Finding an apartment in New York is no easy feat. The market is competitive, it’s expensive, and then there’s the dreaded broker fee we all know too well.
When we first moved to NYC I came alone and I only had 48hrs to find a place and sign a lease. Sounds impossible, but New Yorkers know things move fast here and two days is plenty of time. Well, since I was a total rookie I ended finding a great apartment in a decent yet total “bro” neighborhood. That’s not the rookie part though, we ended up paying SO much upfront. We paid a broker fee (FML), first months rent, last months rent, security deposit, application fee, and a good faith deposit. At that point I should have just signed over my kidney too. Moving cross country is probably going to cost you between $7k-$10k. Want to say FML again?!
Coming from San Francisco I was shocked because we don’t have brokers fees in the Bay Area. The standard broker fee in Manhattan is 15% of the annual rent. Yes… annual! Disgusting right? That can range from $3,000-$4,500 just because some broker opened the front door for you. You just have to understand if you live in Manhattan you’re going to pay a lot for a little. You should just start telling yourself that you’re paying for the experience. That’s what I do every time I write a rent check.
In this post I wanted to share some helpful tips and tricks to finding a New York City apartment. Where to look, how to avoid the fees, and ways to be prepared. In this post you’ll learn how to escape the broker fee in NYC.
When searching for an apartment your best bet really is Streeteasy. Streeteasy is a no scam website that is super user friendly and allows you set the filters to find your dream(ish) apartment. To avoid the brokers fee just click the box that says ‘no fee’ and almost 99% of the time you won’t have to pay an additional brokers fee. They may just blend it into the rent so you pay more monthly, but not everything up front. Typically, on Streeteasy you’ll work with brokers who have the landlord paying the brokers fee.
Avoid Naked Apartments! Naked Apartments is such a scam. Even if you search ‘no fee’ apartments there is most likely always going to be fee. Naked Apartments is just a ocean filled with brokers circling like sharks waiting to take advantage of you. When sending your email to set up a time to see the apartment include in your email, “I’d like to confirm you are only showing me no fee Apartments.” This will save both your time and the brokers. 15% broker fee is the standard. However, there is always room to negotiate. You may get lucky and they’ll drop it to 10%. When we moved out from SF we only paid 8% which is almost unheard of.
When searching for places don’t forget to utilize your network. Ask friends for their buildings super or property managers phone number or email. Go directly to the source. Start looking early, and by early I mean a month in advance. Make connections with exclusive brokers and stay on their by radar sending follow up emails for available units in the building. They want to flip these places quick so stay on them.
Accept there is going to something wrong with every apartment. Get over it… I promise you’ll get use to not having a washer/dryer in unit or a tiny ass kitchen. Let’s not forget that fifth floor walk up. In our first apartment we never did figure out which light switches worked to which outlet. We had to turn all lamps on by hand. In our new apartment we have no natural light in our living room and if all the lights are off we are pretty much living in a dungeon. But, that’s okay…I’ll take that for the West Village.
Let’s just sum this up and make it easy for you. Here’s how to avoid a brokers fee:
– Use Streeteasy and search for no fee units
– When searching for the apt and working with a broker tell them your max budget is $300 less because they’ll always show you something over your budget
– Ask to sign a 16-18 month lease to drop the fee or lower the rent
– Ask what discounts you get for paying in cash
-Always negotiate the rent because you’ll usually find little wiggle room
When you find a place in your budget you need to be ready to pull the trigger right away. New York apartments are fast paced. When you find the right place you need to have your paperwork ready! Here is what you need to make sure you don’t miss out:
– Letter of Employment
– Three most recent Pay Stubs
– Three most recent Bank Statements
– Most Recent Income Tax W2 Form
– Federal Tax Return
– Copy of Photo Identification (drivers license or passport)
– Money for application/credit check fee (generally $75-$100)
I wish you all luck when finding your next apartment. Don’t give in to the broker fee! Search online for ‘no fee’ apartments and use your network to get direct contact numbers for property managers. That’s how we scored out West Village apartment. If you need any help along the way just send me a note. I know searching for a new place is not fun and I’m always happy to help a fellow struggler. Happy hunting!