apartment broker is it worth it

If you’re apartment-searching in a competitive rental city, hiring a broker can be the right move for you.

Looking for the perfect loft in New York, NY, or Atlanta, GA? Need it in a hurry before your new job begins? An apartment broker can lift a huge weight off your shoulders and save you time — but it’ll cost you.

A rental apartment broker is someone who knows the rental market like the back of their hand (and often has access to unlisted units) and can help connect renters and landlords. If you live in a big city with units going off the market within hours, by using a broker, you may be able to get a better apartment more easily than by going it alone. Here’s what you need to know to make sure it’s worth your while (and your cash) to hire an apartment broker to help with the hunt.

A broker will cost you

While commissions vary around the U.S., an apartment broker in Manhattan generally costs 15% of your annual rent (that’s $3,600 on a $2,000/month rental).  Although that’s not chump change, this expense could be worth it if you live in a large city where it’s difficult to find the right apartment — think Boston, MA, San Francisco, CA, and Los Angeles, CA. New York, NY, where the rental market is extra hot, is especially notorious for the prevalence of and need for apartment brokers. But before you sign on the dotted line with a broker, make sure you’ve budgeted for their fee.

Note the exception to this broker expense is in Chicago, IL. For whatever reason, in Chicago the landlord usually pays the equivalent of first month’s rent to the broker to help find them a tenant. As a renter, you may come across other “no-fee” brokers in different areas of the country, but keep in mind, you’re most likely paying back that fee in slightly higher monthly rent.

When to use a broker

Using an apartment broker might be the best option if you’re relocating to an unfamiliar city. Overwhelmed by the options in Los Angeles, CA, and don’t have the time to fly cross-country to check out neighborhoods? A broker can help narrow down your search and recommend the best neighborhood for your lifestyle and price point. You may even consider using a broker in smaller cities if you’re moving to the area from afar and unfamiliar with the city’s neighborhoods and rental market.

When not to use a broker

If you plan to move within your current city or relocate to a familiar area, it’s probably not worth it to forfeit the cash to hire a broker — again, the exception is in super-competitive markets. With the ability to find apartments online, it’s much easier to find your dream home without the help — or the required commission — of an outside broker.

Pro tip: Use search filters for specifics like price, square footage, and other amenities to really customize your search. Depending on your situation, a broker may be the perfect solution for your apartment-hunting woes. But while easing the stress of your search may seem priceless to you, make sure it really is worth the price.

Have you had an experience with an apartment broker in your city? Share in the comments below!