Using a rental broker to find a New York area home is one of those things that many New Yorkers just accept as normal, like unpredictable subway schedules or $25 cocktails. And while no one's exactly celebrating the act of paying a 15 percent standard commission, it's a system that's been in place for more than 70 years with no real end in sight.
So, how do you know when you need a broker? Here are some good indications that a knowledgeable rental market sherpa is well worth that steep commission:
If you're relocating to the New York area with little familiarity with the local landscape, a broker can be an invaluable resource. They can unravel inscrutable acronyms (What's a BoCoCa?) and explain the sometimes subtle differences between, say, the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side. A broker can help break down how the entire rental process works here, and they can walk you through firming up your paperwork so you'll be ready to sign on the dotted line quickly — the New York City rental market waits for no one!
When you need to secure a home here while you're still stuck over there, a broker can be instrumental in expediting your long-distance transaction. And by working with a vetted, reputable broker, you can help avoid scams while renting sight unseen.
You Want to Save Time & Energy
Putting the legwork of your rental search in the hands of a broker can be a huge timesaver. In an ideal world, a savvy broker will prepare a list of homes that meet your criteria, organize your visits, gather paperwork and approvals, and hand you the keys — all while acting as a single point of contact. Left to your own devices in the no-fee world, it's practically a full-time job that could require multiple phone calls and emails to a number of different folks for each potential unit.
You Have Specific Needs
Hey, it's okay to have a few non-negotiables. After all, this is your future home we're talking about. But if you know you have a longer-than-usual list of demands and requirements, a broker is going to be a great asset in ferreting out your perfect abode.
In our competitive and expansive rental market, landlords are quite finicky about monthly gross income, credit scores, debt-to-income ratios and so on. If your finances aren't in tip-top condition, a broker can be quite useful in pointing you away from the sticklers and towards landlords willing to take a closer look at your overall qualifications.
You Plan to Stay Put
The longer you stay in your home, the better you can spread out that steep commission. For example, if you live in a $3,000 a month apartment for a year, your 15 percent broker fee equates to a whopping $450 a month. Stay in that same home for four years and the amortized fee drops to a far more palatable $112.50 per month.
You're Moving in Winter
Winter is the rental market slow season. I mean, who wants to haul boxes and furniture through the slush and snow? While that means there may be fewer apartments available, making the search skills of a broker highly desirable, it might also mean scoring a better monthly deal, which can help calm your broker fee fears.
If you'd prefer to forego the broker and fee route, there are certainly no-fee homes to be had in the New York area, although finding them may seem a bit like a game of hide-and-seek. Here are some tips on making no-fee your reality:
- Tap into your social network. Local friends and family are a great way to get the heads-up on potential apartments, allowing you to make a connection with a landlord or management company directly.
- Use online search aggregators like StreetEasy or even Craigslist, using the no-fee filter, but be highly aware of bait-and-switch tactics and other scams.
- Search the major management companies or work with a firm like Dixon Leasing where there's never a fee!
To learn more about the pros and cons of using rental brokers in your apartment search, see our recent primer on no-fee vs. fee apartments.
To view Dixon Leasing's extensive portfolio of beautiful no-fee listings across New York City and Hudson County, New Jersey, visit us at www.DixonLeasing.com.