Best Sites to Find No Fee NYC Apartments for Rent in 2023
July 6, 2023 | 13 minute read | the RENT BETTA team
In New York City, you expect the best of everything.
But when it comes to finding an apartment, the best isn't exactly available.
Most renters endure a maze of bait-and-switch listings, broker fees demanding 1-2 months of rent, and aggressive sales tactics. Many who recently moved here liken it to the worst.
RENTBETTA.com offers no fee NYC apartments directly from property managers and building owners. You can book a tour and apply for any apartment on the site and will be connected directly with a leasing office, not a broker. Craigslist occasionally has great deals directly from smaller landlords, but also has a lot of scams. You can also avoid broker fees by joining a flat-share, and we like Spareroom, Facebook Marketplace and the housing groups NYC Rooms and Gypsy Housing the best. Streeteasy has a no fee option but most of their listings are from brokers, meaning many are fake, outdated, or have hidden broker fees.
Why pay a broker fee? Save thousands of dollars with these websites offering no fee apartments directly from building owners.
The Truth About No Fee Apartments in New York City
No fee apartments in New York City come in two varieties: "truly no fee" apartments available without a broker, and "kind of no fee" apartments you rent through a broker who does not charge you a fee but is still getting paid in the transaction.
The added expense of a broker comes out of your pocket one way or another, so what you want to find are "truly no fee" apartments, and those are what is available on RENTBETTA.com.
RENT BETTA connects you with all building owners in NYC that let you rent directly from their leasing office.
Because there's no broker involved, there's no hidden broker fee.
It's like finding all the little property management companies in NYC yourself, but a whole lot easier.
"Kind of no fee" apartments don't require you to pay a fee to the broker, but you are likely paying higher rent by working through a broker.
These are what you find on Streeteasy or Craigslist when you click "no fee", but the apartments are posted by a broker. You'll likely either find a fake listing ("bait-and-switch" are rampant in the NYC rental market), or an apartment with a hidden broker fee.
Hidden fee #1: the lost concession
When the rental market is weak and it's hard to find tenants, landlords offer concessions like a month or two of free rent.
You'll pay the gross monthly rent every month, except for the one or two months you get free where you don't have to cut a check to the landlord.
Brokers take these listings from building owners and post them on Streeteasy and Craigslist as "no fee" apartments.
What they don't tell you is they're taking that free month of rent concession away from you as their fee.
At closing, the landlord will actually cut a check to the broker worth one month of the gross rent, and your lease will have one less month of free rent.
Yes, this really happens, and it's actually common practice.
So how do you keep any rent concessions the landlord is offering?
Find the same apartment on RENTBETTA.com and you'll keep any landlord concessions and get the best deal possible.
Hidden fee #2: landlords less willing to negotiate
Landlords may also list an apartment with an "OP", which stands for "Owner Pays" (the broker fee).
These are also more common when the rental market is weak. When you rent an apartment with an "OP", you don't have to pay the broker fee. At closing, the landlord cuts a check to the broker, typically worth one month of rent.
We've witnessed this happening during a lease signing.
Now imagine you’re the landlord, and two prospective renters come to see your apartment.
One came through a broker, so you’ll have to pay the broker a 1 month OP if that tenant rents the apartment.
The other came through RENTBETTA.com, so you won’t have to pay a 1 month OP if they sign a lease.
Both renters ask for a slight discount on the rent.
Which one are you more like to negotiate with?
Obviously, the renter who found the apartment on RENTBETTA.com is more likely to get the discount, as you won't need to pay a 1 month OP if they rent your apartment.
So even if the landlord is the one cutting the check, you're still leaving money on the table if you work through a broker.
Find an apartment on RENTBETTA.com to truly cut out the broker fee.
Good for: finding a no fee NYC apartment, avoiding fake broker listings
RENTBETTA.com provides no fee apartments you can rent directly from building owners, saving you thousands of dollars in broker fees.
The site only works with people who actually own the apartments - landlords and property managers - and doesn't allow brokers to post listings.
Reasons to find an apartment on RENTBETTA.com:
No broker fees
No fake, bait-and-switch listings from brokers
No aggressive sales tactics - you rent directly from a leasing office, who are usually very pleasant, and don't have to put up with pushy brokers
In addition to saving thousands of dollars in broker fees, you'll also save hours in your search by not wasting time on fake listings.
