Tips to Know Before Meeting Your Broker in 2014: Understand the Process Going In
This post is the first entry in our series on Tips to Know Before Meeting Your Broker in 2014. The series is based on our experiences shadowing several rental brokers in New York in late 2013. We learned a lot about the best – and worst – ways to work with brokers.
Tip #1: Understand the Process Going In
It’s a broker’s job to educate you about the rental process, but your experience will go much more smoothly if you teach yourself a bit about the market first. Understanding what’s possible (a $1500 studio on the Upper East Side) and what isn’t (the same studio in NoLIta) can help you set reasonable expectations. Sites like RentHop can give you a solid sense of the market. Just beware the “false education” of venues like Craigslist, where the preponderance of scams can give you a distorted impression of what’s out there.
The internet can give you general knowledge of the rental process and market, but there’s no education like experience. That’s why many brokers actually encourage first-time renters to search on their own first. A few even told us that before they became brokers themselves, they never used brokers. Some found apartments through family or friends, others by approaching management companies directly. As Asha Makalani of Bond NY explained, “I’ve always just been a DIY kind of gal.” Are you surprised that agents would recommend renters try going it alone first? Don’t be. When I asked Makalani what the most frustrating part of her job was, she said without hesitation, “When people decide after weeks of working together that they don’t want to pay a fee.” Clients who aren’t really sure they want to pay for a broker’s services can waste huge amounts of that broker’s time. And when you work on commission, time is money.
Makalani’s colleague, Steve Druth, agrees. Druth’s dream client? “One who’s gotten screwed over and over and over.” These clients, who’ve been through the Craigslist gauntlet and interacted with numerous second-rate brokers, come to his office with a hard-won understanding of exactly what he’s saving them from.