NYC broker recommendations
April 23, 2007 7:29 AM   Subscribe

NYC broker recommendations and resources

The boyfriend and I are hoping to move within Manhattan soon, and are in the uniquely advantageous position of having a flexible end-date to our current lease, having the budget to afford an apartment in our ideal neighborhoods, and having most of the moving and brokerage costs reimbursed by his company. This last point, combined with our laziness, means that we want to go through a broker. I’ve read previous threads about renting in New York (1, 2, 3, 4), and understand that there is a strong anti-brokerage firm sentiment here. But given that we’ve already decided to use one, can you help us out with the following:

1. Recommendations for (or against) a particular firm or agent? We are especially interested in brokers that cover Chelsea and the West Village areas. Personal recommendations or anecdotes are appreciated, as well as links to helpful forums.

2. I’ve read that late summer/early fall is the worst time to look for apartments. How true is this? And does going through a broker mitigate this at all?

3. How long can we expect this process to take, given that hopefully most of the legwork will be done by someone else?

Thanks all!
posted by twoporedomain to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any recommendations, but I'm sure you'll get lots of annecodtes. Late summer/early fall are busy times because a lot of leases start/expire around then. Using a broker is not going to mitigate this in the least and is not going to make things any easier for you. In the large majority of cases, you have to go through a broker to get an apartment in Manhattan. Do not think for a moment that they do ANY legwork for you; they don't. NYC is not the kind of rental market where you sign up with a broker and then they do all the work of looking for apartments on your behalf. What happens more commonly is that you search for listings (Craigslist, NYTimes, Village Voice), call the number and are shown the apartment by a broker. That's it. You hand your paperwork to the broker, who deals with the landlord. If you get the apartment, you pay the broker and sign a lease. People usually start looking for apartments 4-6 weeks before their desired move-in date; if you look any earlier the brokers won't really deal with you. (I'm sure you've heard this before, but make sure you have all your paperwork in order and ready to go BEFORE you start looking. If you find a place you like, you almost always have to act immediately.)
posted by agent99 at 8:40 AM on April 23, 2007

Thanks agent99. I guess I was envisioning contacting a place like CitiHabitats or QualityLiving, where they have dozens of properties in the neighborhoods of interests, and scheduling appointments through them. But you're saying it's better to get listings through individual classified ads?
posted by twoporedomain at 9:19 AM on April 23, 2007

Citi-habitats was a good, professional experience.
Best Apartments was terrible.
Not sure how big they are in your neighborhood though.
When I've looked, the classifieds are best if you want short-term sublet, or want to move into a bedroom in an already-occupied, multi-bedroom apartment.
I found it near-useless for finding studios in the UWS, for example. What kind of unit are you looking for? The market for studios is different than say, 2 bedrooms. (Though I assume since its 2 of you want a 1 bedroom or studio?)

As far as timing, late-spring/early-summer can be troublesome as well, as there is a big runup in demand from students and new college hires moving down to the city. I looked over the course of 3 weeks and actually saw one unit twice, with a $300 increase end-of-May versues beginning-of-May. There is a lot out there at least.

You can find a place in as little as one day, and handle all the paperwork/money same-day or next-day. In fact, have your money in all the right accounts and be ready to go get a cashiers check quickly..

Individual units can move very quickly (go from listed to sold in 1-3 days).. so you may actually see other prospective renters looking at a place at the same time as you, and there are actually even bidding wars on rental places, as crazy as that sounds.

I think the thing to remember is.. keep a cool head, don't let yourself feel more rushed than neccessary, if your broker is trying to rush you.. walk out on them and get a different broker. While an *individual* apartment may go quickly, theres always other fish in the sea.

So.. if you like a place, be ready to pounce on it same/next day, but don't feel rushed as if apartments in general are going out of stock.
posted by gomess at 9:19 AM on April 23, 2007

I just went through this. I was under the impression that West Village was rather "hot" right now and rents were unreasonably high for that part. It seemed really big with Manhattan's version of Chads and Trixies. You may know this already. But here's what I have to say, besides avoiding brokers:

(1) Craigslist
(2) Neighborhood bars (really, it worked wonders when I would go in the middle of the week, tell them I was looking into the neighborhood. People would not stop talking about what I should be paying, where I should look, etc. Much better than a broker)
(3) Finding buildings I liked and then inquiring within, a lot more than you think have management companies -- no broker fees