Brokers love to post fake listings online to generate leads (your name and number) but the apartments you see on a website may not actually exist.
They're only used as a lure.
Ever find attractive, no fee apartments Streeteasy only to reach out and hear that the apartment is no longer available?
The response is often "that just rented, but I've got these other places..."
That's the bait-and-switch.
The broker is putting up a fake listing with attractive photos, priced below market, and often tagged as "no fee."
The only thing is, it doesn't exist.
You can't rent that apartment. No one can.
But the listing looks great, and with the nice photos and low price, they get a ton of people saying they'd like to see it, all sending the broker their names and emails.
The broker uses these "leads", active apartment seekers looking to rent a place soon, and tries to take them on a tour of other, less attractive apartments.
A classic bait-and-switch. And it happens all the time to NYC renters.
In fact, most of the attractive apartment listings you find online are probably fake. You can always find a "good deal" on Craigslist and Streeteasy, but what you're probably running into is a fake listing.
Sreeteasy and Craigslist get paid for each listing, so they're kind of in on the scam, too. The more listings they have up on their site, the higher their revenue.
Basically, NYC's brokers and Streeteasy are in on the same racket, scamming renters.
You may hear that a listing is "verified", but if many of the apartments are fake listings meant to capture your attention, what exactly does that mean?
These fake, bait-and-switch listings waste countless hours in your apartment search, forcing you to sift through fake listings, reach out to set up viewings for non-existent apartments, and get your hopes up only to be continually let down.
On RENTBETTA.com, there aren't any fake broker listings.
The site only has listings from building owners. These are real companies, with real reputations, who typically own a lot of buildings.
Management companies tend to be a lot more professional than brokers.
If they put a fake listing on their site, a lot of people will flood their office to rent an apartment they can't actually offer, wasting the office's time.
To a broker, this may sound like a business opportunity, but to a real building owner, this just ties up their leasing office from doing their normal job, like processing applications.
Sometimes, building owners may not update a listing or an apartment may have rented within the last 24 hours (listings are updated daily), so once in a while you may hear back that an apartment has rented. But it's not a bait-and-switch broker scam.
So you'll save time, in addition to thousands of dollars in broker fees, on RENT BETTA.
Good for: finding a no fee apartment in-between scams and fake listings
Since it charges only $5 to post and doesn’t verify anything, Craigslist is a free-for-all.
But its low cost means smaller landlords sometimes post direct listings there, and good deals can be found if you're willing to invest time and effort.
Remember, what you're most after are "no fee" apartments that come directly from building owners, and you want to skip over anything that looks posted by a broker, as it may be fake or have a hidden fee.
Go to newyork.craigslist.org and check the "no broker fee" box on the left. This will give you both types of "no fee" listings, the "truly no fee" and "kind of" no fee.
Brokers often add watermarks to their photos or include broker contact details in the description, so skip over anything with these giveaways.
You’re looking for a direct apartment posted by the building owner, either the landlord or property manager, not a broker.
Be prepared to do a lot of sifting, but you can find a good deal if you spend enough time on Craigslist.
We’ve found legitimate rent stabilized apartments there, though those are rare except during weak times in the rental market.
Craigslist is a good hunting ground for savvy, street smart New Yorkers willing to put a lot of time into their apartment search to find a good deal.
Good for: finding a (no fee) sublet
If you’re up for roommates, another great way to avoid a broker fee is by joining a sublet, also known as a flat share.
Since you’re moving into an existing group of tenants and not working with a broker, there’s no fee to pay, so it’s a great way around the common 1-2 months requirement.
Spareroom is the best sublet option we’ve found in New York City, and we’ve had decent luck with it in the past.
#4 Facebook (Marketplace and Housing Groups)
Good for: Spareroom alternative to finding a sublet without a broker fee
Facebook has apartment listings on its Marketplace and in individual housing groups.
It’s free to post on Facebook, which means you’re going to see a lot of nonsense.
What you’re looking for is a sublet posted by the current tenants who already live there.
Avoid listings that look like they're posted by brokers (or any middlemen) to avoid a broker fee or fake listing.
