#NYCFail – Brokerage Fees

I think in the personal finance blogger realm, we like to dole out advice and tips about all our awesome saving, investing, frugal, thrifty, money wins. But sometimes we fail. And this is one of those stories.  

#NYCFail: Brokerage Fees

#NYCFail: Brokerage Fees | brokeGIRLrich

One of my resolutions this year was to get my own apartment in NYC. It had been a while since I had to find an apartment due to my odd occupation choices and I totally underestimated the incredible pain in the butt this resolution was going to be.

But, you know, I’m an awesome, thrifty, fabulous PF blogger. I figured that with a little research and a little hard work, I could nail this. I set my upper limit at $1250 a month (knowing I could actually go as high as $1400 and not be destitute) and started looking – preferably in the $1000-1100 range.

When I started looking I learned about this awesome thing called brokerage fees. Apparently, the vast majority of apartments in NYC require you to pay a brokerage fee – which is usually a month to two months rent. Pretty much a mini-version of buying a house. Which is really madness.

Fortunately, since I’m an awesome, thrifty, fabulous PF blogger, I Googled the heck out of finding an apartment in NYC and found that there are also “no brokerage fee” apartments. They just require a little more effort to find.

So I started searching on Apartable subscribed to and Craigslist and subscribed to The Listings Project. I also joined the Gypsy Housing facebook group and seriously considered just subletting, but in the meantime I started checking out these apartments.

I started in Harlem. Mostly because an old friend lived there and I never felt like I was going to get stabbed and killed walking to his apartment. Unfortunately, turns out the no brokerage fee apartments in my price range are in the Stabby McRape-y side of town. So after a week or so of checking out Harlem apartments every day before or after work and even applying for one and not getting it, I started looking in Brooklyn.

Turns out Brooklyn has plenty of Stabby McRape-y areas too. And I think I found them all. When an area makes you feel nervous walking around it at two in the afternoon, it’s probably not the place for a girl who regularly gets home from work after midnight.

After about three weeks of long hours at work with apartment searching crammed in around them and a daily three and a half hour commute from my parents’ house in New Jersey, I was fried. I was seriously a crazy person.

At the end of my rope, I searched Craigslist no brokerage fee section one day at work and found some listings up in Inwood and Washington Heights, called the contact and made an appointment to check them out after work that day. I went in to their office and we made a list of 4 places to go check out.

They had me sold on the 3rd place. Which they also informed me had a deal where the second month was free. Perfect. We get back to the office to start filling out application fees when they tell me their brokerage fee.

Seriously. Are you kidding me? I’m completely burnt out and have finally found an apartment that doesn’t seem like a death trap. And NOW you tell me you have a brokers fee? After you’re listed on the no brokerage fee section of Craigslist?!!?

They politely informed me that some of their listings have a brokerage fee and some don’t. I had just picked one that did.

If this had been week one of apartment searching, I’d’ve walked the heck outta that place. Or even week two. Possibly even week three. As it was, I was just DONE. And at least this place had free rent for the second month. Since the brokerage fee was a month and a half rent… at least I was only paying half a month’s rent and I would be done with this whole mess.

So I put in the application and got the apartment. I went to actually go sign the lease with a different company a few days later, when THEY informed me that there was no free second month’s rent. So they get the realtor (? I guess that’s who that first group was) on the phone and fight over it and pretty much just decide it was a mistake and I could either take the apartment or not, but there would be no second month free. I got on the phone with the realtor and explained I didn’t feel I should have to pay a broker’s fee in that case, and if they agreed to that, I would sign for the apartment.

“What, do you think I work for free? I have to get paid.”

That was actually what the realtor dude said to me. So we proceeded to fight over the phone about how it is in no way my fault that he misread the paper from the leasing agents regarding which apartments have a free month. We fought for like half an hour and I HATE to admit it… but he won.

I talked him down to half the broker’s fee, but in the end, I was definitely still the one who got screwed.

This company is called Top Quality Apartments. I’d avoid them at all costs. I even found this Ripoff Report about them and Edward is the same charming fellow I worked with there.

And that is the happy story of my first apartment in NYC.


Anyone have a story about successfully finding an apartment in a big city? Or a PF fail story of their own?

