Just read a great article on Forbes.com called “How to Pick a Real Estate Agent”. Here’s how it starts:
by Stephane Fitch, 04.09.10, 06:00 PM EDT
The most knowledgeable agents also know how to broker rentals.
Most advice for picking a real estate agent is pretty standard: Find somebody who’ll listen to you, who’s experienced, sweats the details, works evenings and weekends, blah, blah, blah.
It’s true and sensible, as far as it goes, but also obvious and frustratingly subjective. Here’s a concrete suggestion that’s less well known: Find an agent who also brokers rental properties in your price range
Real estate agents who take the business of brokering rentals are uncommon. In most cities successful Realtors look down on the rental business. Why? The commissions are lame. If you buy a $2 million house in San Francisco, your brokerage and the broker representing the seller get to split a fee of from $80,000 to $120,000. Rent the same house for the going rate in the sourdough capital and the agent will probably make a fee that isn’t much more than the $5,400 monthly rent.
That means agents who handle a lot of rental properties may have to work harder, make less and get less respect than their home-selling peers. For sellers the upside is that they tend to be hungry and more knowledgeable about local housing.
They can tell you how the value of any home stacks up against what it would fetch on the rental market. Say you’re standing in the dining room of a home you’d love to buy. If your agent knows the local rental market, he or she will be comfortable telling you what it would cost to rent equivalent housing nearby. If it’s your own dining room you’re standing in and you wish to sell your property, they can give you an honest assessment of what it would fetch on the rental market if you opt to lease it out instead.
Yes, you’ll still face conflicts of interest. Rental agents are motivated to sell you a house rather than rent you one so as to collect a higher fee. So look for one who’s trustworthy and backs up any claims with solid research.