Landlords rarely post on Facebook, so don’t expect to find direct listings of empty apartments there, only shares.
In addition to Marketplace, you can also try individual housing groups.
Drop a line to the current roommates and set up a time to see the apartment.
When you're there, be friendly! And see if the other roommates interact as friends, too, not just co-tenants.
After all, a good dynamic is the most important part of any flat share.
Good for: learning about the rental market with a broker, then finding an apartment elsewhere without a broker fee
While Streeteasy has a “no fee” option, most of their listings are from brokers. After all, Streeteasy is the most expensive apartment website in NYC for brokers or landlords to post listings on, so brokers are eager to recoup the money they spend on the platform from you, the renter.
So expect to see a lot of fake broker listings, and few truly "no fee" apartments.
Have some time to kill?
Then indulge a broker or two, and go on one of their tours to see what’s available.
Other Apartment Search Websites (We’re not Crazy About)
New York City has a lot of apartment search websites, but most are useless.
Many get large data feeds from brokers and just regurgitate fake or outdated listings.
As the brokers are the ones paying to post listings, these sites tend to do as brokers demand.
They don't actually provide you with a product you want - an easy to use website that shows you real, live apartments without a broker fee.
Instead, you're going to see a lot of fake listings and broker contact forms.
With that background into how these sites typically work (or work against you), here are other apartment search websites in New York City you may come across:
What we're not crazy about:
We spot checked 10-12 listings, and most were posted by brokers. Only a small portion appear to be from current tenants.
What we're not crazy about:
Many listings appear to be either from brokers or out of date
We checked out a handful of apartment listings in the East Village, and all were posted by brokers. We dug a little deeper and found out who actually owned those buildings and when they put those apartments up for rent on other sites. All the apartments had actually rented weeks earlier. The listings were stale.
What we're not crazy about:
All the listings we found were posted by brokers, so we expect many to be outdated, fake, or include the extra cost and difficulty of working with an apartment broker.
What we're not crazy about:
Probably the best on this list, though many listings appear to be dated or otherwise not actionable. We spot-checked 7-8 listings, found out who actually owned the buildings and if they listed those apartments on other web sites. Most of the listings had already rented.
What we're not crazy about:
Most listings we found were posted by brokers, so we expect the broker bait-and-switch to be common.
Look for listings tagged “By Owner” for a direct deal that’s more likely to be available and not include a broker fee.
What we're not crazy about:
It’s hard to see which apartments in a building are available, and if the photos they show correspond to those apartments or are just generic building photos.
Brokerage Websites (You Should Avoid)
Be careful! This is where you'll feed yourself straight to the sharks.
Each of the major apartment brokerages in New York City have their own websites with listings.
But apartment listings posted on brokerage sites are...from brokers.
While this may not come as a surprise, it means their apartment listings will come with the difficulties you commonly get with brokers: fake, outdated, or inaccurate listings, aggressive sales tactics, and, of course, broker fees.
We include this list of major brokerage companies for completeness, but remember, we advise you to look for live apartment listings available directly from landlords or property managers, and avoid listings from brokers.
After all, brokers just add another layer of expense to your apartment search, so you are less likely to get a good deal if you work through them.
But if you have the money to spare and want the high-touch approach, here are the major New York City apartment brokerage websites to check out:
National Websites (Less Relevant)
The national websites are all big brands you’ve probably heard of before.
The only problem is, the New York City rental market is unique, and few landlords here put their listings on websites like Apartments.com or Zumper.
So if you go on these sites, you're not likely to see many real listings. You're more likely to run into scams. Think someone asking you to wire money abroad to rent an apartment at an unusually low price.
These sites can work great in other parts of the country, it's just in NYC, they don't really apply.
If you're looking for a New York City apartment, avoid a broker fee with a no fee listing available directly from the landlord or property manager. These are the types of listings available on RENTBETTA.com, and occasionally, Craigslist. Joining a flat share is also a good way to avoid broker fees, and Spareroom and Facebook (either Marketplace or housing groups) are the most popular. There are a lot of apartment search websites in New York City, but many are filled with feeds from apartment brokers with outdated, useless listings. Also, large national websites typically have limited inventory of the NYC rental market, so don't expect much from them, either.