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“We did get an offer for $100 over the full rent last night. If you’d like to move forward on your offer, it would have to be at least that. No pressure!”

I received that email a year ago, when my partner and I were looking for a rental apartment. We already had to stretch our budget to meet the rent of the 500-something-square-foot unit — that didn’t include ensuite laundry or dishwasher.

But no pressure!

It had been the same thing we’d encountered for three of the five lease offers we’d submitted. Someone was in line ahead of us with a bigger cheque in hand.

We told ourselves it was a numbers game. After all, we'd swiped through a lot of frogs on Bumble to find each other. It would be the same with our apartment. 

The next potential place wanted us to make an appointment with the realtor showing the unit.

Realtor? For a rental?

We wondered what that meant.

Would we be expected to pay something? Was the rental price going to be way beyond our budget? Would it be weirdly competitive? Would they pressure us into something we weren’t ready for?

Then we met Mike on the stoop of the two-storey duplex. Almost instantly, we felt more comfortable. He proceeded to make small talk about where we went to school, places we had seen before, and what we were looking for. Friendly small talk.

Edit1lenscorrected Our living room

Before we even went in, Mike thought this place would be a great fit. And he was right. The place checked all our boxes and was within our price range.

More importantly, having Mike there ended up being a tremendous help.

He had information and suggestions we'd never thought about. From previous average hydro bills, to what we could ask for from our landlord. He knew every rule regarding the unit inside-and-out. And he answered them almost before we asked.

Instead of vague answers about repairs like, “Oh ... well ... depending on when we get in here ... we might fix some stuff up ...” We got firm answers with firm deadlines.

After our previous experiences, we immediately wanted to place an offer. Mike explained that we would be placing the offer to lease through him, and would have to work with him directly.

Edit3 1 The kitchen may leave some counter space to be desired but it gets the job done

We met about half hour later at a Starbucks to discuss the details.

Since we didn't have a realtor of our own, we’d have to sign a document allowing Mike to represent both the landlord and us. But the entire cost would be handled by the landlord.

This is called multiple representation. It can cause a conflict of interest if you aren’t careful.

When realtors work with landlords with whom they have a long-standing relationship, they may not be working in your best interest. Given that we had already settled on the right place, we went ahead.

Then came the rules.

Mike had to tell us if another offer was being placed. He wasn’t allowed to accept a rent offer higher than the list price. In fact, he had to legally disclose everything to us.

A year later, we’re happily in that unit, and I’ve started noticing more and more articles about renting with a realtor in Toronto.

Maddybeautiful 1024x683 Celebrating Christmas in the new place with our Cece.

Professionals advise using a realtor can have some great benefits such as:

  1. It’s always free for the rentee. The landlord pays a commission.
  2. In a city like Toronto where rentals are snapped up daily, they have an inside track.
  3. Realtors have access to rental listings 24 hours before the public does.
  4. They can protect you from online scams and frauds.
  5. They handle the small details and submission of documents.
  6. They set up viewings and arrange meetings to free up your time.

However, there are a couple of things to note.

Do your due diligence on the realtor. Make sure you know if they’re also representing the landlord, and how that impacts the units you’re shown. Look for proper documentation, a solid online presence, and check the information you receive.

If you’re in school, unemployed, or have too tight a budget, most agents may not take you on. Because of lower commission, they have to be selective.

When you find a place, you’ll have to move fast. Make sure you have a recent credit report, a letter of employment and references at hand. 

Overall though, given some quality research and reasonable expectations, using a realtor takes out the hassle, doubt, and inefficient searching when going it alone.

Oh, and by the way, the unit that had a $100 rent increase? Turns out no one else had even applied.