To Broker or Not to Broker
I read a lot of articles and studied up on how to find an apartment in NYC without a broker. The main pro of this was saving money (of course). Brokers can charge 10-15% of your annualized rent, or even a certain number of months of rent price.
A lot of things I read that were cons, included:
- Requires a lot of leg work and walking around, asking buildings you want to live in whether they have rooms available
- Places without fees and without a broker may have overall higher rent, meaning you are paying more in the long run.
- Places without fees may do the “bait and switch” method where they say what you found is no longer available, but there’s another just like it!
My boyfriend and I booked 5 days to cover an attempt at finding a place on our own and then if it didn’t work after a couple of days, to have broker appointments lined up. That was the plan.
Our Decision: Hire a Broker through TripleMint
As we were doing research on sites (I mostly used StreetEasy and PadMapper), my boyfriend was recommended TripleMint. It requires you to create an account but then afterwards the searching is the same as the others.
The next day, he received a phone call from TripleMint and had a conversation about our moving plans and desired characteristics for an apartment. Just like that, we had a broker. Even thought it was more than a month from our moving date, she told us to send places that we liked so she could get to know what we want and try to find ones for us. She was so personable, friendly, and it really felt as if she had our best interest in mind. This was such a contrast from other brokers I contacted who essentially would say “Talk to us when you’re within a month of your moving date – otherwise, stop wasting my time.”
To prepare for our onsite tour, we gave her a scanned copies (with SSN and bank account numbers blacked out) of:
- Bank statements from past two months
- Three recent pay stubs
- Tax returns from last two years
- Letter from employer on company letterhead stating salary, position, and length of employment (should be less than 30 days old)
- Letter of reference from previous landlord
As the date got closer, I sent her some that would hopefully still be available when we were in town and she got a few of them for us! We arrived for our apartment and in just a few hours saw about 8 locations.
The key to making the right decision was to really have specified things you want in a place (our criteria found in my previous post). This makes it easier to create your ranking system and determine how a place compares to a previous one. You’re in a place up to 10 minutes each (you really don’t need much more than that) and after a while they can really get blurry.
Our broker kept track of our rankings and were taking notes as we saw places of comments we were making (such a great idea). She asked questions like “if there was something you would change about the place, what would it be?”, “how does this place compare to your current number one place?”. She also advised us in the beginning that the brokers of places we were seeing would do their best to sell the space and create a lot of noise, but she had our best interest in mind so don’t put too much stock in what they say. And as we saw place after place, I could see exactly where she was coming from. She was the one who knew exactly what we wanted since we had weeks beforehand of developing that relationship.
When it came to realizing the place we wanted, it was because there wasn’t anything we wanted to change, and we kept comparing every subsequent place to it. So at the end of a few hours of touring, we decided to put in an application.
This is one point where we were incredibly grateful to have a broker. She had all of our paperwork previously sent for the application, had a cover letter template to create for us, and we did all of it in a coffee shop in an hour.
Even with 5 days, it still felt like there was a lot going on to have done this journey by ourselves. From a distance, with time limits, and having the amazing customer service at TripleMint, we have no regrets getting a broker.
- WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES – you will walk many miles and climb many stairs (my Apple Health app said I logged ~9 miles)
- Take pictures of each place – kitchen, closets, streets outside, window views, bathrooms, cabinets, etc.
- Bring a copy of your documents in a backpack just in case the digital versions are not available.
- Bring a tape measure in case you want to check if your furniture will fit.
- Stick to your budget and go with your gut. This will be your home, you should feel like it’s home even when it’s empty.
Here are some websites I found as I was studying up so you can make your own decisions:
What tips did you find helpful? Whether you went with a broker or not, leave a comment with why you went one way or the other and how. Thanks for sharing!
Up next for The Big Move series: Getting Rid of All the Sh*t