The Best 6 NYC No-Fee Apartment Hunting Resources

published Jul 18, 2019
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Searching for a place to live in New York City, one of the priciest American cities, is very expensive. Not only do you have to pay first month’s rent and a security deposit when signing a lease, but you may also have to pay for a guarantor service if you make less than 40 times the rent. And then there’s the broker fee—which can be anywhere from a month’s rent to 15 percent of your yearly rent. Yes, that’s on top of everything else. If you’re counting, that’s already three times the rent upfront (gah!)… and you haven’t even hired movers yet.

But what if you can’t afford to pay that much (or just don’t want to?) Here’s where a no-fee rental comes in to save the day.

What is a no-fee apartment?

First of all, let’s talk about “no-fee” rentals. They’re pretty much what they sound like— apartments where you don’t have to pay a broker fee upfront—except that you do end up paying a broker fee over time. Instead of having you pay upfront, many no-fee rentals will incorporate the broker fee into the yearly rent for the unit (because that broker has to be paid somehow in the process).

Let’s take a look at how the math works out: Say you’re looking at an apartment that’s valued at $2,300 a month. If it wasn’t no-fee, your landlord would require $6,900 for first month’s rent, security deposit, and broker fee—plus any additional upfront fees. But you’d only pay $25,300 more over the course of the year (or $32,200 altogether.)

If it was a no-fee apartment, though, your landlord might split that $2,300 over the length of the lease, bringing the monthly rent price to a minimum of $2,500 (or maybe more). So instead of $6,900, you’d be paying $5,000 upfront for a no-fee space (first month + deposit), plus any associated fees. And at the end of the lease, you’d have paid $32,500—about $500 more than you would with a no-fee.

And you’ll be paying any rent increases on that higher fee-compensating rate when you resign your lease for year two (and beyond.) So while you may not be paying that fee upfront, you are going to repay that that broker fee—and more—over again to your landlord every year you live there!

If you’re simply looking to lower your effective rent costs overtime, maybe paying a broker fee isn’t so bad if you have enough squared away. However, for many, a no-fee apartment is the only way to secure an apartment in an expensive city like New York. And (just like many things in NYC) finding a good no-fee apartment can be confusing and stress-inducing. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools prospective renters can use to find the perfect place on the right budget. Here, six of the best (that even longtime New Yorkers use!):

NYBits offers renters the chance to see apartments posted by building managers, current tenants, brokers and agents, and private landlords. They allow you to search by fee or no-fee, amenities, and specific neighborhoods. On the site, there are also directories of the city’s rental apartment buildings and residential property managers to ensure that you find safe, secure, and affordable housing.

StreetEasy has been a go-to site for prospective renters since 2005. Along with the basic filters (rent range, neighborhoods, number of bedrooms, and fee or no-fee), you can also choose your no-fee rental from curated listings (like those that are pet-friendly!) But even if you primarily use other sites to find your home, StreetEasy’s neighborhood guides and blog One Block Over are great resources for tips and tricks to help you on your search.

Rather than just give you information about the apartment, Trulia also gives you qualitative data about nearby shops, area affordability, and public transportation accessibility. They also have a community page, where neighbors and local experts can ask questions and share advice.

Note: Trulia isn’t set-up as intuitively for a no-fee apartment search as other sites. I had to Google to find the 3,265 no-fee rentals on the site, and I’d recommend doing the same!

One of the newer housing search platforms, Zumper offers renters and their prospective landlords a whole new variety of options to connect. Listings are shown on Google Maps and inventory is updated in real-time. Some listings are even eligible for “Instant Apply,” which pre-qualifies applicants and guarantees the landlord actually sees their application.

Community living and subletting have been popular ways to save money while renting, and Joinery takes this to the next level. Created by former Google employees, Joinery’s database bypasses New York brokers and their fees by allowing outgoing tenants to find qualified replacements for their spaces. Instead of paying a broker, new tenants pay a “renter’s fee” (up to half a month of rent) to the current tenant.

If you’ve always wanted to live your New York dreams like “Rent”—minus the whole not-paying-rent thing (those days are looooong gone)—the Listings Project is the site for you. Created as a leading resource for artists’ studios, creative spaces, and beyond, the list provides its visitors with available units, weeding out brokers, managers, brokers fees, and third-party spaces.

Rather than showing available units on the site, creator and founder Stephanie Diamond sends out an email to subscribers for free every Wednesday morning. The site’s Stories page showcases many excited users, from having rooms filled within a matter of hours to finally feeling like a part of a safe community. One user even lauds her great experience by saying “even the folks I didn’t end up renting from were so nice.”

Got that great apartment? (Congrats!) Make the next step a little easier with Apartment Therapy’s best moving tips!

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