"Why won't an agent help me rent something?" Although I'm paraphrasing, I hear this a lot when potential tenants come to view my rental listings. Let me help demystify it a little bit.
First, you need to understand that agents work on commission. They do not get a salary. So if they don't rent or sell something, they get no paycheck -- and let's face it, no paycheck is a bad thing. Thus, agents are going to be looking to work with those clients who are the most serious about working with an agent to get a property. That usually ends up being home buyers or sellers, not renters.
"Nonsense!" you say? Well, you may be a serious renter, but I've seen numerous examples of serious renters having an agent take them around to see alot of rentals and then turn around and rent something on their own they found on a website somewhere. Nothing illegal about that, but imagine how the agent feels. They've spent the time and gas money working with someone who was just as happy to rent something on their own. I know, that's life, get over it. But it's awfully hard to do when as an agent you're making usually less than 25% of month's rent for your trouble for a single rental.
If you can appreciate this basic concept of agents wanting to know that they'll be paid at the end of the day for their time, then you're ready to understand that different agents work with renters in different ways. I know some agents who send the rental listings to the prospective tenant and tell them to drive by each and then let the agent know which they really want to see. I know other agents who give the listing agent's name and phone number to the renter so they can contact the listing agent directly to set up a showing. Still other agents have a maximum number of properties they will show any one tenant. And I bet there are agents who charge the tenant for their services. It's all about what the agent is willing to commit to the individual renter and what the prospective tenant is willing to commit to the individual agent. The relationship has to work for both sides.
Bottom line, know whether you want an agent to work with you as a team to find something and that you're willing to commit to them exclusively, or whether you want an agent just to show you stuff. Once you know that, then you can approach agents in a way that neither they nor you will be disappointed.