Struggling Sales Brokers Suddenly “Not Too Proud for Rentals”

This article in The Real Deal covers the recent trend of  brokers who have previously only dealt with sales transactions now trying to incorporate more rentals into their business. When times were good in the sales market the rental market was neglected by many agents, but as both sales volume and home prices fall within the five boroughs and commissions are harder to come by, the previously-maligned rental side of the business is looking increasingly attractive. There seems to be a perception that working in rentals is easy and quick money and that an agent who is experienced in sales will easily turn a profit in the rental market with a bit of training, when nothing could be further from the truth.

While the structure of a rental transaction is similar to a sale–you have clients, you show them some apartments, they pick one they want to live in, submit some financial information and move on in–the reality is much more complex. The rental market has its own characteristics, vicissitudes and body of knowledge that must be acquired. The pace of the rental market alone (even in this slower market) can be discouraging to agents used to a sale transaction that takes place over a several month period. Knowledge is key, you have to go out every day and look for that special apartment, that amazing deal, and do it before every other agent and apartment-hunter out there. Dealing with prospective tenants, landlords and management companies can also take some getting used to and the  article reveals how ambivalent many brokers are about rentals. Do you really want to work with an agent who is only working with renters because they have no other choice? Someone who secretly believes that they are “too good” to deal with people who for whatever reason are not in the lofty realm of home ownership? If you look at the vitriolic and downright offensive comments that accompany the article you can see a general disdain for “doing rentals” and a general prejudice against rentals period.

I am now a home-owner after being a renter for many years and I in no way understand where this prejudice has originated. I was happy in my modestly-priced rental for many years and now I love the apartment that I own but I have a lot more to worry about! There is nothing inherently superior about owning, I chose to buy my current place because it made sense for me: where and how I wanted to live, the stage of life that I am in. Yet for many people buying just does not make sense and there is no value judgment in that. For an alternate view of the American dream of homeownership take a look at this post from back in December that covers a report in Portfolio Magazine about the stresses of home ownership, which can take a heavy toll on your wallet, your relationship and even your health.


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Michelle Erfer is a licensed Real Estate Salesperson in New York City.
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