The “bait-and-switch” is an unfortunate rite of passage many New Yorkers face when it comes to renting an apartment in the city. Surely you or someone you know have fallen prey to this real estate tactic that often includes fake listings, “just rented” apartments, high broker fees — or worse.
Real estate startup Loftey is on a mission to obliterate the bait-and-switch and put you in the apartment of your dreams. It may even be able to get you a lower rent or a free move, and if you’re asking, “What’s the catch?” that’s OK because CEO and co-founder Ori Goldman is used to the skepticism.
“What we do is we help you find an apartment and avoid some of the landmines, but instead of charging you money for my time and my service, I’m actually going to pay you,” Goldman said. “I’m going to make this cheaper, which might sound a little bit crazy.”
While the service is free for renters, Loftey works out the commission from landlords and owners who are already working with the tens of thousands of real estate brokers throughout the city to fill empty apartments.
“But if we cannot, then we work for free,” Goldman said. “And that’s really, really important because that means is there’s no chance that you agreed to work with us, you’re trusting us, and then I take you to some building that you could’ve found on your own and suddenly you owe me thousands and thousands of dollars because I walked in the door with you.”
And about that almost-too-good-to-be-true lower rent and free move?
“We’re either going to get the owner to reduce the rent, or if it’s a really great deal and the owner is not going to reduce it because there’s a ton of applicants, we’re going to write you a check from Loftey to pay for some of that rent,” Goldman said, adding that a second option is having Loftey’s moving company do all your heavy lifting for you sans cost. Additionally, Loftey also covers the Uber to get you and your dedicated specialist to showings.
In a few weeks, Loftey will begin piloting a Chrome extension set to go live in the spring that will authenticate any listing from any real estate website.
That means “no more fake listings because any apartment request would first be vetted,” Goldman said. “Our clients don’t spend a second on fake listings. Their time is spent looking at apartments that work for them, and that are real. Not 75 percent of the time on bait-and-switch.”
How to spot red flags
To identify that shifty tactic on your own, Goldman suggests watching out for the “meet me on the corner” red flag.
“That’s pretty much a requirement for the bait-and-switch — they’re not going to tell you where to meet them because it’s different from what the listing was,” he said. “Be sure to ask what building you’re seeing and if they’re meeting you at that building.”
He also urges you to ask if you’re seeing the specific unit you saw in the listing and what the landlord is charging for the apartment.
Some other common rental red flags, according to real estate site Trulia, include: a rental ad that appears copy-and-pasted (also known as a "clone scam"), an agent asking for money before showing the apartment, and a no-show landlord.