I was told time and again, to find some place cheap in Manhattan and get used to real estate on the island. They said the magic time was two years, but the general premise was that there was quite a chasm between what I thought I wanted and what I actually wanted. Does that make sense? I thought it did when I started stalking neighborhoods during different parts of the week and seeing how they changed.
posted by geoff. at 9:22 AM on April 23, 2007

I had quite the opposite classifieds experience I suppose:
I spent hours pouring over listings on craigslist and calling the broker for each listing, only to have most of them don't want to show you *that* apartment, they want to show you *their inventory*... so they were using the listing as an ad for *them* not for *the apartment*

Citi-habitats or the like is very much a place you can walk in, say '__ neighborhood, ___ size unit, __-__ price range' and they will take you out to show you 3,6,9 however many units you want to see. You don't have to do any legwork if you don't want to. You may want to peek at craigslist for an idea of price range though, or use two brokers, just to make sure neither is lying (and each company has their own inventory).
posted by gomess at 9:25 AM on April 23, 2007

Yes, we're looking for a 1 bedroom (sorry for not specifying earlier).
posted by twoporedomain at 9:28 AM on April 23, 2007

Yes, you do have to look at listings yourself, AND you will almost certainly have to pay a broker. You will have to register with brokers, but they won't do much for you, generally speaking. They'll show you the places they're trying to unload that particular week, and they _might_ call you in subsequent weeks to show you more places. But you can't rely on them to conduct a real search for you. On the other hand, if you're not particularly picky and you don't want to/can't do the work yourself, you can just rent one of whatever they show you.

Unfortunately, the rental market in NYC is so tight that brokers don't have to do much to rent out apartments. From what I understand, in other cities hiring a broker buys you a service, but that is not the case if you're renting here. Essentially, brokers work for the landlord (their job is to show places and to screen applicants) but are paid for by the renter (usually 15% of a year's rent, payable when you sign the lease).
posted by agent99 at 9:39 AM on April 23, 2007

I work in real estate management, so brokers call me all day long to get listings and tell me about their applicants etc, and my favorite broker firm to work with is Mark David and Company. They seem to care about both the tenant AND the landlord, so everyone ends up happy. Unlike say.... Metropolitan Property Group, who treat everyone like a number/paycheck and end up pissing people off on both sides. Grrrr.... cant stand those guys.

dont use Apartments and Lofts either. i tried to find an apartment with them 3 years ago when i was much more naive and had no idea what i was doing and they first took my deposit and THEN said that actually the rent was higher than i agreed to! i had a whole battle with them, trying to get my deposit back, which i finally did after almost having to get the attorney general involved. jerks!

Good luck. apartment searching is the worst.
posted by silverstatue at 10:52 AM on April 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have to disagree with agent99. I looked for an apartment for me and my sister last May, hoping for a June, July, or August move-in date, and I had essentially no luck going through classifieds, Craigslist, etc. It wasn't until I got a broker with CitiHabitats that I found any apartment worth applying for, and it was because of his advice and resources that I was able to find a place in a very competitive market. He did do all the legwork for me. We met at a couple of scheduled times to look at what he had--he also had a car and would give me rides when we went out to Roosevelt Island and Long Island City to look at places, too. (We weren't sure, but eventually decided we had to live in Manhattan because of sister's school.) Once he knew our preferences, he'd call me as soon as something good popped up, and I'd rush out of work an hour later to take a look. That's how we got our current place.

Definitely have your paperwork together (proof of income, ID, all that) and money ready. We got our place because I went to view an apartment, my broker had all my paperwork already, and we e-mailed it to the management company from within the actual apartment--even with this, ours was still the second application in.

I think the anti-broker sentiment here is because they ARE so expensive, and some don't really do much work. But a good broker is invaluable if you have specific requirements and don't have the luxury of spending your days looking at apartments.

I'll be moving to the outer boroughs this year, and I don't plan to use a broker for that, but I think it's worth it in Manhattan, especially since you'll be reimbursed.
Email's in profile if you want my broker's info.
posted by CiaoMela at 12:28 PM on April 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

I used Citi Habitats to find an apartment a little over a year ago, and they were helpful and professional. I did zero legwork. I just told the broker I wanted x neighborhood with y bedrooms for z dollars, and he did the rest. Handy, but expensive. I worked with Mark Rucktenwald there, but he's in the East Village office on 3rd Avenue.

If I needed to use them again, I probably would, but I'd also advise just walking around your desired neighborhood and looking for "apartment available" signs, if only to get a feel for what the market in that neighborhood is.
posted by bedhead at 12:41 PM on April 23, 2007

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