Having a professional real estate agent help you find your next home can make the process a lot less stressful. But is working with an agent more hassle than it’s worth?

If you’re on the hunt for an apartment, basement suite, or rental house, you know how tough it can be to find the perfect place to call home.

From location to size, it’s not always easy to identify your ideal unit from the descriptions provided in a rental listing. And with the cost of buying real estate being so high, the rental market is a competitive place. All across Canada, from Toronto rentals to Vancouver suites, it can be extremely difficult to secure an apartment.

For this reason, you may be thinking about hiring a real estate agent to help you find your next rental home. While, of course, agents are typically employed to help with real estate sales, many offer their services to renters as well.

If you’re unsure whether this is the right choice for you, in this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of working with a rental real estate agent, including:

  • PRO: Expertise of the local market
  • PRO: Professional real estate tools
  • PRO: Support for searching and viewing
  • CON: Added expense for you or your landlord
  • CON: Misaligned goals and perspectives
  • CON: Services may be inconsistent


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The Benefits of Hiring a Rental Real Estate Agent

Having a professional help you find your next home can definitely take some pressure off the process. In addition to making your apartment hunt less stressful, below are three pros to working with a real estate agent for rentals.

Expertise of the local market

You know where you want to live. But you likely don’t know much about the last few year’s real estate prices and rental fees in your area of interest. Working with an agent can provide you with insight only an expert will have.

For example, your agent should be able to tell you whether…

  • A building was constructed by a reputable company
  • A property manager or management company has a good reputation
  • The proposed month’s rent is a fair and equitable amount for the area
  • There’s high turnover and units are commonly available in a building

Professional real estate tools

When you work with an agent, you’ll likely have access to their exclusive search engine for upcoming listings. Often, real estate agents are notified of new units before the general public. This can give you a competitive edge in a hot rental market.

Support for searching and viewing

If you don’t live in the area yet, or are working full-time, it may be difficult for you to view potential rental units. By partnering with a real estate agent, you’ll have someone who can tour places on your behalf.

Having a representative view a rental for you is incredibly important, since finding one exclusively online can be risky. For example, you may be tricked into paying a security deposit or first month’s rent to a scammer for a unit that doesn’t exist. There’s also the possibility that, in person, the apartment turns out to look nothing like the pictures.

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The Drawbacks of Hiring a Rental Real Estate Agent

As outlined above, working with a real estate agent comes with several benefits. However, there are disadvantages to hiring a professional for your rental search. See below for three cons when it comes to renters partnering with real estate agents.

Added expense for you or your landlord

Real estate agents who work with people looking to buy or sell a home have a commission structure built into their contract. A well-known model, agents only get paid if they help their client purchase or sell their property. Their payment is a percentage of the sale price, which is typically paid out by the seller of the property to both the listing and purchasing agents.

With rentals, it becomes more complicated, since there is no sale of a property. So, a renter who employs the assistance of a real estate agent would need to discuss payment options prior to working together.

A few different arrangements include:

  • The landlord paying the first month’s rent to the agent
  • The landlord paying a percentage of the lease to the agent
  • The renter paying the agent’s fees based on the work they do
  • The renter paying a flat fee or retainer to the agent

Any of the above can be problematic. For example, if you find the perfect place but the landlord refuses to pay your agent, you may be responsible for those fees. Or, if you decide that you’ll pay your real estate agent for services rendered, and it takes awhile to find your new home, you may end up paying a lot more than you’d budgeted for.

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Misaligned goals and perspectives

While having a professional’s perspective can be helpful, not every agent’s point of view will align with your own.

Be sure to clearly communicate to your agent the type of unit or rental that you’d like to find. And if it doesn’t feel like the right fit, keep looking until you find a real estate agent who you trust.

Services may be inconsistent

It’s important to keep in mind that not all real estate agents provide rental services. In fact, many choose to focus entirely on assisting clients who are buying and selling. Some may only work with renters when the market has cooled off. This can lead to inconsistent services for renters.

Also, keep in mind that working with a homeowner versus a renter will typically be more lucrative for an agent. So, even if you find someone who works with renters, they may not prioritize you and your search.

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