Welcome back for another week of my “So You Want to Move to NYC” series withFlatRate Moving. I hope you’re enjoying the series so far and if you’re just jumping in you can catch up here, here and here ;-)
So onto this week’s topic. Open house and appointments! We’re getting into the exciting stuff. You’re officially one step closer to finding your perfect little (possibly figuratively) apartment! You’ve done your research, your rental packet is ready to go, and you’ve picked out some good listings online. Now it’s time to see some of these places!
Before you head out the door just yet though, here are some things I suggest you bring along once you set up some appointments.
More important than anything is your rental packet! As I discussed in past posts, having your paperwork ready to go is going to make the process so much smoother and faster once you’re ready to put an application in. Time is of the essence in NYC’s rental market too. Now that we have that out of the way let’s talk about actually meeting with brokers.
In my experience, there’s a couple of different ways of how you can see apartment here.
Open House: You’re probably familiar with the term open houses. You might find a listing on StreetEasy (that often lists open houses) with a time and date. The process is as simple as showing up at the time and checking out the apartment. Open houses are a little more common for sales listings than rentals in the city since the rental market is so fast-paced but you do occasionally see them – especially during off-peak season or on higher priced apartments.
It’s common practice to have a sign-in form at open houses for brokers to have the contact info of those who came to see the apartment. Chances are if you saw one of their listings they may have another listing similar and it’s all about the hustle with brokers.
Personally I think open houses are a lot less pressure because there are a lot of people seeing the apartment – There were 20 people in this probably 250 sq ft studio I saw once – so if you aren’t interested it’s totally okay and you won’t feel like you wasted anyone’s time. On the flip side, they are generally crowded so if you do like an apartment it is even more important that you have your renter’s packet ready to go so you can get the ball rolling before one of the other people walking through jumps on it as well.
Meeting at Broker’s Office: This option goes two ways. Often times, when you find a listing for an apartment online you will notice that the full address is not listed. I’ve been told this is for a couple of reasons, to make sure potential tenants don’t try to go straight to the landlord to avoid a broker’s fee and also for privacy of both the landlord and current tenant. Landlords generally hire brokers to help screen tenants so they generally don’t want to be contacted directly anyways.
Sometimes brokers will ask you to meet at their office before going to a listing and have you fill out some paperwork as well as sign a form saying if you decide to rent an apartment you see with them that you will pay the broker’s fee. If a broker asks you to sign anything before you see a place make sure you know what you’re signing up for. Sometimes brokers fees are negotiable so make sure you don’t sign up for a solid 15% fee by signing a piece of paper. Most of the info that you’ll be asked is general info for them to add you into their system and have record of what type of listings you are looking for. This allows them to search their system and see if there are also any other listings that you might be interested in. Sometimes the process is as easy as that and then they will take you to the listing you inquired about, but make sure you are time conscious because there are brokers who will lure you in with one listing and then tell you it’s unavailable but they have other listings they can show you.
I had a broker that requested I met him at his office before seeing a listing and he told me he also had 3 other listings he wanted to show me that were just what I was looking for. The next day when I arrived at his office and gave him my info he then told me that he actually only had one apartment to show me and that he was still waiting for the keys. I sat there for another hour before he pawned me off on one of his associates who couldn’t get the door unlocked just to find out that it was a basement apartment I would have never been interested in. Total bait and switch. I left upset because it had wasted my whole afternoon before I needed to leave the state for the week and then the broker called to follow up and didn’t understand why I was upset. Um, hello NOT the apartment I wanted to see and you wasted my whole afternoon of which I could have been looking at actual apartments. Moral of the story, if you get to a broker’s office and you start to get the feeling that they’re trying to pull one on you, trust your intuition and get out of there. There are so many brokers in the city (a lot of them really great) so find someone who is honest and happy to help you.
Another circumstance when you might find yourself in a broker’s office is if you moving long distance and are just going to be in town for a few days. Because listings have such a fast turnover rate sometimes it is best to talk with a few brokers beforehand, tell them what types of listings you are interested in, and then make an appointment when your visit draws close. Then when you’re in town you’ll meet at their office and fill out the simple paperwork I discussed above and then generally the broker will try and show you several listings throughout the day. This way you aren’t stuck trying to make appointments for apartments that will probably not be available when you’re in the city and instead just focus on what is actively available. This is often one of the most efficient ways to move when it’s not as easy to hop on the subway and meet your broker. And don’t worry, while the market is tough you will certainly have at least a handful of apartments that will fit your needs to pick from.
Private Appointments: And then sometimes making apartment appointments is as easy as meeting your broker at the apartment or around the corner – again they are a little cautious in giving the addresses sometimes. One-on-one meetings are generally pretty quick and painless. Walk in, check out the apartment, decide if you like it, either start the application process or move on. It will generally take you a lot longer to actually get to the apartment than to see it. Even if you open every cabinet and closet don’t expect it to take more than 5-10 mins. One perk to the places being small!
Other than deciding if the apartment is going to work for you just on the basis of size and storage, here are some other things I suggest looking for or asking about.
- Fuse Box: This seems like a weird thing to look or ask about but make sure the apartment has a fuse box in it. My second apartment didn’t have one and if I had more than my bathroom light on with my hairdryer it turned off all the lights off in my whole apartment. Oh, and I came to find out that the breaker box was locked in the basement and only the Super had access to it. Let’s just say it was a rough few months figuring out where I could dry my hair without busting the breaker. So look for this!
- Check the Buzzer: If you’re meeting a broker at the apartment you will probably get to try out the buzzer first hand, but if not it’s worth inquiring about or testing it out. It might make you rethink living on the 5th floor of a walk-up if the buzzer doesn’t work. I learned this the hard way at my last place too – see, you guys get to benefit from all of my mistakes!
- Laundry Room: If the building has laundry in it, it’s worth stopping by the basement to check it out as well as finding out the pricing.
- Packages: Do you see package deliveries in the lobby or by the mailboxes? Getting packages in some non doorman buildings can be tough so if you’re someone who orders online this might be important for you to find out.
- Slanted floors: This is more of a visual thing but try and pay attention if the floors of an apartment are slanted. Because the buildings are old for the most part you might see varying degrees of slanting but pay attention to the degree. Sometimes it’s not as easy to tell when an apartment is empty so the old marble test is a good one. Or prepare to become really good friends with cardboard.
Finally, if you are working with one broker be sure to give them feedback on the apartment on what you liked or what you’d like to see in other listings. The fastest way to find an apartment you like is to be upfront. It’s the New York way ;-) Seeing apartments really is the fun part of the process though so as stressful as moving can be, try and enjoy this step! It’s certainly my favorite!