16 thoughts on “#NYCFail – Brokerage Fees

  1. Ugh, I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that. I had a similar situation happen with Verizon a few weeks ago, where one person told me I’d be getting a credit and then the second one said they don’t ever give credits to customers. It’s so aggravating when you get contradicting information. When I was looking for an apartment here on LI, I made sure to choose those without a broker fee. It is rather insane they make you pay that much up front. I basically found it’s best to rent from a private owner so there’s no third party involved. I can see how that’s not an option in NYC though.
    E.M. recently posted…Moto X Review (Republic Wireless)My Profile

    • I think it is – you probably just need more patience. Which has never been my strong suit. But all around shadiness of the rental company bothered me even more than the brokers fee. Sigh. If they raise my rent at the end of the year, I may call it quits with NYC all together and go back to good old Jersey.

  2. It is such a difficult to navigate space trying to find an apartment in NYC “on the cheap.” And the worst part about the brokerage fees are that typically YOU do all the work, not them, yet you still have to pay them anyway. It only gets worse when you are looking to buy, then a whole other cast of characters come out of the woodwork expecting to get paid. It is a NYC conspiracy against buyers.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Women’s Power WednesdayMy Profile

  3. This is why I am never moving out of my apartment unless I leave NYC completely. I found a no-fee apartment on Craigslist that didn’t use a broker at all. The landlord paid someone to show me the apartment, I didn’t have to pay anything for that. And I was able to get the security deposit at just one month’s rent. Plus the apartment is rent stabilized. Seriously, I’m never leaving! But these places are on Craigslist.

    The reason why some people may not like it, despite the amazing deal, huge space, and cheap rent is because it’s a little bit far south in brooklyn (think families not crime) and because of that there isn’t a ton to do in the area. There aren’t bars up and down my block. I could care less but some people want that atmosphere.

    I know you already have your apartment but to anyone else looking in Brooklyn, the more south you go the cheaper rents are and the more suburban/family feel it is. Everyone may not like that but it is safe and the commute to manhattan is fine.
    Leslie Beslie recently posted…Books to Read in March: Horns by Joe Hill plus Warren Ellis & Leo BabautaMy Profile

    • That sounds great. Everywhere I looked in Brooklyn seemed to have an unpleasant commute to work – at least an hour. From door to door now it’s 40 minutes. Honestly, the social scene is pretty nonexistent up in Inwood, although I’m only about 10 blocks from Washington Heights and things start to pick up around 190th.

  4. I was so determined not to pay a broker’s fee, I can’t even begin to explain how determined I was.
    I ended up renting my apartment directly from a management group who owns my building (and several others), and saved myself some valuable $$ right there!

    Should I ever move, I’d first look at the listings my landlord have, but there’s no way I’m paying a small fortune to someone for “helping” me find an apartment… real estate seriously needs a cleanse in NYC!
    Debby recently posted…Day 141 – Mo’ Money, No Problems. Part 1.My Profile

    • Yeah, everything about it still makes me angry. I definitely relived all the rage and helplessness while writing this. At the very least, I can warn people away from an exceptionally shady company.

  5. You poor thing. I hate it when you’re at the end of your tether and someone keeps trying to screw with you… and they win!
    At least you have the guts to admit your “fail” on the blog.

    Personally, I don’t think it’s a fail, I just think you got stung by unscrupulous agents/brokers who are taking the piss.
    Mr Ikonz @ Project Ikonz recently posted…Do the hustle – my new side hustleMy Profile

  6. Yes, I was also facing problem like this, I take a house on rent and after few time later. My broker told me to buy that house if I want. I am giving money to the broker but broker tied me by promises that we are doing today, or tomorrow. Takes a lot of will power to walk away after such a crap experience and taking so long to find a place.I would have done the same thing.

  7. Hi Mel, hope all is well! I just came across this article of yours from last year. My boyfriend works as a leasing agent in Chicago and we were both shocked when we learned about “brokerage fees” in NYC. His commission is paid by the buildings where he fills vacancies. Now I understand why east coast transplants are sometimes hesitant to work with him – they probably assume he costs extra. I guess in such a hot rental market, processes vary. But still, the leasing agent is supposed to help, not hurt.

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