Back when the economy wasn’t in shambles, I kinda understood why people used Brokers. Competition was fierce and landlords knew it. Consequently, any decent place was handed off to a Broker so he/she could screen applicants and send the cream of the crop to the landlord for a final review. It was a pretty hands-off process for the landlord and a necessary evil for the tenant. Since the downturn last fall, I just assumed anyone still using a broker was a total sucker. Yeah, meet a fellow sucker. Or, not.
When looking on Craigslist earlier this week, I found a 2 bedroom that looked great and was just in our price range at $1800. When I saw that it was listed through a brokerage firm, I sighed, and maybe made a yelping sound at my computer screen that resembled a wounded palmorian. The squeal might have sounded something like, “Why? Why do all the good apartments have Brokers.” But, then I picked up the phone. Well, I was curious. And I wanted to see what this broker would say to justify his taking an extra 15% of the annual rent. I called and got a time and a street corner.
My new roommate and I joked about what kind of sleezy guy would show up and we were spot on. About 20 minutes late, a guy strolled up to us who pretty much looked like every New York mobster I’d ever seen, complete with a thick accent, slicked back hair, and paunch (to be fair, I don’t think every broker looks like this, but what’s a good story without some background scenery?!.)
His name was Lawrence and he worked for a Brooklyn firm. I gave my friend a raised eyebrow and we proceeded to follow him down the block. At this point, we’d seen some craptastic places and I didn’t have high hopes that the place we were going to see would actually look like the pictures.
Yeah, I was wrong. It was even better than the photos. Both places Lawrence showed us were leagues apart from any place we’d seen previously yet, magically, they were in the same $ range. The first place was a decent size but not exactly what we were looking for in terms of how the rooms were divided, but we could have made it work. The second place, oh, the second place was perfection and exactly what we were looking for.
How is it possible that both places were so spectacular? It occurs to me, then, that even though fewer people are renting , brokers are still getting all (ok, most) of the awesome rentals. Why? Because while there’s a traffic slowdown, there are still many folks looking to rent the great apartments in NYC. The slowdown means that the gross apartments won’t be rented, but you bet the great ones will – and Brokers provide access. If it had been earlier in the month, perhaps we would have waited a bit before accepting his fee because I still believe it’s possible to find gems on craigslist, but it’s certainly harder and not for the inpatient.
As for us? It was down to the wire and, frankly, we really wanted that apartment. So, we submitted. I’ll miss the $2,000 to be sure. But, I’m glad to have my life not revolve around apt hunting and I’m not so sure if the price tag on that relief isn’t worth at least two grand.