Photograph: Dan Rosenblum
Just try to find someone in Manhattan who disagrees with Jimmy McMillan. The single-issue gubernatorial candidate made national headlines after this week’s debates partly because of his unique facial hair, but also due to his core message: Rent is “too damn high.”
McMillan might have a lot of sympathizers (and votes) coming to him after making is platform very clear last Monday, but he might be missing some of the nuances of New York apartment hunting. For sure, rent isn’t the only problem with finding housing in the five boroughs.
I spoke with David Rappaport, a 26-year-old going to school at Baruch College, and who’s looking for an apartment in Manhattan. It turns out he’s finding an even bigger pest: brokers.
So, you’re looking for an apartment in New York City, maybe you can tell me part of the frustrations in dealing with brokers, dealing with online listings, and things in that area?
OK, I guess I’ll start with online listings. I’ve been looking on Craigslist, and you see these apartments advertised in the city: $1495, $1595, one bedroom, they have these ridiculous pictures that are obviously not the apartment they’re going to show you. And they even say on the bottom, “This may not be the actual apartment,” but its entirely different from what they’re going to show you, because you know for a fact that what your friends are paying is $1800, $1900, and they have nothing on the other apartment. There’s no way that’s discounted by $300 unless there was some sort of murder-suicide in that place.
You’re almost forced in some sense to go for a broker because they’re the only ones that have information about what’s factual out there… In reality, I’m going to school, and I’m working during the day. I don’t have a lot of time. I don’t want to spend my time looking for an apartment. I want someone to tell me.
I could tell [a broker], “This is my price range. This is the kind of thing I’m looking for. This is the area I’m looking for. Go find me all of the apartments and I’ll just show up. It’s a ten minute thing, I’ll just take some pictures and leave and decide at the end. So it’s obviously looking for a ‘no fee’ broker or a half fee, full fee, whatever, but it’s very frustrating dealing with another person. It’s almost like a headache. They make money when you find a place, and they’re just trying to place you as quickly as possible for the highest price. It’s frustrating.
What places are you looking at? What neighborhoods?
Gramercy, Flatiron, Alphabet City, Midtown East. Upper East Side also. It’s really based on commute time and price. I don’t care if it’s a walk-up, I don’t care if it’s a doorman building. As long as it’s safe.
Do you think the brokers have your best interest at heart?
Absolutely not, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to find something that’s adequate, because when people act in their own self interest, usually it ends up helping everybody. I mean, that’s not entirely true, but in some cases it is.
I think it’s fine if they do it as quickly as possible, it’s a service to me because its quick. If I come across something that I like, than I like it and that’s it. I think it’s a system that works; it’s not the best system, but it works.
What’s most annoying is when they schedule appointments to see apartments and then they try to cancel it. The one woman I’m dealing with, she cancelled five or six showings. One of them I had to show up, and she arranged for me to get the key when she wasn’t there. The other time, she showed up at the place when I was already gone, because I don’t want to waste my time, and two to four other times, she cancelled. She just called me today an cancelled a thing we had Monday for next Tuesday and said she had another thing. It’s just particularly frustrating.
What reasons are they giving you for cancelling their appointments?
The reason is that she’s swamped and short-handed. And someone else who’s of higher importance called in. That’s what she told me today. That she needed to show them something.
If you’re looking for a studio, she’s gonna make less money off of a studio than she is off of a one bedroom, in general. Or a two bedroom. So those are a higher priority.
So you think the broker’s time is prioritized based on price.
It has to be, because if you think about it, how many times am I going to move around? She’s only going to do business with me once, twice, maybe three times in the course of our working relationship. And probably only once in reality. So she has to get the biggest bang for her buck on the one time. She doesn’t care if she hurts your feelings, because she’s not going to deal with you anymore. It doesn’t make a difference. There are a lot of people that need apartments, right?
So, is he being fair to brokers? Unfair? Sound off in the comments below.