While many real estate agents in New York City are reputable professionals, there is a pervasive feeling among renters in New York City that agents and brokers are scam artists, or otherwise untrustworthy. There are many reasons why this may be the case; here are a few telltale signs that the person showing you apartments may not be the most upstanding individual out there.
Inexperience and/or indifference. Green agents often make key mistakes. If an agent doesn’t have access to the building or apartment you’re scheduled to see, they’re probably new to the business and don’t know how to overcome the obstacle of a locked door or a missing key. Or they may have simply never been to that property before. A seasoned agent will visit every apartment they are advertising and know how to get into the building and unit. He or she should be able to locate amenities like the gym, laundry room and common areas, and generally understand the benefits of living in the building. If your agent can’t answer questions like, “Where is the laundry room?” or tell you the location of the nearest subway or supermarket, you should consider working with someone else.
Illegal chatter. A real estate agent can’t reference race, gender, religion, sexual preference or income level when showing an apartment. If you ask a question like, “What kind of people live in this building/neighborhood?” a reputable agent will suggest that what you see is what you get, or tell you to take the time to make those observations on your own; anything more specific than that should be a red flag. Agents and brokers aren’t legally allowed to discuss crime statistics, or safety issues, for a given neighborhood or building, so anyone who offers up information about such topics is riding a dangerous line and can be fined or have their license suspended by the Department of State.
Lack of professionalism. From your first contact with a prospective agent — whether it be via email or on the phone — you should be treated with respect and in a professional manner. Timeliness, both in the making and keeping of appointments, as well as in responding to emails and voicemails, is one of the most important characteristics of a quality agent or broker. Time is of the essence in New York real estate; in most cases your agent is not the only person showing a given apartment, so if you don’t get a reply to an email for 24 hours, you’re toast. As well, an agent or broker should bring up the fee before you see any apartments, and both of you should have it in writing so everyone’s expectations are the same throughout the process. No one likes surprises!
A real estate agent is more than a person with keys to apartments in neighborhoods you find interesting. Good agents are experienced, licensed professionals who will advocate on your behalf and help marshal your application through the process to approval. Experienced agents will have personal knowledge of the application process for a variety of landlords and management companies and will have the respect of and influence with the landlord. Because agents work solely on commission, they like to stay busy, but successful rental agents are never rude, and if they need to be late, they will let you know at least an hour in advance. Reputable agents are successful agents, and they stay in the business and their professionalism breeds more success.
Think these brokers sound bad? Check out our 5 signs of a truly awful broker.