Negotiate finder's fee in soft market

Rent it Right

Q: My wife and I are looking for an apartment in a cool area of town, and fortunately there’s a lot to choose from. Many of the listings are handled by apartment-finding companies. Some of them charge the tenants if they find a rental through the company, and some of them say it’s free, that the landlord pays the rental fee. Should we avoid the ones that will charge us? Why should we pay when there are many listings that we can rent without the fee? –Joe and Alisha F.

A: In a soft market, as you describe, it’s unusual for apartment-finding agencies to ask tenants to pay the fee if they find a rental through the agency. Most landlords who use these services understand the workings of the market, and know that the pool of applicants will be smaller if the prospect has to tack on a finding fee to the regular costs of renting an apartment. As you say, it makes no sense to pay a fee when there are plenty of places you could rent without one.