Finding a "no-fee" apartment
There are a number of ways to find a no-fee apartment. Usually it's a combination of legwork and luck. Sometimes it's a matter of budget: Many large buildings--often in the luxury-building category--tend to have their own leasing offices where you can rent directly without paying a broker.
1. Your personal networks
Use every resource at your disposal--Facebook, Twitter, alumni networks, company bulletin boards, etc.--to let the world at large know what type of apartment you're looking for, ideal neighborhoods, and your budget.
Do they know of any availabilities in their building? Do they have any friends or relatives who own apartments or work for management companies? Do they know anyone who will be moving soon, so that you can either approach the landlord directly for an assignment of the lease, or sublet to the end of the leaseterm and then negotiate a new lease with the landlord rather than going through a broker?
Ask your contacts to repost your request to their own networks too.
There are a number of websites that publish no-fee listings received directly from landlords and management companies. For more info, see The 8 Best Websites for Finding a No-Fee Apartment.
Get hold of a list of management firms that deal directly with renters (like this list ) and call each one for upcoming availabilities.
Put on your most comfortable walking shoes and hit the streets of your desired neighborhoods, looking for "for rent" signs and chatting up doormen at rental buildings, dog owners at the local dog run, and pretty much anyone else you run into who might have a lead on a suitable apartment or a building. For inspiration, "How I Found My No-Fee Apartment."
How to Work with a Broker
If you don't have time to do the legwork yourself and want access to a broader pool of listings, consider working with a real estate broker.
Other reasons to hire a broker: You're new to New York, you can't find
what you want on your own, your employer is paying your broker's fee, you are interested in subletting a co-op or condo (typically nicer and sometimes cheaper than a normal rental unit, and frequently represented by a broker), and/or you plan to live in your place for more than a year (i.e, though you'll still have to pay the entire broker's fee up front, you can mentally and emotionally amortize it over a longer period of time).
Expect to pay your broker a fee that could range from one month’s rent to 15% of the annual rent (a little less than two month’s rent). You will need to discuss the exact amount with your agent.
Bear in mind that the quality of NYC rental agents is notoriously uneven. The agents you want to avoid--and there are many--tend to attract clients through the "bait and switch" technique of listing a too-good-to-be-true apartment that isn't actually available for rent.
Instead of finding an agent through a listing, ask for a recommendation from a friend or your employer's relocation office, or dip into the pool of high-quality agents at our partner TripleMint.com. a technology-enabled brokerage founded by a pair of young Yale grads in response to the dismal rental experiences of their classmates and colleagues. Fees typically range around 10% of a year's rent and you won't feel like you need to don a Hazmat suit before each appointment.
Another way to zero in on low-fee apartments: On some apartment search websites like NakedApartments.com , you can search through "low-fee" listings, where the broker's fee ranges from 0-9%.
One final note on brokers' fees: Landlords who are eager to rent may pay all or part of a broker’s fee. In industry parlance, an "owner-paid fee" is known as an “OP.” They’re more common during the slower rental season of November through February; where the building is new and needs to be filled; the unit is particularly undesirable; or the rent is particularly ambitious. You have a right to know whether your broker stands to collect an OP on a particular apartment and to have it credited against the fee you have agreed to pay your broker.