Apartment Brokerage Fees: A Do or a Don't?

When searching for a new apartment rental last year, I spent the first few months obsessively combing Craigslist. I told friends, friends of friends, and coworkers of my search. I spent weekends riding my bike around a neighborhood of Brooklyn I had become partial to, looking for signs and talking to landlords. After a lot of frustration and not a lot of luck, I turned to a broker who eventually found the great apartment I live in now.Chances are if you live in a major city, you have an opinion on brokers. Some people swear by them and believe they have some of the best listings you would otherwise not see. Others avoid them at all costs and for good reason: brokers don't come cheap. The standard commission in NYC is anywhere from one month's rent to 15% of your annual rent.

Where do you stand on brokers? While I have heard some horror stories, my broker turned out to be a saving grace. After working with her for about a month, I scored an apartment in my price range in my ideal neighborhood. For me, it was money well spent. Since then, I have recommended her to others and have passed along some tips I learned during my search:

Make sure your broker is licensed.

Avoid signing anything before seeing a potential apartment if possible. If you sign a contract stating that you will pay a finder's fee, and you decide you want the apartment, you are committed to that fee.

Negotiating a lower brokerage fee is worth a try. Fee amounts are not set by law, and depending on how long the apartment has been on the market, how much they want you as a tenant, etc, you may be able negotiate a lower rate.

Get everything in writing. A finder's fee is just that — a broker must find you an apartment in order to collect. Make sure you sign an agreement stating that the commission will be collected after both you and the landlord have signed the lease or after you have moved in.

Are you pro broker? Do you have any tips of your own you would like to share?

MORE APARTMENT HUNTING ON APARTMENT THERAPY:
Strategies for Finding a NYC Apartment?
How Do You Search for Apartments?
How To Use Craigslist To Find The Perfect Apartment
How Did You Find Your First Apartment?

(Image: Marcia Prentice / Apartment Tour: Peter's 1892 Brooklyn Brownstone)

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