July 31, 2004

The Hunt

Jenn has been relentlessly searching for rental apartments in the city. I've been trying to help her online from here in LA. I haven't found a truly great site for rentals yet (if you know of one, please leave the name in the comments), but I'm looking. This is what I've found so far:

The big brokers: (Corcoran, Citi Habitats, etc):
Many if not most of the listings on these sites are fake or expired. They seem to put up nice reasonable looking apartments (but actually unavailable) to draw you in. Many of the brokers we've dealt with have been lazy, rude, or incompetent... All this joy for 12-15%... I know, I know, welcome to New York. After 10 years away you forget what a nightmare house hunting can be. For reference, here in LA a few years ago myself and 4 friends rented a 1920's mansion from record producer Rick Rubin with a handshake and one month deposit. The rent was around $5000/month. In NY that same rent gets you.... but why go down that road. Must accept new reality. Ok. Next.

This is a site for buyers but can be useful to get building info if there happens to be an apartment for sale in a building you are considering.

Rent Direct
This company has lots of listings for big horrible buildings. The site is hard to navigate and search. Also there are many bait and switch listings.

I've been disappointed by craigslist new york. In LA and San Francisco craigslist is probably the best way to find an apartment, but in NY it's full of bad broker listings and quacks. Disappointing.

Edit a few weeks later: If you are diligent you will eventually learn how to weed out the bad seeds. Craigslist is still the best site to find a no fee apartment in New York.

We didn't discover this site until too late, but it's a good source for by owner listings. Especially down in the East Villiage.

This is by far the best site I've found, but it's not free... 4 nice features: full addresses are shown, the listings are good, detailed building info, and email updates. It's not perfect though--the user interface is busy, you can't sort in detail view, and there are still too many expired listings. After one day on the service Jenn finally saw some places she liked. The one she REALLY liked was out of our price range (6500/month and it already had 2 offers) but then again it was a 4 story brownstone:

Edit a few weeks later: In the end MLX wasn't that useful for us. Most of the apartment listings were for big high rise buildings.


Jenn says Olivia has been kicking much higher than last week. I wonder if that means anything. Maybe she gets tired of all the traipsing around in the heat...


ps I should note that on the buying/selling side we have had some great experiences with NY brokers. Louise Devin of Brown Harris worked tirelessly to sell a family apartment on 63rd Street and in Brooklyn Heather McMaster of Corcoran has done a fantastic job of letting us know the lay of the land...

posted at 08:37 PM by raul

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08/09/04 01:00 PM

Loving your blog because we are heading up the Coast, from DC to NY and so face some of the same issues (giving up a house that we love for an apartment). We found a great apartment in a brownstone off of Craig's List but we got really lucky, it sounds like. And we did have to pay a broker's fee, even though he just listed in on Craig's list, and we called.

Best of luck to you.

09/05/04 01:30 PM

There is a new service in NYC called CityCrybs.com, they feature listings from various different realtors. It is easy to navigate and provides detailed information on most properties. I found my new home using this service and am very satisfied. Best of all you can find apartments that are no fee to reduced fee to the gut wrenching 15%.

09/08/04 09:53 AM

I'm not sure where you got your information from, but I work in a tangent to all of these companies.
Corcoran... Great for sales, although their listings aren't updated often enough so you may find some stuff that's been off the market for a few days in there.
Citi Habitats... There isn't a single listing on CitiHabitats.com that's unavailable. I believe that it's updated several times per day.
MLS in NYC... picture that being current.
Rent Direct... it's feasible that one could get lucky but those are far and few between.
Craigslist NY... most of the listings are posted by brokers, and there is no control to keep people from falling prey to the old bait and switch tactics.
MLX... I agree with most of what you say.
You left out Elliman... Not bad... I would rate it as middle of the road.

Good Luck.

09/08/04 12:45 PM

This post has been removed by the author.

09/08/04 01:37 PM

I think you are confusing online listings for sales as opposed to rentals. The sales sites are up to date and work well. The commercial rentals sites at least in our experience are mainly bait and switch or were for very large apartment complexes.

We scoured all these sites day in and day out looking for months for a rental that suited us. Over and over again we found that most of the big brokerages had online listings that were not available. The truth is most people don't need brokers to find a rental in NY, but the brokers are trying to impose themselves in the process. I don't know if the rental sites are set up to lure buyers with good looking but unavailable listings, but it sure seems that way.

We like Corcoran for sales and are continuing to look with them for a place to buy for next year. In fact we have become good friends with one of the brokers. The sales website is up to date and accurate and they have deep resources and are super-knowledgeable. But the rental portion of the site, at least for us was useless.

Our experience with citihabitats was that listings were often unavailable. We did manage to find a very knowledgeable and helpful citi broker who was able to show us some nice places, but the website was near useless in our search and that's the point here. We were trying avoid some of the shlepping around because we are picky and we know what we like and don't like. In listing after listing we would call and the brokers wouldn't even pretend that the apartment was available and start trying to get information about what we were interested in to try to direct us to other properties. One particularly aggressive broker kept calling us back and literally begging us to see places. We got hooked in once and didn't like it. She called back the next day and said "that last place you saw was a 2, this one is a 10." Stupidly I took the bait. That place also sucked. Actually seeing proper images online saves everyone lots of time.

Ultimately despite some annoying brokers who have tried to invade, Craigslist was by far the best source for good rental properties and many were no-fee to boot. The other great source for listings were local brokers in the various neighborhoods. Ultimately we ended up liking 2 no-fee places we found on craigslist (one in Chelsea, one in Cobble Hill, both by owner and both excellent) and one from a local Brooklyn Heights broker. We took the Brooklyn Heights place mainly because of timing issues (pregnancy is a big ticking clock!).

05/01/05 01:21 AM

Why did you move out to L.A. originally? Are you originally from NY?

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