Secrets NYC Realtors Won’t Tell You When to Apartment Hunt

Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

Finding an apartment that you can actually afford with your starving writer/subway musician/post-grad earning hopeful is an overwhelming and difficult process. And, in theory, that’s precisely why you need a real estate agent to help you navigate the market (or, more generally, keep your head on).

But even that can be a surprisingly difficult experience – brokers in NYC have long been stereotyped as seedy (financing higher fees, lying about available properties, writing shoeboxes as “charming” and “quaint”), it that’s why we asked a handful of real estate industry experts to spread the insider knowledge that many brokers keep secret.

You have access to virtually all the same information as your broker

“Nowadays, everything is available on Streeteasy.com,” says Julie Gans, Triplemint’s agent. “If you seek at the same time as [a broker]you usually see the ads at the same time as [them].”

In fact, if you meet certain criteria, there is probably no reason to use a broker. According to Triplemint agent Josh Heyer, if you’ve rented in New York before, have an in-depth knowledge of New York’s neighborhoods, and have unlimited time to search, you should save at least a month’s rent by finding an apartment. without intermediary. That being said, if any of these factors are off, it’s a good idea to seek expert help.

A good broker will weed out anything that doesn’t work for reasons that might not be obvious on StreetEasy or Craigslist. For example, you may find an affordable studio on the Lower East Side that looks great, but don’t realize you’ll have to pay a number of unlisted fees, like multiple security deposits, or provide a guarantor up front. “Sometimes these types of policies are listed on [a management company’s website]adds Heyer. “But not often.”

A well-connected real estate agent should also be able to find you at least a few exclusive listings. “A good broker should know about management companies in your target neighborhood that don’t actively advertise to the public,” says Heyer.

You can negotiate brokerage fees

If you choose to work with a broker, “it’s always worth asking for a discount [on the] brokerage fees,” says Lawrence Lee, an agent for Triplemint. “The worst that can happen is that they say no.”

Lee notes that a standard fee might be 15% of a year’s rent, but if an apartment has been on the market for a few weeks, you might consider paying 10-12% — or as little as one month’s rent.

Most likely, brokerage fees aren’t going to go away completely – after all, real estate agents rely on commissions to make a living. But it is possible to arrange for the owner or property manager to pay the costs. Ask your broker to offer you this concession during negotiations.

Watch out for buzzwords

You know them: the pleasant but excruciatingly vague descriptors brokers use to describe deeply flawed apartments.

Lee explains that “quaint” means “dated,” while any combination of the words “quiet, peaceful, or serene” likely suggests your apartment is dark and faces a brick wall. And Gans cautions against the words “lovely” and “one of a kind” – which probably means it’s a totally weird space with a bathroom in the middle of the living room and a skylight that looks directly into the kitchen of the upper apartment. If an apartment seems too good to be true, chances are it is.

You can’t just redo the layout of an apartment

It’s not uncommon to hear an agent say, “you can easily add a wall to create a bedroom” or open up a space by “creating a half wall.” What they won’t tell you, according to an unnamed real estate agent, is that while a project like this may seem relatively affordable in terms of materials and labor, it’s actually much more complex and can easily cost you over $10,000. “You have to hire an architect to submit plans to the [Department of Buildings]“, explains the agent – ​​which makes all these studio agents trying to sell studios much less attractive.

You can get a rent reduction without a broker

It is increasingly common for tenants to obtain concessions on an apartment, such as reduced rent. If you know how to negotiate with a landlord or property manager, you might be surprised at how many incentives a landlord will offer to fill a vacant space.

Still, it can be helpful to have an expert on your side. Heyer says officers know “possible push points” that can help you get a break. Maybe this property manager has a habit of offering free parking, a free month, or waiving a security deposit — something an ordinary New Yorker might not know. Your realtor will have access to information about recent rentals – and what concessions owners and property managers have made on comparable units.

Brokers often omit key information

There are many ways for a broker to easily conceal information about an apartment. For example, “Some unscrupulous brokers won’t tell you if an apartment gets a lot of street noise at night,” says Sarah Linney, chief content officer at Triplemint.

If you’re not 100% familiar with the neighborhood (or specific block), do your due diligence. Maybe the building is above a bar that’s open until 4 a.m., or there’s non-stop construction going on in the lot across the street. Maybe that nondescript building around the corner is a fire station. Whenever possible, chat with other tenants and find out about the real life situation. How fast does the on-site super fix things? Does the neighborhood get rowdy on weekends? Will the screaming sirens keep you up all night? These are details that, even if your broker knows about them, they might be hesitant to share.

Be sure to see all available units

If there is more than one unit in a building up for grabs, ask the broker to see them all. An anonymous agent recalls a building where some of the units looked just redone, while others were clearly leaking due to a rainstorm. If you receive a call saying you have been approved, but for another unit that is “the same”, do not accept without seeing the location first. Lazy brokers who want to close the fastest deal possible can simply show a unit – or continue to show the best-looking unit even when it’s no longer available.

Get everything in writing

Are heating and hot water included in your rent? Will the apartment be cleaned and repainted by a professional before moving in? Compass agent Joe Quiros says some brokers will say anything to get a deal. The only way to be sure that all of these promises are accurate (or actually coming true) is to make them official and include them in your lease. “If you don’t work with a broker who represents you,” says Quiros (if you go directly to a listing agent, for example), “you [need to] get everything in writing.

Sign up here to receive our daily email from New York and be the first to enjoy all the food/drink/fun New York has to offer.

Melanie Taryn Lieberman is a New York-based writer who suggests new tenants choose a realtor they actually enjoy spending time with. Because you will spend a lot of time with this person.

Kristan F. Talley