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    How to Find an Apartment without a Broker

    March 14, 2022 at 1:59 pm · · Comments Off on How to Find an Apartment without a Broker

    How to Find an Apartment without a Broker

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    Justin Becker

    Updated: March 21, 2022

    Are you contemplating finding the best apartment for your family without a broker and are wondering where to start? If so, then you are in the right place.

    Finding an apartment without a broker can be difficult, but might end up being worth it in the end. For instance, you won’t have to pay any extra fee to the broker for helping you get a rental unit.

    Sometimes, the brokers fee can go as high as 15% of the first years annual apartment rent. Finding a no fee broker is next to impossible. With that said, moving forward with no fee brokers or avoiding brokers altogether means channeling that saved money into other important things, such as becoming a member of the local gym or buying new furniture.

    If you don’t know how to find an apartment without a broker, read on to understand more.

    How to Find an Apartment without a Broker

    estate agent giving house keys to woman

    Let us consider some tips for getting your dream apartment without brokers:

    Present You Financial Information

    To begin the process of finding an apartment, you will have to assess your financial options. Management companies, property managers, or landlords will be looking at your past and current earnings documents, along with a credit report.

    Most landlords and management companies will only allow you to rent their apartment if you have at least 650-680 for a credit score. Learn more about what credit score you need to rent an apartment here.

    You will also be forced to prove that your monthly income is at least 3-4 times the monthly rent. This means that if the monthly rent is $2,000, then your monthly income should be about $6,000-$8,000. We recommend that you stick to no fee apartments that you can afford.

    Save Enough Money

    We recommend that you save at least two months worth of rent before you move into a new apartment. This involves one month’s rent for the first month and another month for what is a security deposit for an apartment. You will have to pay the move-in amount in full prior to signing a lease with the property management company.

    Even though most apartments will require you to pay at least a month’s worth of a security deposit, others might require you to pay up to one and a half months worth (see Michigan Security Deposit Law). You should, therefore, make sure you are well prepared.

    Saving money also means that you will have enough for the renters insurance, furniture, movers, and other household fixtures.

    Prepare the Paperwork

    If you wish to rent directly, without a broker, you should have your paperwork ready to go. This helps you to fight off any stiff competition, because we all know hot rentals are gone in a blink of an eye.

    Many property owners or property managers ask for more or less the same documents, which typically includes:

    • Your previous 2-3 months worth of bank statements
    • Payment of tax proof documents
    • A letter of employment signed by your employer, which should show your position and salary, if possible
    • Your identification documents
    • Your previous 2-3 months worth of pay stubs

    You can scan the documents to your computer and have them ready for presentation to your landlord. Remember, landlords and rental management companies are nowadays doing everything online and may not accept documents in paper form.

    Start Early

    This does not mean that you start looking for an apartment six months before moving in. What we mean is that you get an idea of where you are wanting to move and start apartment hunting at least two months before the move date. Learn how to find an apartment in a new city here.

    After browsing websites to search apartments for rent, you can view them by doing a virtual apartment tour or by contacting the landlord or property manager for an in-person visit.

    Also, what is the best month to look for an apartment? You need to understand the rental seasons. October to March happens to be slower months with fewer people looking for apartments. The competition for apartments is normally high between April and August. So, we do not recommend looking for an apartment at this time due to high competition for the best units.

    Ask Locals

    You would be wrong to underestimate the knowledge of the common man. It is the neighbors who understand the surrounding areas even better than brokers, even if you have one that is not charging you a broker’s fee. If you have close relatives or friends around the area where you are looking for an apartment, this is the time to involve them. Even if you don’t have friends in the area, you can drive around and ask local shopkeepers about available apartments.

    Online Platforms

    There are so many online platforms where you can find apartments without a broker. Some sites only allow exclusive listings, meaning that no duplicate listings are allowed. Let us consider some of the best options below:

    Craigslist

    If you have ever looked for a second-hand bike, used furniture, or apartment for rent, then you probably know what Craigslist is. This site allows you to find no fee apartments under the housing tab by selecting “no fee broker” or “by owner apartments.” From here, you can narrow down your preferences to what fits you.

    For instance, you can tweak your apartment hunt by employing filters for pet-friendly apartments, apartments with laundry, or furnished units (find out how much does it cost to furnish an apartment here). The website also provides a map feature to help you understand the actual listing location and neighborhood.

