What you’ll need to rent an apartment in New York City
If you plan to rent an apartment in New York City at any time, you’ll need to have your ducks in a row. But spring is the probably the busiest time of year since the rental market picks up and becomes more competitive than it is during the other three seasons. That said, in April, May and June, you should be all the more organized before you start searching for an apartment in NYC. I recommend checking each item from this list before you begin scouring the five boroughs, so you’re much more likely to find success quickly and move in before the heat of summer hits. Here’s what you’ll need to rent an apartment in New York City.
An established budget
Know how much you can afford before you start searching. (And don’t think you can be a cheapskate and rent for much less than your budget so you can pocket leftover cash for fancy cocktails.) You’ll discover that you get what you pay for in NYC, especially in terms of real estate. Based on your current salary, you won’t have any choice but to stay within budget, which brings me to the next point.
A job earning 40-50 times the rent
If the rent is 2,500 per month, you need to earn a minimum of $100,000 per year. It might sound insane to a newbie, but to rent an apartment in New York City you must abide by this income rule. If you haven’t secured a job in New York yet, plan on paying an entire year’s rent up front (plus the security deposit). If you have a job but don’t earn the required amount, you’ll need a guarantor (a family member who makes 80-100 times the rent) before you have a shot at securing a pad. If you can find a roommate, a landlord will take both incomes into consideration.
A photo ID
If you don’t have a driver’s license, you can use your passport or another government-issued identification card.
Be sure to have copies of your tax returns from the past two years.
Letter of employment
Ask your employer to draft a letter stating your position, salary, length of time with the company or your future start date, and any bonuses or commissions.
One month of pay stubs
If you already have a job, you’ll need to prove that you work there and show two pay stubs.
Bank statements/reserve funds/savings
Most landlords and management companies will want to know that you can make the rent if you lose your job, so be prepared to show every dime you have to your name. The more cash you’ve saved, the better. Always remember, in New York, cash is king.
A good credit score
Don’t bother trying to rent an apartment in this town if you have poor credit. New York attracts too many applicants and without a guarantor, you won’t stand a chance.
A letter from your last landlord
Not everyone will require a letter, but some will want proof that you weren’t a crazy tenant, and you paid your rent on time each month.
A real estate broker you can trust
Now that you have all of the necessary paperwork in order (and a job), you can get down to business. But to rent an apartment in New York, you’ll probably need the help of a professional. To be honest, moving to NYC is nothing like moving to other cities. It’s tough to find a place to live on your own. Listings move at the speed of light, so be prepared to use an agent, but that will cost you, which brings me to the next point.
The broker’s fee
Unless you’re savvy enough to land a no-fee rental, to rent an apartment in NYC you’ll need to pay 15 percent of the annual rent to the broker. If your rent is $2,500 per month, that’s $30,000 per year in rent, so the broker’s fee would be $4,500.
Three months’ rent
Once you have all that’s mentioned above and you’re approved for an apartment, you’ll need rent for the first month, last month (not always, but plan for it), as well as the security deposit to move in. Some landlords will use your security deposit as the last month’s rent.
Quick access to funds
You’ll need a certified check or be able to wire funds to take an apartment off the market. Once you’ve been approved and the apartment can be yours, don’t hesitate. Have access to money immediately. Otherwise, another prospective tenant can walk through the door with cash and you’ll lose the deal.
Even if you have your heart set on a particular type of apartment and location (don’t we all dream of a TriBeCa loft or a Brooklyn brownstone?), you might not get exactly your heart’s desire. Be open to other neighborhoods as well as apartment sizes and amenities. What’s more important? Living in New York, or a roof deck with a view?
Don’t give up. Finding the right living situation can take time in NYC. If you’re patient and you persevere, you will eventually be successful and the proud lessee of a New York apartment.
Once you stumble upon a listing that’s in your price range and meets the majority of your needs, you need to pounce. Don’t hem and haw, because the next applicant could be waiting in the wings and grab the apartment, sending you back to square one, or to live with your aunt in Jersey. And who wants to ride that PATH train every day if you can help it?
Are you prepared to rent an apartment in NYC? Don’t let this list discourage you. It’s a long road to finding the right New York apartment, but well worth it in the end.
Here’s more information about how to rent an apartment in New York City. Also, what twenty-somethings expect when they move to NYC and what it’s really like.