“What Real Estate Agents Wish You Knew About Their Job”: The Rental Wrinkle

By Colin Ryan

Industry News

A few days ago, Rob Hahn of Housing Watch provided his insider perspective on what it’s like to be a real estate agent, “What Real Estate Agents Wish You Knew About Their Job, Part 1.” In the article, Hahn points out that despite its size and influence, most people don’t know a lick about the real estate industry and its players; he also notes that what little we “know” about real estate agents comes from popular media, and paints a negative portrait. Hahn cites American Beauty as an example; I cite Glengarry Glen Ross

When it comes to the “what” of his title–”how hard you [the client] make it on them [the agents]”–Hahn hones in on the sales side of real  estate. But what about rentals? Surely, agents are just as subject to the whims of clients seeking rentals–perhaps moreso, particularly in urban areas with high turnover and a monsoon-drought seasonal dynamic. (I think especially of cities like Boston, with high student populations that cluster around a few universities.) One could also make the case that renters in such environments have less of an excuse for their ignorance, since they’re moving once every two years instead of once every seven.

Still, the rental market, however hectic it may be, is less risky when it comes to getting paid. Instead of spending “three months and a few hundred hours working for you” for free, an agent may spend three weeks and a dozen hours on a renter, often even less. That’s not to say that rental agents aren’t working hard: they are. Not only that, they’re interacting with property managers, rental property owners, and other entities. And they’re getting paid less for each deal they broker.

But, of course, they’re compensating through higher volume–and perhaps that’s the problem, both in terms of clients’ perceptions of an agent and in terms of that agent’s ability to change those perceptions. When you have significantly more clients, all looking for their dream apartments in the same three-week window, how can you convince them that you’re not a typical unscrupulous real estate agent, trying to get them in anywhere? And do you even have time to care?

ABC: Always Be Closing. (image courtesy moviescreenshots.blogspot.com)

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