Updated: Jul 13
In this article, I go over the free resources I have available, the typically paid rental assistance that I offer to prospective tenants, some alternatives, some exceptions, rebate information, etc.
Free Information on my Website
On my website, you'll find a number of free resources available, many of which apply to prospective tenants.
1. Renting: Some basic tips
4. Rent or Buy: Choosing which is best for you
12. More for Tenants
Adam's Personal Tenant Assistance
Because of the hourly fee involved for my tenant representation & the fact that everyone's needs are different, how I will help will depend on your preferences.
1. Gathering information from you to help develop the best property searches & the right questions prior to going to homes
2. Setting up an MLS feed for you to get properties sent to you as they hit the market on MLS, including to your texts if desired
3. Helping you set up searches on other websites (in person or via remote desktop)
4. Asking questions of landlords/property managers prior to property viewing if some information unique to you would rule out properties that isn't visible online
5. Going with you to properties to represent you, pointing out positives and negatives
6. Going through the lease agreement with you
7. Helping with other needs you might have, like boosting your credit, budgeting, area tours, acquiring a driver's license if you don't have one, have just moved here, and are legally able to acquire one
I do not offer property management services for landlords, only tenant representation. Here are some basic tips on renting out your home.
Why an Hourly Fee?
Unlike buying a home, where the seller pays a decent amount to buyer's agents in the vast majority of cases (usually 3% of the sales price), in the rental market, landlords, if they pay anything to those assisting renters, pay very little in the vast majority of cases. If a landlord is offering a rental agent finder's fee, it's often 10% of the first month's rent, which is usually less than 5% versus what they would receive for a similar home buyer for significantly more than 5% of the work.
One of the reasons why most new full-time agents don't make it in the business is because of activities that don't make sense financially, with free rental assistance being a common one. In my own career, there were many activities that didn't make sense financially that I initially engaged in, with free rental assistance being one of them. That's one of the reasons why I only sold 3 homes in my first year of business (vs >30 in the past year at the time of this writing). In order to grow in my business, I had to say no to some things, whether free rental assistance for anyone who asked or even my favorite job ever, being a youth minister for over 4 years. I was a youth minister part-time throughout the first 4 years of being in the real estate business. After ceasing being a youth minister, my business grew by 50% or more the next year, and the year after that was around double the year prior. While there are still activities that I engage in that are charitable, such as a website I've developed for the homeless, poor, and frugal, including but not limited to offering a free credit boost and free budgeting assistance, free rental assistance for all is no longer one of my charitable activities. 87% of new full-time agents cease full-time real estate within 5 years.
Some Realtors avoid helping renters entirely. Those that do will often prioritize their other work with sales because of the low or no compensation with rental assistance, often giving those seeking to rent low-quality service. Other agents who help renters to find a place are new agents with low expertise. Others like myself are able to give renters quality service through an hourly fee, sometimes paid directly by the renter and sometimes paid by a relocation company like one that I used to work for where I helped renters for an hourly fee paid by that company.
An initial 30-minute consultation over the phone or via Zoom is free. After that, I offer rental assistance for a tiered hourly fee in South East VA including admin time like communication with those looking for a rental or the landlords/agents of prospective properties that they've inquired about, transit, & showings. For those that desire it, I can also provide area tours as I did in my previous work with Go Destination Services. That said, most renters who don't have their company paying for relocation assistance (as was the case with my work with GO) opt out of paying a Realtor to help them find a rental property & choose instead to find one on their own. Note that if I am working with a renter for more than 10 hrs, prices go up by 25%. If my work with a renter goes beyond 20 hrs, prices go up 50% from the original amount. My primary focus is on sales, not rental assistance, & so I must limit my time for that. Conversely, if the total time you need is less than an hr, I'll waive my hourly fee.
