You’re already looking for an apartment, now you have to look for an agent? Seems counterproductive, right? While, you might not want to pay for a real estate agent or take the time to find one, but I think it’s hard to find apartments without any professional assistance, and the expense might be worth it.

There are a lot of different options for realtors; you can work with a realty company and their agents, an independent agent, or even one of your parent’s friends that happens to be a well-known real estate agent (I scoffed at the last option and definitely regretted it later).

Finding the right agent might take just as long as finding the right apartment. We went through several agents before we found a good fit.

Real estate agent #1: The No-Show

After finding a company online that had several properties we were interested in, my roommate and I set up an appointment to see four apartments with a real estate agent in that company. We were incredibly excited to get into these place and arrived at the first location straight from work with our tape measures, cameras and questions. We also brought along two other friends (an extra set of eyes can never hurt, especially if you’re seeing more than one property).

Fifteen minutes had passed from the time we were supposed to meet the agent and she still wasn’t there. We kept waiting. 20 minutes became 25 and, finally, we called her. She apparently didn’t know we were supposed to be meeting, although she did mention it was odd that she had an hour and a half opening in her schedule.

She called back saying she could show us one of the properties if we wanted to wait 30 minutes. We declined. She called back again and went into a rant about how she was stressed at work and over-extended and she hoped we could still work together. We declined on that front as well.

We never did see inside those apartments.

Real estate agent #2: All Style, No Substance

Eager to put our last experience behind us and desperate to see an actual apartment in the area, we moved on with the search. We found another company and another realtor that seemed to be on the ball.

She even showed up to the viewing…however, she didn’t have any keys to the apartment.

She also didn’t have much knowledge about the surrounding area, the building maintenance expenses and other no-brainer questions we asked.

She showed us a vacant unit in the building we were interested in, but didn’t know the price or square footage of the unit. She noticed we were getting a bit restless and sort of broke into the unit we were supposed to see. The residents were inside, and not happy. We were ushered in—and out—in about five minutes.

She continued to send us listings from her company, but none of them followed our parameters. The search for the fairy apartment-mother continued.

Real estate agent #3: Towing the Company Line

The next real estate agent we worked with was great. She got to the place early, called to make sure we knew where we were going and showed us two different units.

While we were interested in the place she showed us, we weren’t ready to commit to anything, especially since this had been the first proper apartment viewing we’d had so far. This hesitation on our part began the threats of “this place won’t be here for much longer” and “you can’t wait in this market, it’s not college anymore.” Lovely.

To apply to the apartment—that we might not even get—required a non-refundable application fee somewhere in the ballpark of $75 a pop. When we asked about the application fee she said it was the norm in the area and we wouldn’t apply to a single apartment without paying something up front.

We decided not to apply for the place, and wanted to keep working with the real estate agent, but her company had only three buildings it listed, so if we wanted any other apartment we’d have to find someone else. Alas, the downside of realty companies.

A friend recommended we use an independent company with a variety of properties and agents. We went for it, sure that things would finally work out.

They didn’t.

Tune in next week to see how the independent, “free” apartment finding company took $800 from me before I signed a lease.