When you rent an apartment in New York City, you may be dismayed to learn that you often have to pay a hefty broker’s fee, which typically ranges from 12 to 15 percent of the annual rent for an apartment. It can be a bitter pill to swallow—after all, you’re also putting down the first month’s rent and a security deposit.
Broker fees are paid to agents who you have sought out to help you find an apartment. But that’s not the only scenario in which you pay a broker fee: Even when you find an apartment on your own, if there is an agent who is marketing the unit on behalf of a landlord, you may still be asked to pay their fee. In slower markets, landlords will often cover the fee for brokers they hire, but when competition heats up for apartments, as is the case now, these owner-paid concessions dry up.
In some cases, enlisting the help of an agent and paying the broker fee is beneficial. Having an expert do the heavy lifting for you may be worth the price if you don’t have a lot of time, are coming from outside NYC, can’t find what you want on your own, or your employer is paying for your broker fee as part of your relocation expenses.
However, if you have the time and grit to conduct your own search, and want to save some money upfront, consider looking for a no-fee apartment on websites that let you filter out fee-based apartments,
If you exhaust the DIY method—or just feel exhausted—sign up here to take advantage of the corporate relocation rate offered by Brick Underground partner The Agency, a tech-savvy real estate brokerage that's helped hundreds of Brick Underground readers find their ideal NYC apartments. The Agency will charge a broker's fee of 10 percent of a year's rent versus the usual 12 to 15 percent if the apartment is an "open" listing (versus an "exclusive" listing where the fee is split with the broker holding the listing.) Bonus: The agents at The Agency are a delight to deal with.
These “no fee” come in two varieties: Apartments you can rent directly from a landlord or management company and apartments where the landlord pays the broker’s fee for you as a concession. You may also want to consider a co-living situation—these are furnished apartments that some liken to upscale adult dorms. (Want more intel? Check out Brick Underground's guide to co-living spaces in NYC.)
[Editor’s Note: A previous version of the article ran in May 2022. We are presenting it again here as part of our summer Best of Brick week.]
Ready to begin your search for a new apartment? Keep reading for Brick Underground’s updated list of the best websites for finding no-fee rentals in New York City, listed in alphabetical order.
Good for: Finding an apartment from smaller mom-and-pop-type landlords.
The enduring popularity of Craigslist proves that you don’t need a fancy (or modern) interface to make an effective real estate tool for both renters and landlords—as long as you use it with discretion.
Under the site’s housing tab, you can choose “apartments/housing” and then refine your search by selecting “no broker fee” apartments on the left hand side of the screen, then narrow your search according to your housing preferences. You can further filter search results for apartments with a washer and dryer, pet-friendly buildings, and furnished spaces. The map function is also useful if you’re looking in a specific neighborhood, and also helps give you a sense of an apartment’s actual location, versus where its poster claims it is. (This is a very common switcheroo in NYC real estate.)
Craigslist is literally a free-for-all, so take care to avoid scams, and only search apartments with photos, which is another filter option. Some listings on Craigslist don’t include the address so you should focus on listings that do so you can investigate the building and the neighborhood more closely, including information like bedbug history and neighborhood crime rate (more tips on that here), as well as plugging the address into the city's Building Information System to check on things like outstanding violations. Also Google the name of the management company and broker to see if any red flags appear.
Word of mouth/social media/Nextdoor
Good for: Getting an apartment through a personal recommendation.
There are plenty of fancy apartment rental sites, but hearing through word of mouth or from someone in your online community about an available apartment is still a powerful tool in the world of New York City real estate. The best deals and nicest places are often found via well-connected friends, family members, and coworkers, so don’t be shy—reach out to your network.
Post on Facebook or Twitter, hit up your college's alumni network or Facebook group, send a mass email to everyone you’ve ever met in the city, or your other social feeds. By reaching out, you're letting your network know that you're on the hunt. Maybe a friend is moving out of an apartment you’ve always admired, and you can scoop it up before it even hits the market.
