We believe RentHop is a great tool for finding and renting your next apartment. When the time came for me to find a new apartment in New York, it was obvious that I should use RentHop to find it. This is my first-hand account of my experience using our site to find an apartment. Spoiler: it worked!
Step 1: What do I need, and what do I want?
I needed a studio or one bedroom. My priorities were: finding an apartment with a rent concession (where the owner pays an inducement to the renter); completing the search quickly; keeping my rent low (no more than two-thirds of my previous rent); and keeping my commute under 30 minutes by mass transit. I also had some nice-to-haves – I wanted to remain on the east side of Manhattan if possible, to have a super on-site (or a doorman), and to have a dishwasher, gas range and full-size refrigerator. When I started I was still working out my move-in date.
My life in boxes
Given my tight timeline I was willing to pay for a manager to guide my search. It was important, though, to offset that with a rent concession.
Step 2: Picking out apartments – and neighborhoods – that fit
I first used our Rental Heatmaps to find neighborhoods with a decent selection of studios and one-bedrooms in my price range. I looked for neighborhoods where the median rents for studios and one bedrooms were at or around my target. Neighborhoods where my target rent was at or near the 25th percentile for rent would have too few choices (sorry, SoHo and TriBeCa), while neighborhoods where my target rent was at or above the 75th percentile for rent were either too far (East Harlem, Fort Greene) or just not what I wanted (no offense intended, Upper East Side).
Of the several neighborhoods that fit on the Heatmaps I did some research and came up with four – Lower East Side, Gramercy, Murray Hill and Kips Bay. I then did two searches on RentHop for a studio or one bedroom in those four neighborhoods with my maximum rent, one with “reduced fee” and one with “no fee” checked in the filters. Sticking solely with apartments whose HopScores were above 85, I found several apartments that worked.
I read each of the apartment descriptions closely to confirm that it made sense. I then reached out to five managers with the same message – my name, contact info, expected move date and a request to be contacted back. (I didn’t tell any manager at this stage that I work with RentHop.
Step 3: Contacting managers
I got quick responses from three of the five managers whom I emailed. Of those three, one asked me to reconnect when I’d set my move-in date. Another agreed to meet me at the apartment about which I’d emailed – a studio in Gramercy – the following day. He also asked some questions so that he could pick out more apartments for me. He noted that landlords offering concessions often charge higher rents to make back the cost of the concession. (Apparently there’s no free lunch.)
The third asked that we meet at her offices. The goal was to pick several apartments that we could see quickly. She also gave me a list of documents I’d need to have so I could apply quickly.
Step 4: Seeing the places
I met the manager showing the Gramercy space on the afternoon of the third day, a Tuesday. We met on the steps to the building, where we spoke briefly and I completed the agency agreement (so that if I rented an apartment he showed me I’d pay his broker’s fee). We then looked at the apartment. I realized immediately that my priorities had to change – the apartment was way too small for me. It turned out that I hadn’t really understood what I needed in my new space until I saw some spaces. The manager had one other apartment in the Lower East Side that fit, but it had no concession, it was quite small and he couldn’t show it that day.
I met with the third manager and her partner at her offices on the morning of the fourth day, Wednesday. My original requirements weren’t right, so we widened the search. The managers felt strongly that there were apartments in Midtown East with good landlords that would fit my needs. I agreed to see some of those apartments along with some further south. The managers put together a list of six apartments for me to see, and we went to work. (We had only a few hours to see everything. There’s a lot going on at RentHop!)
We started in Midtown East and worked south. While we viewed apartments, she and her partner texted back and forth to answer my questions. Turned out that the Midtown East apartments were a great fit – the bus and subway were convenient and the apartments themselves were spacious, especially compared to what I’d already seen.
We saw all six apartments in short order, and I settled quickly on a second-floor studio in Midtown East in a doorman/elevator building with a concession. It didn’t have a dishwasher or full-size fridge, but I didn’t want to be too choosy. I gave my documents (which I’d already assembled thanks to her helpful list) to the manager, who prepared and sent the application that day.
My new home!
Step 5: Negotiations
With the application submitted, the only things left to do were to wait – and negotiate the broker’s fee. The standard broker’s fee in New York is 15% of the first year’s annual rent. With the concession covering broker’s fee equal to 8.33% of the first year’s annual rent, we were left negotiating over the remaining 6.67%. With some skillful back and forth we ended up with a broker’s fee of 11%, which meant that I was only paying 2.67% of the first year’s annual rent out-of-pocket to the broker. Score!
While the manager and I negotiated the fee, the manager negotiated with the landlord. I was a solid candidate for the apartment. However, this landlord usually requires new tenants to move in within ten days of lease signing; I wouldn’t move in for over three weeks. The manager got the landlord to accept my application and agree to end-of-month move-in, a win that saved me over $1,000 in rent.
Step 6: Lease signing
On the morning of the sixth day I went with the third manager to the landlord’s offices to sign the lease. She patiently sat with me while I reviewed the entire lease in detail and worked through my questions with the leasing agent. The process took over an hour, but the lease was signed and I had a new apartment.
There you have it. In six days’ time I identified the apartments I wanted to work with, found several good managers, saw a bunch of apartments, found a great one and rented it. RentHop was an important part of the solution – along with being prepared, listening to the broker’s advice, and being decisive. It works!
There are some important questions to ask when you’re looking at apartments. I’m glad I had this list!
Recently we wrote a blog post detailing how RentHop deals with “ghost listings”. Worth a read if you’re searching for a place.