In New York City, almost 66% of all residents are renters, according to the 2000 US Census. This equates to an average vacancy rate of about 3% at any given time.
Because there is always intense competition for housing space, the rental market in the New York area has characteristics you won’t find anywhere else in the US.
The Role of Brokers
Unlike most places in the US, landlords in New York City rarely advertise their vacant apartments. They don’t have to spend their money on ads because real estate brokers are happy to assume that expense in exchange for being able to collect a hefty brokerage fee from the renter when a lease is signed. (It is illegal for an apartment owner to charge a fee to rent his/her own apartment.)
Many brokers do not share their rental information with other brokers because there is no Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in New York City for rentals that covers all real estate firms. It is very fragmented, which means that no one firm is able to tell you about all of the available rentals in the city.
Because Time = Money to a broker, you’ll be shown a few apartments within the broker’s territory and will be expected to choose the least objectionable one. If you still haven’t found a home after a few days of service, a broker will lose interest and move on to a more urgent client. Even in a slower real estate market, a successful broker wants to “sniff out” who is desperate for an apartment today. That’s who will get the broker’s attention. All others are time-wasters to a broker.
FACT: Rental brokers tend to specialize in one limited area because New York is a big city and it takes too much time to go to all NYC area neighborhoods with potential renters. The broker’s convenience is more important than your convenience because Time = Money. Therefore, a broker will expect you to limit your apartment search to the neighborhoods closest to the broker’s office.