So you’re thinking about hiring an apartment locator to help you move to Dallas, Texas!
Great! Well, maybe great. Maybe not. Hiring the right locator can mean the difference in moving to a great apartment or a garbage one. It will have a huge impact on your quality of life here.
I’ll point out the obvious here. This is an apartment locating business. And this is my guide for you on what to expect when hiring apartment locators. I won’t hide that I may be a weeee bit biased, but I hope you’ll forgive me!
The goal here is to give you as much useful information as possible.
This post is going to take you behind the curtain of the apartment locating business. You’ll learn how research is done, specific databases, how locator incentives can distort the service, and how we’ve deliberately designed our business.
Who Are Apartment Locators?
Apartment locators are real estate agents who specialize in helping people find apartments. Locators need to have valid real estate licenses to operate.
All locators are realtors, but not all realtors are locators. Different people have different specializations.
At Taco Street, we know apartments really well, so that’s what we stick to full time. Sources like Redfin are great when shopping for a rental home.
After 10 minutes you’ll probably tear your hair out. There are thousands and thousands of listings. Many of which are outdated.
You will find that almost all sources of apartment information are off or inaccurate. How is that possible? Apartments have hundreds of units, and use dynamic pricing software (the same thing used by hotels and airlines) to changes price daily based on supply and demand. Currently, no website has direct synchronization to the minute-by-minute updates of prices and availability. Even the apartment’s own website will often be outdated.
Working with Locators
So you’ve thrown your hands up and want to hire a professional! Here’s what to expect.
Apartment Databases And Information
Most locators will send you information from a database called Smart Apartment Data. Yes, its acronym is SAD. Like every other apartment website, it’s data is also outdated, but it’s clean and it’s a good place to start.
There are two ways a locator can choose to send you information.
You will quickly notice the difference. One is totally fucking worthless. The other is not.
A Personal Locator Story From Me To You
Let me take a quick detour. Before I was in the business, I hired an apartment locator to help me find a place. I was unfamiliar with the industry and service, so I went along with it. The locator sent me a list based on the criteria we spoke about. However, the list came like the first link – without building information.
I was confused. This wasn’t helpful at all.
I asked the locator “Uh….this doesn’t really help me. Can you tell me which buildings they are? I’d like to learn more about them.”
Then she proceeded to give away the dirty secret of the locating business.
Locator: “No, sorry, this is how I make money. If I give you the information, you will just go to the building without me and I won’t get paid”
Internally, I went ballistic.
Are you fucking kidding me? Your entire business model is to block information from me to force me to depend on you? This is ridiculous!
That was the end of our communication.
The Unfortunate Apartment Locating Norm
I learned this is wasn’t only normal, but how most locators operate. This wasn’t a bug, it was the entire feature!
The value provided was solely dependent on the belief that they were gatekeepers to privileged information.
If you ever receive a list like this with blocked information, the locator is deliberately trying to force dependency.
It was with this experience in mind that I started this business, that would never happen to my clients. I know how angry I was after receiving that crappy list of vague listing numbers. I was not going to do that to anybody else.
Taco Street’s Approach
So where is the most accurate information? You get it by calling the building directly. But if you’ve ever called apartment buildings, you will quickly learn how awful it is.
When you call an apartment, there’s a very high chance that you’ll be routed to what’s called a “centralized leasing office”. It’s a cute name for a call center. They’re staffed by people who run off scripts and know nothing about the building you’re talking about. They have no special access to information and are a waste of time to talk to. If you speak with one, just hang up.
If you’re lucky, you will get a hold of a leasing consultant at the real office of the real building in question. They will have access to the freshest information on their building’s pricing and availability.
Then to avoid further insanity, you have to organize it in one place. You may be thinking “Wow! That’s a shit load lot of work!”
Yes, it takes many annoying hours of work. So I built a team to do just that.
Our clients get huge organized spreadsheets of every property they’re interested in which include fresh pricing, availability, specific requirements, and even video tours from our library.
We’ve done this for hundreds of clients, so we’re pretty good at it!
Apartment buildings pay locators a commission based on the monthly rent. This is how apartment finders make money, and why you don’t need to pay them.
Most buildings pay 100% of a months’ rent. For example. If your rent is $1000, the locator will be paid $1000. In rare cases, it can be more like 125%, 150%, or even 200%.
Other buildings payout flat fees like $500, $1000, $250.
Now, you may be thinking. Isn’t there an incentive for locators to “help renters” by bringing their clients to higher commission buildings? – Yes.
Of course, different locators operate differently. Some locators are more than happy to bring their clients to low commission buildings if it fits their client’s requirements.
Others… not so much. In locating offices with highly competitive sales atmospheres, it’s not uncommon for locators to funnel clients only to the highest commission buildings, even when it doesn’t fit the client’s criteria. I’ve heard and seen too many egregious examples of locators doing this.
For us, this means we’ve lost a lot of money in the short run by bringing clients to low commission properties. In the long run, we have a lot of happy clients living in their perfect apartment.
Touring is the most important part of the apartment locating process. Otherwise, known as actually going to the building to check things out.
Tours can be done with or without the locator.
Note: Some buildings have different commission structures depending on whether the locator appeared for the showing or not.
Sometimes locators are too busy working to appear for the tour. They’ll give you some basic information, and set you off on your merry way hoping you’ll sign somewhere and put them down as a referral.
During the tour, the locator doesn’t do much. The leasing agent at the apartment does all the real work.
Despite this, I think being part of the tour is vitally important. While the leasing agent is good at showing the building itself, the locator is the one who should put things into context – it’s in our job description to give you all the pros, but also look realistically at the potential cons, so you get the best apartment for your needs.
More-so, the locator should function as an ambassador. They should introduce you to neighborhoods, show you what it’s like to live there and help you choose not only a building that fits your criteria, but a neighborhood that fits your lifestyle.
I always tour with clients whenever possible, encouraging clients to ride along with me in my car. Often, I routinely spend hours driving around with clients showing them the different Dallas area neighborhoods, whether it’s Downtown Dallas, Deep Ellum, Plano, or North Frisco. This has had a huge effect on client picks. Many of my clients have chosen totally different neighborhoods than what they originally started with, and are very happy they did.
Work With Us!
Hopefully by the end of this process, you’ll have your sanity intact, low-stress levels, and a brand new apartment in an amazing neighborhood.
If you found this useful and are looking for a place to live, get in touch with our Dallas apartment locator service!