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Broker just showed us a big management company "no fee" apartment. I'm trying to be a decent guy here, but also don't want to overpay. He/ his company charges 15% of annual rent, said willing to go down to 12%. Do I understand it correctly that on any other apartment, where there is a listing broker, he would have made normally made no more than half of the total fee (i.e. 7.5%). Does that mean that 7.5% for a no-fee apartment would be the same as paying the whole fee on any other apartment? I thought that on most no-fees the management company pays the fees, but he said this wasn't the case. Any advice?
You're paying the broker to help find you an apartment. It has nothing do to with the listing being listed by the owner direct. If he is offering you a discount on his fee of 12% then that is a good deal. If you didn't want to pay a fee you should have never hired a broker, went to look for apartments on your own and filtered through the junk to find what best fits your needs.
Also 99% of landlords do not pay brokers fee below Harlem. Therefore the broker does have to collect his own fee by charging you. Buildings that are extremely overpriced or in the middle of no where like the Silver Towers pay brokers to bring clients to their building to help it stay occupied.
And not to get off subject but even with a no fee building like Silver Towers you are still paying the brokers fee in the end. Its just amortized into your rent. The worst part is you will continue to pay it year after year since they don't lower your rate after year one. So in some cases it makes sense for the owner to pay the fee. Smaller buildings need to stay competitive and therefore do not do this.
Why don't you look for an apartment by yourself? This process is not so difficult as it seems to be and you won't need to pay someone and waste money on brokers. There are many opportunities for people who sell, buy or want to rent real estate staying at home. Look through different websites where you can post your free ads and wait till someone calls you (for instance, I know one http://localmart.com/housing/) Or pay the broker if you want to do nothing.