The Real.Est List
Best of Brick: Confessions of an on-site leasing agent
(Originally posted on 11/02/10)
Understand incentive structures
In the current market, some landlords are offering incentives to stimulate business. Landlords will sometimes offer to pay your broker’s commission and give you a free month, but more commonly they offer a free month’s rent OR a 1 month brokerage commission. If a broker takes you to a no-fee building, you may be missing out on a month’s rent savings that you would have gotten if you had went on your own.
This is not meant to deter you from using a broker. Finding an apartment in New York takes a lot of time and effort, and if you aren’t willing to devote hours on end to research, it’s not a bad idea to have someone handle it for you, particularly if it’s your future landlord that ends up footing the bill.
In terms of the on-site leasing agent’s compensation, the typical structure is a base salary plus a small commission for deals closed. Some on-sites work on a salary only basis, but this is somewhat more rare. In contrast to a traditional broker who only gets paid if you transact, on-sites are far less invested in the deal. Of course we want to get the apartments rented because that’s our job, but generally we have enough interest in our properties that the sentiment is that if you don’t rent the apartment then someone else will. I tend not to dish out the hard sell too often, unless it’s a high priced apartment that has been sitting for a while that I know the landlord is very eager to rent.
If you use a broker, use an experienced one
The barrier to entry to get your real estate license in New York is almost laughably low. Make sure the agent you’re working with knows what they’re doing. The best broker to use is one who has done a lot of business in the neighborhood and ideally the building(s) you’re interested in. They’ll have relationships with “the on-sites” and may be able to get you a better deal because they’ll know the right questions to ask. If you already know which buildings you’re interested in, I would recommend going to the building directly. However, if you’re unfamiliar with the area or don’t have a lot of time to devote to the search process then enlisting the help of a broker is probably a good move.
It’s business, not personal
If there’s competition for a particular unit, people tell me all kinds of things to try to persuade me to give them the apartment over the other interested parties (which, by the way, is not within my power). They talk my ear off about how nice they are and how much they love the apartment and how the building is so perfect because it‘s close to Susie’s school, a stone’s throw from Bob’s office, and around the corner from Nancy’s favorite Pilates studio. None of this matters to the landlord (or to me, despite my feigned interest).
Our policy gives priority to the first application that comes in, so if you really want an apartment, get your application in as early as possible. If we have simultaneous applications (sometimes one will come in via fax or email at the same time that someone is physically filling one out in the office) the landlord will give the apartment to the tenant who can move in the soonest, has the biggest income, and the best credit. Period. They don’t care how nice/pretty/important you are. They don’t care what race/age/sex/religion you are (discriminating on those bases is illegal and most landlords are very scared of being hit with a discrimination suit). As long as it’s by legal means, they don’t care how you make your money, just that you make enough of it. Try to avoid getting into any landlord-tenant lawsuits, because if we see that on your background check you will likely be turned down. The same goes for arrests for anything more serious than a parking ticket.
Be upfront about bed bugs
Surprisingly, most people who come through my office don’t ask about bed bugs. I assume this is because I work in a luxury building and people generally associate pest infestations with lower rent kinds of properties, even though, as the saying goes, bed bugs don’t discriminate.
In compliance with the new law that was passed, we provide a bed bug disclosure form at lease signing that indicates whether the building has had any history of bed bug infestation, on what floor(s) the infestation took place, and if and when the situation has been eradicated. But if you wouldn’t feel comfortable moving into an apartment or building that has had bed bugs issues in the past, don’t wait until you get to the lease signing to bring it up. Ask about it up front.
On the flip side, I have heard of landlords asking potential tenants if they have ever had bed bugs and requesting affidavits swearing that they do not have bed bugs in their current residence. My company doesn’t do that as of yet but I imagine that if any applicant were to admit to having a current bed bug issue, their application would be denied. You could of course lie, but if you report bed bugs at a later time, your landlord will more than likely check with your previous landlord to verify that there was no prior history. If they find out that you lied they will no doubt stick you with the extermination bill.