Thursday, September 14, 2006

Real Estate Depression

I have self-diagnosed myself with a disorder that I am certain exists in this city. After extensive self-assessment, research and hearing accounts of other's horror stories, I have named this disorder "Real Estate Depression." Symptoms include moderate to mild heartache, intense pressure just behind the temples, and high levels of anxiety often amplified when waking up in the morning, in a sleeping bag, on an air mattress, in a friend's living room, and blinking through the early morning haze at your former apartment in 14 boxes stacked in the corner. It always feels worse when you wake up because the early-morning re-realization sets in that you really are one of the glorified homeless of New York.

It could always be worse. I know this. And I don't mean to sound like a spoiled American who is complaining about decent accommodations when so many others have nothing. But anyone who has tried or is trying to find a place to live in New York City is familiar with the following:

- A broker who tries to charge a broker's fee of 15% of the first year's rent on an apartment that should be "no fee" because the management company is all ready providing compensation.
- A broker who shows you one of the best units in the building and doesn't tell you that it's no longer available in order to use it as a lure to view a less suitable unit that they're trying to push (promising platinum and delivering bronze).
- A broker who combines appointments with multiple clients in order to show an apartment to more people within a shorter period of time. Unlike Open Houses (where crowds are expected), having to view a single unit with other people when you anticipated a private appointment only adds to the stress and competitiveness of the rental market and creates an uncomfortable air when you're trying to get a feel for your potential new home.
- A broker who makes unrealistic promises about the apartment, the building or the neighborhood over the phone or via email only to present you with the disappointing reality when you arrive.
- A broker who asks you how much you're willing to pay and then tells you that you don't have to pay him "monatarily."

Over the past month and a half, I have learned the following:
1) If it sounds too good to be true, there is less than a 1% chance that it isn't.
2) The terms "beautiful" and "spacious" - or any variation thereof - are all relative.
3) Brokers should only charge fees if the management company, landlord or owner is not paying the fee, but some do.
4) Don't let a broker talk you into something you don't want.
5) Brokers deal with a lot of apartment seekers everyday. Although they act like they sincerely care about what you want and need, they probably don't. Watch your back.

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