Ask an Expert

What are the risks of buying in NYC without a broker?

By Alanna Schubach  | June 28, 2021 - 12:30PM

Being told to come without a broker raises some warnings.


We have been working with an agent. However, we were told about an apartment not listed for sale that is available to us if we buy without a broker. Why would someone make this stipulation? Do we owe our agent any fee if we buy?

You can save money by buying without a broker, but the hassle may not be worth it to you, our experts say. "The only reason that someone would not want you to bring an agent is that they want to save on the broker fee," says Deanna Kory, a broker with Corcoran.

In a typical New York City real estate transaction, the buyer's broker and seller's broker split a broker's fee of 5 to 6 percent of the sales price. But some sellers may be able to negotiate a smaller fee with their own broker if they get a buyer that is unrepresented by a broker, or if the seller's broker works as a dual agent, representing the interests of both seller and buyer. 

[November 2023 update: REBNY’s new policy on broker fees prohibits a seller’s broker from paying the buyer’s broker directly. The rule takes effect in January 2024 and makes broker fees more negotiable and means some buyers may be on the hook for paying their broker. For more, read: Sellers (and buyers!) brace for a broker fee shakeup.]

As a buyer, you might think you have an edge over the competition when purchasing without your own broker. There is a perception that a seller's broker will encourage their client to sell to the unrepresented buyer. In a competitive market, some buyers choose to go this route as a strategy to win over a seller.

In this scenario, however, you're being told to come without a broker, so you will be left without crucial guidance in your negotiation by not having a broker working exclusively for you. That could raise some some red flags.

"Saving on the broker fee could be penny wise and pound foolish, because there are a lot of steps to take between purchasing an apartment and actually closing," Kory says. 

Most brokers do a lot more than simply take you to showings. They guide you through the entirety of the buying process, from apartment-hunting to closing, negotiating with the seller, helping with paperwork, advising you with board applications and interviews. 

That said, if you do go ahead with the decision to buy this place, you will not owe your original agent a commission.

"The agent is not owed a fee, but it raises ethical issues," says Gordon Roberts, a broker at Sotheby's International Realty. "Additionally, there are risks in 'going it alone,' especially in the context of a co-op sale."

About three-quarters of apartments in NYC are co-ops—and getting your board package together on your own or relying on the seller's broker might be especially complicated.

Going it alone can mean saving that 2.5 to 3 percent of the sales price, but you might find that navigating the process on your own requires more time and aggravation than it's worth. You may ultimately be leaving money on the table that cancels out the savings.

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Alanna Schubach

Contributing writer

Contributing editor Alanna Schubach has over a decade of experience as a New York City-based freelance journalist.

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