The rental market in Northern Virginia is like no other beast I have ever seen. This place is crazy! Just like the housing sales market, the rentals are hard to come by- low supply and high demand. The homes in the areas with great schools and commutes will have multiple applicants and owners can virtually cherry pick their tenants while eating grapes and sipping a glass of wine! It doesn’t really matter to them (in some cases) who was in line first. Many properties are secured before they even go on the market via word of mouth for those who are lucky enough to have a good friend living in the area already.
The way you go about renting here is also quite different than most places. Usually you find a rental through various online websites (Craigslist, Military by Owner, and others) which are listed obviously by owners themselves or property management companies. However, in Northern Virginia there’s one more very prominent resource for rentals- Realtors. You may wonder why it is so darn hard to do a rental search for homes here. No matter where you go, you get directed to these search engines with listings from multiple real estate companies. These rentals are tied to the Multiple Listing System where they are listed with agents and you need an agent to see those properties.
Typically this doesn’t cost anything to the renter (unless and agent wanted to charge you). Ideally, you want to work with one agent who can help you with the search and show you homes. The agent can receive a commission which is paid by the owner of the property if you choose that rental. If you go with a ‘by owner’ house, then no commission is received. A Realtor may have you sign an agreement saying that you allow them to represent you in the rental transaction and you allow them to receive any commissions available from the listing broker for a home that they have shown you. That’s why you would want to contact and work with one Realtor throughout the process as a courtesy for their time in helping you.
I hope this helps you understand the process here in Northern Virginia. I am happy to help you in any way possible. If you have questions regarding this post or the local area, please give me a call. Angie McDaniel 703-677-6902