What does an agent do?
Agents play an important role in the NYC rental market for one reason: most landlords prefer to rely on agents to find their tenants.
Why? It's expensive and time consuming to find tenants. So agents are middlemen between renters and landlords. They help renters find and choose from available apartments, and they help landlords fill their vacancies.
Difference between agents and brokers?
Brokers are licensed by the states they work in to help renters or buyers in the real estate market. Agents (aka salespeople) are also licensed, but because their license has limitations, the state requires they work for a broker.
Within a brokerage firm, there are usually one or two brokers and 15 to 500 agents working for them. When meeting a broker or agent in person, ask to see their real estate license (their "pocket-card"), and match that with their license or a photo ID.
How agents are paid
Agents are paid on commission - in other words, they only get paid when a renter rents an apartment through them. Most often, renters pay the fee. Sometimes, however, the landlord pays the fee.
How much money do agents make?
Fees are split between the agent, the brokerage firm, and anyone else involved in the transaction. Usually an agent gets 50 to 70 percent of the fee. There's a common misconception that rental agents are making money hand-over-fist. In reality, they make about $50,000 per year on average and usually don't get health insurance, paid time off, or some of the other benefits most of us have come to expect. Some are very successful, but it's certainly not a get-rich-quick scheme for most.