The Revolutionary New Way for Recent Grads to Find Apartments

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — When Jameson Fauver, 25, and Catherine Gallagher, 26, decided to move in together in New York City, they had a few specifications for their first joint apartment.

They wanted a one-bedroom in the West Village, SoHo or Tribeca; preferred an in-suite dishwasher and washer/dryer; and requested no first-floor apartments. Beyond that, they wanted a no-frills and inexpensive experience – something different from what they'd come to expect in the New York real estate rigmarole, complete with broker fees hitting 15% of the annual lease value and showings of unappealing apartments that wasted their time.

That's why they decided to use The Next Step Realty, a leasing brokerage that caters to recent grads looking to rent in New York. Next step reduces broker fees to anywhere from 12% to 13.5% of the annual lease value, a 20% savings guaranteed for all clients. Blair Brandt, a 25-year-old graduate of the University of Richmond, founded Next Step in May 2010, because he noted the New York real estate market suffered from two major flaws: it was listings driven, and real estate agents tended to represent the interests of landlords not those of the clients.

But with 40,000 graduates aged 22 to 28 moving to New York each year in search of jobs, according to the Census Bureau, Millennial apartment seekers are often adrift in a city where the average rent was $3,816 as of February. With this demographic saddled with sky-high student loan debt and hollow job prospects, Brandt wanted to create a real estate service that catered to the specific needs of this generation.

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So he reinvented the model, comparing his service to car service Uber; instead of having individual real estate agents seek out clientele or apartment searchers comb through listings, Next Step streamlines the demand and matches Realtors with potential renters. Next Step handles the front end and back end while the Realtors handle the apartment showings –- up to 12 viewings in one fell swoop, all while chauffeured around in a company Range Rover, Suburban or an actual Uber vehicle.