The Secret Benefits of Working as an Apartment Rental Agent

Agent hands apartment keys to new tenant
Photo by VGstockstudio / Shutterstock.com

Lucky me, I had landed a full-time dream job that was creative and fun. But like many dream jobs, the pay was incredibly low so I needed to supplement my income.

When I saw a part-time job as a leasing agent open at a nearby apartment complex — decent pay, flexible weekend hours, low stress — I thought that’d be a decent match for me.

It involved answering the telephone, talking to people about their backgrounds, showing prospective tenants the apartments and collecting rental applications.

I was paid to get familiar with the features and configurations of apartments so I could answer questions from prospective tenants. I watched as units were transformed from the empty, sometimes stinky messes that previous tenants left behind to attractive fresh-paint-smell units that were ready to lease.

All of that appealed to me. Plus, I found it fascinating to find out what people did for a living from their rental applications — we got everyone from newly minted physicians to highly paid go-go dancers.

The job was a great fit for what I needed, but other similar jobs might not have worked out as well for me. Leasing agent jobs differ widely from one property management firm to the next.

Here’s some of what I discovered:

Pay varies

Yes, I made more than minimum wage. Today, apartment rental agents make an average of $12.74 an hour, according to PayScale.com.

Now that’s not a windfall, of course, but some leasing agents receive other benefits, including breaks on rent and paid vacation or sick time. And some apartment communities offer bonuses when agents prompt someone to lease.

Duties differ

As a leasing agent, you explain details about available apartments and the community, such as if play areas are available. You also provide a list of rents.

After that, though, duties can vary. Some leasing companies want you simply to show vacant apartments. It’s just like it sounds — you walk to the vacant apartment, unlock the door and answer questions from the prospective tenant.

The property at which I worked only required me to do that and collect completed rental applications. I didn’t have to run credit checks, call references or collect security deposits. When I was not busy with applicants — which was often, especially during the winter — I was free to read books, write or take personal telephone calls.

That meant that I could actually do paperwork for my other job — as long as I promptly responded to prospective tenants.

Property management companies don’t always give their agents that much latitude. They may require agents to run credit checks and make telephone calls to check references of prospective tenants, handle tenant complaints and even monitor the playgrounds, laundry rooms and other on-site amenities. Some companies even want leasing agents to do light housekeeping around the model unit.

Before you apply

While working as a part-time rental agent suited me, it might not have if I went to another company. So, if the job sounds intriguing to you, do your homework:

  • Understand the pay rate. I was paid per hour for my work. Some agents are paid a minimal rate and then receive commissions when applicants they talk to are approved and accept apartments.
  • Ask about hours. Generally, there is a full-time agent or agents at various properties who do the bulk of the leasing work on the property. Sometimes, especially during spring and summer, part-time agents are needed to show units and answer prospective renters’ questions. Ensure you know if a shift is “yours” or if you would be expected to fill in as needed.
  • Ask about security. I never felt unsafe, though I sat alone in a rental unit. Still, I was in a very safe neighborhood in a safe part of town. Even so, strange things can happen. I had a two-way radio and could summon on-site help if needed. Even if you don’t think safety will be an issue, make sure you understand if security officers are available and how to summon them.
  • Check benefits. One reason I became a rental agent is because I received paid vacation time after six months. That was unusual for a part-time job. I didn’t stay in the business, but if you do well at it as a side gig, there is room for advancement. Some part-time rental agents became full-time employees at the management company that managed the complex. Others became full-time rental agents.
  • Remember, the job comes first. One reason the management company liked me was that I stayed in the office. That seems pretty basic, but it’s tempting to take a long, off-site lunch when business is slow. Yes, I had a lot of downtime but was expected to be on-site for the majority of the hours I was assigned. I could run out for a few minutes to grab a fast food meal, but that was about it. The property managers also gave me high marks for consistently wearing business attire on the job.
  • Consider that you can only advance so far without extra training. I was not interested in a career in property management, though the owners did offer me a full-time job. If I had accepted, I probably would have needed accounting, informational technology and other skills to move up the ladder.

Ready to get started? You’ll find leasing agent listings on major job sites, but a better idea might be to go to an apartment complex of interest to you and talk to the agents. Area rental agents generally know each other and are often more than willing to tell you what jobs are available and what they entail.

Do you have a side gig or part-time job to supplement your regular work? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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