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Ask A Landlord: Are Third-Party Rental Sites Worth The Money?

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Throughout Renters Week, a real live Los Angeles property manager (not technically a landlord, but with plenty of landlordy experience) will be answering reader-submitted, rental-related questions of all natures. Got a question? Send it to the tipline.

Do any landlords actually view the applications for apartments sent via 3rd party websites like Padmapper and livelovely? I like the latter's new streamlined application process, but considering it costs $20 for each application (a credit check is included in the price), I'm worried that the landlord will get it, then ask me to submit another credit check for another $20-$30.

Does it make sense to use those sites to apply? Or should I just apply directly to the source/landlord themselves? Also, Westside rentals seems to be a racket. If you use WR, do you also crosspost your listings elsewhere, and if so where? I'm assuming Craigslist, right?

Thanks for your time!


Hi M,

I have never taken an application using any source besides a scheduled walk-through or open house. A good property owner will either be present or have a good manager who is present for them for any interactions with future tenants. It feels pretty sketchy to sign a legally-binding, long-term document with someone sight unseen, doesn't it? In 10 years of my own renting, my best landlords have been the ones that I met in person.

We don't use Westside Rentals. They have a strong business model as an aggregator, but if time is on your side it might not be worth the money, and that goes for LiveLovely too. My take on them is that they exist to project a slick, higher-end image to tenants (well, maybe not WR…), but you can get the same results if you just dig a little. Many listings on these sites are also posted to Craigslist. And yes, it sounds like you might end up paying more than you have to if you use them. Credit score checks shouldn't cost more than $25 to $30 per person and it's completely possible that a landlord would want to get your score from their own trusted source before renting to you.

My building exclusively uses Craigslist for vacancies. Padmapper, especially the mobile/tablet app, is a godsend! It's an aggregator, so everything that's posted in other places shows up on their site. It also tells you where listings actually are, instead of relying on notoriously unreliable keyword searches--"Silverlake area" is my favorite and the most frequently abused. I would also refer you to the great collection of tips for renters right there on the sidebar.

In LA, you will have the best luck being proactive. It's a tough rental market for many reasons. Start your search early, and if you have a specific area in mind, check often. As in every-couple-of-hours often. Be ready to pounce and apply on-site if you go to a showing you like. Bring your checkbook for the credit check fee, maybe even keep your supporting documents saved in the cloud, using something like Dropbox so you can use a mobile app to email proof of income right from the showing. Maybe my approach is a little neurotic, but it helped me get my last place despite showing up to an open house with literally 30 other people there.
· All Renters Week 2013 posts [Curbed LA]