Steps to Start an Apartment Locating Business
If you are interested in starting an apartment locating business, here are the steps you need to follow:
1. Obtain a Real Estate License
Most states require a real estate license to be an apartment locator. Unfortunately, it is not easy to compile a comprehensive list of states that do or do not require a real estate license. We have attempted to contact every state licensing board but only a few have ever been willing to give a definitive answer. Some states that did not require a license in the past, have changed their laws to require one now. Before starting an apartment locating business, assume you do need a real estate license unless you receive written confirmation from your state licensing board that it’s not required.
As an apartment locator you are representing the needs of another. Most states require a real estate license to hold you accountable for ethical and moral representation and to ensure you put the other person’s need above your own.
2. Write a Business Plan
The members only section includes action plans and checklists to write a business plan that outlines your goals, target market, services, and marketing strategies. You can’t be successful without a written plan and timeline. There is a recommended book list. The members only section also includes professional communication templates, personalized lease verification form and guest card, commission dispute templates, and the commission collection guide to help you set up your business process.
After you write your business plan you set up your systems. Each process needs to be written down so it can be duplicated. Ideally, you will delegate non-licensed tasks to a virtual assistant as you grow. Our forms, templates, and action plans are specifically written for apartment locators.
3. Register Your Business
Register your business with the relevant authorities and obtain any necessary licenses and permits. If your state does not require a real estate license, they may require another type of license. Take the time to thoroughly research this topic because in our experience a quick Google search is not adequate. Apartment locating is a small industry, there isn’t an abundance of information about certification. To set up an LLC, register with the Secretary of State website and obtain a Tax ID number on IRS.gov.
4. Set Up a Website and Social Media Accounts
Set up a website and social media accounts to promote your business and attract clients. An online presence is necessary to attract and retain clients. Online reviews play a huge role in referral business as people look for social proof before using any online service. A Google business profile is free and is an excellent source of leads and builds your organic SEO. We recommend collecting reviews on Google over Yelp because Yelp has made changes to their algorithm in the past to reduce the number of online leads displayed. Google is free and your number one client is Google.
5. Subscribe or Build an Apartment Database
Our founder and president, Jodi Southwick is the creator of Locator IDX. It’s the easiest way to integrate locator friendly properties on your website. It includes a searchable apartment locating website but if you are building a WordPress website it includes a data feed. Locator IDX is a suite of products for apartment locating professionals. It’s a front-end and back-end system for brokers, teams, and individual agents. It’s customizable to fit your needs and market. Learn more at https://locatoridx.com.
The apartment locating industry is so small, and collecting apartment data is so difficult there are only a couple of apartment locating databases in existence. You can do a basic Google search to find out which databases are available in your area and compare features and benefits before subscribing to the one that best fits your needs.
6. Set Up Invoicing
Apartment locators get paid by the apartment community after moving in. In most states, the commission is paid to your broker, who distributes your percentage of the commission per their payment policies. Some brokers take care of invoice collection, and some brokers expect the agent to take care of it. Make sure you have written instructions from your broker on how to process commission checks because the process needs to start immediately after your client moves in. Any delay submitting the invoice to the apartment community, providing all documents they require, and following up on the status of the invoice in a timely manner reduces your chances of collecting the invoice. If a property is purchased or obtains new management, it is very difficult to collect commission from the previous management. The members only section includes a comprehensive commission collection guide with instructions, email templates, and best practices to collect your invoices. Using a CRM or online accounting service to automate your invoice reminders until the invoice is paid is very important.