Where did the quality renters go?

Leasing agencies deliver, but costs may not pencil out

Q: I have been a landlord for many years and have always been quite successful with simply placing a rental sign in front of my property when there is a vacancy. However, the economy in my area is getting worse and I have had one rental house vacant now for more than three months. It’s tough to have to pay the mortgage each month without rent coming in for this property.

A local Realtor has seen my sign for so long that she keeps calling me and encouraging me to sell the property. But the sales market is so soft that almost all of my equity is gone and I don’t want to give it away.

I spoke with another landlord recently who told me that he’s also had more trouble than usual but has begun using leasing agencies that specialize in matching up tenants with landlords. I checked out the company he recommended and they charge a full month’s rent to place a tenant in my property. That seems like a lot, but I don’t seem to be able to generate any good prospective tenants on my own. Do you have any thoughts about leasing agencies?