Ask an Expert

Is it our broker’s job to find us listings when buying a NYC co-op or condo?

By Teri Karush Rogers | September 12, 2022 - 9:30AM

With so much real estate information available online these days, most real estate searches are a collaboration between buyers and their broker.

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Question:

My partner and I are just starting the process of buying a co-op or condo. We have different views on the role of a real estate agent. My partner thinks the agent will show us listings that match what we want. I thought we would do most of the search ourselves and the agent would come with us if/when we find a place we want to bid on—and that the agent's job is mostly to help with negotiations and paperwork. What is the norm nowadays in New York City?

Answer:

With the vast majority of NYC real estate listings available online these days, most searches involve some degree of collaboration between buyer and agent, our experts say. That said, the choice is entirely up to you.

“It’s a matter of how much time you have on your hands and how important it is for you to be ‘in control,’” says Deanna Kory, a broker at Corcoran. “Some buyers love to be completely hands-on and just want the guidance of an agent when they find what they like. Others like to be hands-off and trust their agent to make sure they get them into absolutely everything that comes on the market that would be appropriate.” 

Note that if your agent is less proactive than you want, you may need to find another. Also note that just because you could do all the searching yourself doesn’t mean you should. In fact, you may be shooting yourself in the foot.  

“Anyone can find a listing online, but really understanding the possibilities of the space and the value of it versus the asking price is a much more professional art,” says Daniel Blatman, a broker at The Agency. “A good buyer’s agent is a floor plan translator and advanced property searcher, often finding options that have been overlooked”—like a quiet rear-facing apartment that may have been dismissed because the building fronts a busy avenue.   

“Every time I get a new buyer, I spend four hours going through 15 to 30 pages of listings picking out 10 to 12 options that actually match what people are looking for,” Blatman says. “I will add feedback about what’s real and what’s not—like if the second ‘bedroom’ has no windows,” or how much roomier a 13-foot-wide living room feels compared to an 11 foot wide one.

An experienced and knowledgeable agent “will know the specifics about the building and the unit line that are not covered in the listing description,” says Martin Eiden, a broker at Compass. “Also, an attentive agent will save you time by honing in on properties that have the features you want, such as a windowed kitchen or rear-facing windows.”

That said, don’t expect your agent to send you perfectly calibrated listings after a phone or email exchange. Each of the brokers Brick Underground spoke with emphasized the value of bringing your agent to a few apartment showings at the start of your relationship. 

“A lot of times, people can’t verbalize what they’re looking for,” Kory explains, “so it’s important to see firsthand what a buyer likes and doesn’t like. I observe what my buyer is doing at a showing and state my observations. For example, I’ll notice they’re not happy unless the window is looking onto a street, or unless they have an open living room/dining room. I’ll notice things they wouldn’t notice about themselves.”

In addition to sending you listings, some agents take the search to the next level, unearthing off-market apartments that aren’t up for sale.

Blatman worked with a couple for two years and during that time they had a second kid, job promotions, and bonuses.

“They went from needing a three bedroom to a four bedroom, and then decided they wanted outdoor space,” he says. “We found a great apartment and then during the negotiation the mansion tax went from 1.5 percent to 2.25 percent, which changed the down payment and they were no longer qualified for the co-op.”

Knowing the layout his clients wanted, the neighborhoods they were open to, the room proportions, condition and price, Blatman says he identified unlisted apartments that would trade at roughly the price the couple wanted if they were for sale, and cold-called every owner until he found one willing to sell. 

Similarly, Blatman says, if a buyer likes everything about an apartment but the view, he’ll call neighbors on higher floors to see if they might sell.

Whether listed or unlisted, “once the property has been identified, the buyer’s agent’s job is to simplify the whole transaction process by bringing transparency, marketing knowledge and negotiation skills to the table to ensure that the buyer is getting the best deal possible,” he says.


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Teri Karush Rogers

Founder & Publisher

Founder and publisher Teri Karush Rogers launched Brick Underground in 2009. As a freelance journalist, she covered New York City real estate for the The New York Times. Teri has been featured as an expert on New York City residential real estate by The New York Times, New York Daily News, amNew York, NBC Nightly News, The Real Deal, Business Insider, the Huffington Post, and NY1 News, among others. Teri holds a BA in journalism and a law degree from New York University. 

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