The average Manhattan apartment rental commission is about $2,000 per transaction. Hard as it is to believe, that’s a fairly efficient price. The barrier to entry to become a licensed real estate agent is 75 hours, $400, and two very easy multiple choice exams. These low barriers do spawn a lot of awful agents, but exceptional brokers add lots of value and save everyone time. Don’t be fooled into thinking the high commissions are grounded in broker trickery, monopoly pricing, or unsophisticated consumers. If that was the case, apartment brokers would have disappeared along with stock brokers and travel agents long ago.
How do I get a piece of the action?
The brilliant part about being a Manhattan rental broker is, you don’t need to have any real estate experience or even any knowledge of Manhattan to begin adding value immediately. There is a big difference between adding value and closing deals (earning commission checks), but let’s ignore that for a moment and explore why anyone can convert their spare time into monetizable assets.
What value do brokers add?
Every day there are thousands of available apartments and thousands of potential renters who want to see them. Among that vast field of mediocrity is the elusive subset all brokers seek: the great apartments and the qualified, motivated renters. You can filter away bad renters over the phone. Sadly, judging an apartment based on the landlord’s descriptions won’t work. There really is no substitute to personally visiting the apartment and assessing its worth yourself. Less than half the available apartments are even remotely rentable. The bad ones linger until the landlord gets a clue and finishes the renovations or drops the price.
Thanks to the sytem of open listings in New York City, any licensed agent can freely visit apartments and build a sizable inventory of great apartments. The official lingo is called “previewing.” As long as you preview several times a week, you will continually improve your offerings and the draw that follows from your Craigslist and RentHop postings. If you find yourself with free time at the office despite your ad campaign, then you haven’t built up a large enough stash of assets. Go look at more apartments! When you are only advertising the cream of the crop, you’ll be shocked how quickly you’ll fill your entire calendar with renter appointments (and how much more bang for buck you get per advertisement).
How about closing the deal?
Sadly, far too many agents focus on the deal-closing skill instead of finding decent apartments. Then we all wonder why brokers get such a horrible reputation! Here is a better plan. Focus less on batting average and instead get more at-bats. Some renters will waste your time. Some will be extremely obnoxious. Many simply won’t be interested and you’ll need to move on. However, if every apartment you show is a diamond in the rough, and you take basic steps in screening your clients, then you will close far more deals than than a typical broker, without the sleazy aftertaste. It’s much easier to show good apartments and pray they sell themselves than to trick a client into renting an awful apartment. Focus first on finding good apartments before reading books on selling ice to Eskimos.
That’s all there is to it, on a very high-level. Sadly, apartment brokering is not easy work. You’ll need lots of organization and determination. Dealing with clients can be frustrating and managing your listings will seem exhausting at times. Even previewing is a bit of an art, which we’ll discuss in the future. At the end of the day, though, it’s not rocket science. We can boil it down to a rinse and repeat job where the ones who works harder will consistently win. Forget about the sales tactics and go add value instead. The rest will come naturally anyway.
This is the third edition of Undercover Broker, written by the founders of RentHop.com. We obtained our broker licenses to observe and gain insights into the mysterious world of Manhattan apartment brokering. Previous editions discussed the anatomy of broker bait and switch tactics
, how it happens, how to avoid it, and whether it’s truly evil.