Renting an apartment in New York is no easy task. Going at it alone often means running into numerous dead ends and uninviting spaces you’d never realistically consider. But if you have the proper guidance, finding a great rental apartment that you love is not nearly as difficult as your stress levels would indicate.
We’ve found that the best way to find an apartment in New York is with the assistance of an experienced real estate agent. The reality is that the market moves very quickly, and because so many of the city’s most desirable apartments are controlled by agents, if you’re serious about finding something that you’ll be happy to come home, we suggest enlisting the help a real estate agent on your search.
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A Few Points about Apartment Information
Do not hung up on listings that you see on a website. The odds of you renting the specific apartment you inquired about on-line are very close to zero. Treat the listings you see on the internet as a starting point and use the extensive building information to become more familiar with the market. Unfortunately, listings are not updated as frequently as they should be. We have little control over this, but it is a fact of the market. We hope that in time this situation will improve, though today the best way to obtain accurate listing information is to have your broker/agent pre-screen listings.
Be loyal to your Agent
Agent loyalty (i.e. only working with a single agent) is an important factor in finding a great apartment. Most agents work incredibly hard to find you that perfect apartment. They are motivated to do this in the hopes that if they are successful, a transaction will be consummated at which time they will be compensated for their efforts. If your give an agent reasons to suspect that a transaction is not going to occur (i.e. if you are working with other agents or are not serious about renting/buying an apartment), he/she naturally will be less inclined to invest the time required to find your dream apartment. As a result, you will be putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage versus other apartment renters as your agent will not be as motivated as those agents whose buyers are committed to both them and to renting an apartment. The best thing you can do is to work exclusively with a single agent and make sure they understand that you are committed to working with them. Of course, the goal here is for you to find the perfect apartment, so if you are not comfortable with the agent your are working with or otherwise question his or her ability to find what you are looking for, you should let the company know so that they can discuss this with the agent and, if necessary, find a more appropriate agent for you.
The benefits of using a Real Estate Agent
Quite simply, it is very difficult to find the ideal apartment without a real estate agent/broker. The Manhattan market is large and complex and moves very quickly; trying to navigate it on your own is a formidable challenge. Brokers live and breathe the market – most people most people rent an apartment every few years, while brokers are renting every day. Thus, the experience and knowledge they bring is invaluable and impossible to get elsewhere. In New York, many of the best apartments are rented exclusively though brokers. This means that in order to rent such apartments, you must use a broker.
Knowing what you want
New York city offers some of the most varied housing options anywhere; as a result, you have many excellent options. Thus, it is important to focus in on some specifics to make your search as productive as possible. Some of the key items that you should resolve early on are as follows:
- Your budget –For obvious reasons, this is probably the single most important factor. The price of an apartment depends on a variety of factors – size, location, condition and features, among others – so it is critical that you determine your budget at the outset.
- Neighborhoods of interest – Manhattan has dozens of neighborhoods, each with its own flavor and personality. Several factors can affect where you live: you might want to be close to work or your children’s school; maybe being close to a park is important: perhaps being close to great restaurants and cafes is key. The good news is that New York offers something for everyone.
- Apartment size and features – Do you need a one- or two-bedroom apartment? A large living area? A maid’s room or a home office? Are great views important? While determining which features are important, always keep in mind that there is a price for each one and therefore prioritize them based on how much you are willing to pay for each.
Requirements vary based on the owner and the building. The following are a few general guidelines that apply in most cases:
- Most recent pay stubs (last month)
- You will need to show an income of at least 40-50 times the monthly rent.
- You must show a secure and stable employment history.
- You must have good credit history (Above 650)
- You must have a social security number. If you do not have a social security number or are not in the process of applying for one you must have a guarantor co-signing your lease.
- You must show a good rental history.
- All information must be referenced in form of a letter or sometimes a phone call.
- For business owners last 2 tax returns will be required as well as your last W-2/1040/1099, etc.
- All students must have a guarantor to co-sign their lease.
- Some buildings do not accept students- this is a legal practice and cannot be challenged in court.
- If you do not meet the above criteria there are usually two possible solutions:
- You can get a co-signer or guarantor to co-sign the lease for you. Guarantor as require to make at 80x the monthly rent as annual and have good to excellent credit.
- Or some owners will allow you to prepay 6 to 12 months’ rent up front.
When looking for an apartment
- Be prepared to rent the apartment on the spot. In the current market, rental apartments rarely stay available for more than a couple of days. If you are not prepared to rent the apartment, do not bother visiting it.
- Bring the following: letter(s) from previous landlord; pay stubs, bank statements and check book.
- Be prepared to put down a deposit of one month’s rent.
- Check the neighborhood around the building. Looks for hospitals, fire or police stations – they are noisy and will cause you to lose sleep.
- Check the space, layout, quality of the apartment. Make sure you feel comfortable.
- Ask any other questions that are in your mind.
When to start Looking
You should begin to look for an apartment approximately 30-45 days before you intend to move. It does not make sense for you to begin looking before this as none of the apartments you see will be available when you want to move.
Applying for and signing a Lease
Once you have found an apartment, the next step is to apply and then sign the lease. A few things to keep in mind:
- Bring all paperwork and money required including: employment and income verifications, pay-stubs, tax returns, stock portfolios, and at least one month’s rent in form of a check.
- Generally, you will need to leave a deposit equal to one month’s rent which is fully refundable in case you get rejected.
- Once you apply you are bound to the apartment you are applying for, unless you get rejected.
- When paying a deposit get a receipt that specifically states that your money will be refunded if rejected.
- It usually takes anywhere from an hour to a week to hear back from a landlord.
- If accepted, try to sign the lease as soon as possible.
- Make sure you understand what kind of lease you are using. There are many different types: standard, self-extending, short-term, rent stabilized, etc.
- Read the entire lease and make sure you understand key elements such as: rent amount, term of lease, escalations, utilities, maintenance, pets, garbage, etc.
- Make sure the landlord also signs the lease and that you receive a copy.
- Look for and read all lease addendums and any other additional forms that may come with the lease.
- If you have any questions- ask. If you still feel unsatisfied have a lawyer look at it.
- Expect to pay anywhere from 2-4 months’ rent in advance, part of which will go to a security deposit.
- The initial deposit that is attached to the application is usually equal to one month’s rent.
- At the lease signing you must pay the reminder. This typically consists of the last month’s rent and the broker’s commission.
- In almost all cases the landlord will ask you to pay a security deposit. This is refundable at the end of your lease term plus interest accrued. Security deposit money cannot be used as rent at any time while the lease in active.
- Make sure you get receipts and specific explanations of what your money is for and where it is going to be kept.