Many renters work with agents and brokers to help them find their apartments. While most New Yorkers use the terms agent and broker interchangeably, there are differences between the two.

  • Real Estate Agent: Anyone who earns a real estate license. There are different state requirements, but all states require aspiring agents to take a minimum number of classes and pass two tests to earn their license. An agent then must work for a broker and attach their license with a brokerage.
  • Real Estate Broker: An experienced agent who decides to further their real estate education. They complete additional courses and pass a broker’s license exam. Once they earn their license, a broker will bring agents to work under them for their brokerage. Typically, the broker takes on a leadership role and guides their agents through the rental and sales process, providing tips and insight.

When renting an apartment, most prospective renters will work with an agent. For the rest of this guide, we will refer to all real estate professionals as “agents.”


All agents and brokers must carry a copy of their real estate license with them. Additionally, each agent has a real estate license number, and you can verify that the agent holds an active license by looking them up on New York’s eAccess page.

Pros and cons of working with an agent

There are several advantages to working with an agent, and some renters may prefer working on their own. When working with an agent, you can expect the following:


  • The agent should have a wide range of knowledge about the neighborhood, property, and current market. They may have access to apartments you will not see online, and the agent may even have relationships with landlords that help you receive a special deal on the rent price.
  • An agent’s knowledge also spans through the application process. The agent will guide you through the process and check your documents, ensure everything looks complete, and give you the best possible chance of getting your application accepted. Additionally, an agent with a relationship with the landlord will know what the landlord wants to see on the application and can bring that knowledge to the table.


  • Some agents may charge their clients a broker’s fee, meaning you will have to pay more than the first month’s rent and security deposit to acquire the apartment. Continue to the next chapter to learn more about fee versus no-fee listings.
  • You will have to work with the agent’s schedule to ensure you can view apartments. While most agents will try to accommodate their client’s schedules, they can be swamped during the peak rental season and only show certain apartments at specific times. Therefore, you may have to take time off work or rearrange plans to attend open houses and see the unit.

How to find an agent

The easiest way to connect with an agent is by inquiring about a listing online. Agents directly advertise their listings on sites like RentHop, and you can inquire about the listing to connect with an agent who will provide more information and schedule a tour.

You may also research brokerages online to find one that specifically deals with the type of apartment you’re interested in or the neighborhood you want to rent in. When you visit a brokerage’s website, it typically lists all their active agents and includes their contact information. Therefore, you can directly reach out to the agent and ask about their available listings.

How to find an apartment without an agent

You can also circumvent the agent process by renting directly from landlords and owners. On RentHop, you can search specifically for units by the owner, meaning that the unit’s owner posted the listing themselves. When you inquire about the listing, you’ll directly contact that owner to learn more about the unit. Owners can be those looking to sublet, landlords, or management companies. When you directly reach out to the owner, you will not pay a broker’s fee and you will submityour application right to that person.

When working individually, landlords sometimes have less stringent requirements, and it may be easier to submit an application and receive approval.

There are several other ways you can search for apartments without the help of an agent:

  • If you’re interested in living in a particular building, that building may have a website or online presence where the you can directly reach out about availabilities.
  • Some buildings have physical signs on their exterior which advertise their listings. You can reach out through the contact information on the sign to learn more.
  • Let your peers know that you’re looking for an apartment. Sometimes vacancies line up, and a friend may know a friend who wants to rent their apartment. They may also know the direct contact information of their own management company or landlord and can help connect you with the leasing office.