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Guerrilla Guide to Finding a No-Fee Apartment in NYC (Part 3): 9 things your mother never told you

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Whether or not you’re brokered up (or maybe you just haven’t done this rental thing in awhile), here are nine tips from our renter's braintrust to help you keep out of trouble, save money or just avoid wasting time:

  1. If you're working both solo and with a broker, keep a log of everything you've seen so that you don't let the broker take you someplace you found on your own. Say you go to see a no-fee apartment that you’ve found through a management company, and, undecided, you keep working with brokers too. If you inadvertently wind up going back to that apartment with a broker, he or she is going to expect a fee (and you may be obligated to pay it) should you rent the place.
  2. If you are looking for a nice studio, also look at one-bedrooms.  If you are looking for 3-bedrooms, search for 4-bedrooms too.  Sometimes apartments are advertised as if a temporary wall has been erected for a share situation.
  3. To help make sure you’re working with a reputable landlord, research the building by address on the NYC Department of Buildings’ website.  You can see if there are any outstanding work orders or building violations. Also look up the building on the NYC Dept of Housing Preservation and Development website: It lists both complaints and violations for everything from lack of heat to bed bugs infestations.
  4. Find out up front about fees associated with a listing besides broker fees, such as application fees, and exactly what utilities are included in your rent.
  5. Don’t be afraid to sign a two-year lease if it means a better rate and you love the apartment and you know you’ll be sticking around the area.
  6. If you need a guarantor, ask about the landlord’s guarantor policy before you fall in love.  Some only allow guarantors in the TriState area.  Some won’t accept any guarantors.  And some (but not all) will let you use insurent.com as a guarantor.
  7. If you talk to a broker about a listing location, make sure to get enough detail.  For example “Second Avenue and East 7th Street” might mean the apartment is on busy Second Avenue rather than a quieter side street.  Is the apartment on Second Ave between 7th & 8th Streets, or 7th Street between First and Second Avenues?
  8. Cross check all prices online if you're working with a broker.  For example, if you see a price on the New York Times, StreetEasy or Craigslist, make sure it’s the same price advertised on the broker’s site if you have a link to it.  Sometimes, a feed between one of the listing sites and brokerage sites could have a glitch or short delay, so the price you’re looking at isn’t updated yet.    Also, when multiple brokers are advertising the same listing, they might have variable prices. You want to be quoting the lowest one.
  9. Never pay a dollar or give in-depth personal information until you’ve seen the apartment.  Any request for a deposit or social security number and credit score before you have visited an apartment is likely a scam.

Related posts:

Guerrilla Guide to Finding a No-Fee Rental (Part 2): Cut to the front of the line

Guerrilla Guide to Finding a No-Fee Rental (part 1): The 5 Best Websites

Luxury renter's lament: No cream for my coffee

Renters ply brokers with tix, shoes, meals

How to find an apartment without bed bugs

Inside Story: My landlord poisoned me

Rental Rookie: I rent my first NYC apartment from 3,000 miles away

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