No Fee vs Fee Apartments in NYC ?
The Internet and the information age have taken the real estate market (and every other market, for that matter) by storm. In the past, attempting to navigate the Manhattan rental market without a broker or some sort of professional assistance was often an exercise in confusion and frustration, to say the least. Fewer people possessed the knowledge or resources to successfully brave the Manhattan market alone, and even fewer still had the patience. Now, with more free online classifieds, no fee apartments NYC sites, public real estate databases and forums hitting the Web every day, renters are becoming incredibly savvy about the world of Manhattan real estate. Using available free (or cheap) tools designed to provide transparency and open access to the real estate market, you, too, have the ability to find a great apartment without enlisting the services of a broker. All you need is plenty of time.
Today, most Americans lead extremely hectic lives. How much time you have left in your day after accomplishing your daily duties at work and home will of course vary greatly depending on your present situation, but the more time you can devote to your self–propelled apartment search, the more likely you are to wind up with an apartment you’re happy with. You should look at your apartment search like it’s another “job” — one that you need to donate copious amounts of hours and energy to in order to get done properly. If you choose to search on your own, understand that much of your free time will be spent poring over apartment listings and coordinating viewings. If you work full time, you’ll probably need to take time off or use your weekends to view apartments, as you must work around the schedules of the owners or supers showing the properties (and many prefer showing apartments weekdays during normal work hours). You may take the time to check out 20 apartments only to find you hate everything, and become exasperated and bitter as a result. Apartment searching may even become somewhat of an obsession — you may find yourself itching to browse listings and frantically making phone calls on your lunch break to set up appointments, all in hopes of not missing out on that elusive apartment that’s “the one” (not that we know from experience, of course).
Keep in mind that if successful, you’ll be handsomely rewarded with a happy home you found on your own, and you’ll also be 15 percent of your annual rent richer (since you avoided a broker fee). On the other hand, apartment hunting in Manhattan without a broker is far from easy, and can, in short, make you feel like ripping your hair out. Particularly if you’re using a free online classifieds service to search, you’re bound to at some point run into con artists and scams; flaky, unprofessional owners who miss appointments and never return your calls; and apartments that look like fantastic in photos, but in reality more closely resemble accommodations at Riker’s. These things happen.
So what will you get if you decide to use a broker? Mostly, the gift of time. Brokers know what is available, going to be available and what apartments aren’t worth the time to look at. They will use this information to eliminate many units that won’t meet your criteria and make sure that you are only seeing the best properties on the market. This market knowledge is invaluable to renters who are picky, time–strapped or not familiar enough with Manhattan to successfully search for themselves. Once you find an apartment you like, the broker will also help you prepare your application package and, if necessary, negotiate with the landlord.
You may be surprised to know that with the exception of exclusives, Manhattan brokers generally do not possess any special inventory of apartments that the layman can’t access. So, your broker’s personality and working style is really what you need to evaluate when deciding who to work with. Whether they are with the largest or smallest company, you’ll still have access to the same great apartments. The bottom line is, if you feel your broker doesn’t have your best interests at heart, find someone who does.
If you’ve decided to use a broker, you won’t spend any time at all scheduling viewings. You will simply give your broker your available times and dates and they will take care of the rest. But if you’re going it alone, you’ll need to be diligent and organized in seeing multiple units. Remember, units can disappear quickly, so the sooner you see the unit, the better.
In all likelihood, as a renter in Manhattan, you probably have a full–time job, which eliminates the luxury of seeing apartments mid–week. If you can take a day off of work, however, you will find that setting up appointments during normal business hours is much easier than trying to get into them on the weekends.
Visiting apartments in bulk is also a great time saving technique. If you are looking at apartments that are nearby, try to schedule the viewings back–to–back, giving yourself between 30 minutes and an hour to see each property. The faster you can move onto the next unit, the better. Just make sure to be thorough in your initial viewing as your first visit may be your only visit to the unit prior to signing a lease.
Keeping track of all of your appointments is crucial. One way to track them all is to set up a spreadsheet with the date, time, location and contact information for each showing. If you are not familiar with the area, you can use Google maps to set up ‘walking directions’ to and from each unit. Being on time and prepared shows landlords and agents that you are a responsible and serious renter.
Finally, advertising can be deceiving. No matter what the ad says, or how nice the apartment seems in pictures, nothing substitutes for actually visiting the unit. The unit can be great, but it might be on the third floor of a walk–up with a Chinese restaurant downstairs. While you may love General Tso’s chicken, you may not want to smell it 24/7. So, if you are considering an apartment, make sure to set up an appointment to see it. Don’t blindly sign a lease because the pictures on the website looked good.
“Come prepared and leave happy” sums up the Manhattan apartment hunting process relatively well. As we’ve said, if you find an apartment you like, you need to jump on it immediately, and the only way to set the wheels in motion is to have all the documents you’ll need to secure the lease on your person when you go apartment hunting. That way, you can immediately apply and don’t have to worry about someone getting their paperwork in before you and “stealing” your precious, hard–earned apartment. Plus, being prepared makes you look good — the landlord will perceive you as someone who is responsible, serious and savvy. It is a good idea to bring the following items with you when you go on your apartment search:
Essential Application Information — This includes your employer’s contact information, the name and contact information of your bank, and the names and contact information of previous landlords. (If you plan on using a guarantor, be sure to have their essential information as well).
Employer Verification Letter — This letter must be prepared on company letterhead and signed by your supervisor. It should state your position, start date, salary and, if applicable, guaranteed bonus. It should also indicate whether or not you are entitled to a housing allowance and if so, how much.
Bank Statements — You should be prepared with at least the last two months’ statements.
Tax Returns — In some instances you may be asked to show tax returns, so it is a good idea to bring the last two years returns with you.
Photo Identification — A driver’s license, passport, or other form of government issued photo ID will be required.
Monies — It is important to at least bring along monies to cover the application fee(s), and, if necessary, the deposit (one month’s rent) in order to secure the property.
Camera — A camera can come in handy to keep track of apartments. Snapping a few shots of the interior and exterior can help you jog your memory, especially when seeing a number of units in rapid succession.
Tape Measure — This is important if you have specific pieces of furniture that need to fit into your new home. Be sure to come with all measurments written down as well.