Do you need a real estate broker to rent an apartment?

New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and other large cities in the U.S. are broker dominated markets. If you are buying or selling a home, real estate broker is important for many reasons but do we really need them to find and rent an apartment?

At one point in time, real estate broker played an important role in finding the apartment rentals for people

It seemed impossible to get a rental without first contacting a broker and relying on his/her input and advice. They were very powerful back then; whoever wanted to rent an apartment had to go through a broker first. They were gate keepers of apartments. Of course, once you would rent through them you would have to pay one month’s rent or more in commission.


Well, fortunately we are living in a different time right now and things have changed. Information about apartments, which once only real estate brokers had, is available to everyone. So what exactly can real estate broker provide, besides the information which we already know? People can argue that brokers are necessary because there has to be a human touch and expertise when dealing with decisions about renting or, that brokers have relationships with property owners and can even get us a deal on the apartment we choose. Maybe that’s true in some cases but I still haven’t experienced it.


It is very common to think that people want to deal with other people in person when making a major decision in their life, but the reality is different. Technology changed and continues to change how people interact and do business. If you can rent the apartment you like, in couple of seconds on the computer, why would you need to contact the real estate broker to tell you everything you already know and to charge you a commission? You would not. You probably would ten years ago but now there is no need.


I agree that real estate broker will still be around for years, similar to travel agents or stock brokers, because there is still a small number of renters who are more comfortable dealing with people in person than doing it on their own; online. Also, there are people who want a premium service where they just pay a fee for a person to take care of everything; they are not price sensitive people and they just don’t want to be bother with doing it themselves.


The majority of people, especially Millennials, want to do everything online, in the comfort of their own home. Dealing with people in person has to provide that “extra something” or we just won’t do it. I had a “pleasure” of working with a few real estate brokers in NYC and I can tell you that their main job was to unlock the door of the apartment and to try to close the deal with me, not to help me get an apartment which I want or to negotiate the price of the rent. I did all the work: went online, searched through listings, found an apartment, call them to unlock the apartment and now I would have to pay commission to them? Why?


Most of them had some relationship with the landlord but couldn’t do anything about the price, so there’s no that “extra something” they could provide for me. We are in the new age now; it’s time to let technology work for us.  When it comes to getting a rental, you can do everything yourself online. Find an apartment, get connected with the owner or property manager, apply and get your home.

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  1. Ernest Carter May 29, 2015 at 3:04 am Reply

    I don’t know why you as a renter would pay a commission. Its the owner that pays the commission. Go ahead and look on Craig’s List, Back Page or other similar sites and possibly end up with a bad Land Lord. A realtor will have your back and as a client.

    • Nick May 29, 2015 at 4:16 am Reply

      Hi Ernest. I can speak from my experience that brokers charge their fee from renters. There are very rare occasions where the landlord will pay the fee. I understand that Craigslist is not the best choice to find apartments but even there you can see that the most apartments are “fee apartments” which means renters will have to pay for broker’s fee. On the other hand, real estate brokers in buy/sell are very important and essential in getting the deal done.

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