Finding the elusive, decent Brooklyn apartment?
August 14, 2008 3:15 PM   Subscribe

How do you find a better-than-decent apartment in Brooklyn without having to spend two weeks working on it full-time, and without paying a ridiculous broker's fee?

So I've been in an Upper West Side sublet for about 3 months now and its time to move. A friend of mine is moving in to town and we are looking for a 2Br in Brooklyn for around $1600-$1800 to move-in Sep. 1st. I know there have been previous posts about apartment hunting in Brooklyn, but times are changing and new neighborhoods are popping up. I have tried going to a realtor but they are consistently showing me dark, cramped spaces in neighborhoods I feel scared to walk through.

i also try Craiglist, but I end up spending way too much time searching online, then even more time travelling to brooklyn, and even more time trying to find the place when i get there. I've heard apartment hunting in NY is hell, and now i'm knee-deep. HELP?
posted by condorman to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, searching (especially for September 1) is very hard in NYC. Perhaps instead ask around for reputable/good brokers, suck it up, and pay the broker's fee? I know it's not what you want to hear, but my former roommate just moved into a 1BR found through a broker. While paying a broker fee stung, the broker had come recommended from several acquaintances, and she's really happy at her new place. Also, things are listed and go fast. She started looking in mid-June, looked at a place the day after it was listed, and moved in July 1.

Are there any specific neighborhoods you're interested in? If you could narrow it down to a neighborhood or two (or even three), it would help make it easier. See if you can find community message boards for the neighborhoods you're interested in, and try posting there. People aren't afraid to tell you when they've had a bad experience with a specific broker. Conversely, if they're happy, most people are also willing to sing their praises.

Also, I know you said Brooklyn, but if you're interested in Astoria at all, I can point you to some great resources that should be able to help you. But yeah, you'll pay for it.
posted by AlisonM at 3:36 PM on August 14, 2008

I've lived in NY for 8 years now and the only advice i can give you is that apartment hunting is going to be as hard as you want it to be.

You can spend 4 weeks looking at places non-stop or you can look at 6 and then just take whatever is best.

And, the perfect apartment always comes at the last possible second.

Freen is kinda right. :c/ Sorry, best of luck though!
posted by modernsquid at 3:44 PM on August 14, 2008

Apartment hunting is like searching for your lost keys - you'll generally wind up in the last place you look.
posted by gnutron at 3:51 PM on August 14, 2008

Don't. Use. Rapid. Realty. (Brooklyn based)
posted by spec80 at 4:08 PM on August 14, 2008

Craigslist, organization of your time, tenacity, and luck. What neighborhood? I can recommend a broker in Greenpoint.
posted by millipede at 4:20 PM on August 14, 2008

Make sure everyone you know knows you are looking. Maybe someone knows someone who knows someone who has a spot that they were just about to post publicly but they can get them to let you have a look first.
posted by winston at 4:31 PM on August 14, 2008

The Brooklynian message board is pretty useful. Their Apartments and Real Estate section usually has a lot more people looking than offering, but there's a lot of discussion about brokers to seek out or avoid, neighborhoods, etc.

Agreeing with the above that it's pretty hard these days to avoid a brokers fee, even if you do all the legwork with Craigslist. However, some brokers have lower fees and lower levels of personal skeevyness than others. Ten percent of a year's rent is quite a bit less than fifteen percent, and if the broker is actually helpful it can work out to be almost worth the time you would have spent, especially if you plan on staying in the apartment for a few years.

I was going to link to the one decent broker I have known, who charges 10%, but it looks like people are avoiding specific recommendations. So I'll follow suit and just say that if you're looking in the Park Slope vicinity you can contact me.
posted by doift at 5:22 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I use craigslist, I don't even waste my time looking at the brokers fee listings. Most of the time they're bullshit bait and switch ads anyway...the broker just wants to get you to meet them so they can show you their inventory.

For the broker no fee ads, I'm very discerning. If it sounds too good to be true, I don't bother unless it's out of idle curiosity. Great deals on great apartments don't need to be posted to CL. They go by word of mouth, and quickly.

I concentrate on the by owner listings. Put in each of my desired neighborhoods, max rent and 2BR. I usually just set these searches up in an RSS reader and watch them like a hawk. Nice places go fast, so call or email immediately if you see something you like.

I used to always check the Village Voice and Times online classifieds on Tuesday and Saturday nights respectively (so the evenings before the dead trees versions would come out) and have all the places I was interested in written down so I could call first thing in the morning while other people were still going through the ads circling things, but I don't even know if those are decent resources anymore as CL has worked for me each of the last few times I've moved.

Most importantly, and to echo what winston said, spread the word. Tell everybody that you're looking for a new place. Twice I've had great deals pop up through a casual mention that I was apartment never know who knows someone in need of a tenant.

In 20 years of various apartments, I've never paid a broker, but I'm also a cheap bastard who considers a week or two investment of my time worth saving a $2000-3000 fee.
posted by JaredSeth at 5:51 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Spend a lot of time in your ideal neighborhood, and maybe you'll luck out and see some moving trucks. If so, find out whether their apt has been rented, if it's in yr price range, or whatever. Maybe offer to help the movers-out carry a couch in order to get their landlord's info. Then swoop in.

Hey, it's far fetched, but it's happened before. Otherwise all i can think of is craigslist, luck, what everyone else is saying, etc etc.
posted by np312 at 6:05 PM on August 14, 2008

I'm in a similar position at the moment condorman -- I need out of my place in a month and am scrambling to find a new place. I have never had a good experience with realtors, they're just middlemen and schiesters. is the only helpful site I can point at, as it often posts decent apt. posts (Bushwick only, however).

Good luck.
posted by godisdad at 7:24 PM on August 14, 2008

Definitely go out to the neighborhoods that you'd like to live in and spend some time walking around, looking for "for rent" signs (and calling the phone numbers on those-- the owners/property managers may also have other apartments to let, too). By doing this legwork, you may be able to find places that haven't yet made it to craigslist or a broker's office.
posted by andrewraff at 7:31 AM on August 15, 2008

Don't. Use. Rapid. Realty. (Brooklyn based)
posted by spec80 at 4:08 PM on August 14 [+] [!]

Seconded. They really hard to push my housemates and I into all kinds of shitty places, then bilked us out of fees. We ended up finding our own place (in the UWS, kind of the opposite of your situation).

Also, all of my good living situations have come from personal reccomendations, friends of friends, etc. Let your needs be known.
posted by andromache at 7:45 AM on August 15, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, this is helpful! The main places I'm looking in are:
Clinton Hill
Fort Greene
I'm gonna go down today and walk around some more, but I think these are the main places that I can afford. I've heard Bushwick is a bit rough around the edges, which is fine, I just would love to be close to a cool coffee shop and health food store.

My main problem is that I keep finding something that sounds good on Craigslist, and then I'll go down to visit it, and the neighborhood turns out to be a place where I really don't want to live. I just don't know Brooklyn well enough.

I'm also gonna look in Astoria, I've heard some good things.

But I'm sure you are right, gnutron, I'll find the right apartment in the last place I look!
posted by condorman at 7:50 AM on August 15, 2008

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