At this moment, you are contemplating finding an apartment in NYC on your own without the help of a broker and you are second-guessing if it is even possible having read everywhere how difficult it is.  Truth is, finding apartments in NYC without a broker is tough.  Regardless, you're going to explore the possibilities and take your shot because you are struggling to find a reputable broker or you literally do not want to pay the thousands of dollars that come with one.  In exchange for ditching the broker in your apartment hunt, you will need to be prepared to do the work of a broker.  We'll walk through how to find an apartment in NYC without a broker and where you need to focus the majority of your time.

What Is The NYC Apartment Search Process Like Without A Broker?

The act of searching is the easier part because there are plenty of online resources to help you find an apartment in NYC.  As you undertake your apartment search, it is best to browse each site to get an idea of what the market is offering.  Tons of research goes into any big-ticket item purchase nowadays and finding an apartment in NYC is no different.  What most people do not know about those online resources, is that each of them has their little nuances which we will discuss in detail here.  Before we dive into that, it's more important to understand the NYC rental landscape. 

There is some terminology that takes some getting used which only exists in NYC and not many other places in the country.  For example, in most parts of the country, the more common question that gets asked is 'how to find apartments for rent by owner' or 'how to find an apartment without a realtor'.  The term 'realtor' is not used in NYC at all.  Instead, you will hear the term 'Broker' everywhere.  In NYC, apartments for rent by owner are often interchangeable with how to find no-fee apartments NYC.  The more common question that gets asked is 'how do you find no fee apartments in NYC'?  Finding no fee apartments in NYC is simple.  The answer is you find no fee apartments in NYC on websites like Transparentcity, which aggregates exclusively no fee listings and connects you directly to the property managers who manage the no fee apartments.

So when you hear or read everyone asking 'how to find a no-fee apartment in NYC', 'how to find an apartment without a broker in NYC', or 'how to find apartments in NYC with no broker fee', Everyone Is Asking The Same Exact Question except in different ways and are all trying to get to the same end goal.  The answer is all the same:  Your ultimate goal when finding an apartment in NYC without a broker is to rent an apartment from the source, which is the person who owns or controls the apartment. 

Owners and landlords of apartments can be broken into 3 categories which comprise the majority of the apartments you can rent in NYC without a broker:  

  1. There are large professional property managers who control multiple apartment buildings. 
  2. Then there are individual smaller property managers who control a couple of buildings.
  3. And then there are individual owners of apartment units in condos and coops. 

In the olden days of the mid and early 2010s, the overwhelming suggested advice for finding a no fee apartment without a broker was to recommend that you spend hours walking around a neighborhood and for you to squint your eyes looking for phone numbers and building signage.  That is no longer the case in 2020 because all of that information is has now been placed online.   Fortunately finding apartments that are controlled by the larger property manager management companies can be easily found today online on resources like Transparentcity.  This resource is a great way to find no-fee apartments in NYC.  On there, you can browse the different buildings in each NYC neighborhood and then contact the property manager directly.  There are no brokers involved because they are not allowed to post listings on the platform.  The proof in the pudding is the 'Check Availability' button because it will lead you directly to the property manager's website which is the source of the listing.  


On sites like streeteasy, you can filter out listings 'by owner only'.  There is a huge difference between 'by owner only' and their ever deceiving 'no fee' filter.  Just because you decide not to work with a broker while you are searching for an apartment does not mean a broker will not be on the other end of your search representing the owner.  There is a huge distinction here so be sure to use the 'by owner only' and browse through those particular listings. 


On the actual listing, there is a clear label that the apartment is for rent by owner where it says 'Contact Owner', instead of listing out a brokerage firm with a picture of the broker.  


Individual landlords or owners of condo and coop apartments who decide to do the broker's job by showing the apartment is actually not too common.  They frequently outsource the job to brokers where the broker will do the work on behalf of the owner.  Because you have already decided to find an apartment in NYC without a broker, you have to figure out how to find apartments for rent by owner which makes your end goal finding and dealing directly with the source of the apartment and not any representative of the apartment.  

What Work Do I Have To Do When I'm Not Working With A Broker?

This is the more difficult part of the equation because brokers do provide much-needed guidance as well as do some of the groundwork.  This may be much more important to first-timers and maybe not as useful to the seasoned New Yorker.  There are a handful of tasks that you will have to prepare for when finding an apartment in NYC without a broker:

  1. Setting and scheduling your own appointments to see the apartment.  Luckily many property managers will post open house times on their websites for you to simply show up.  For property managers who aren't posting open house times on their websites, you'll just have to email and start coordinating on your own. It's not glamorous but it's a guaranteed answer to how to find no-fee apartments NYC.       undefined
  2. Gathering up all the necessary paperwork checklist and documentation for the rental leasing application.  More and more property managers have been moving towards online applications these days.  For those property managers who have moved online, applying is a cinch.  For the ones who are still peddling piles of paperwork, it will feel like applying to college university all over again.  It's a simple but tedious task.  Though you'd probably have to fill out the information yourself even if you had a broker.  
  3. No broker presence means no guidance or anyone distinguishing for you the difference between a good, great, or bad apartment.  How do you know if you should take the apartment?  In reality, you start to get a good feel for the market after a few apartment visits.  Go with your gut after awhile.                                                                                                                   
  4. While you're visiting apartments, there is a good chance you will be Competing against the very brokers you shunned or couldn't find.  The management company apartment buildings are the prized apartments for all of NYC renters because it's like an oasis or water hole in the middle of a desert where supply is low and the demand is high.  Fortunately, most management companies are now making their listings available to the public via their own websites meaning it is easy for anyone to get access.  We estimate in the slow season there are ~2,500 no-fee apartment listings in NYC that you can rent directly from property managers on any given day.  The apartments the management companies control are also considered 'open listings' and CYOF which means brokers will charge their clients a broker fee on all of the apartments.  Because brokers can do that, they always going to try and take their clients to these apartments. Because you're competing against the brokers for the same apartments, it just means you have to act just as aggressive as the broker in pursuing that no fee apartment when the time comes.  There is no research on the topic but a good chunk of rental broker fees are made renting at management company run buildings.  Be prepared for an epic showdown!  Brutal honesty but a sure way on how to find apartments in NYC with no broker fee.                 


Good luck on the hunt.  Again, if you're looking to rent directly from management companies Transparentcity is exclusive to that end.  Otherwise, Streeteasy is a good bet as well.