1. They use pictures that make the space appear bigger than it actually is.
It's fairly common now for brokers to use digital SLR cameras with wide angle lenses, Glass-Moore explains: "In doing so, studios and one bedrooms will appear a lot larger in the photos because of the angles that are being used and the lens that is being used."
Don't just rely on the pictures listed online. Ask the broker for a floor plan before touring the place, he advises, as it will give you a much better sense of the overall space.
2. They list 'one-bedrooms' when it's really just a glorified studio.
Similarly, a "two-bedroom" may end up being a one-bedroom with a large closet, Glass-Moore says.
Gather as much information upfront before wasting your time touring property that ends up being too small. First, ask for the floor plan. Next, call up the broker and ask questions about the space over the phone.
"Use common sense," he says. "If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Of course, there might be a few exceptions — such as a rent stabilized place — but in 90% of the cases, if something looks too good to be true, that's going to be a fake listing."
As you spend more time searching, you'll start to get a general idea of the going rate for homes in the neighborhoods you're interested in, and will be able to weed out the fishy listings.
3. They use the classic bait-and-switch tactic to reel you in.
Some brokers will lure you in with enticing listings that are not even available. "They just want to set an appointment with you so they can start showing you property," Glass-Moore explains.
There are a couple of ways to avoid this trickery. First, use common sense and ask yourself if this listing seems reasonable. If it seems like too much of a steal, it may not actually be available.
Second, speak with the broker before touring the space and clarify that you're interested in specifically seeing the listing that they marketed. If they say it's no longer available but they have other property to show you, you most likely walked into a bait-and-switch trap.
4. They start with a fixed broker fee.
In a broker-heavy market, you're most likely going to end up paying a broker fee at the lease signing. This often starts at 15% of the annual rent, which comes out to nearly two months worth of rent.
There's room for negotiation, and you can save a bunch of money if you play your cards the right way.
Glass-Moore recommends negotiating the fee upfront, before you start touring property. "If you're someone who's financially qualified, you know what you want, and you're going to be making your decision quickly and not taking up too much of the broker's time, it's reasonable to negotiate for the 8 to 10% range," he says.
On average, people are paying closer to 10 to 12%, he says, so don't settle with 15%.
The broker fee can be deterring, which is why many people exclusively look at no-fee apartments, but it's important to keep in mind that just because an apartment doesn't come with a fee doesn't mean it's a good deal. "Landlords aren't stupid," Glass-Moore says. "In a market where brokers are very active and charging a fee, landlords will price their units to a point where they're sometimes equivalent to renting an apartment with a broker fee."
On top of the hefty broker fee, expect to put down a security deposit — anywhere from one to two months worth of rent, Glass-Moore says — a key deposit, and you may be required to add on renter's insurance.
Additionally, you may have to pay an application fee. "The application fees can get pretty hefty," he explains. "In some states they're regulated — in California, it's rare to see one more than $45 — but in New York City, it's common to see one that's $75."
Often, if you're living with roommates, each person has to pay the application fee. "If you're wanting to apply to multiple locations, that's something to consider, because you'll be charged every time," Glass-Moore says. "Make sure that you're only applying to the properties you really want to get."
Finally, if you don't meet the income requirements and have a guarantor — a higher-income person who signs the lease with you and guarantees you'll make your payments — you may have to pay a guarantor application fee.
6. They don't refund your application fee, even if they never process the application.
You get charged once your application is processed — when the broker or landlord runs your credit, background check, and criminal and eviction history — but in some cases, there are so many people interested in the apartment that not everyone's papers are processed.
"If you're one of 20 people applying for an apartment — and application number 18, for example — and within the first three applications, the landlord has found a qualified renter, they shouldn't charge you the fee because they never processed your application," Glass-Moore explains. "Unfortunately, most people get charged, and they don't go back to the landlord to prove their application wasn't processed."
7. They pressure you to move quickly.
"Brokers are salespeople, so they inherently are looking to close a deal," Glass-Moore says. "If you start to feel artificially pressured by a broker or landlord to move quickly, that's not someone that you should be working with."
Searching for a rental and closing a deal is complicated, time-consuming, and can be emotionally draining, but don't just settle for a place because you're desperate to finish the process.
Of course, some markets move incredibly quickly — such as the New York City market — and making decisions at a fast pace is essential. To keep a level head, but still act quickly, Glass-Moore recommends preparing at much in advance as possible.
Check your credit score — Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and Credit.com all offer scores for free — as some landlords won't even rent to people with a score below 600. Also, make sure you have all of the required documents at hand, such as copies of bank statements, proof of employment, and letters of recommendation from previous landlords. It's also smart to fill out a template rental application.
"Especially if you're in a market where apartments lease up very quickly and there's stiff competition, you need to differentiate yourself by being the most prepared," he says.