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GUEST POST: Is a broker right for you?

8 Mar

By Lindsey Wojcik

Searching for an apartment in New York City is like a jungle hunt. In my first experience, I felt like a young lion cub. I prepared for my hunt by making appointments with recommended brokers, with the paperwork to go in for the kill. During my initial hunt, I often felt another species I didn’t fully understand was preying on me: the elusive New York real estate agent or broker.

When I moved to New York in October 2009, I didn’t know anyone. I’ve experienced the hunt and moved three times in my first 13 months in New York. In that time, I learned that  finding a place often becomes a second job and that brokers (for the most part) are here to help. Here’s the lowdown Sarah’s friend Katie gave me before I moved here:

  • Timing is key. Most landlords don’t know if their tenants will be leaving until a month before the lease is up. Once landlords or management companies are notified, they alert brokers throughout the city who then post their listing in their database. It can take awhile to secure a place, especially if you have to discuss finances, involve a guarantor, etc. but a week should be fine.
  • Brokers are going to need paperwork, which can include:
    – Bank statements
    –  The last few pay stubs
    –  Social security card/birth certificate/passport
    – Brokers are very particular and often require:
    –  Tenants to make 40 times the rent
    – Guarantor to make 80 times the rent
    –  A broker’s fee

She also suggested CitiHabitats, Manhattan Apartments, Ardor NY, and management offices of buildings for leads on places.

So we started with appointments at real estate agencies like mentioned above. These agencies often have agents assigned to specific neighborhoods in the five boroughs, mostly focused on Manhattan. In my experience they always require a broker’s fee, equivalent to one month’s rent or a percentage of it.

During my initial hunt, my roommate and I visited these companies with a limited budget, all of our paperwork and a guarantor. After viewing roughly 15 apartments in our price range outside of our desired neighborhoods, we decided to hit Craigslist instead of using the bigwig agencies. If you have a bigger budget and few or no neighborhood preferences, an agency like this may work for you.

Here’s where searching for an apartment becomes like a second job. My roommate and I have used Craigslist for each of the three times we moved.

Scour Craigslist and call about everything of interest to you. The great thing about Craigslist is the apartments are often posted by brokers no-fee and fee-based. If you see something you like, call to inquire. If the specific listing doesn’t work, ask the broker if they have anything else that fits your needs.

If you’re moving from another state, visit the city two to three weeks before you move to look at places and meet with realtors. In my experience, the turnover rate with available apartments is typically two weeks before the move date.

Trust your instincts when dealing with brokers, or anyone from Craigslist. Some may not have your best interest at heart. When the timing is right, you’ll find your apartment.


This blog is a book!

25 Feb

BROOKLYN, Feb. 25 — The Guide for New New Yorkers is out, y’all.

Click here to purchase your copy at 20 percent off (sale starts this afternoon) for its debut week ONLY, and scroll down for the full table of contents.

More about the Guide: The advice you’ve come to rely on now fits in your purse or briefcase. Based on the most-read posts from, The Guide for New New Yorkers goes beyond guidebooks and Google to help young professionals build a happy life in their adopted city of New York. Writer/editor Sarah Protzman Howlett humorously parlays her own New York journey into an encouraging book of essays, advice and practical lists.

Click the image to enlarge the table of contents.

On a personal note, I never would’ve done this second book without your wonderful support for my 2009 memoir, Two Years in New York City. Thank you, readers, family and friends.

Broadway shows and you

9 Jan

Why go to the theater as a transplant New Yorker? Isn’t that for the olds?

Absolutely not. And here’s why.

I moved to New York City at 25 and made just $30,000 a year, and I still saved for theater tickets. All of a sudden I could hop on the train and be in my seat at a Broadway show in 20 minutes? I was beside myself — and I knew I’d rather spend extra money on experiences than things.

As I write this, IN THE HEIGHTS is closing — a show I was privileged not only to see twice, but also to cover as a freelance writer.

Miranda has said that, as a younger man, he didn’t realize “you could write about the present.” For those who perceive musicals as cheese with melted cheese on top, musicals like In the HeightsRent and Next to Normal are a nontraditional portal into the genre.

As a transplanted local attending a Broadway show, both your dreams and the dreams of the actors are coming true at the exact same moment. After all your months of planning for NYC, there’s an undeniable link between you and those who’ve dreamed about being on that stage since they were five*. You both know just what it’s like to chase down a dream.

Need more tips on snagging theater tips? Read this and learn how to pull some strings.

You moved all the way here to experience something different. Forego a night at the bar every couple months and spend the money to see a show. It’ll feel fantastic.

*In 2008, I bought a $20 standing room ticket to A Chorus Line, and it changed my life. Now there’s a show for new New Yorkers. I highly recommend the documentary about its revival casting, Every Little Step, on Netflix instant. (It comes and goes, but the DVD—if those are still a thing—is cheap on Amazon.)