This entry is for prospective renters and real estate agents alike. Use these tips to maybe avoid paying a full broker fee or if you're an agent to find some new listings in your area.
1) Start with the End in Mind
Like anything in life, when you know what you want it will be much easier to find what you want. Have you ever heard a new age guru talk about visualizing and it will manifest. I don't necessarily believe in all of that, but there is some truth to it. When you are preparing to move make sure you can identify the goal when it comes across your path. Is it a 2 bedroom in Soho? Or is it a loft in Brooklyn? When you narrow your efforts and specify what you hope to find, you will SAVE TIME and avoid heart ache. Make a list of your wants vs. needs and prioritize this list. Execute and act when the most important boxes are checked.
2) Make a "google alert"
This is a very simple way to get notified about a good apartment first. I specifically use this to find new listings for my clients or prospecting owners who might need a listing broker. This service isn't always perfect but it works pretty well. Use terms that would match your search like neighborhoods or features of the apartment. Google searches the internet for you and sends updates daily to your mail box. Most importantly it combs the dreaded craigslist for the best matches. The key is to be one of the first to respond.
3) Post to your Network
Check with your friends and family on facebook. You would be surprised how many people you may know are moving, but didn't post about it. Maybe your friend is moving out of their rent stabilized place. Maybe someone is breaking a lease and they are responsible for filling the home. It is fairly common that landlords would prefer a tenant that is connected to a current tenant that didn't give them any problems. In my experience most owners prefer not to have turn over and have a good tenant vs. a slight rent increase with a brand new tenant.
4) Talk to Connector People
I like connector people. In many neighborhoods people like bar tenders, coffee shop owners, waitresses, barbers and deli owners know EVERYONE in the neighborhood. It is often that landlords with good deals will let a few key people know about up coming rentals before a broker or the management company. When you take a little bit of time and talk to your neighbors, good things happen. Remember to patron your local businesses and tip well ;)
5) The Listings Project
This is a cool list that I like by Stephanie Diamond who curates a sublet list with no third parties. That means no management companies, no brokers, no buffer. Its free but they are usually sublets. Originally it was designed for creative times for temporary amounts of time.
6) Look for a Physical Flyer or No Photo Ad.
This can be very hit or miss. Worst comes to worst, you wasted a morning or afternoon of your time to see a dungeon. Best case scenario you find an under priced listing where the owner just wants to rent quick or locally with our publishing too many details. I have personally found great spaces by looking at an ad with no pictures.
7) Walk The Streets
This is an old school way to find listings. In the day and age of the internet, this is becoming a lost art. Let me tell you, this is one of the best ways to find a home. It works better in areas that are primarily 1-6 family homes as you can see work being done from the street. In Manhattan it is a bit harder as most buildings are managed by companies and third party contractors due work for the owner. If you see someone working, ask them in person at that moment because most people are happy to take a break from working to help you. You can also find owners of buildings by using the ACRIS system which is public record for all properties in New York City.
8) Sublets Can Turn into a Permanent Residence.
As a renter, some of the best places I have found have been by moving in with friends or friends of friends on a temporary basis that eventually turned into a permanent home. Specifically I moved into a room one summer when my sisters friend went on her honey moon. They ended up coming back for one month or so and then found their own place and I moved back in. This was a rent stabilized apartment and I ended up living in that building for many years.
I hope you found this blog helpful and you should share it with any friends that might be on the hunt. As always, if you want to use my professional help I am happy to be your rental broker. The advice is free, the value is priceless.