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New York apartment search tips: How to work with a rental broker
Everyone knows the process of finding an apartment for
rent in New York City can be overwhelming, with everything from deciding
which neighborhood to live in to finding a pet-friendly home causing
major headaches. And, in theory, that’s where rental brokers come in:
You tell them what it is that you desire in a home and it is their job
to do all the pesky legwork for you.
While there are many good real estate brokers out there,
as with anything in life, there’s a chance that you’ll run into a
not-so-good one who most assuredly does not have your best
interest at heart. But how do you tell the good from the bad? Here are a
few things to look out for, and tips to help you avoid getting cheated
by a rental broker.
Is a broker right for you?
The first thing you should do is decide if you actually
need a broker in the first place. “People relocating to New York City
are often in need of a broker who will help them understand the city,
pack a number of showings into a several-hour tour and help negotiate
for the best deal,” explains Philip Lang, chief operating officer of
TripleMint. “Experienced New Yorkers often take a more DIY approach, the
success of which can largely be determined by their budget.”
Only you can decide if you feel comfortable enough going
the broker-less route, but know that working with one doesn’t
necessarily mean you won’t have to go through one once you find your
Fee or no fee?
If you spot an excellent apartment online (or elsewhere),
check to see if it comes with a “fee” (i.e., you’ll have to work with a
broker for the place and pay the equivalent of a finder’s fee) or “no
fee.” Websites like NakedApartments and StreetEasy have search options
that let you filter out apartments where that fee will be a necessity,
and in some cases, brokers are willing to waive their fees to help an
apartment move faster.
Craigslist is also still an option, but be careful for
scams. If you’re asked to send money to a broker upfront or an apartment
is priced questionably low, don’t just assume it’s because you’ve hit
Do your research
One of the best ways to find a good broker is to ask
friends who’ve had good experiences. But if you do cross paths with a
broker you’re unfamiliar with, make sure they are legit. Check out their
online reviews (through Yelp, sites like Curbed, and other places), and
do your research on the company they’re affiliated with.
“Though more than 90 percent of people start their search
online, the number one way that people find a broker is still through
friends,” explains TripleMint’s Lang. “If you can’t find a referral, go
to a brokerage that has five stars on Yelp. Odds are they will care
about your experience to make sure their profile stays stellar.”
Ask lots of questions
It’s always a good idea to ask plenty of questions before
paying or signing anything. Be sure to enquire about an agent’s
brokerage fee: some charge the price of the first month’s rent on your
new place, while others opt for a percentage of the first year’s rent
(15 percent is the industry standard).
If there is an application or credit check fee, find out
beforehand so you can plan accordingly. And if an apartment is
advertised as “Owner Pays,” the broker is likely getting paid from the
management company and you should be in the clear.
Don’t be afraid to move on
And finally, if you don’t think you think your broker has
your best interest at heart—if they’re pressuring you to take a place
you’re not 100 percent sold on, or if you suspect that they’re trying to
get away with getting paid from both ends—drop them like a bad habit
and move on.
We all know the struggle of trying to find an apartment that fits our needs, feels right, and is affordable! Searching for hours and hours on end can get discouraging and exhausting. At Apartment List, we believe that the entire renter experience should be as stress-free and efficient as possible, and that the more you know about the rental market, the more pleasant your experience will be. So here are our 8 best tips for finding an apartment you can afford!
Tip #1: Get roommates.
The best way to be able to afford a place is to get more people in it. You’re much more likely to find an affordable apartment on a larger, combined budget than on a single income.
For example, this apartment community in Austin costs ~$930 for a
1-bedroom, but only ~$1,215 for a 2-bedroom apartment – that’s $300 a
month in savings, or almost 35%. Also, you’ll likely also save on
utilities, furniture, and other charges (TV, internet, etc.), which can
add up quickly.
Tip #2: Find out which moving times are most popular for renters, and avoid them.