Nextdoor is a hyper local site organized by neighborhood where members are verified. You need to join in order to access the site and you can only post for the neighborhood you live in. So this is a good option if you’re looking to move within the same neighborhood.
Good for: Browsing apartment listings by video instead of photos.
Frele, from the founder of Leasebreak (more about that site later), launched in 2018. It does not charge to post listings so you will likely find rentals here that you won’t find on other sites. In response to the pandemic, the site focuses on showing listings with videos rather than photos—which may give you a better sense of the space. In addition, the site has thousands of listings with photos.
There is a no-fee filter on the top right of their page. Out of their roughly 2,500 listings, 75 percent are no fee. Out of those, 74 percent are in Manhattan, 19 percent are in Brooklyn, and 5 percent are in Queens.
The site uses the same algorithms as Leasebreak to detect scams and prevent scams from being posted on the site. In addition, it has an extra layer of security: The site is manually checked for listings that appear suspicious. Both brokers and landlords are allowed to post listings and some come from feeds.
To rent an apartment in New York City, most landlords require you to earn an annual salary of at least 40 to 45 times the monthly rent. If you don't—or if you’re an international employed person, self-employed, non-employed with assets, retired, or an international student or US student—you’ll need to find a guarantor for your lease who earns at least 80 times the monthly rent and lives in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut. Or you can turn to Insurent Lease Guaranty. Accepted at more than 4,700 buildings across the city representing over 475,000 apartments, Insurent Lease Guaranty is a quick and easy way to get the apartment you want. Click here to learn more.
Gertie’s Live Work
Good for: Working artists who need a reasonably priced place to live.
Gertie’s Live Work was founded by two artists and is intended for artists. It lists both workspaces and apartments, all of which are no-fee rentals (for a similar service see Listings Project below). Currently there are about 100 to 150 listings on the site, about 70 percent of which are in Brooklyn, 16 percent in Queens, and 8 percent in Manhattan. You can filter by price range and square footage and there’s a search feature that you can use for specific neighborhoods or other criteria.
It’s currently free to post listings on the site, but starting in September, it will cost $16, $1 of which will go to Free Arts NYC. All listings are vetted by admins to ensure legitimacy and brokers are not allowed to post on the site—just artists.
The site also has a Seeking feature where artists who are looking for an apartment or workplace can post for free and there’s a free weekly newsletter.
Good for: Searching for apartments with very specific features.
Real estate start-up Gobii, formerly Igluu, allows users to filter their searches for no-fee listings. Currently, there are an estimated 2,500 no-fee apartments, which makes up about 24 percent of the site’s listings. Twenty percent of Manhattan listings are no fee, 3 percent of Brooklyn listings are no fee, and less than 2 percent of Queens listings have no fee.
Gobii also has a partnership with Insurent to provide a guarantor for renters who need one, and users can browse listings for which Insurent can guarantee the lease. Other filters include proximity to specific subway lines, days on market, amenities like bike storage and roof decks. Another useful feature is the ability to search not only by neighborhood but by specific boundaries: Users can specify that they are looking for apartments to the south of a particular street, for instance.
The search results page leads to an interactive map, and individual listings include the apartment address, its amenities, and what direction the windows face. Each listing also rates the condition of the building, though there aren't further details on how those ratings are determined. Gobii aggregates listings from REBNY’s RLS feed, and verified landlords can also post listings through their portfolio management tool. Individual owners will be able to post their listings on the site later this year.
Good for: Short-term rentals, sublets, lease breaks, and rooms for rent.
Taking over someone's apartment is a surefire way to get around having to pay a broker fee and get a deal if you don't need a long-term lease. Renters who need to get out of their lease list their apartments on Leasebreak, so leases here are for less than a year, which can be helpful if you're in between jobs, cities, or just looking to try a place out for a shorter period than the usual one-year lease. Some landlords may let new tenants sign a 12 month-lease or renew the lease—meaning you'll score a new lease with no broker's fee.
