How to Get the Apartment You Want, Part 1: Should I Use a Broker?

This week I will be outlining the process of renting an apartment in New York, drawing from my own perspective and experience as a broker. The first question on every renter’s mind is should you use a broker? I am a broker, so I say “hell yeah!” But seriously, I realize that many people don’t want to pay that fee and in reality, it’s a basic question of time and resources. Would you rather spend time or money? Do you even have time to look for an apartment on your own? Do you believe that it is worth paying somebody else to go looking for apartments on your behalf?

And here we get to the main issue many people have when employing the services of a broker. They don’t really understand what the broker’s job should be. A good broker should be 1) working to protect the interests of the landlord by ensuring that tenants are screened properly; and 2) working for the prospective tenant to find the best possible apartment that fits their budget and lifestyle. It’s my belief that many tenants go about their search in the wrong way by calling a dozen brokers whose listings they see on Craigslist, booking a dozen appointments and running around like crazy and still paying a fee at the end. The best thing you can do is interview a few brokers and pick the one that you think will work hard for you, communicate with you, one who knows the market and can understand what you are looking for. Craigslist is not a bad place to start. Click on a few ads and see if you get any kind of sense of whether the broker is honest and hard-working, call them or email them and see if you get a good feeling about them and if so, spend an afternoon or a day looking at apartments with them and if they take you to places you would conceivably be comfortable living then you’ve found yourself a broker you can work with! Now, you have someone looking for an apartment for you all the time. A hard-working broker will see more apartments in a week than you could stand to look at in a lifetime, they know the newest listings, upcoming vacancies and how the building is maintained–and this is where their services are valuable for busy New Yorkers.

Tomorrow: how long should I look for an apartment? What is the best time of year?


6 Responses to “How to Get the Apartment You Want, Part 1: Should I Use a Broker?”

  1. 1 syk July 29, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    I’m not sure if all brokers are like this…
    My sister and my mother were discussing the broker’s fee payment (13% annual fee) and they allowed us to pay with a credit card WITHOUT mentioning the 5% surcharge. When we contacted them later to pay them, THAT was when they mentioned the surcharge. We told them that if they had mentioned this 5% fee, we wouldn’t have agreed to a credit card payment, and yet they continued to assert that they had mentioned this fee.
    Thanks to her, now I believe that all brokers in Manhattan are jerks and liars.

  2. 2 Michelle July 29, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    I’m sorry that happened to your sister. It could be possible that they made a mistake or maybe this particular person was indeed shady. I 100% realize dishonest stuff like this happens left and right and that’s why I think that interviewing a few brokers can be a good idea, rather than just going with whoever you initially contact via craigslist or some other site. See who has listings that catch your eye and and then screen them to determine if they will work for you.

    Most brokers have access to the same listings and by interviewing them and viewing them as potential candidates for a job you can try to figure out who you think will work hard for you, will be honest and gracefully handle their role as an intermediary in an expensive transaction. It’s also a great idea to ask friends who have used the services of a broker if they were happy with the service they got.

  1. 1 How to Get the Apartment You Want, Part 2: Questions of Timing « NYC Rentopia Trackback on July 29, 2008 at 1:37 pm
  2. 2 How to Get the Apartment You Want, Part 3: Preparing Your Paperwork « NYC Rentopia Trackback on July 31, 2008 at 2:42 pm
  3. 3 Broker and Client Relationship-Building « NYC Rentopia Trackback on August 12, 2008 at 7:03 pm
  4. 4 What You Need to Know Before you Rent via the NY Times « NYC Rentopia Trackback on August 25, 2008 at 10:55 am

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About Me

Michelle Erfer is a licensed Real Estate Salesperson in New York City.
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