Finding the perfect apartment

Photo by Bradley Hawks


Queens has always been Manhattan’s reliable younger sister, watching over her from the East.  While in Manhattan’s shadow Queens may not have always appeared quite as glamorous—the reality is that she is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world.  Lonely Planet even named Queens the #1 travel destination for 2015.  And did you know that if the five boroughs were considered to be individual cities, Queens would rank as the fourth most populous city in the nation—after Los Angeles, Chicago, and Brooklyn.  We even have Brooklyn beat when it comes to space, with Queens ranking as the largest in land area of the five boroughs.

In a market that has been under the spotlight, steadily growing in popularity—especially in recent years—the task of finding a place to call home demands the use of a skilled and capable broker now more than ever before.  So whether you are looking to snag something shiny in Hunters Point South, or an individual home with a miniature manicured yard on Ditmars, finding someone you can really trust is essential.  BORO sat down with Emanuel Rodriquez at Douglas Elliman to get some advice on how to tackle New York’s often daunting market.

BORO:  What attracted you to real estate?

EMANUEL RODRIGUEZ: I’ve been in sales my entire life.  I wanted to get into a business that could utilize my unique skill set, which includes guiding people through making difficult decisions.  Real estate sales is one of the largest and most difficult decisions you will make in your entire life.

BORO:  How do you try to stand out from the field?

ER:  I don’t try to think about other brokers.  I genuinely care about what I do.  It’s really not just about the money.  I really want to connect with my clients and make sure they are getting what they want and need.

BORO: Describe an ideal client…

ER: I look for someone who is excited.  Someone who has ideas, is creative, and unafraid to make a difficult decision.  While, of course, I hope to have clients who have the money to complete the transactions, I really want someone who is open-minded—someone who appreciates the process—because it’s not easy.  Someone who’s going to enjoy my company.  And someone who is going to be flexible and realistic.  Nothing in New York City falls within an average person’s expectations.

BORO: What are some of the greatest challenges in the current market?

ER: Everyone says of the New York market that it moves really fast, and you have to make important decisions quickly.  That turns it into something that is no longer fun.  It makes it dreadful, because most people need time to make that kind of a decision.

BORO: How far in advance should you start looking for a rental?

ER: You should start looking physically one month before you are deciding to move into a new rental.  You should see as many places as you can.  Ideally, try to see at least 5 to 10 apartments a week or more if it’s an area I which you aren’t that familiar. Pictures and descriptions can always be deceiving.  But if you find something you genuinely love, be ready to move on it.

BORO: What should you have ready before you start looking?

ER:  Try to have your finances in place.  Every building is different.  Have letters of pre-approval, bank statements, employment verification.

BORO:  Can you give us a list of your top five things to take into consideration when seeking a new apartment?

ER: 1) Know your budget.  Your income needs to be 40 times greater than your monthly rent.

  • Know your expectations. A studio is not a one bedroom
  • Know the location. You can’t just move somewhere because it’s affordable.  I wouldn’t live too far from a subway.  If you are a driver and really want free parking, then visit the location five or six times at different times of day to get a sense of parking availability.
  • Know the Area. Check out grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants.
  • Know your building. Know what type of building you want to live in.  Some are great for singles, others are terrific for families.  If you call me, I can check everything from finances to structure damage, repairs, elevators, rodents, and information about the management company.

BORO: What are some things people often forget to check inside an apartment?

ER: Always check the water pressure in the shower and how long it takes for the water to heat.  How is the lighting in the apartment?  Where is there storage space and closets?  How many electrical outlets are there in each room?

BORO: What are the benefits of working with a broker?

ER: If you work with the right broker, s/he will take your criteria and expectations and really help you make a reality out of it.  We can all go online and look at apartments, but you need someone who really studies the market. Even though I work with many clients, it is really important to me to make sure all my clients are getting 100% of my attention and commitment.

BORO: What is a standard broker’s fee?

ER: You can expect to pay 15% of the annual rent.  But that fee isn’t just getting you into apartments.  Ideally, it is building a relationship with a broker.  When I rent you an apartment, it is my honest hope that we will be friends for a long time. Trust is priceless.


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