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How to avoid paying an insane broker's fee when renting a Manhattan apartment?
July 8, 2006 1:41 PM   Subscribe

How to avoid paying an insane broker's fee when renting a Manhattan apartment?

My roommate and I are looking to move into a 2-bedroom apartment on Sept. 1.

All of the brokers that I found on Craigslist say the same thing - "You're moving at the worst time of the year, and our fee is 15% of annual rent."

There don't seem to be too many non-broker options.

What are some strategies for getting around this? As far as I see it, Craigslist has already failed us.
posted by Afroblanco to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
For what it's worth, a friend just moved into a new apartment last weekend and negotiated down to 10%. Citi Habitats, I think.
posted by mullacc at 1:48 PM on July 8, 2006


Go directly to the source: call the management company. They usually list their number on the side of the building.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:02 PM on July 8, 2006


Also, know that you can save yourself a whole assload of time calling the management company directly, because odds are that they'll own more than a couple of buildings. If they don't have any availability in the particular unit you're looking at, they might have some other units to choose from.

So you know, a big part of a broker's job is just calling management companies to see if they have any available units. Yeah, it's tough work, and so worth the 15% fee. /hates brokerslime
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:05 PM on July 8, 2006


I also paid 10% (Cherie Properties).

Also, I don't know if I would try this, but some people look at apartments through the broker, then contact the management company themselves, to bypass the broker and skip the fee.

If you're looking for Sept 1, you're better off focussing on places that are being renovated now -- you can end up with a much nicer place that way.
posted by rottytooth at 2:05 PM on July 8, 2006


Also, I don't know if I would try this, but some people look at apartments through the broker, then contact the management company themselves, to bypass the broker and skip the fee.

I'm shocked that anyone has gotten away with this. As far as I know, most management companies for decent buildings won't deal with renters directly at all, and will only go through brokers. If the broker found out that someone rented the apartment that they showed them, I'm pretty sure someone is on hook for the fee, either the renter (if they signed something saying they owed a fee to the broker if they rented an apartment said broker showed them) or the management company.
Anyway, big luxury-esque buildings tend to be the best places to find direct rentals. The financial district and midtown tend to have a lot of buildings like this. Otherwise, if you know of someone moving and needing to break their lease you might be able to get around the fee by taking over their lease directly. Honestly, though, if you want any sort of selection of apartments it is probably worth it to pay the fee. No one wants to, it's a scam, but the selection otherwise is total shit.
PS: the NYC craig's list housing forum is a pretty good place to ask questions like this.
posted by ch1x0r at 2:23 PM on July 8, 2006


some people look at apartments through the broker, then contact the management company themselves, to bypass the broker and skip the fee.

are you sure it's legal?
posted by matteo at 6:18 PM on July 8, 2006


It could be worse. In Japan here I pay about USD $1600 a month for my apartment. Before I could ever move in I had to put down about USD $7,700.
posted by jimdanger at 6:19 PM on July 8, 2006


are you sure it's legal?

Well, it's certainly sleazy, and most brokers (that I've dealt with) will make you sign something that says you won't do that, and that if you do you'll pay them the fee anyway. So, it's not illegal per se, but you're breaking a contract if you do and there's a high likelihood that you'll get sued.

However, walking around a prospective neighborhood, writing down the numbers of management companies, and doing the leg-work yourself is fine.
posted by bshort at 6:44 PM on July 8, 2006


are you sure it's legal?

The brokers make you sign a contract that says you will pay them if you rent an apartment they show you.

For this reason, in my experience the brokers will only tell you a general area, like a corner, to meet them and see an apartment, and they won't bring you to the actual building until you've signed.

Once, an inexperienced or dimmer-than-usual broker put a building address on Craigslist, and I just went there and peered through the front door for the super's number.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:45 PM on July 8, 2006


You can ask the broker to only show you "No-Fee" apartments (where the building pays the fee). That's what I did in Manhattan, and no-fee does not mean crappy.
posted by hammurderer at 7:31 PM on July 8, 2006


I have just been through this, and the best option is to negotiate with a broker to lower the fee - often possible if it's an exclusive to the broker, less so if it's a co-broke. No-fee apartments tend to have higher rents, so if you hope to renew the lease you'll end up paying more in the long run. You can get good deals on no-fees / no-broker apartments, particularly with owner-landlords who don't want to deal with a broker, but there is a lot of competition. You'll spend a lot of time doing it solo. In my opinion, if you can afford it, and can get a good broker, it's probably worth it (even though it's painful on the wallet).

Let me know if you want my broker's contact details.
posted by ny_scotsman at 8:09 PM on July 8, 2006


I found that the New York Times had a lot of legit, no-fee rentals listed - listing by the landlord, usually - when I moved into Manhattan. The Voice and Craigslist were worse than useless - just a bunch of shill ads for what turned out to be brokers.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:29 PM on July 8, 2006


scotsman - could you please send me his info? Email is in profile.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:38 PM on July 8, 2006


If you have enough free time and move-in date flexibility, you can avoid brokers' fees and get a decent apartment. It just takes a lot of patience. Do not believe anything brokers tell you—they have a hundred different "why we're necessary" stories.

My bf and I found our place listed on craigslist for Oct. 2004 move-in. The rent is a good deal according to everyone, and the lack of a fee just blows people away. It's a matter of persistence and not getting discouraged by the sleaze you'll encounter along the way.

(About the broker to no-broker switcheroo, I wouldn't do it but I wouldn't think badly of anyone who did. After I've been lied to by many brokers, posting in the wrong section of cl every five minutes, one broker called me "faggot"... just do what you need to do. They sure as hell will do the same.)
posted by Doctor Barnett at 8:41 AM on July 9, 2006


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