No Broker? Going it Alone

The Game Plan

You want to find an apartment on your own without the help of an agent? Here's your game plan.

  • 30% of renters find an apartment through a connection. Be in that 30 percent. Use the Internet megaphone; e-mail, tweet, and Facebook all your friends and networks and your friends' networks (we're not kidding.) Tell them you're looking, and ask if they know of any available apartments coming up.
  • Search no-fee sites. Most rental sites - including Naked Apartments - allow you to specify "no-fee apartments" in your search parameters.
  • If need be, hit the pavement. Walk the streets of your favorite neighborhoods; in the lobbies of all the apartment buildings you like, you'll find a phone number for a landlord or a management company. Write those numbers down and call every one of them repeatedly to find out if there are any available apartments.

The downsides of going it alone

Basically, it takes a lot of time and persistence.

  • Your choices will be limited. Most landlords and management companies make listings available only to agents, not to renters. It requires a lot of manpower and is expensive to advertise listings, to coordinate viewings, to deal with "no shows," and to screen renters before a visit. Given that agents do a great job filling vacancies, most NYC landlords opt to avoid the expense, outsourcing this role to agents.
  • It could become your second full-time job. An agent's full-time job is finding apartments as soon as they're available, knowing what to avoid, what to see, what each building is like, and more. For you to do the same, it might take as much time, if not more.
  • Prepare for some fierce competition. When you go it alone, you're competing with thousands of agents - professional apartment hunters - who are currently helping other renters. Those are some tough odds.

Going it Alone
FIG. 2.5: Looking without an agent can be a rollercoaster

But if you succeed....

If you put the work and time in, you may find an incredible deal on your own and save thousands in broker's fees. That will buy you a lot of champagne.