Ah, the coveted no-fee apartment. In a market where listings can be snagged in less than a day, searching for an apartment in NYC is a mad dash for the finish – and not unlike the Hunger Games.
There are two types of no-fee listings. The first type is the “owner-paid broker fee”, and is often found in new construction buildings that landlords are trying to fill quickly, so the landlords will pay the broker fee on your behalf. These listings are extremely uncommon in NYC and often have higher average rents. If the building management does cover the fee, they need to make the money back so they rent units at a more expensive rate than similar listings in the area.
The other type of no-fee listing is when you go directly to management and walk into the building without a broker. However, these managements are often paying an onsite leasing staff, so while you may save on the upfront costs, you are still paying for that fee over the course of the lease with the higher monthly rent.
People will go to extensive lengths to avoid that hated broker fee. However, working with a broker can save you an enormous amount of time, but if you’re set on that no fee apartment, here are some tips:
Look up the same apartment listing on multiple websites. You’ll get a better feel for which listings are real and which will leave you a victim of bait and switch. Quality no-fee apartments are hard to come by, and you can bet that you’ll have to comb through many listings before finding that unicorn. It takes a lot of leg work, but putting in the effort can really pay off.
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I’ve rolled my eyes throughout college every time someone told me about how important networking is, but having connections could significantly increase your chances of finding a no-fee apartment. So many people are looking online and in person for that needle-in-a-haystack and your search would be much easier with a foot in the door.
Ask around among your friends or your friends’ friends to see if they know of any upcoming vacancies that haven’t been listed yet. Sometimes, if you contact a landlord directly, they will tell you about upcoming listings. It will give you a head start for beating out the competition.
Here are some tips from BrickUnderground given by people who have found no fee apartments:
“Pick a neighborhood or area you want to live and then just start walking around and talking to the doormen or supers or people who live in the building.”—Katharine, Upper East Side
“Go to the management companies directly. I was told that in the winter they give concessions to brokers and even then the apartments are without any fees.” —Vlad, Upper West Side
“Craigslist is my go-to. There are horror stories, but I’ve had good luck so far. I just looked at stuff under ‘no-fee’ and ‘by owner.’” —Danny, Bushwick
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