Packing, unpacking, and apartment hunting are some of the most painful tasks an adult must take on when deciding to start life on their terms. In NYC, an apartment gets rented out  before you even have the chance to imagine your life in it! Yep, it's that fast! Not only do you need to keep all your paperwork and documents handy, but you also need an inside man to help you find your dream apartment. Let's find out if a Real Estate Agent or a Broker is right for you.

Real Estate Agent vs. Broker: What's the difference?

A real estate agent is an individual who is licensed to sell or rent a property. A real estate agent cannot work independently and must work under a licensed broker. A real estate broker is someone who holds an additional license that allows them to own a real estate firm. A real estate broker can work independently or hire real estate salespeople to work under them.

Knowing how to differentiate between the types of real estate professionals can help you make informed decisions. For instance, when you hire a real estate agent, you may want to dig into the real estate broker's reputation as well, since that's who the agent works for.

Is it better to work with a broker or an agent?

It’s best not to use the title alone to help make your decision between a broker and an agent. Instead, look into how many listings each agent has and how many deals they have done. Do they have good customer reviews or location-specific knowledge? Most importantly, find out how the broker or agent handles fees or commission payments. It’s always essential to do as much research as possible while looking to rent a place in New York City.

Broker's fee or commission

A broker’s fee or commission is a small amount of agreed-upon money you pay to your real estate professional after you successfully rent an apartment under their services. That fee is generally one month’s rent or in some cases, it may be 10% to 15% of the annual rent.

The amount of the fee depends on what has been negotiated between the landlord and the listing broker. Rental broker fees in NYC can be expensive, but there are laws in place that limit some fees.

Can I rent an apartment without using a broker or real estate agent?

Yes! There are ways to avoid hiring a professional while looking to rent a place in NYC! You can:

  • Contact a building’s management company directly: A management rep is essentially an in-house broker. They aim to find ideal tenants for their apartments. There shouldn’t be a fee if you contact them directly. Keep in mind, property management companies only rent apartments in their specific buildings.

  • Going by Foot: Walk around in the area you might want to move to and look for a rent signs on the buildings. Looking for apartment on foot can be tedious. Just be sure to plan your day accordingly because places like Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island are vast. Ride around on a bike and you’ll be good to go. Visit local coffee shops, community centers, and businesses where people tend to gather. You’ll find physical postings. Talk to people in the neighborhood.

  • Look for a "no-fee" apartment: You can search for no-fee apartment listings. A no-fee apartment is an apartment where the tenant doesn’t pay a commission or broker’s fee. You can find them on sites like RentHop and StreetEasy.

Look for a roommate

With New York City being one of the most expensive cities in the world, sharing an apartment with a roommate can help to reduce the cost. In most cases, you should split a broker fee evenly. You can find them on sites like BungalowDiggz Nooklyn, and others.

Real Estate Agent vs. Broker vs. Realtor

So now you know the difference between a real estate agent vs. a broker, but what if the professional you find calls themselves a realtor? Is there a difference? A realtor is a licensed real estate agent or broker who is an active and paying member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Members must comply with NAR's strict code of ethics.

Technically, there is no difference between real estate agents/brokers and realtors, other than distinguishing between members and non-members of the NAR. As of August 2020, NAR recorded more than 60,000 members across New York and over 1.4 million members across the country. You may prefer to work with a realtor since they're held to a high ethical standard.

No matter the type of professional you want to work with, confirm that they are licensed and have an excellent reputation, so you can have a smooth rental process