Sydney began her real estate career in 2006 and is a born and raised Texan.
What Is an Apartment Locator?
An Apartment Locator is a licensed real estate agent that specializes in apartments, short-term rentals, and rental houses. This is a free service to their clients. We’ll cover more on compensation later.
Apartment Locating enables you to get started in real estate right away, WITHOUT having to pay the costly board fees that are required to call yourself a Realtor®. Once you have passed your license exam, you are officially a licensed real estate agent! Even without the board memberships! While apartment locating requires a license, you can earn money right away!
This is my top pick for getting started in the real estate market. Especially if you are not financially able to rely on zero income for at least your first six months.
Being an apartment locator is a great way to build your pipeline, especially if you see yourself becoming a buyer's or seller's agent in the future. Each and every client you help move into a rental property will remember who got them there.
Gather contact information for every client and be sure to stay up on marketing to them. (Marketing tips are covered at the end of this book.)
Just so you're aware upfront, some of the benefits of becoming an Apartment Locator include:
- You are NOT required to join an expensive board
- You are legally a licensed real estate agent
- Dedicated to rental market
- Flexible schedule
- Referrals create a pipeline
- You are your own boss and create your own schedule
Why Is Apartment Locating a Good Way to Start?
Apartment Locating allows an agent to immediately get started in the real estate industry without having to join the expensive boards required to be called a Realtor®. We are going to touch a little more on this profession in real estate because it is the best way to get started to begin generating an income.
The sole purpose of an apartment locator is to find an apartment for a prospective tenant. Your services are always free to the prospect since the apartment complex will pay you for the referral. Typically, one month’s rent.
When first starting out in real estate, as an apartment locator, it may seem a little overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be if you follow these simple tips.
Send vs. Escort
How you refer a client can impact your commission.
Apartment communities and property management companies set commissions based on rent rates, typically set as a % of the rent. However, there is another exception to your pay ... whether you send or escort your client.
To SEND a client means you are not escorting them to the property, you are simply referring them to it. This can be tricky but very lucrative at the same time.
To ESCORT a client means you are physically meeting them at the property and walking through the tour with them. You are there to ensure your name is written on the application form as the referral to the property.
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TIP: Call every complex you are referring a client to and ASK what their commission rate is (the % of rent they pay YOU in commission) AND if that varies based on Sending the client or Escorting the client to the property.
Your Name MUST Appear on Application as Referring Agent in Order to Get Paid!
This point cannot be stressed enough. ENSURE your name appears on the application as the referring agent BEFORE the application is turned in. It's also a good idea to send a guest card to the property beforehand so that you have record of your client and where you referred them.
How to Become an Apartment Locator
Find a Broker Specializing in Locating
If you are licensed, finding a broker is relatively simple, but if you want to specialize in apartment locating as a way to get started in real estate, you should look for a brokerage firm that has a dedicated apartment locating service.
To put it another way, one half of the business could specialize in home sales while the other focuses on apartment placement. The advantage is that one broker is usually a member of your local real estate board, while the other is not. Whichever option you choose will decide whether or not you are expected to join the same board.
If that's what you want to do, the target will eventually be to move into home sales, but for now, apartment hunting will help you create a pipeline, a list of resources, and learn the city.
TIP: Keep a contact list of those you support move into an apartment because you never know when those people would want to buy a house. They are more likely to work with you in the future because you developed a relationship with them when looking for their ideal apartment.
Getting Paid as an Apartment Locator
Keep Track of Your Compensation
Do not send an invoice to your client. They will not be the one to pay you. Apartment Locators are paid by the apartment complex or property management firm to whom they refer a customer. After approval and move in, it can take up to 90 days to receive commission from the move in.
It is a good idea to ask what the compensation is when contacting a property management representative. You will hear 50%, 75%, 100%, and sometimes more than that. What does that mean? It means that is the amount of asking rent that they will pay you.
For example, You’ve found a rental that meets all of your client’s needs. You contact the apartment complex to learn the rent is $1200 per month and they are paying agents 75%. You escort or send your client to the property. Your client accepts the rent, qualifies for the property, and signs a lease.
You will then submit an invoice to the apartment complex or property management company for $900 (which is 75% of $1200). This does NOT include your broker fees, traditionally 90/10 split which means you would retain 90% of the $900 invoice ($810).
Also, be aware that your commission can hinge on whether or not you personally escort the client to the property. In some cases, the commission is not as high if you simply send them.
Important Note: If you send clients to properties, be sure they are putting your name on the application or else you may not get paid. If possible, get a copy of the lease application and show clients where to write your name. This is where rebates come in handy. It almost ensures they remember to write your name on the application as the referring agent.
