago). My agent may or may not be a Realtor (I checked other credentials but not that one, since I don't need access to Realtor things), but the one my sister used is. Typically, apartment finders are listed in the phone book or what-have-you as "apartment finders".

Typically, their fees are covered by the property owners and they run credit checks and rental histories on the landlord's behalf. You call them up, give them your apartment parameters, then set an appointment to go look at the things they have that suit you. They handle the rest of the logistics--such as collected deposits, getting the lease signed by the landlord, getting move-in documents from the building manager.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:31 PM on July 9, 2014

Typically, their fees are covered by the property owners

Not in NYC, alas.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:32 PM on July 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

The agent I use and the one my sister used focus on private owner-landlord rentals, rather than large managed properties, which allows for a more individualized experience than a lot of agencies which focus on large managed properties.

on preview:
Typically, their fees are covered by the property owners

Not in NYC, alas.

Wow, that seems unfair!
posted by crush-onastick at 12:33 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this is a thing in my area (Boston metro). However, it's not generally a particularly helpful thing for the average renter. (a) I believe the State limits how much they can be paid, which keeps them out of less expensive markets; (b) they generally won't show you the really good stuff, which is posted by owner on Craigslist (or on a sign in the front yard) and gets snapped up before the landlord approaches a broker.

I was given a reference to one of these folks the last time I was looking. However, I found a better place myself first. In fact, the person who referred me to the broker also found their place on their own.

I think they're more helpful for people who are moving in from out of town, and don't really know the market. (For example, people who don't know that in our market, someone holding an apartment for more than one day without a deposit is a big red flag -- if the apartment were a good deal, someone else would be putting down a deposit. If they're willing to hold it three days without a deposit, run.)
posted by pie ninja at 12:42 PM on July 9, 2014

When the person who ran my daughter's home daycare had to move she used a rental agent. She needed to be within very easy walking distance of her old home so the parents could still get to her. Her rental agent was able to find her a new rental property at a reasonable rent within the same block. She had to pay a month's rent and felt it was very worth it.

This was in NDG in Montreal.
posted by Jane the Brown at 12:44 PM on July 9, 2014

I think what you want is an apartment shadchan/shadchanit.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:02 PM on July 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

It really depends what market you're in!

I'm in Chicago. I've used both the Apartment Finders types of services mentioned above and a rental broker who works with a bunch of Realtors in a more traditional home sales kind of office. These are just my experiences and different companies may work differently.

The Apartment Finders types just show you around to whatever is available and meets your criteria on that day of your appointment. They don't schedule showings, they just have keys or codes for lockboxes. IME they claim they'll keep an eye on the listings and contact you if something new comes up, but they actually don't - you have to make another appointment to see more apartments and who knows if they have new listings. On the other hand, they drive you around in their car and if you don't like anything you saw, you aren't on the hook for anything. Plus as crush said, they handle all the initial paperwork and stuff.

The broker I used was much more of a true one-to-one professional relationship, where he set me up with rental MLS access and we had lots of back and forth and multiple trips looking at apartments and I got an email every time something meeting my criteria came on the market. He made all the appointments, calling the landlords and getting access and stuff so we could see several apartments in one day. It was great. The downside was the payment structure: while he only showed me apartments where the landlord would pay his fee, if I found one on my own that I decided to go with, I was on the hook for half month's rent. And the number of apartments on the MLS in Chicago is pretty slim. Luckily it worked out but it could have gone the other way and I would have had to pay him a decent chunk of money.
posted by misskaz at 1:15 PM on July 9, 2014

They're called real estate brokers. In some areas (NYC, possibly SF), it's hard to find a place at all without one. In a more casual rental market, there may not be demand for this service.

It's worth asking your friendly neighborhood realtor if this is something they do, or if they know anyone in your area who does it.
posted by Sara C. at 1:26 PM on July 9, 2014

I'd say that San Francisco is actually not broker friendly. Most places are listed through craigslist, and tenants found at or before the first showing.

Having a third party searching and then having to get your approval is going to be heavily disadvantaged in such a market.
posted by politikitty at 1:36 PM on July 9, 2014

Here's a story about a "rental scout" in SF. I'd agree most places are still found via craigslist but I wouldn't be too surprised to see a healthy "scouting" niche industry here.

Rental competition fierce in S.F.'s market
posted by moxiequz at 2:29 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had one of these real estate brokers when I moved to Raleigh a few years ago, so they do exist in smaller markets. My understanding is my company paid her something and then she also got a commission from the apartment I ended up renting. Made the move much easier as I was coming from out of state and only had a weekend to find a place.
posted by superfille at 5:18 PM on July 9, 2014

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