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Pros and Cons of Using a Broker to Find an Apartment

In most major U.S. cities, rarely will you use and pay a broker to help you find an apartment. But, New York City is different.

Whether you’re moving to New York City for the first time or you’re a seasoned New Yorker, you should know that you are in a super-competitive, ultra-costly city and you will be paying big bucks in rent, no matter how you cut it.  But, do you need a broker to find you an apartment? And, do no-fee listings really save you money?

Pros of using a broker

In New York City, a broker is the most direct way to gain access to different rental listings. Some benefits of using a broker:

  • They know the city and neighborhoods
  • They find the apartments
  • They might know of apartments not yet listed
  • They can help negotiate rent and lease

Cons of using a broker

  • You will pay a broker’s fee (one month’s rent or 12-15% of the annual rent)
  • You could be misled (i.e., “bait and switch tactics”)
  • You might not like their style
  • You might be shown apartments you don’t want or can’t afford

Do no-fee listings really save you money?

There is much debate whether no-fee listings actually save you money. No-fee buildings tend to be more expensive since they are bigger, have more units and more amenities. But, that usually means the monthly rent is higher. So, if you add up your monthly no-fee rent payment over 12 months and compare it to a rental with a one-time broker’s fee, you’ll see it’s pretty much a wash.

For example: A $3,200-a-month, 1-bedroom rental for which you pay a broker’s fee is comparable to a $3,700-a-month, 1-bedroom unit in a no-fee building.  Some people – especially those who can’t bear the idea of dealing with brokers – will head right to the management office of a no-fee building and pay the higher rent.

But, whether you decide to use a broker or not, keep in mind that the New York real estate market is not a consumer-friendly place – it’s hard to navigate solo and it’s hard to navigate with brokers.

Brokers will ostensibly try to help you, but at the end of the day they are also trying to collect a fee from you, too. That’s because this is New York, where everyone is just trying to make it and there’s just no way around that.

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