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Rent Coach: Are brokers more willing to negotiate their fees in the winter?

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Q. I'm planning on moving to a new rental this winter. I'd really like to avoid paying a broker fee or, at the very least, negotiate down from 15 percent. During the slow months, how open are brokers to negotiating their fees? And also, any suggestions on how to convince a broker to do it?

A. Renting in the winter can have its advantages and disadvantages.  On the plus side, competition for apartments is down because far fewer people choose to move in the winter than in the spring, summer or fall.  As basic laws of supply and demand would dictate, that also means prices often tend to skew a bit lower as well.  However, there’s also a lot less inventory available on the market, so your choices may feel slim.

As landlords are not often offering to pay tenant’s brokers in the current market, the only way you’re likely to avoid broker’s fees all together is to restrict your apartment search to listings directly from landlords and management companies that advertise as “no fee.” 

There are a number of resources you can use to conduct a search such as NakedApartmentsStreetEasy, or UrbanEdge.  If, however, you’re open to paying a fee, then you can also check out brokers’ listings. 

While brokers aren’t any less inclined to be paid in the winter then they are in the summer,  waning competition may give you some negotiating leverage. If an apartment has been on the market for a while (at least a few weeks), a broker may be inclined to motivate a prospective renter to submit an application by agreeing to reduce their fee.  Not only is an agent putting more and more time into the listing as the weeks ago on, but they may be concerned about their client’s (the landlord’s) satisfaction with their services.  You’ll be best positioned to take advantage if you have all your supporting documents in order and make a reasonable offer with regard to both the rent and the commission.  If the broker was asking for 15%, try offering 10% as a starting point.

Not all agents will be willing to reduce their fees.  Some will refuse to do so as a matter of principal and others may believe that their listing will generate enough demand that they do not need to reduce their commission in order to move it.  Also, if the agent is reliant on their rental income during the winter to pay the bills, they may not be inclined to take any less when they have an exclusive listing on the apartment. 

That being said, there is no way to know without asking. 


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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