The Search

Pick Me! Renters offer landlords and agents free stuff to beat the competition for NYC apartments

By Kelly Kreth  |
June 24, 2022 - 9:30AM

"One mom told me because I am French, she would offer me nice cheese if she could get the apartment for her child," says Claire Collet, an agent at Living New York.


Unless you’ve been living under a rock—and even that’s probably too pricey in New York City these days—you know that rents here are wilding right now. Inventory is low, listings are flying off the market, and bidding wars are trending. Lines snake around the block for open houses as if a sneaker drop is about to happen.

So New York City renters—always a savvy and creative bunch—are trying to beat the competition by sweetening the deal for landlords and agents by offering things like designer clothing discounts, tickets to shows—even fancy cheese. Others are offering to do things in the apartment—at their own expense. (The agents quoted here did not accept these gifts, it should be noted.)

Does waving a gift get the right kind of attention? You be the judge. Read on for ways renters are trying to win over renters and agents in this crazy rental market.

Paint the town white

“At 173 Luquer St. in Carroll Gardens, I just rented a lovely, top-floor one-bedroom with office, which listed at $3,000 per month. After one night of showings, we had 19 applications. Some renters offered $3,550 although neither the owners nor I were asking for higher offers. In the end, the owners chose a well-qualified tenant who offered to repaint the living room from blue to white at their own expense and kept the rent at $3,000. I was sad to have to advise [the other, higher bidders] about the owners’ first choice. It’s a very difficult rental market at the moment!” —Dena Driver, an agent at Brown Harris Stevens

Rent, but make it fashion

“My landlord client was offered a 50 percent discount at Gucci and Chanel. Apparently the prospective renter works at a luxury clothing store and promised to pass along their discount. The apartment was a two bedroom, one bath in Williamsburg, but the candidates did not meet the financial criteria and their offer was declined. The apartment was listed at $3,900 and ended up getting rented at $4,200 to a different tenant.” —Marisol Banuelos, an agent at Keller Williams NYC

Winner winner, chicken dinner

“My client and her husband own three restaurants in Queens and offered to let me eat for free indefinitely in return for securing them a great apartment: A two bedroom in Forest Hills for $2,695. Parking is an additional $250 a month. They got it the apartment—and the family is so grateful.” —Kunal Khemlani, an agent at Living New York


“Two renters offered to give tickets to the Jimmy Fallon show to the landlord of an Upper West Side two-bedroom apartment asking $3,750 that I was showing. They happened to work at the show. They got the apartment anyway, no tickets needed, because they came fully qualified and even offered a guarantor if needed.” —Meni Tsoukalas, an agent at BOND New York

That's cheesy

“Some people almost went crazy for a three-bedroom rental with private outdoor space I listed in East Village for $6,350! Mostly I gave tours to students who wanted to rent it with their roommates and who intended to use their parents as guarantors. One mom told me because I am French, she would offer me nice cheese if she could get the apartment for her child. When you are French, people don't try to buy you with money but with cheese and wine!” —Claire Collet, an agent at Living New York

Don’t bug this renter

“One of my clients wanted to secure an 800-square foot, one-bedroom apartment in Tribeca. At just $3,870 per month rent, it was a lot cheaper than other rentals in the area. The apartment that she wanted history of bed bugs. She offered to pay for K9 bed bug inspections in her unit as well as neighboring units for one full year. This was a win-win for her, because now she will be aware of any bed bugs issues in the neighboring apartments.” —Diana Ludwiczak, CEO of Doctor Sniffs Bed Bug Dogs

Put a ring on it

“Having been in a committed relationship for 35+ years we never felt the need to get married. We have happily lived together for most of these years in a large, two-bedroom, rent-stabilized apartment on the Upper East Side with a dining alcove, sun-filled rooms and plenty of closet space. Did I mention it is in a luxury doorman building right by the subway? We are paying less than a third of what everyone else in the building is paying. But now because we are getting older and only one of our names is on the lease, we asked management to allow both of us to be on it. We were told only married partners can be added. So this spring we went to the justice of the peace and tied the knot—all for a rent-stabilized apartment. Till death do us part.” —Anonymous Upper East Side renter



Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

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