For the most part, real estate agents in New York City have a bad reputation- and for good reason. I do not think that most agents understand the repercussions for such a bad reputation. There are a lot of agents out there and some of them will engage in a practice called “Bait and Switch.” At Feeder, we’re familiar with this term not because our agents engage in it, but because many of our clients have told us about their experiences with agents that they worked with in the past, before finding their home with us.

“Bait and Switch” is an unfortunately common practice that many real estate agents in New York City use. It consists of luring prospective clients to make a call or setup a showing to find out more information about an apartment that they listed, which is not actually available for rent.

The most common scenario is that an unscrupulous agent posts a listing online of a gorgeous apartment that is reasonably priced. When the agent gets a call for more details, they inevitably say that the apartment “just rented,” but that they would be happy to show you other apartments that are very similar. While this is a frustrating experience, it is harder to suss out if this is a true “Bait and Switch” or if the apartment really did just rent…after all, apartments in New York City do move very quickly, which is one of the reasons that it is so important to work with a trusted real estate agent.

A more insidious version of “Bait and Switch” is when a potential renter speaks with an agent and they agree to meet at a time and a place to see an apartment that the renter thinks they have seen photos of online. However, when the meeting comes, the agent shows the prospective tenant a completely different apartment from what was advertised online. Generally these different apartments are higher in the rent price that had been listed and less desirable than what had been seen online.

“Bait and Switch” ends up wasting the client’s time and in most cases, the agent’s time. It is rare that someone ends up signing for an apartment that they see through this maneuver. In fact, there are ways to avoid it.

Before meeting with any real estate agent, make sure to research them and their firm. It might sound like a bit much, but a little preparation goes a long way. Check out the reputation of the agent and their firm; see what kind of reviews each has and how long they’ve been in business. Since there are so many agents and so much real estate inventory in New York City it would be easy to end up with an unscrupulous agent.

Remember to ask a lot of questions as you go through the process and find out details like why the last tenant moved out. You might be surprised at how much information is shared with you. It’s important to ask how long the unit has been on the market and how many other prospective clients have seen it, to get a better understanding of the competition.

Do your homework first and you’ll be happy to save time later, when you’re working with a reputable agent at an excellent firm like Feeder.

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