8 Truths About NYC Real Estate Brokers: Beware! - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog

New York City

8 Truths About NYC Real Estate Brokers: Beware!

Eight important facts and ways to protect yourself.


Think your NYC broker is working for you? Think again. You’re not in Kansas anymore. Lord knows I’ve had more than my fair share of broker-induced real-estate headaches. It’s a dirty business, and if you don’t know how to look out for yourself, you’re food for the piranhas.

8 Truths About NYC Real Estate Brokers: Beware!

“In New York City alone, there are 27,000 real estate agents,” says a top broker. “Last year there were 12,598 contracts, right? That means a lot of real estate agents did not do deals.”

NYC real estate brokers make money with turnover – and a lot of money. They charge the renter one month’s rent or 15% of the year’s total rent. Make sure to negotiate the commission rate before you go out with them, because once you see that apartment that you just must have, the broker is fully aware that they have you over a barrel in terms of the commission – and you can bet it’ll be the full 15%.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind when working with a NYC real estate broker:

1. They don’t want you to get a good deal.

They want you to rent or buy something – and they want it to be at the highest price possible, because every $100/month more you pay in rent, is at least another $100 in commissions they’re putting in their pocket. Therefore, they’re not going to negotiate as hard as you could if you found out who the listing broker is and went directly to them.

8 Truths About NYC Real Estate Brokers: Beware!

He’s looking out for #1 — and that’s not you!

2. You can bypass them.

If there is an apartment you really want, but it’s labeled as “broker only,” you may be able to get a better commission deal if you go directly to the listing broker. Brokers usually split the 15% fee, with 7.5% going to the listing broker and 7.5% to the broker (your broker) who brings the client in. This means that if you go directly to the listing broker, you may be able to negotiate that they take an 8.5% or 10% fee instead. Unsurprisingly, most brokers are fine with cutting the other broker out if it means more money for them.

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A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she lives in Monte Carlo, but spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always traveling, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 8 Comments

  1. Jim Smith

    Today, I was nearly scammed by a rental site named Zenly, which claims that they are not a brokerage, connecting customers with no fee apartments. When I requested to visit an apartment via Zenly, they quickly emailed me back, but would not disclose the address of the apartment until I confirmed an appointment. Suddenly, they made me aware that Zenly would be charging a three percent fee on the apartment, which came as a surprise.

    After confirming my appointment, I went to go view the apartment. Upon returning to my home, I went on the internet, searched the apartment, and found it on the internet listed for less than it was on Zenly, with no fee involved. Worst of all, a simple Google search revealed that Zenly is registered as a brokerage with the state of New York.

    I can supply my emails with Zenly and their customer service as needed. New Yorkers work too hard to be scammed for $500-$2000 by a brokerage falsely advertising itself as a no-fee platform. If we take apartment A, I will be $2200 a month on StreetEasy (no fee), but then $2300 a month on Zenly (plus the brokerage fee). New Yorkers should know this before being scammed like I nearly was.

  2. Courtney Watson

    Wow – this is really useful! I’m going to memorize it, and forward it to all my NYC friends!

  3. I’ve been looking for a place in NYC… I’ll definitely go the no-fee managed-building route, but could you please write an article about the best and worst managed buildings / management companies??

  4. Thanks for this! I took your advice and rented in a no-fee building. It saved us about $6000! I’ll forward this to my other friends in the city. What a well-researched article!

  5. Jen Spillane

    I've actually had pretty okay experiences with brokers, but I mean, if I could bypass them altogether, that would be ideal. They do charge a lot. Great tips!

  6. This is really good to know. I've known a lot of friends who've had bad experiences with brokers, so I'll be passing this around! Thanks for the tips, they're definitely something to keep in mind next time I need to find an apartment.

  7. I can back this up. I've rented four apartments in NYC so far, and have had multiple bad experiences with brokers. Now I just go directly to rental management companies and bypass the brokers. They're so cutthroat and manipulative. Yuk.

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