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Too Fancy to Search Craigslist? Try a Broker

While brokers have been almost a requirement in other expensive rental markets like New York and Boston, San Francisco renters have traditionally been a little more do-it-yourself. But what if you're short on time or daunted by craigslist? We talked to local broker Craig Berendt, who has been in the business since 2004, about the ins and outs of hiring a broker. "The past two years have been huge," said Craig, with people working for big tech firms and start-ups looking to relocate into the city. Those higher-paid tech workers may have more money than time to look for a rental, or perhaps their company is footing the bill. So why might you use one?

While we don't have "broker-only" apartments here in SF, there are units you might not see without one. If you're short on time -- if you're relocating and only in town for a few days or your lease is running out next week -- then a broker might be for you. Just kicking the tires and already know your way around the neighborhoods? Stick to searching on your own for now.

The first thing a good broker will do is try to match your preferences with a neighborhood in the city. This makes a lot more sense for newcomers, of course, but the knowledge of neighborhood prices can help even locals narrow their search. A broker may need to temper your expectations if you're looking to get a three-bedroom house for $1,000 and to keep your pet komodo dragon: they know what's an average price for neighborhoods and types of rentals.

After narrowing down the search, a broker will then reach out to his or her network: starting with properties they represent and then calling other property management firms or brokers to get you an "in" on listings that may not be public yet. They'll also do craigslist work for you, calling individual landlords. They'll set up times for you to view the apartment or go to open houses with you if that's the only option.

Brokers may spend anywhere from 30-40 hours work on your case, depending on how picky you are or how slim the pickings are. On average you'll pay about a month's rent to a broker, which may be worth your while if you're short on time or have something really specific you're looking for -- think neighborhood, pets, budget. Depending on where you decide to rent, brokers may also get paid by the property owner.

If you're looking for a good broker, the first place we'd suggest is Yelp. If you're relocating, your company may pay for or suggest one, but it's best to check that broker out ahead of time as a free broker is not necessarily the best kind. You should look for someone who is available (they take your calls), has integrity (they are going to represent you well), and who has connections in the rental industry.

What do you think, dear readers? Would you pay another month's worth of rent if it meant skipping the line and having someone else do the grunt work? Or is the hunt just part of the fun?
· Berendt Properties
[Photo via Shutterstock]