Photo: Flickr / drewbeck
Believe it or not, I’ve found all of my apartments on Craigslist.And I’ve never paid a broker’s fee once.
I’ve always resented the notion of a one-month (or more) broker’s fee since in my experience, the real estate brokers showing my apartment were just making appointments.
I was the one telling them about the closest grocery store, amenities in the building and all the quirks of the apartment.
Here’s what I’ve done to find fee-free apartments on Craigslist in Hoboken, Jersey city, the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side:
Research, research, research! Figure out which area or areas you want to live in and really explore them. Take trips to the neighbourhood during the day and at night. Assess which section is the expensive part of town, where the main street is, where the closest transportation is, and where the residential section is. Talk to people who live there as well as people who don’t. Get as much information as possible from as many different people as possible.
Don’t trust the pictures. Are all the shots narrow? Does the apartment look like it has many hallways but no rooms? It’s probably a shoebox. Lots of pictures of the outside or only one room means that the broker/owner doesn’t want you to see what’s inside. Request more pictures before you take the time to see the apartment.
Be strategic and take plenty of notes. See apartments in groups and take notes, even pictures. Apartments can start to blend together so write down notable features that you like and don’t like, which will help you differentiate which apartments you liked best. It also helps to jot down rents, utilities, move-in dates, etc. When you go home, plug the address into Bed Bug Registry.
Get your priorities right. There is no perfect apartment, but there is a living situation that is best for you. Think about your lifestyle and what you care about the most. Is it amenities, location, size, proximity to transpiration? You won’t get all of those things unless you’re willing to pay for them, so be prepared to compromise. My last two apartments have been fifth-floor walkups—trade-offs I was willing to make because the apartments had features like skylights, high ceilings and fireplaces.
Don’t listen to the broker. Let’s face it, the broker just wants to make money. He’ll tell you an area is totally safe or an apartment is the best deal you’ll find to get the place rented as quickly as possible. Don’t buy his crap.
Know the fair market value. Figure out what the price is for the number of bedrooms you want and be willing to pay for it. I was able to find an apartment on the UWS in two weeks when I narrowed my search down to apartments that were at the higher end of my price range. In my experience, I’ve found you won’t find a good apartment for an insanely low price unless it’s in a bad area, is rent-controlled, or there’s something seriously wrong with it.
Trust your gut. You’ll know when you’ve found an apartment that you can call home, so definitely see more than one. At some point, make a decision and stick with it because trolling through listings can become addictive and you’ll start thinking the next best apartment is one click away. It’s not.