If you have great interpersonal skills, enjoy real estate and are highly organized, then an apartment finder business might be right for you. Have patience. You won't get rich overnight, but getting off on the right foot is half the battle to starting a successful business.
Check that the size of your town and that local business trends merit the need for an apartment locator business. If business start-ups are on the rise in your area, an influx of job seekers will likely need your services. On the other hand, a town facing high unemployment, poor school systems, declining business, and even a moderate population exodus may leave you scrambling for clients. Use sites such as City-data.com for information regarding the overall population and business growth or decline of cities in each state. Keep in mind also that if you do not live within an hour of the cities you represent that you will spend several hours on the road, incurring extra costs in gas, car upkeep and demands on your time.
Familiarize yourself with the rental market in your area. Stay on top of data regarding current rental prices in your search for comparable rentals. City-data.com also provides median rental prices for properties in most areas throughout your state. Read reviews of apartment complexes. Do a walk-through of the apartment rentals in your area. Your prospective clients need someone with firsthand knowledge of the best prices and properties available.
Obtain your business license and purchase insurance. Most states don't require a real estate license to run an apartment locating business. Check your state ordinances to prevent legal problems down the road.
Decide on a location for your business. A storefront business will incur the cost of office rental, utilities and manpower. While this may work well once your business has gained a strong footing, put up a website for now for just a few hundred dollars. A free website may sound appealing, but you need extras for this line of business including the ability to accept online payments. This feature isn't normally included with those freebies, nor do they include a straight "dot-com", i.e., buy your domain name. Designate a home office from which to work.
Set your pricing structure. The typical fees are half of the first month's rent. This can go higher if the client wants you to get utilities turned on and the apartment furnished by the time she arrives in town. Consider charging a small, nonrefundable deposit on any work you do in the event a client changes her mind after you've worked several hours and days to obtain the perfect place.
Build rapport with property owners and furniture leasing companies. These people are, in essence, your business partners. Staying on good terms with them benefits your clients in the long run, often with low cost or even free upgrades and special treatment.