DIY or Broker? Pros & Cons of Hiring an Apartment Broker
If you live in a major city such as New York, Los Angeles, Boston, etc., hiring a broker to navigate your apartment search is fairly common. However, many apartment hunters don't always understand the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a broker. While the convenience factor of hiring a broker is significant, there are times when doing a DIY apartment search makes more financial sense. If you're in the market for a new apartment rental and considering hiring a broker, check out why it may or may not be the right choice for you.
Pro - They Know the Market Better Than You
An apartment broker's job is to know the current rental market like the back of their hand. If you've done the proper research and hired one who is an expert at finding great deals, it's like having a human apartment encyclopedia at your fingertips. When it comes to apartment trends, they are highly localized to neighborhoods and can drastically change from one street to another. Brokers have years of experience exploring neighborhoods and are hyper-aware of factors such as schools in the area, entertainment options, safety, cost of living and more.
Con - They Cost Much More Than DIY
While this item is primarily referring to brokers in New York City, it's likely that brokers in other big cities are associated with additional cost as well. In New York, brokers charge about 10% of the annual rent directly from the tenant. If you consider the steep rents in NYC, an apartment hunter in New York could easily spend between $2,000 - $3,000 on a broker. This is in addition to their first and last month's rent plus security deposit.
While brokers in other cities like Los Angeles and Chicago usually divide the fee between the tenant and landlord, it can still add up to a significant charge. The cost of hiring a broker is easily the biggest con of not going DIY when apartment hunting.
Pro - They'll Find the Ideal Apartment Fit For You
When it comes to finding the ideal apartment fit, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Many apartment hunters who choose to take the DIY route will frequently run into the issue of not finding all their apartment must-haves under one roof. When an apartment hunter is searching for the right fit, their search is limited by time and level of expertise. There is a big difference between going to a few appointments per week and a broker who dedicates many hours to visiting potential apartments for you. Additionally, brokers typically have pre-existing relationships with landlords and management companies. This makes it much easier for them to negotiate as well as spot a scam when they see one.
Con - They May Have Too Many Clients at One Time
It's not uncommon for one broker to juggle a long list of clients looking for similar apartments at the same time. While a good broker understands how many clients they can realistically manage, some see their success as a numbers game. Some brokers are known to present one apartment option to many of their clients and offer it to whoever makes the fastest decision rather than who it's best suited for.
Some brokers even engage in an illegal practice called "bait and switch". This is when a broker advertises a "no-fee" apartment to attract clients but later blames the landlord for reversing the "no-fee" stipulation. Scenarios like these are the reason why proper research and vetting is an absolute must before hiring a broker to find an apartment.
The search for your dream apartment is not a small endeavor. Hiring a broker can be beneficial in certain cases like if you're in a rush to move in or you're new to the city and don't know where to look. However, it's also important to consider the benefits of a DIY apartment search. If you're not restricted to a timeframe or have a strong sense of the neighborhoods in your city, DIY can be a much better option than hiring an apartment broker. Whichever you choose, vetting and research is a must because the right apartment fit is a game-changer for your life.