There are five ways to spot a great apartment locator, whether you’ve used a locating service before or not. Apartment locating is a niche part of real estate where licensed real estate agents (the locators) connect clients with apartment properties that meet their client’s housing needs and budget. But in most major cities, there are so many different apartments, and the search for the right space can be overwhelming. Apartment locators are like apartment fairy godparents who take the guesswork out of scouring the market in order to find the best apartment deal.
Once a client completes an application and signs their new lease agreement, the property use a portion of their marketing or promotional budget to pay the locator through an approved broker for helping them find a new tenant. That’s how apartment locating services remain free to the client, keep the locators in business, and help properties lease vacant units!
No matter who you decide to use to help find your next apartment, the service should always be free. As a client, the only specific request for you is to list the locator as the ‘referral source’ on your application to lease. But even though the service is free, it doesn’t mean you should have low expectations of your apartment locator.
Here is how you can spot a great apartment locator from a mile away:
1) Impeccable communication
Whether you filled out an online form, clicked an ad on a webpage, or inquired about something through social media, it should never take longer than a day before you’re chatting with your personal locator (holiday and overnight inquiries excluded). From the time you get connected with an apartment locator, it should feel like you’ve been matched with a market expert. The ideal apartment locating agent will introduce themself and ask a few initial questions. They’ll ask things like how they can best respect your time and preferred client communication, and most likely see when you have time to get on the phone to chat.
The majority of our business is done through text, which is the same for many locating services. Getting on a quick call with your agent allows you to know for sure they’re not some automated robot and gives you time to talk through things that are most important to you about living in your next apartment. As your personal apartment search journey continues, you should expect your agent to touch base regularly so that you’re not left wondering when you’ll hear from them.
2) Intentional listening and thoughtful explanations
The personalized list of properties and apartment units they send you as a client should reflect the things you’ve mentioned are important. Because your locator is listening very intentionally, they might also throw in a property or unit, that you may have otherwise bypassed, because it offers something unique to your specific apartment wants or needs.
This can also go vice-versa. Let’s say you happen to call or text your agent suggesting a property you found on your own or that was recommended to you. They should be able to combine their expert knowledge with past conversations to thoughtfully explain if that option could be a solid match. If for some reason your locator needs time to do some in-depth research, you should expect they’ll be getting back to you with useful information in a timely manner. If you happen to question why a certain property didn’t make the list of units your locator sends you, they should definitely have an expert reason as to why, which leads us to our next “great locator” criteria…
3) Realistic expectations and market knowledge
This might surprise you, but a great apartment locator will more than likely not say “yes” to everything a client wants. Don’t get us wrong, “unicorn deals” definitely exist and we’re skilled at finding them, but a calculated compromise is often needed for renters to get what’s most important to them. You can walk through our offices and hear Smart City agents having candid conversations around meeting the needs of their clients and realistically educating them on what’s attainable based on the flow of the current market. Similar to residential real estate, the apartment market ebbs and flows to reflect a variety of pricing and specials being offered.
Maybe you’re looking for a studio apartment in the middle of the city with floor-to-ceiling windows and a rooftop pool for $1000 per month. Your locator should educate you and set realistic expectations on all the aspects of your apartment search. Smart City’s Apartment Triangle helps clients understand how they can get the most out of their next apartment. They will help you prioritize what is most important and select apartments that often meet just two of the three search criteria: location, finishes, and price. A great locator will always be straight with you about what you’re looking for and lead with market knowledge. That’s why we’re all here: to be the apartment experts so our clients don’t have to!
4) Sense of urgency
Fun fact: apartment pricing changes daily. Market pricing is based on supply and demand. Properties will adjust market pricing with the number of vacant units of a certain floor plan to adjust certain specials. Working with a sense of urgency is absolutely essential to help you lease the perfect place at the perfect time.
As you’re working with your apartment locator, don’t be surprised if they call or text you asking how quickly you can get to a certain property to tour. They’ve probably identified price-for-location or price-for-finishes that match exactly what you’re looking for. It’s rare for an apartment to become available that checks all of your boxes (location, pricing, features), or is so wildly affordable that it’s considered a “unicorn deal” opportunity. Do you have to drop everything and run to the property? Likely yes. It’s a good idea to submit your application as quickly as you can because the unit will be gone soon.
A great apartment locator will text you about urgent and unicorn apartments, but what about when they send you a full list of available options? You will still need to review the list quickly and pick your top choices for your locator to schedule tours. Since pricing is sensitive and fully dependent on the season in which you’re looking to move (spring/summer is the height of moving season and fall/winter is slower), your locator should emphasize the importance of scheduling tours as quickly as possible. That part should never come off as pushy, but there is a very deliberate sense of urgency due to changing pricing and availability. This way you don’t get stuck with a list that has expired pricing because the urgency wasn’t expressed by your market expert.
However, if your apartment locator sends you a list of apartments, and says, “No rush, review whenever you feel like it,” then it might be time to reconsider who’s providing your service, bestie. All the best units on that list will disappear!
5) Asks a lot of questions
There are no stupid questions when it comes to an apartment search. If you’ve never used a locator before, you really don’t know what you don’t know (and there’s a lot to know). A great locator will either be able to answer your questions or direct you to a source that can. Sometimes locators will defer questions around apartment applications and lease agreements to properties if it is a questions that is specific to the property leasing process.
Your locator should also have a few questions for you. If they’re sending you suggestions without asking what it is you’re looking for that means the list you receive probably isn’t super tailored to your specific needs. Even if you’re using an online assistant to produce a list of apartments, the criteria used to produce those lists typically come from checkboxes which leave you with a very long list of apartment options, little to no context, and no human resources.
If you want to avoid lots of trial and error and save tons of time while finding your next apartment, Smart City is here to help. If you’re moving within one of the cities listed below, let’s connect to find exactly the kind of apartment you’re looking for and take the stress of moving off your shoulders. If you’re relocating to one of these cities, Smart City is a great relocation resource and can help you find a great apartment.
After you sign your lease, the Smart City Concierge team will help you with setting up internet and utilities, connecting you with movers, and even getting the best rate on renters insurance.