If you don't have time to do the legwork yourself and want access to a broader pool of listings, consider working with a real estate broker.
Other reasons to work with an agent: You're new to New York, you can't find what you want on your own, your employer is paying your broker's fee, you are interested in subletting a co-op or condo (typically nicer and sometimes cheaper than a normal rental unit, and frequently represented by a broker), and/or you plan to live in your place for more than a year (i.e, though you'll still have to pay the entire broker's fee up front, you can mentally and emotionally amortize it over a longer period of time).
Expect to pay your broker a fee that could range from one month’s rent to 15% of the annual rent (a little less than two month’s rent). You will need to discuss the exact amount with your agent and get it in writing before you start your search.
Bear in mind that the quality of NYC rental agents is notoriously uneven. The agents you want to avoid--and there are many--tend to attract clients through the "bait and switch" technique of listing a too-good-to-be-true apartment that isn't actually available for rent.
Instead of finding an agent through a listing (roulette, anyone?), place yourself into the capable hands of the agents at Triplemint. A technology-enabled brokerage founded by a pair of Yale grads in response to the frustrating rental experiences of their classmates and colleagues, Triplemint's rental experts can quickly direct you to luxury rental buildings offering the most valuable concessions, apartments near swift and dependable transportation, pet-friendly or roommate-friendly buildings that will let you subdivide your space with a temporary wall, and landlords who may be flexible with guarantors, full-time students, international renters with no U.S. credit history, recent grads with a good job but no work history, or retirees with money but no job. Bonus: Sign up here to take advantage of Triplemint's corporate relocation rate of 10% of a year's rent on open listings versus the typical 12-15%.
One final note on brokers' fees: Landlords who are eager to rent may pay all or part of a broker’s fee. In industry parlance, an "owner-paid fee" is known as an “OP.” They’re more common during the slower rental season of November through February; where the building is new and needs to be filled; the unit is particularly undesirable; or the rent is particularly ambitious. You have a right to know whether your broker stands to collect an OP on a particular apartment and to have it credited against the fee you have agreed to pay your broker.
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