If I ain't brokered, fix it?
March 20, 2012 12:19 PM   Subscribe

What do I need to know about dealing with brokers for apartment rentals? (I'm located in Brooklyn.)

Backstory: I'm looking to move in with my boyfriend later this year (yay!). I don't know a lot about working with real estate brokers (boo!). In the past I've found roommates on Craigslist through the "rooms/shares" listings, which didn't involve working with brokers. But it looks like most of the one-bedroom apartments out there have associated brokers' fees, so I'm afraid we're going to have to use one. I have dealt with one broker in the past when I was looking to buy an apartment (which I elected not to go forward with, in large part because it transpired that the realtor was trying to rush my decision and hide information from me).

With my resulting suspicion of brokers, I want to be more prepared this time around. What should I be aware of generally when working with them?

A couple of specific concerns:

-I see that a number of places seem to have fees on the order of 12% of yearly rent. Is this the going rate?

-I'm really particular about the neighborhood I want to live in. (I have time left on my current lease, and my boyfriend is month-to-month, so we're not in a rush.) The couple of brokers I've contacted so far have tried to show me places outside of the (admittedly narrow) geographical range I want. Is this standard practice? I can't help feeling like they are manipulating me, but maybe this is just how it works?

-Are there brokers you'd recommend, or would say to avoid?

(For the record, I see the above seems all "me! me! me!" and doesn't much mention my (lovely) boyfriend, who lives in another nearby city for the moment. I have discussed all these points with him, and he is happy to live where I choose and knows that I may do more of the work on apartment hunting since he's not in town.)
posted by mlle valentine to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I can't help feeling like they are manipulating me, but maybe this is just how it works?

They're going to try to get you into any place they need filled, and they'll be testing your give. If you're lucky, your agendas will overlap. However, if you're not happy with what you're seeing, you have to be firm. If they try to show you a bunch of places outside of where you want to live, or outside of your price range, tell them that either they're going to show you want you want to be shown, or you're going with another broker (there's not exactly a drought.) Please be realistic about prices, though. Brokers can (and have) worked miracles, but if your price range doesn't fall inside the going rate of the neighborhood, it'll be a lot less likely that you'll get what you want.

Of course, there's degrees. If you want to live in, say, Williamsburg and they want to show you a place two stops over Bushwick border because you can get a better price, that's one thing. If you want to live in Williamsburg and they suggest something in Bay Ridge, it's time to lay down the law. Same thing with prices. If you want to pay $1500 and they suggest a place that's $1650, that's understandable. If you want to pay $1500 and they're showing you nothing but $2000 apartments, it's time for a conversation.
posted by griphus at 12:30 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't just work with one broker.
Look for apt on Clist and call the brokers listed, but don't feel like you have to commit to one.
If you've already seen an apt with another broker, you can't go with a different broker for the same apt. Otherwise, having a few different companies looking for places for you is a good idea.
Just remember 1 broker/company, 1 broker/apt and you should be fine.

Yes, they will show you things outside your area "just in case." They think the lower rent/better amenities might make it worth it to you. Brokers get paid when they land you an apartment, so they are looking to put you in one, not to find exactly what you need.

A good thing to do is print out a map of the place you want to live and literally outline your boundaries in black marker. I did this last time I moved, and gave it to brokers, and they still sometimes tried to show me things outside the range, but it happened a lot less.

Brokers are very location-specific and Brooklyn is huge. If you post the area you want, people can recommend brokers that specialize in that area.
For instance, I know a lot of North Slope and Prospect Heights brokers but not South Slope or Gowanus.
posted by rmless at 12:31 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't just work with one broker.

Oh, yeah, definitely seconding this. You want as many people as you can realistically handle showing you apartments. Just make sure to not overload yourself and then have to crap out on showings. Don't waste their time, and they're less likely to waste yours.
posted by griphus at 12:34 PM on March 20, 2012

Response by poster: Upon seeing responses I should add:

I am interested in Ditmas Park, where I currently live. Really Ditmas Park, not Kensington or Midwood or or or. I have done research on the going rates and do think we can live there for potentially even less than we are willing to spend--with the not-listening realtors, it's more of a question of geography than price.

posted by mlle valentine at 12:37 PM on March 20, 2012

And yes, 10-15% seems standard for fees, or 1 or 2 month's rent.
It sucks. You should plan for this in advance and amortize the cost of the broker over the year (or two or whatever) so you can see what it will do to the amount you can pay for the rental itself.

If your budget is 2k, but you have to set aside 12% (or $2880) for the year, that really means your monthly rent for the year is $2240.

So now if you have $2000/month, your budget for the rent is really just $1800 plus $216ish/month broker fee.
posted by rmless at 12:37 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I can see you running into trouble if you limit yourself just to Ditmas Park, especially as the southern end is sitting in the Orthodox Jewish quasi-suburbs. I suggest you plan for this taking longer than you thought.
posted by griphus at 12:56 PM on March 20, 2012

(That's not to say that you're making a mistake by being that specific, but, generally, the smaller the area, the longer the wait, and the harder you have to work.)
posted by griphus at 12:57 PM on March 20, 2012

Response by poster: You're right, griphus--I do have 'til November, though. If I am still looking in September or so I will widen the net.
posted by mlle valentine at 1:05 PM on March 20, 2012

You are looking way way way too early for a November lease.
posted by JPD at 4:28 PM on March 20, 2012

Response by poster: Sorry to threadsit. I do not expect to find an apartment available for November now. I am willing to move out earlier and worry about finding a new tenant for my old room if I find the right place.
posted by mlle valentine at 7:52 PM on March 20, 2012

But it looks like most of the one-bedroom apartments out there have associated brokers' fees, so I'm afraid we're going to have to use one.

Not necessarily.

Have you looked on Streeteasy for no fee apartments? Often you can call leasing offices directly and bypass brokers.
posted by dfriedman at 9:32 PM on March 20, 2012

Best answer: Hey Ditmas Park girl. Windsor Terrace girl here. We found our place through a broker (yes, 12% OUCH!). We were also looking to stay within about a five block radius. We just kept an eye on the craigslist ads, and called for places that we recognized as being in the area. The broker we ended up working with was really great. In one two-hour period he showed us six--yes, SIX--places within our price range and required specs. He had all the keys on him, could give us info about the buildings and landlords. It was very impressive. He also lived in the area himself. I can't imagine him bullshitting you about location.

I suggest just keep looking at listed apartments, and telling the brokers EXACTLY what you want. Hopefully there's a good one for your area who can do for you what ours did for us. Here's our guy, if you just want to talk to a real pro. Who knows, maybe he has Ditmas Park listings too:
Luke Alberts, Licensed Real Estate Associate Broker
Prudential Douglas Elliman
154 Seventh Avenue (Corner of Garfield Place)
Brooklyn, NY 11215-2201
Direct Line: 718-840-2019
E-Fax: 646-497-3835
posted by tk at 7:40 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

For keeping an eye on listings specifically in Ditmas Park, you might want to use padmapper, which will show you exactly where listings are located.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:08 PM on March 22, 2012

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