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Rent Coach: Why aren't brokers more upfront with their listings information?

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Q. I find myself in the same position over and over -- the apartment I'm interested in is not available but the broker claims to have 'tons' of other listings that meet my needs, only I have to come to the office to find out about any of them. 

These meetings have so far been a waste of time.  But when I try to get ANY info in advance about their listings, they say they can't give me any details unless I'm in the office.  What's up with that? (PS., this happens even in situations where exclusivity contracts are not required.)

A. To begin with, it sounds like you’re working with the wrong brokers!  The question really is “Why have the brokers that you have contacted all ended up being a waste of time?”  It may have to do with the listings that you’re searching for. 

No broker who is contacted regarding their exclusive listing would withhold any information about the property or require that you come into their office.  That would be a waste of their time.  They would simply return your call and schedule a time to view the property. 

Brokers with exclusive listings also regularly charge broker’s fees.  If you’re searching for all “no fee” listings from brokers that could have a lot to do with why you’re turning up empty handed, as  in the current market (tight inventory, high rents) very few landlords are offering “OP’s” (“owner pays”) on their open listings (listings that are available to all brokers, but exclusive to none of them).  Landlords know that in this environment brokers can collect a fee from their tenant clients. 

If you’re searching for “no fee” listings from brokers, the agent would need to bring you to a landlord offering OP’s in order to get paid.  Since those are rare, they have nothing to show you that meets your parameters when you call.  They use the “no fee” listings as bait to get you to call hoping they can convert you (their new lead) into a real client by bringing you into the office.  Experienced and successful brokers do not need to resort to such tactics as they have both exclusive listings and clients of their own, hence my conclusion that you’re working with the wrong agents.    

If you’re looking for an agent, read their bio and interview them when you speak to them if you want to work with them to find an apartment other than just the one you called about. Don’t just ask about listings; ask about their experience and current business.  If you are going to pay a broker’s fee, you are far better off committing to an agent that will guide you through the entire process and do the legwork for you rather than going out with a different one every time you want to see apartments.  The good agents wouldn’t agree to work in that manner anyway.


Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker. He is also the publisher of the Greenwich Village blog VillageConfidential.     

Note: The information provided here is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and cannot substitute for the advice of a licensed professional applying their specialized knowledge to the particular circumstances of your case.

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