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Time Out New York

Time Out New York
By Katherine Wheelock
May 1, 2003


Times Are Tough, but the current economic downturn brings with it one perk: We can finally tell brokers to take a hike.

"It's hands-down a renter's market," says Jacob Goldman of the Lower East Side's LoHo Realty.  It's easier than ever to bypass brokers and take the no- fee route, thanks not only to fiscal woes but also to a slew of online apartment -hunting resources.

At press time, the NYC page of the bulletin board Craigslist (www.newyork.craigslist.org) featured some 50,000 shares and apartments available locally, a great many sans fees. You can browse listings on Top NYC Apts (www.topnycapts.com), a site we found stocked with ads for more than 200 no-fee apartments. Metropolis Real Estate of Manhattan (www. metropolisre.com), a boutique brokerage, posts scores of no-fee pads. Online service Rent- Direct (www.rent-direct.com) also offers an extensive list of brokerage- free housing; you have to pay $195 for full access to the database, but you can run a free search to test the waters (we found more than 90 Manhattan studios on the site, all going for $1,200 or less).

Not all deals are online. Community newspapers in the outer boroughs list many rentals you won't find in the Village Voice (see "The paper trail," above). Self-help manuals for budget- minded apartment hunters can be found at Barnes & Noble stores-Zany's New York City Apartment Sales and Rental Guide ($17.95) and Gabriel's Apartment Rental Guide ($13.45) both provide contact information for dozens of building owners so you can dial direct for digs.

Of course, if you're too busy to go it alone, a hired gun can help-and brokers are rethinking their astronomical rates. "In a market this soft, they're more likely to negotiate," says Christopher Thomas, a senior vice president at William B. May. Thomas says prospective renters now have more leverage with brokers, building owners and subletters than they did a few years ago. The moral: Make your move before the economy regains its mojo.

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