Respect Your Broker: Notes on How to Deal With a Broker From a Broker
New York’s peak rental season just around the corner and that means that a lot of New Yorkers will once again be dealing with brokers or agents to find just the right rental or sales property. The onus is on a broker or agent to act professionally and in respectful manner, of course, but there are a few things renters can do to help make sure that any interaction with an agent is a positive one.
Use the phone
First things first: It’s OK to call a broker. Brokers include their cell phone numbers on every listing precisely because they want people call them directly. Email is a necessary tool, and an agent will definitely want to get your email address to send and receive documents at some point in the process, but a phone call is a great way to initially inquire about a listing or property. A phone call can be especially beneficial to the renter. With one phone call, you’ll get a sense of the broker or agent’s level of interest in helping you with your search, as well as get a taste for that agent’s level of professionalism and knowledge of a listing or area. For the broker or agent, the opportunity to speak with a potential client on the phone allows for a more personal exchange than email. It’s much easier to get insights into a renter’s particular situation — how well they know the city, how long they’ve been looking, what neighborhoods are of interest — with a call.
Map those apartments
Renters and a brokers or agents often tussle over apartment location. Nearly all of the popular listing sites include a map with each property listing. Look at the map. Get to know the area where you’re interested in living. It’s very frustrating for all parties to get to an apartment that’s, for example, right next to a highway or elevated train line, and have that be the reason the renter doesn’t take the apartment.
Understand the meaning behind “no-fee” apartments
Finally, when you do discuss your search with broker, consider what it means to say, “I don’t want to pay a brokers’ fee.” On the one hand, since brokers and agents work exclusively on commission, you’re indicating that you want a broker to work for you, but you don’t want to pay for it. On the other hand, you’re fooling yourself. Whether you pay the fee up front by writing a check to the broker or you pay it over the course of your lease (landlords or management companies who pay fees almost invariably pass that cost on to the consumer in the price of the rent itself), you’re paying the fee. As well, it can be disheartening for an agent to work with a client who only wants to see no-fee units as it greatly narrows the search parameters and increases the chance that he or she won’t be able to show you the apartment that’s best for your needs. (If you really want to avoid a fee, you’ll have to do the legwork yourself.)
It’s helpful to remember that brokers and agents are experts in their field and can provide an invaluable service as guides through the intense and demanding New York rental market, and also that they’re people too. The more respectful and prepared the renter, the better the overall experience for both parties to the transaction.