Rental Guide

Ways to Search for an Apartment

Ways to Search for an Apartment

There are many ways to search for an apartment - word of mouth (let everyone you know that you are looking for an apartment), the internet, walking around the area that you want to live, signing-up on a waiting list for specific buildings, contacting landlords and managing agents directly, and real estate brokers.

Real Estate Brokers:
Though you do not need to use a real estate broker to find an apartment, it is helpful to have one. New York State licenses real estate brokers and salespersons. Brokers charge a commission for their services which is usually a stated percentage of the first year’s rent (15% in Manhattan). The amount of the commission is not set by law and can be negotiated. The broker must assist the client in finding and obtaining an apartment before a commission may be charged. The fee should not be paid until the tenant has signed a lease for the apartment shown by that particular broker.

To verify that your broker has either a Licensed Salesperson or an Associate Broker’s license in New York State, check the following website. Other states will have similar websites to confirm licensure. 

Though it is possible to find an apartment without a real estate broker, many landlords list the apartment with a broker, so the broker has the “exclusive” and you would need to pay the broker’s fee in order to have access to the apartment.  Usually, landlords that own less property will give the exclusive to a broker since the broker shows the apartment, verifies the information on the application and conducts the credit check on behalf of the landlord.  And since it is the tenant that pays the fee, it doesn’t cost the landlord anything to have the broker do most of the work.

Here are 10 questions you can ask your real estate agent before hiring:

  1. Are you primarily a rental agent or a purchasing agent?
  2. In which neighborhoods do you work?
  3. Will I be working only with you or are you part of a team?
  4. Do you work full-time or part-time as a real estate agent?
  5. How many other people are you helping find apartments right now?
  6. Is your license in good standing? (see above)
  7. How many years of experience do you have?
  8. What did you do before you became a real estate agent?
  9. How large is the office you work in, and does the size help you?
  10. Can you provide me with the names and phone numbers of clients who have agreed to be references?

No Fee Apartments:
Put the word out to all of your friends and colleagues that you are looking for an apartment, both verbally and through any social media that you normally use (email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Walk around the area in which you want to live – ask the doormen if any apartments are available in the building, respond to apartment signs posted on a building (not all buildings do this, but many do!).

Contact managing agents and landlords directly. There are many websites that list “no fee” apartments, including:

Apartment Checklist

  • Is the rent reasonable for the neighborhood and size of apartment? The rent can be negotiated with a landlord, so understand the market before you start looking.
  • What is the condition of the apartment and building? Are there any signs of roaches or rodents?
  • Is the apartment large enough to fit my furniture? Consider the floor plan in regard to location of your furniture, TV and cable connection, windows, etc.
  • Are all of the appliances in good working order? Whenever possible, check plumbing, appliances, water pressure, type of heating, air conditioning, and electrical outlets.
  • Check closets, cabinets and storage space.
  • Do the windows and doors open and close properly? Note locations of windows and exposures. If windows face a busy street, check the noise level with the windows open.
  • Is all the plumbing in the bathroom and kitchen in good working order?
  • What is the security system in the building – doorman, intercom?
  • Does the superintendent live on site? If not, ask about the number to call for repairs or in an emergency.
  • Is there an elevator? If not, are the stairs well lit and clean?
  • Is there a laundry room in the building?  If so, ask to see it.
  • If you are seeing the apartment during the day, come back to see the building and the area at night, particularly if it is in an area that you do not know very well.
  • Observe all aspects of the neighborhood – shopping, playgrounds, bus and subway stops, etc.