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. Regardless, you're going to explore the possibilities and take your shot because you're finding a difficult time finding 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 the apartment hunt, you will need to be prepared to do the work of a broker. We'll walk through the two main areas on how to find an apartment in NYC without a broker and where you will have to focus the majority of your time.
The Apartment Search Process In NYC Without A Broker
This is the easier part of the equation 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. Finding an apartment in NYC without a broker 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.
Your ultimate goal when finding an apartment in NYC without a broker is to rent an apartment from the person who owns it or controls it so getting directly in touch directly with the "Source", meaning the landlord or owner of the apartment is your top priority. Owners and landlords of apartments can be broken into 3 general categories which will comprise the vast majority of the apartments you can rent in NYC without a broker. There are large professional property managers who control multiple apartment buildings. Then there are individual smaller property managers who control a couple of buildings. And then there are individual owners of apartment units in condos and coops. The trick here is getting directly to the source for each of these categories.
Unlike a few hundred other blogposts still stuck in the stone age who tell you to 'walk around each neighborhood and to squint your eyes to look for phone numbers and signage', that is precisely what you no longer need to do today because all of that information is now online. Fortunately finding apartments that are controlled by the larger property manager management companies can be easily found today online on resources like transparentcity.co. From there, you can browse and the different buildings in each NYC neighborhood and then contact the property manager directly. There are no brokers involved because they aren't posting listings on the platform. The proof is in the 'Check Availability' clicks because it leads you directly to the property managers website which is again the "Source" of the listing.
For the other two categories, you are looking for ways to narrow down the apartment filter search to apartments that are 'for rent by owner'. There is a huge difference between 'by owner' and the ever deceiving 'no fee' filter. Just because you decide not to work with a broker while you're 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. You can search through sites like streeteasy which fortunately breaks this out on their filter criteria.
On the actual listing, there is a clearer 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 brokers 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, your end goal is to deal directly with the source of the apartment and not any representative of the apartment.
The Doing The Remaining Work Of A Broker In NYC Without 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 ground work. 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:
- 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.
- Gathering up all the necessary paperwork checklist and documentation for the rental leasing application. Most property managers nowadays are posting their leasing applications online. Here is an example SW Leasing Application.pdf where the file can be downloaded from their website. More and more property managers have been moving towards online applications. This trend is only going to pick up more steam as time goes by. 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.
- 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.
- 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 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!
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.