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A good rental is hard to find, and some New York City renters apparently stop at little once they find one, including offering swag to brokers in exchange for being bumped to the top of the list.
“I’ve been offered cases of wine by people who work for liquor companies, VIP access to clubs, free drinks forever by bar owners, free meals at a restaurant,” says Jeffrey Schleider, the founder of Noho-based Miron Properties. "Yesterday someone offered me a pair of designer shoes."
Miron does a lot of business in the East Village and has represented several new rental buildings there.
“The East Village draws a really cool crowd of entertainment and hospitality industry people,” says Schleider. “The most desirable units go pretty quickly, and sometimes people try to convince us to take their application over someone else’s.”
Gus Waite, vice president of rentals at The Real Estate Group of New York, says he's encountered similar overtures.
“You have an open house for a really beautiful loft on Spring Street at a good price and six or seven tenants are looking at it—they know there are going to be multiple applications,” says Waite. “So a prospective tenant might take the broker aside and say, hey, I heard you talking about the Yankees-- my brother’s a bartender at Yankee Stadium and I could get you tickets if you move me to the front of the line.”
So...does it work? We're not sure.
Waite and Schleider maintain that they personally never accept swag because their fiduciary duty is to the landlord.
“It comes down to qualifications,” says Waite. “While it might be nice to go to dinner at the hot new Italian restaurant, if you’re making $120,000 and another potential tenant is making $5 million, you won’t be getting the apartment.”
He warns that such offers can backfire.
“It should never come across as quid pro quo. If we’re having a friendly conversation and it turns out we’re both really into Italian food, and whether it works out or not you’d like to take me out to the hot Italian restaurant, that’s one thing,” says Waite.
On the other hand, says Waite, “it’s really bad if it’s sleazy or if it comes off as arrogant—like basically you’re telling me, ‘You’re a servant, you have a price, and I’m going to pay you off so that you do what I want you to do.’ I will tell the landlord that you’re sleazy.”
Schleider recommends leaving the designer shoes in the bag and trying these tactics instead:
1. Offer to pay a year’s rent up front, especially when it’s a small owner like someone who owns one condo.
2. If you’re relocating with an employer-paid budget of $10,000 a month, for example, but the apartment is renting for $9,000, offer the landlord the full $10,000 in exchange for including electric, cable, and cleaning service. (Be sure to check with your company’s relo department first.)
3. Offer to take immediate occupancy. “That’s usually worthwhile to the owner because it could mean an extra two weeks of rent, for example,” says Schleider.