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Top NYC Real Estate Firms

Rob Whiting
Boom Team

Looking for an apartment in New York can be tough, even if you have the best apartment rental websites in NYC to help you with your search. While these rental websites can give you a great starting point, there can still be a lot of information missing from the listings they contain, particularly if you’re looking for apartments that are in high demand. It can also be hard to find apartments during peak season, since listings can quickly fill up if you don’t keep an eye on them.

So, if you’re in the market for an apartment in NYC and you don’t want to leave anything to chance, you hire a real estate broker.

What is a Real Estate Broker?

In a nutshell, a real estate broker is a licensed professional who is trained to help people rent, buy, and sell real estate. They are also known as realtors, and they are different from real estate agents because realtors must pass a licensing exam to practice. They must also be a member of the National Association of Realtors.

Which One Should I Hire?

While both real estate brokers and real estate agents can organize transactions between you and prospective landlords, brokers generally have more experience and authority when it comes to handling property transactions. Since agents work under brokers, they cannot operate independently and must run all their transactions through their brokers before finalizing any deal.

Since there is a lot of overlap in the duties and responsibilities of both realtors and agents, people can easily interchange the two.

Does It Really Matter?

Ultimately, it would depend on you and the kind of transaction you have in place. If you’re a private individual that is looking for a residential unit, hiring an agent would usually be enough to get the job done.

However, if you’re renting a luxury apartment like a penthouse or you’re renting multiple high-end units for business purposes, it might be better for you to hire a realtor.

Why Should I Hire a Broker?

Simply put, hiring a broker means that you’ll have someone who will actively find an apartment for you based on your parameters. If you don’t have the time to look for an apartment on your own or you just don’t want to deal with the hassle of sifting through hundreds of listings, hiring a broker is the right move for you.

However, keep in mind that hiring a broker means that you’ll have to pay for broker’s fees. Typically, broker fees cost around 10-15% of the annual rent you will be paying or roughly the equivalent of one month’s rent.

You should also note that in NYC, renters could be charged with broker’s fees even if the landlord was the one to hire the broker because of a decision made by the NYC Supreme Court in 2021.

5 Great NYC Real Estate Brokerage Groups You Should Know

  • The Corcoran Group
  • Douglas Elliman
  • Sotheby’s International Realty
  • Keller Williams NYC
  • Warburg Realty

The Corcoran Group

If you’re a fan of Shark Tank, then you would definitely be familiar with the sassy and business-savvy head of the Corcoran Group: Barbara Corcoran. The Corcoran Group was founded in 1973, and considering its humble beginnings, is now one of New York real estate’s biggest success stories. The brokerage firm began as a tiny office on the Upper East Side with a budget of $1000. In entrepreneurship circles, Barbara’s story of how she expanded her real estate empire is the stuff of legends.

Today, the Corcoran Group has offices all over New York, as well as in Florida and the Hamptons. The company boasts a reputation for handling some of the biggest real estate property sales in New York, with an $80 million townhouse sale in 2017 as their latest achievement.

The majority of rental properties handled by the Corcoran Group can be found in Manhattan and Brooklyn, with a few properties in Queens. You might be pleasantly surprised to note that, yes, they do have no-fee apartments in their listings!

Douglas Elliman

Another rags-to-riches story, Douglas Elliman began as a basement store in Manhattan in 1911. The company changed hands several times until it was purchased by Montauk Battery Realty in 2003. Today, it has major regional offices in several US states such as Texas, California, Florida, and Colorado, but its main office is located in New York.

Douglas Elliman focuses on rentals in New York City and Manhattan, and they specialize in luxury units. Their group handles around 6,000 properties in those areas.

Sotheby’s International Realty

If you’re in the market for the cream of the crop rental units in NYC, look no further than Sotheby’s International Realty. Launched in 1976, this group focuses solely on high-end rental properties. Interestingly, their search filters include a “Lifestyle” search, where you can find property rentals that fit categories such as “Country Club”, “Beach”, and “Yacht Club”, so you’ll have an idea of what kind of properties they handle!

Sotheby’s International is highly exclusive when it comes to their realtors and their customers, and their brokerage service is only available to individuals that meet their qualifications. Their strict vetting system has garnered this group several awards, including the 2014 Franchise Business Review’s Best in Category for Real Estate Franchisee Satisfaction Award.

They even have an “Exclusive Listings” filter, which means that you can only rent these properties by dealing with their company.

Keller Williams NYC

Keller Williams was founded in 1983, making it the youngest real estate brokerage group on this list. However, you shouldn’t discount them so quickly, since they have been one of the fastest-growing companies in the industry since they began franchising in 1991. By 2014, Keller Williams was the world’s largest real estate franchise by the number of agents.

Keller Williams has two main offices in NYC, which are both located in Manhattan. The company has around 1000 agents in the New York area alone, and they handle around 8000 active listings on their website. They specialize in luxury apartment rentals.

Warburg Realty

Owned by former broker Frederick Peters, Warburg Realty is one of the largest privately-owned residential real estate brokerage firms in NYC. They specialize in mid-range to luxury rentals, and the majority of their properties can be found in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.

Among the five brokerage firms on this list, Warburg Realty has been around the longest as the firm was founded in 1896. While their firm is small in comparison as they only have 150 active agents in NYC, their website offers up-to-date NYC real estate news, city guides, and other valuable resources for first-time renters.


Are the times when I shouldn’t use a broker?

Yes! If you know what type of apartment you’re looking for or you have a specific NYC neighborhood in mind, you could find an apartment on your own.  

Can I hire more than one brokerage firm?

It depends on your agreement. If you signed an exclusivity contract with a real estate brokerage firm, you will not be able to hire another broker. However, even if you can, that doesn’t mean that you should. While you might think that it would be beneficial for you to work with several agents, it could actually do more harm than good. If your broker knows that you are working with multiple realtors, they might not work as hard for you because they might not get the commission in the end.

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