Although unit availability goes up during popular move times for
renters, the increased demand drives rent prices up substantially too.
Take into account where you’re looking to live – are there universities
nearby? Does the weather change seasonally, or is it fairly standard all
year round? Areas that are close to colleges and universities tend to
experience the highest turnover of renters between semesters, especially
during the summer. People also try to avoid relocating in inclement
weather, so most moves happen during the most weather-reliable seasons
of an area (also often during the summertime).
During the “off” seasons, so to speak, landlords are much more likely
to give you a deal on rent in order to keep up their occupancy. If you
time it right, you’ll find yourself in a much better position for
negotiating (or simply being offered) a cheaper rent!
Tip #3: Know your stuff.
Does the property charge extra for pets or parking? A standard pet
fee and deposit will usually run you $500, with a monthly pet rent that
varies depending on location. Pet rents in Orlando generally hover
around $10-15, but they can be as high as $50 in San Diego. The same
goes for parking; covered parking is usually a little more affordable
(~$40), but garage parking is typically the most expensive, with charges
of $100 or more a month in places like Seattle.
Some more questions to ask might be, Will you pay for your own utility use only, or does the property utilize RUBS (Ratio Utility Billing Systems)? If you’re a conservative water user, you won’t want to get stuck paying for someone else’s hour-long showers! BONUS: Check to see if the property you’re looking at offers military discounts and/or preferred employer discounts. Taking a few minutes to find out these answers and plan ahead can save you a ton of money and time!
Tip #4: Check out brand new properties.
Brand new building in the area? Don’t automatically assume you can’t
afford to live there just because it’s shiny and new! Most new
properties offer the first month’s rent free to all of their new
tenants. Some offer additional freebies too, like parking spaces.
Depending on your budget, these perks could make up a large enough cut
to make that sparkly apartment perfectly affordable for you.
Tip #5: Look at middle floor units.
Rent prices tend to be higher for units that are either on the lower or higher levels of the building. This is because people love great views, and want easy access to their homes. But if you’re willing to have a less-than-perfect view and take the stairs/elevator instead of coming in straight off the street, you could save yourself big bucks.
Tip #6: When you find a place you like, jump on it!
Most people don’t realize that rent prices can change daily. (Our
Customer Service Team has seen rents fluctuate as much as $30 in a
single day.) If you find a place you love and the price works for you,
it could serve you well to express interest, let the leasing agent know
you’re serious, and even fill out your application right on the spot! If
you know you’ve found the right fit, don’t fall into the trap of
accidentally increasing your overall financial burden just because you
decided to think on it for a while. Take the leap!
Tip #7: Negotiate on a fixer-upper.
Consider committing to an apartment that’s under-budget, and make
improvements yourself if the landlord won’t cover it. If all the place
needs is a fresh coat of paint or a new faucet fixture, these are
one-time fixes that will be much cheaper in the long run than renting a
more expensive apartment that has all the perks.
If the place is in desperate need of a makeover, take your
negotiating skills a step further and make an agreement with the
landlord to pay a fixed low rent for a certain number of years, in
exchange for completely fixing the place up at your own cost. Depending
on how well you negotiate, you’ll get a great rent rate from the start
and will stand impervious to rent hikes for a few years.
Tip #8: Choose your amenities wisely.
In-unit laundry vs. onsite laundry. Renovated unit vs. non-renovated.
Most renters prefer having in-unit laundry and living in a nicely
upgraded apartment. Those units tend to get snatched up first and have a
higher demand, so property owners can afford to raise rents on them.
Choosing an apartment that doesn’t have these luxuries might not be as…
well… luxurious, but you could get a pretty awesome reduction in your
rent cost for minimal inconvenience!
Apartment hunting is rarely something people look forward to or
enjoy. But with these tips, and a great rental listing website, you can
cut down on the unpleasant elements of the search and feel like a total
boss when you successfully find the perfect match. Armed with these tips
and a great team behind you, go forth and reap the results!