Your NYC Apartment Broker Can Make Or Break You

Gotham Brokerage: The pros, cons and pitfalls of the hired flat-hunter
Apartment hunting in New York City is not like apartment hunting in Omaha or even Chicago.

People can go it alone, scouring Craiglist for the perfect Hell’s Kitchen love nest or crash pad, but they generally end up regretting it. NYC real estate isn’t just a briar patch; it’s a whole briar forest, and a skilled, professional real estate broker can help a prospective renter navigate it without getting torn to shreds.

104 East 17th Street, Union Square, Manhattan

Of course, note we say “skilled” and “professional.” Some apartment brokers out there know how to take advantage of people who aren’t used to the high-stakes poker game renting an apartment in the city can be. But good, reliable information is easy to find. Time Out New York has some good resources specifically related to apartment brokers. Here’s a list of good ones, and here are some examples of broker bad faith. A few prominent brokerage firms in NYC: CitiHabitats, Corcoran and Halstead.

Basically, an apartment broker is someone you hire to search for apartments based on what you’re looking for in price, size, neighborhood, etc., in exchange for a fee. The fee can be high — as much as 15 percent of the annual rent of the apartment you lease — but if the broker deals with you honestly and helps you find what you’re looking for, the expense is worth it.

Then again, the city crawls with stories of people ripped off one way or another by brokers who behave badly: The broker doesn’t call back; the broker finds your dream apartment, then arranges a rental to someone else under your nose; the broker colludes with the landlord to jack up the rent just before you move in. Complaints can go to the New York State Division of Licensing Services, but to avoid the hassle on the front end, keep these points in mind:

  • Do your homework. Have a basic knowledge of the neighborhood and state of the current real estate market before you meet with the broker.
  • Understand clearly what the broker’s fee is. Get it in writing.
  • Ask if the apartment you’re interested in is an open listing, in which case the broker might be willing to negotiate his or her fee down rather than risk losing business to a competing broker.
  • If possible, try not to get too attached to one property. Brokers are more likely to negotiate a better deal if the landlord thinks he has competition.

As always, once you find the apartment you want, give Gotham Brokerage a call. We can set you up with the perfect renters policy to insure everything of value in the apartment you’ve worked so hard to find.

Photo: Beyond My Ken – Wikimedia

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