Here are the tiers for the first 10 hrs not including any finders fee (sometimes paid by landlords/property managers & would be credited towards what you would need to pay me) if applicable:
$75/hr - Final rental price at or below $1,000
$70/hr - Final rental price between $1,001 & $2000
$65/hr - Final rental price between $2,001 & $3000
$60/hr - Final rental price $3,001 & up
Exceptions to my Fees
For any of the following, I can provide up to 3 hours of remote assistance free of charge, up to 15 hours per year across charitable requests, & 50% reduced costs for my typical fees after 3 hours if any further time is needed:
1. Victims of human trafficking having come out of it in the past 2 years
2. The homeless
3. Those getting evicted with nowhere to go
4. Others in dire need with liquid assets of <$2000 under my discretion
Remote assistance can include discussions such as:
3. How to acquire programs to reduce your rent costs
5. Education advice
6. Spiritual advice
7. How to budget
9. In a number of cases, rather than engaging in much discussion, it's best for me to spend the majority of those hours on research and the creation of a resource for you, as I did when an immigrant reached out to me here.
Rebate for Later Purchase
If you receive paid rental assistance from me, then close on a home purchase at a later time, I will rebate 50% of your fees up to the lesser of $1500 & 25% of the commission I receive (>95% of the time from the seller) for closing. This offer cannot be combined with another offer & buyers must reach out directly to me in order to receive it rather than going through a referral source that I would need to pay a referral fee. There is no expiration on this offer & renters can receive assistance on multiple occasions across multiple years up to the caps for a rebate.
Alternatives to my Fees
1. Most prospective tenants don't receive help from agents on their side due to cost.
2. There are some real estate agents, especially new ones, who are willing to help tenants for free. The lower their sales volume & the newer they are, the higher their chances of being willing to assist. If you contact 10 agents who have been in the business for <3 months, it's likely that you'll find at least a few who are willing to help for free.
3. If you reach out to 10 established real estate agents who do less than 3 million dollars per year in sales volume while working full time (you can often see their numbers on Zillow), you might be able to get some who will help you if you offer them $35/hr including showing time, driving time, and admin time. The higher their volume (I did over 8 million last year at the time of this writing), the less it makes sense for agents to help tenants for lower fees.
4. Search the National Association of Realtors Directory for a "tenant specialist", but don't get your hopes up if doing so.
Image courtesy NAR
I recommend starting a search by state due to the low volume of those listed under that heading. If looking in VA, the options are far fewer than the options for purchasers and sellers. For instance, the "buyer brokerage" field produces 599 results in Virginia as of 6/22/23, & "Single Family" produces 348. Conversely, "tenant representative" produces only 10 results in VA as of 6/22/23, and the only one in Hampton Roads is a commercial agent. For commercial prospective tenants looking for a home for their business, I saw their brief page on their company's website, but I wasn't able to locate their fees for tenants. Despite the volume of tenants looking for homes to rent in NYC where property values are much higher, even the state of NY only had 9 options.
5. There are also some free & low-cost housing counseling resources available other than real estate agents through non-profits and other companies.
Here is HUD's list for housing counseling options close to you, where you should at a minimum:
A. Select "Rental Housing Services" as I did in the image below.
B. Input your preferred zip code.
C. Input the distance you'd be willing to go for service.
Image courtesy HUD
1. While it is true that I was contracted out for years by a relocation company including but not limited to being for area tours, rental assistance, & otherwise in Hampton Roads, sales are still my primary focus. When I was contracted out I averaged <10 hrs per week with that while still focusing primarily on sales. I am not as familiar with landlord/tenant customs/law/contracts as I am with residential sales. My greatest assets are in areas of crossover, such as a high volume of crossover education about what to look for in a home both positively and negatively, having the right gadgets/tools when previewing properties, having plenty of digital tools available, having excellent options for video showings if you're distant, setting up a search for you, etc. While I have compiled a list of locations to find rentals, & have some crossover information such as for setting up utilities, most of my compilations & resources, as you can see from this website, are geared toward purchases.
2. My fees will be cost-prohibitive for most & most agents that are willing to work with prospective tenants who charge fees for rental assistance charge less than me.
Want to Purchase if You Could or Are You Considering a Future Purchase?