Another thing to consider is emailing or faxing a guest card to the complex prior to your client touring the property.
Creating Your Own Resource List
Build Your Own Resource List
Over time, your resource lists will be as important to you as your clients. As you begin working with prospects, your resource list will help you appear knowledgeable of the area, what there is to do, how to research utilities, and more. Clients may even ask where they can get a moving truck.
Having all of this information at your fingertips will make your client feel more at ease because they feel like you care. That’s the point to being prepared; because you care. It isn’t just about finding them an apartment, it’s about building a relationship.
Compile those lists into your own resource bank and have ready for each and every appointment. Perhaps, create a cheat sheet for your client to have of the area and always make it a point to let them know you happily accept referrals. Set up a small referral fee (no more than $50) to entice them to send people your way.
TIP: A happy customer will tell others about you so keep in mind that how you treat them will be what they tell their friends.
Take Advantage of Mentoring and Training
Make the most of mentoring and training opportunities.
If you work with a reputable brokerage, they will provide you with training and regular mentoring to ensure that you are building your real estate business in the right direction.
Keep in mind that it is in their best interests as well, because they would want to see you succeed. Meet with your mentor whenever possible. When you're out in the field, ask any questions that come up.
TIP: Take a class that will broaden your experience in your current job as you take classes once a year to upgrade your license. Land management and residential groups, for example, will be crucial.
Networking is crucial in real estate.
Even in apartment hunting, meeting new people and networking is maybe the most critical aspect of your real estate career. What better way to expand your funnel than by working with people you've assisted in getting their first apartment? They will eventually want to buy a house, and who better to call than you? After all, you've already formed a rapport with them.
Succeeding as an Apartment Locator
How to Start and Expand Your Network Immediately
- Carry business cards to every destination when you leave the house, even if it's only to the grocery store. You never know who you will come across that may be in need of a Realtor®, apartment locator or property manager.
- Update your social networks with your new position. Many referrals are generated online because that is where everyone is looking now.
- Create a website*. Even if it is only a one-page starter site, it's better than nothing. Once you've set it up be sure to add your information to the Google, Bing and Yahoo directories for your area.
- Set up a monthly newsletter.
- Create a rebate program for your services or their referrals.
Tip: Be sure to look at TREC's regulations on having your own website and acceptable marketing practices.
Be an Honest and Reliable Locator
This point can't be stressed enough. Do what you say you are going to do, meet when you are scheduled to and don't blow smoke. Client's don't appreciate it in the long run. The best practice in apartment locating is not to make a client think you can help them when you really can't.
The biggest complaint about apartment locators is that they drop off the face of the earth if they see they can't help someone. Be realistic in knowing that not every person that comes across your desk will qualify for an apartment. If this is the case, don't waste their time or yours, let them know upfront that you can't find anything that they would qualify for.
Marketing, Marketing, Marketing
Whether you are a seasoned real estate agent with years under your belt or you just recently passed the real estate licensing exam, marketing should be your best friend.
Becoming an established real estate agent takes time and patience. Unless you've already created a pipeline that will keep you busy for the first six months, there’s a lot of work ahead of you and it all starts with marketing.
Believe it or not, there are many platforms online to advertise your real estate service that will take some of the stress out of your marketing campaign, save you money, and help bring those clients in.
You want to set yourself apart from the competition while at the same time conveying your message that your service is worth the consumer's time. By growing your online presence, establishing proven marketing practices, and consistently getting your brand out there, you stand a better chance of people finding you. Even more important, you have a better chance of people wanting to work with you.
Other Real Estate Careers
There are so many paths available to new agents in the real estate industry. I cover this in more depth in my article Careers in Real Estate but, here's an overview:
- Apartment Locating
- Buyer's Agent
- Seller's Agent
- Property Management
- And More
Texas Real Estate Commission New Location
The Texas Real Estate Commission, otherwise known as TREC, is the entity that regulates and monitors all real estate agents in the State of Texas.
You can also visit their website for requirements to become and work as a licensed real estate agent in Texas.
Texas Real Estate Commission
P.O. Box 12188
Austin, TX 78711
What Do You Feel Is Most Important?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Sydney Spence
Jasmine White on October 31, 2019:
Great article! I get most of my apartment locating advice from Real Estate Duck Hunters on YouTube! May be a good resource for others interested in locating as well.
Sheryl Silver on January 16, 2019:
What is the best way to Market? As an apartment locator.
Tyler Mahan on July 05, 2017:
Great article! Would you suggest going in-person to an apartment locator or reaching out through their website in order to get on with one?
Saba Chaudhry on February 24, 2017:
Hello, I'm a realtor in Texas, I'm trying to find out how to become/start an apartment locating business? I'll appreciate your help. thank you