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One of the painful aspects of renting a pricey apartment in New York is that on top of handing over lots of extra cash—which, depending on your landlord, can include first and last month's rent and the security deposit—you may also have to pay even more money—the dreaded broker's fee—to the real estate professional who helps you find it.
There are, however, many “no-fee” apartments in New York City, the numbers of which fluctuate due to market conditions (general supply and demand), season (some times of the year, such as winter, are historically slower, giving renters an advantage), or specific “absorption” rate goals for a building (how many apartments need to be filled and by when).
(Keep in mind "no-fee" is something of a misnomer. If a broker is showing an apartment, you can bet he or she is doing it for a fee, but in the case of a "no-fee" apartment, the owner is paying the fee, instead of the renter. But you as the renter are not off the hook: The fee that the landlord has taken care of for you is generally added into your rent.)
How does this help you? If you don't have piles of money lying around to drop on your next apartment, it is sort of like a loan, or in landlord speak, removing a fee helps lower "the barrier to entry."
If you're absolutely opposed to paying a fee upfront, you should also keep in mind what's happening in the rental market: For the past three and half years, an increasing number of New York City leases have come with some kinds of concession such as no-fee (other concessions are a month or two of free rent). The trend stopped in January and February, which saw the number of new leases in NYC with some sort of concession decline, according to a rental market report by Douglas Elliman. However, a significant number of leases still come with some kind of freebie—around 40 percent. It remains to be seen whether concessions on new leases will continue to shrink in coming months.
Jordan Sachs, CEO of Bold New York, estimates that roughly 90 percent of Bold’s current inventory is no-fee, and in the current market, “The renter has leverage to some extent.” And while market conditions have an impact, Sachs adds that a landlord or developer’s specific financial picture and projections also play a role in the timing of such price breaks—and that's information apartment hunters don't have. “Renters are not privy to the business plan,” he says.
If you’re on the hunt for a place that doesn’t come with that added cost, these are some of the best neighborhoods to find a no-fee apartment in New York City right now. (You can also check out Brick Underground's guide to finding a no-fee apartment in New York City, and these are the websites we recommend you use to find a no-fee apartment.)
Long Island City
Moiz Malik, chief design officer of Nooklyn, says that anywhere you have high density (think big, tall buildings with lots of apartments in them), there’s a greater likelihood you will find no-fee listings there. Sounds a lot like Long Island City right about now, which has a glut of offerings with or without Amazon moving in.
“In a market like Long Island City, there’s more supply than demand, so buildings really lower the cost of entry,” he says, noting that some buildings are also lowering security deposits to a flat $1,000 in addition to waiving a fee.
Gross Rent Calculator
Some New York City landlords offer a free month (or more) at the beginning or end of a lease. The advertised rent is the net effective rent. The net effective rent is less than the amount you will actually have to pay --- known as your gross rent --- during your non-free months.
Brick Underground's Gross Rent Calculator enables you to easily calculate your gross rent, make quick apples-to-apples comparisons between apartments and avoid expensive surprises. All you'll need to figure out your gross rent is 1) the net effective rent, 2) the length of your lease, and 3) how many free months your landlord is offering. [Hint: Bookmark this page for easy reference!]
To learn more about net effective versus gross rents, read What does 'net effective rent' mean?.
If the landlord is offering partial months free, enter it with a decimal point. For example, 6 weeks free rent should be entered as 1.5 months.
Far West Side
Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats, names the Far West Side (in the 40s, along 11th and 12th avenues) as an area to find no-fee rentals. It’s an example of a neighborhood that is “a little less central, with beautiful buildings, with lots of amenities,” he says.
Malin also cites Downtown Brooklyn as a spot to find no-fee apartments, where there is a lot of inventory on the upper end of the market. No-fee apartments are often, but not always, some of the pricier ones of the market, because they are in new buildings looking to attract tenants. “By nature they are higher end. They have the latest and greatest amenities. Typically brand new buildings are at the higher price point of the market,” he says.
Malik says Bushwick is another area where you’ll find no-fee apartments. The area has a combo of density and competition (several new buildings are currently leasing up now), as well as being what he calls a “secondary market”, i.e., the place many people opt for when they are priced out of a similar “more desirable” area.
“Long Island City is a secondary market to the Upper East Side, Bushwick is a secondary market to Williamsburg, which is a secondary market to the East Village.” (And while Greenpoint might be a secondary market to, say, Williamsburg, its lower-profile housing stock prevents it from being dense in the way Bushwick is.)
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