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Fighting for residential rental agents and the value they provide

With all the recent attention on rental broker commissions, the perspectives of hard-working residential real estate agents have been an important part of the conversation.

Contrary to a public perception that real estate agents are all “millionaires,” the residential agent earns an average of $53,000 per year.

For many who rent apartments for a living, it is an opportunity to begin a new occupation, or a part time job to help make ends meet while pursuing another career. 

In the wake of the Department of State’s (DOS) Guidance on broker commissions, residential agents have risen to the occasion and responded forcefully.

Our members flooded the DOS with phone calls and emails, they signed petitions in opposition and raised their voices in TV news reports, newspaper op-eds, and on social media. Amid the imminent threat to their livelihoods, brokers continue to advocate for their tenants and their communities.

Sarah Saltzberg of Bohemia Realty Group described the upheaval and confusion she confronted upon hearing the news earlier this month after putting her young son to bed. Overnight, she was forced to rethink her entire business model. “I have built up a small business over many years. We are the small business owners that make up the fabric of this city.”

Ivonne Velasquez of Halstead Real Estate describes the impact rental brokers have on their communities.

“I have been a broker for over 10 years, many of which have involved maintaining a vibrant, inclusive and energetic Harlem community. This is not just a professional exercise for me: Harlem is also my home. It is where I spend nearly all of my time. The same is true for so many of my colleagues, many of whom work passionately to create a welcoming environment in the neighborhoods they themselves live in and love. Rental real estate agents like me work hard every single day to help our clients find their next home all the while trying to feed our families.”

Fatima Kargbo, an expecting first-time mom and agent at Bohemia Realty Group said, “I love what I do, I love helping people find their new homes. We are advocates for the tenant. I remember dealing with clients that have had borderline and very low credit. I had to go with them to meet with a landlord in the Bronx and vouch for them. Because of my advocacy, they were approved for their apartment.”

Rental agents have been making the point that there is really no such thing as a “no fee” apartment.

The public is gaining a new understanding of the work that goes into helping New Yorkers find a home and the costs associated with renting an apartment.

“Somebody has to go to the apartment, market the apartment, take pictures, understand the relationship with the landlord, and figure out what the landlord is looking for,” said Saltzberg.

Douglas Jones, a property owner and an agent with Brown Harris Stevens shares his experience serving his community.

“Responsible brokers work with property owners and prospective tenants alike to create interrelation in neighborhoods that assist in economic growth and evolution. In a city as expensive as NY, it’s plain, simple economics that homeowners rely on rental income to provide additional assistance in maintaining their property. 

“I am fortunate enough to own a three-family brownstone. As an agent, I depend on the expertise of my fellow agents to identify tenants capable of helping me to meet the monthly obligations of maintaining my property. And that does not always mean charging the most rent for the apartment.

“The agents on whom I depend to find me tenants understand that.  If an agent’s flexibility in working with landlords and tenants is replaced by a mandate focused solely on an economic objective, progression in emerging neighborhoods will stall.”

Each story is a bit different, but what has stood out is the universal dedication, care, and hard-work that New York City rental agents devote to help clients find their next home.

We will continue to fight for these individuals and firms that represent the fabric of New York City.

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