To give rental listings wide exposure, landlords or owners sometimes choose to engage with agents and brokers in what is called an “open listing” arrangement. An open listing means several agents can have an agreement with the landlord or owner to represent the property whereas in an exclusive listing agreement, just one agent lists the property. That’s why if you view an open listing you could see multiple agents advertising on the listing in an effort to find a tenant for the property. The first agent to do so will get the commission.

Are Open Listings in Rentals and Sales?

Open listings are mostly in the NYC rental market and can happen in sales, but are extremely rare. The only time an open listing might exist in sales is if an apartment doesn’t sell during a six-month exclusive listing agreement and the agent continues to list the apartment without a contract in hopes of getting the commission. Zillow Group, StreetEasy and the Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY) do not allow open listings.

Which Type of Listing Should You Be Searching?

In a market as cutthroat as New York’s, it’s good to explore both open and exclusive listings. However, you should always be wary of bait-and-switches when sifting through open listings. When searching for an apartment in NYC, follow the same rule of thumb you would if you saw an empty subway car: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. If a $1,600/month two-bedroom on the Upper East Side has been on the market for 65 days, that’s a red flag.

In addition to bait and switches, renters should also be aware of agents taking them to see apartments with leasing offices. If you do decide to work with a rental broker to find an apartment, have a candid conversation with them in which you outline your expectations. It’s fair to say, “I’m excited to work with you, but please don’t take me to any buildings run by rental management companies.” This will prevent you from unwittingly having to pay a broker fee for a no-fee listing.