    Since Craigslist is a no fee apartment platform, you should be keen to avoid scams. Focus on no fee listings that include an address. For your information no fee listings means they do not attract any charges.

    Facebook

    Facebook is another top platform where you can find an apartment. With Facebook, you can make friends with anyone who recommends an apartment to you anytime you need one. We all know that the best deals are found through well-connected friends.

    You can post on Facebook requesting that friends help provide information on the best rental offers that they are aware of. You will be surprised by how much positive and helpful feedback you will get. Apart from Facebook, you can also try Instagram and Twitter for similar results.

    Apartments.com

    There is no argument that Apartments.com is among the best rental search engines globally. The filters that are available allow you to search for units according to apartment type, price range, and other specifics, such as student housing, low income apartments, and military housing. You can also filter for apartments that offer 3D tours.

    Here, you will be provided with a map that allows you to find apartments by neighborhood. A polygon tool also allows you to map the exact search borders. Better still, if you are moving to a new city, there is a feature to guide you through it.

    Realtor.com

    This platform offers almost everything you would want to have in a real estate website. Realtor.com is fast and allows you to personalize every search with basics and many amenities.

    You will love the fact that listing pages provide many details about the neighborhood. There is also a price comparison with other areas and neighboring homes. If you like, you can also access statistics on schools. A Yelp-powered map shows coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery stores too.

    This is one site that we recommend in Michigan, New York City, and anywhere else throughout the country.

    Zillow

    The Zillow platform is a great place to find an apartment of your preference. The good thing is that Zillow has both a site and mobile app, for those with smartphones. Depending on the search filters you have put in place, you can set up the app to send you notifications for the latest open listings.

    This site provides photos for every apartment listing and, at the same time, informs you of all the units posted from verified sources. However, be warned since some fake property managers post listings that do not exist.

    Why Avoid Brokers

    We all know that using an apartment broker has some benefits thanks to their long-term experience in the industry. However, there are certain reasons why you may want to avoid them, and the broker fees that come with them too. Let us consider these reason below:

    DIY is Easy

    As long as you have a smartphone or computer with a strong internet connection, you can easily find an apartment online. As we have seen, you can even search units by apartment size, city, number of bedrooms, and price. This means that finding an apartment in NYC, in, for instance, the Financial District, to be specific, could just be a one minute affair.

    For your information, most sites offer a no fee apartment service, meaning you don’t need to pay anything to search.

    A DIY apartment search will also enable you to find no fee apartments with ease since you understand your needs better than any broker. A broker will not have your best interest at heart. They care more about closing a deal and getting a commission than getting the best apartment for you.

    If you choose to find the unit yourself, you will need to take the time to go through some critical rental details. For instance, you will need to take out the time to read and understand the lease (learn how to read an apartment lease here). You can even try negotiating rent with the landlord or management company.

    It is Expensive

    Apartment brokers, or any other type of broker, and their services do not come cheap. They come with additional costs on top of rent. In some cases, you might pay as high as 15% of your annual rent. You can easily avoid this extra expense by searching for an apartment yourself.

    While some brokers divide the broker fee between the tenant and the landlord, in most cases, especially in Michigan and New York City, tenants are responsible for all of it. In fact, the cost of paying a broker is the biggest disadvantage of apartment hunting through a broker.

    Brokers Have Many Clients

    There is no hiding the fact that brokers, especially good ones, have many clients. To many brokers, it’s a numbers game; the higher the number of clients, the higher the income.

    In most cases, such brokers will present a single apartment option to several tenants and offer the deal to the one who makes the fastest move rather than the one the unit is best suited for. It is even common to find brokers engaging in “bait and switch.” Here the broker might advertise no fee apartments and then later reverse the provision only to blame it on the landlord or management company.

    Conclusion

    If you are contemplating finding an apartment that meets the needs of you and your family, we recommend doing so without a broker, if at all possible. Brokers are always expensive, and you might incur up to 15% of your first year annual rent as a broker’s fee.

    To find an apartment with ease, we recommend using any of the sites that we have recommended above. All you need is a strong internet connection and a smartphone or computer.

    With that said, before going through the process of renting an apartment, ensure you read and fully understand the lease.

    Categories: Apartments

    About The Author

    Justin Becker is a property owner in the state of Michigan and has a passion for managing communities. He owns both apartment complexes and mobile home communities and has been writing his own blogs for his properties for several years.
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