Image of nyc real estate agent doing business on the street

You make calls from the subway platform, negotiate price strategy from the back of a cab and close deals as you walk down the street. This is the life of a NYC real estate agent. (Getty)

The average salary for a NYC real estate agent is $104,180.  That’s substantially higher than the average real estate agent salary nationwide and it should be! Working as a NYC real estate agent is challenging. Here are ten reasons why. 

1. There Are No Lockboxes

In other parts of the country, you can leave keys in a “lockbox,” which allows a buyer’s agent to access the property without the listing agent being present. In NYC, that’s not the case — both the listing agent and the buyer’s agent have to be there. Scheduling a simple viewing often becomes an exercise of calendar coordination gymnastics. 

2. The Majority of New Yorkers Rent

With over 66% of New Yorkers planning to rent rather than buy their next apartment, there’s a lot of potential business in the NYC rental market.  Unfortunately, the commission size for a rental is a whole lot smaller than it is for a sale. Typically, rental agents receive a commission of 15% of the annual rent or a month’s rent. Right now, the median asking price for a rental in NYC is $2,800. That nets to a commission of between $2,800-$5,040 and usually about  60% of that goes to your brokerage. That means you’re taking home between to $1,200-$2,000 per deal. How many deals of that size do you need to make to earn a living?

3. Co-ops Are Complicated

In other cities, most of the apartment stock is made up of condos, but here in New York City, we have both condos and co-ops. Because of their cooperative ownership structure, buying a co-op can be more complicated than buying a condo and involves a stringent co-op board approval process.It will be your responsibility to help your clients prepare for their co-op board interview and it will fall to you to prepare their co-op board package. Be forewarned: Co-op board packages require extensive paperwork and often a printer!

4. Travel Time and Expenses Are High

Agents must be ready to travel all across the city to show listings. And unfortunately, there’s no fool-proof way to get around fast. Public transportation is often unreliable, especially on weekends when agents are their busiest. Driving is no better and street parking is impossible. Many agents opt for cabs or ride shares, which gets pricey fast. Our tip? Invest in a good pair of shoes and a monthly Metrocard. 

5.  Your Phone Will Always Be on 19%

Agents in other parts of the country can charge their phones from their car between appointments, but NYC agents either have to invest in a power bank, get super-savvy about saving their battery or plug in at showing. The latter is not so classy, but, sometimes, you got to do what you got to do. 

6. Floor Plans Are Crucial

In many other markets, home shoppers expect to see listings with garages and  pantries. In New York City, they expect to listings with floor plans. If a listing doesn’t have a floor plan, buyers may be skeptical or request to see one before visiting the apartment. While floor plans are common for sales properties, they are less common for rentals, which can be a major pain point. 

The Department of Buildings houses a database of floor plans for sales, which you can download for free. If you’re representing a listing without a floor plan — whether it’s a sale or rental — and you can’t find it on the DOB’s website, consider investing in making a floor plan.

7. Co-ops and Rentals Don’t Have Square Footage

In New York City, most co-ops and rentals lack square footage records, which makes marketing them very challenging. Square footage is top on the list for most NYC home shoppers and it’s often the first question they will ask about. Condos, on the other hand, do have square footage details, which can make it all the more frustrating that co-ops and rentals don’t.

8. There’s No MLS

New York City has no central MLS. And while StreetEasy pretty much serves as the de facto MLS for home shoppers, it’s a different story for agents who use countless different paid subscription services to enter their listings, harvest leads, communicate with clients and search for listings.

Earlier this year, StreetEasy a major upgrade to our listing entry platform and released a new app, which allows agents to manage listings on the go. You will still need to use other platforms, but hopefully these updates will cut down on the number of windows open on your browser!

9. Many Landlords Don’t Have Offices

While many rentals in New York City are managed by rental management companies or leasing agencies, tons of them are managed by small, mom-and-pop operations. These operations often do not have central offices and operate in a more informal fashion. This can make it very difficult to track down a landlord in the middle of day to get a set of keys or sign a contract. 

10. New Yorkers Think They Know Everything

New Yorkers think they know everything — it’s part of our charm, right? And while many New Yorkers do know a lot about a lot of things, buying, selling and renting of apartments are highly complex transactions. As a New York City real estate agent, it’s your job to educate them on the nuances of the market, guide them through the process, and, yes, above all else be patient.