The site has both fee and no-fee listings, and it's simple to search all five boroughs using the “no fee” filter. According to Leasebreak, 75 percent of its listings are no-fee. There are about 2,000-3,000 short-term listings at any given time, which include not just leasebreaks from tenants, but also short-term furnished rentals and sublets from landlords and agents. It is free for someone to post their listing on the site, so you might find inexpensive rentals here that aren’t on other sites. Short-term furnished rental companies like Furnished Quarters also post listings on their site.
Leasebreak now has a mobile and desktop site, and listings are searchable by how long you want a place as well as move-in and move-out dates. It has a new filter to search exclusively for apartments with virtual or 3D tours, which now shows what direction the apartment faces.
Good for: Vetted listings for artists and creative types.
Listings Project is a weekly email list curated by Stephanie Diamond and her team that caters to artists and other creative types searching for housing such as studio space, sublets, and long-term rentals (for a similar service see Gertie’s Live Work above). There are around 300 listings posted each week, all of which are no-fee and personally vetted by staff through direct correspondence with posters. It also makes sure all listings meet equity and inclusion standards, and check for discriminatory language in listings. The site only accepts listings posted by NYC tenants and owners, who are charged $39 for each week their listing is up.
The weekly email has also evolved over the years, and become easier to use. Brokers, apartment managers, and third-party services are not permitted to submit apartment listings. All listers and subscribers must commit to community agreements to make the site inclusive and anti-oppressive.
Diamond says the service is vital to supporting the arts community. "It draws on the belief that we are our best selves when we feel both grounded as individuals and deeply connected to a vibrant, energizing public," she says.
Some New York City landlords offer a free month (or more) at the beginning or end of a lease. The advertised rent is the net effective rent. The net effective rent is less than the amount you will actually have to pay --- known as your gross rent --- during your non-free months. Brick Underground's Gross Rent Calculator enables you to easily calculate your gross rent, make quick apples-to-apples comparisons between apartments and avoid expensive surprises. All you'll need to figure out your gross rent is 1) the net effective rent, 2) the length of your lease, and 3) how many free months your landlord is offering. [Hint: Bookmark this page for easy reference!] To learn more about net effective versus gross rents, read What does 'net effective rent' mean?. If the landlord is offering partial months free, enter it with a decimal point. For example, 6 weeks free rent should be entered as 1.5 months.
Gross Rent Calculator
Some New York City landlords offer a free month (or more) at the beginning or end of a lease. The advertised rent is the net effective rent. The net effective rent is less than the amount you will actually have to pay --- known as your gross rent --- during your non-free months.
Brick Underground's Gross Rent Calculator enables you to easily calculate your gross rent, make quick apples-to-apples comparisons between apartments and avoid expensive surprises. All you'll need to figure out your gross rent is 1) the net effective rent, 2) the length of your lease, and 3) how many free months your landlord is offering. [Hint: Bookmark this page for easy reference!]
To learn more about net effective versus gross rents, read What does 'net effective rent' mean?.
If the landlord is offering partial months free, enter it with a decimal point. For example, 6 weeks free rent should be entered as 1.5 months.
Good for: No frills with quality control.
NYBits is one of the oldest rental listings sites in New York, and its straightforward interface makes finding no-fee listings easy. Each listing includes the address for the apartment, which is unique, as well as the role of the poster (owner, manager, or broker), and specifies if it is no-fee. The team also researches each post before putting them up. This helps cut down on duplicates as well as bait-and-switch scams, and allows you to research a building on your own more easily. Postings are also limited in how long they can be active.
You can navigate the site by building type (condo, co-op, rental), neighborhood, and companies (brokerage, property managers, individual brokers) and see apartments available in specific buildings.
Other features include a map at the bottom of every search results page, which makes it easier to see exactly where all the apartments are located. NYBits also has rental alerts, which notify users when a listing from a preferred building or search criteria appears on the site, because rentals usually move quickly.
Good for: Renting directly from a management company.
Newcomer Rent Betta features only no-fee listings that you can rent directly from the management company. You can also use the site to sign up for a tour and apply for an apartment. It also provides tips for how to apply to apartments to guide you through the process.
