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How to use Google Maps to find a no-fee apartment in NYC

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When you think of Google Maps, you probably think of it as an app that gives you directions to your next destination or find you a place to eat. So, you might be surprised to hear that you can also use Google Maps to find a no-fee apartment.

Other listing sites, such as RentHop and StreetEasy, which Brick Underground writes about in the “8 best websites for finding a no-fee rental,” are better known for finding a no-fee apartment. Broker fees, in case you’re a rental newbie, are what you pay agents who help you find an apartment. They generally cost between 12 and 15 percent of the rent for one year—in other words, a serious chunk of change that a lot of renters are looking to keep in their pocket.

So another way to find a no-fee apartment is intriguing and worth exploring, although real estate agents (naturally) aren’t eager to endorse this method. But L., a New Yorker who requested anonymity, recently used it when he was researching apartments in Long Island City and decided he didn’t want to pay a broker fee.

To conduct his search, he opened Google Maps and searched the area using the search terms "no-fee apartment" and "no-fee luxury apartment."

“I was able to populate all of the no-fee properties to easily map out our plan of attack for walking the area,” says L., who also says that this search saved him time. And Google Maps did more than just help L. narrow the building selection: He received what he called "epic and super helpful" feedback from the comments left about building management companies.

“I found Google Maps to be a great tool to uncover how actual residents felt about their living experience and some pros and cons of living there,” he says. “One property's building management was so horrendous that all of the reviews spoke to the same negligence and refusal to return the promised security deposits.”

Barbara Ann Rogers, a broker with Engel & Volkers, isn’t so sure using Google Maps to find an available apartment really saves you time or money.

“It sounds like a lot of work that could be simpler if you just used an agent or broker,” says Rogers. “We have the neighborhood knowledge and can tell you which ones to avoid.”

If you are on a tight budget and you want to avoid paying the standard 15 percent broker fee, Rogers suggests telling that to the agent.

“There are concessions where the owner or landlord pays the broker’s fee and you do not,” says Rogers. “However, that is typically for higher-priced apartments, such as $3,000 per month. If you want to pay as little as possible in rent, it’s really tough to find a no-fee apartment in a decent building.”

Rogers says that Google Maps is an effective way to see the street view of a building, but if you want resident feedback, you should search the online portal for the New York City Housing Preservation & Development, which provides valuable resident feedback too.

“I used the HPD portal for the building I was moving into and saw there were only three formal complaints in 10 years,” she says.