I am often asked by clients and friends, why should I use a broker to find an apartment? Early on, I developed my 30 second “elevator pitch” defending myself and my industry, and extolling the benefits of working with a broker. Not surprisingly, my pitch didn’t land. I quickly realized the question was loaded, and I was failing to address what they were really asking. Can you convince me I cannot do better on my own? was the real question. Frankly, it is a reasonable question given the well-deserved and hard-earned awful reputation the real estate industry has in NYC and you have likely asked the question yourself.
Now, I know what you are thinking. Why should I listen to the advice of someone who works for an NYC brokerage firm? Right? I cannot blame you for your skepticism, but I ask that you trust that I am NOT your typical broker.
So, I scrapped my pitch and came up with a new way to approach the question. First, I think it makes sense to ask the question back. Do you think you can do a better job finding and securing an apartment without a broker? In order to answer "yes" to that question, one would have to believe that either a) the process of finding an apartment in New York City is straight-forward and easy to navigate making the help of a professional unnecessary, b) they are an expert in the field and have a level of knowledge which makes them more qualified than anyone they would hire or c) even though they know a) and b) are not true, they would rather take the chance of doing it on their own than roll the dice with a broker who more than likely cannot and/or will not add value to their search. To this day, I have never had someone answer a) or b) to my question. As frustrating as it is, we know the real estate industry in NYC is fast-paced, dysfunctional and difficult. There is a reason even many of the bad brokers are able to make a living and it is due primarily to the pace and dysfunction of the market.
The answer is always c), and rightly so. The assumption is that brokers are dishonest, uneducated, smarmy, high-pressure, unethical, immoral, unreliable, unresponsive, etc. The list goes on and on. Operating under that assumption, it’s no surprise many people feel it’s better to "go it alone". But simply assuming you are going to have a bad experience is tantamount to saying there are no competent agents in NYC. Rather than condemning the entire industry as a waste of your time, why not spend the time and energy finding an agent who can help you -- who WANTS to help you -- who is willing to take on the obligation of helping you find your new home -- who understands that their job is more that collecting a commission -- who takes pride in being an expert in the field of real estate -- who takes time to build a level of trust and rapport -- who promises you they will be there whether your search takes a day or a month. Properly vet your real estate professional as you do a doctor, therapist or even a manicurist. You see "red flags", address them. Your gut tells you they aren't good at their job, move on.
Finally, I ask, What do you do for a living? Lawyer? Consultant? Investment Banker? Analyst? Doctor? Teacher? Executive Assistant? Car Salesperson? Whatever the answer, I believe you have to be willing to say I can help you better than the next person because… Otherwise, what is the point? Even though your profession may have a better reputation than mine, there are still bad actors and dissatisfied clients who've had terrible experiences in your industry. But that doesn't prove (for instance) someone should go into court without a lawyer, it means they shouldn't go into court without YOU. I believe in my value because I know how rare professionals like me are in NYC real estate. There ARE good brokers out there, and you owe it to yourself to find one.