The site has about 1,000 listings, 70 percent are in Manhattan, 10 percent in Brooklyn, and 10 percent in Queens. All listings are updated daily and because the site works directly with landlords and management companies, you don’t have to worry about bait-and-switch listings. Brokers are not allowed to post on the site.
You can search by neighborhood, price, and size and use filters for features like bike storage, parking, and outdoor space. The site also has a map and displays maintenance ratings and bed bug history for each listing. Rent Betta also rates buildings on their site based on open housing violations so you know what the building is like before you sign a lease.
Good for: Handy filters plus the HopScore feature.
RentHop currently has over 20,000 open and exclusive listings across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, with over 8,500 no fee. In Manhattan, 40 percent of listings are no fee, 52 percent in Brooklyn, and 24 percent in Queens.
Apartments are listed by brokers, landlords, management companies, and renters looking to hand over their lease to a new tenant. Users can also filter for listings with no fee and no deposit, with the option for a map-based search. RentHop also receives listings from feeds like the Real Estate Board of New York. All accounts are approved and it has a verification process to weed out fraud and scams.
RentHop also has a mobile app for renters and subletters and has integrated virtual tours from sites like YouTube and Matterport. The site also analyzes apartment photos and determines whether they’re relevant to renters—are they of the space itself, or common areas like the gym, or the building’s exterior? The relevance of the photos is included in what's called the "HopScore," which was developed to identify and encourage accurate listings and ethical behavior among real estate professionals. RentHop says the HopScore allows it to take open listings, because the company's quality control algorithm ranks apartment listings based on "manager responsiveness, listing quality, and freshness."
Other search filters include: No flexes (meaning no convertible units), floor plan inclusion, and, particularly relevant now, live video tours. RentHop has also implemented catch-all keyword searches: type in "thick walls" and all listings will be parsed.
Good for: Getting the 411 on buildings and neighborhoods.
StreetEasy is one of the best-known sites in New York City for both sales and rentals.
StreetEasy features a prominently placed "no-fee only" search filter on the site, as well as the option to save your preferred searches and receive notifications if something new hits that market that fits your criteria. So far this year, 55 percent of StreetEasy’s listings are no fee.
The site only accepts exclusive listings—so that means there are no duplicate listings from multiple agents for you to wade through—and they are verified with the listing provider. Listings can be provided by agents, brokerages, owners, management companies, or developers and are provided directly or via a syndication vendor.
On both the mobile app and the website, you can connect with an apartment's agent or landlord instantly. (And the app has a useful "map view" feature that lets you see what listings are nearby—ideal for when you're out and about scoping neighborhoods.) The site is also good for research thanks to their building pages, which let you find more info about the specific building an apartment is listed in—things like amenities and zoned public schools—as well as price history so you can see rent trends on comparable apartments. It also has a new feature that displays net rent vs. gross rent for any listings that are offering free months as a concession.
Good for: Finding listings from the city’s no-fee management companies in one place.
Transparentcity aggregates the listings of NYC’s no-fee apartment management sites and vets them for accuracy. Users can browse listings by neighborhood, filtering by number of bedrooms, price range, and amenities including elevator, laundry, live-in super, gym, pool, and more; there is also the option to search for rent-stabilized apartments and those offering free months of rent as a concession. It recently added co-living companies like Roomrs and you can browse apartments by floor plan.
Search results reveal listing addresses and the name and url of the management company so you can confirm it is an actual listing and not a scam; it also includes an interactive map to help you look for apartments in specific areas. There are around 5,000 to 6,000 listings on the site, all of which are no fee. Out of those 81 percent are in Manhattan, with 10 percent in Brooklyn, and 9 percent in Queens.
The site added 3D and video tours of apartments last year in response to the pandemic and recently added a new filter for walk-up apartments. There are currently 5,000 3D and video tours on the site. You can also schedule tours and apply for apartments for over 1,000 management companies directly on their site.
—Earlier versions of this article contained reporting and writing by Georgia Kral and Alanna Schubach