While New York City is (in my opinion) the best city on earth, it easily becomes one of the worst cities when you’re looking for your own apartment. Whether you’ve lived here for years or are ready to relocate, the apartment search is stressful, and, like everything else in this town, expensive. Here are seven ways it’s different from your typical apartment hunting experience in other markets:
You Pay the Broker’s Fee
Be prepared to pay the realtor out of pocket for finding you an apartment. In most other markets it’s the apartment’s owner who pays. Expect to pay anywhere between 7-15% of your ANNUAL rent to the broker before you move in.
You’ll Have a Large Upfront Cash Outlay
In addition to the broker’s fee equaling 1-2 months’ rent, you also need pay your new landlord at least two months of rent upfront, so you are looking at an immediate cash outlay equal to 3-4 months of rent. Plus you will have to pay $100-200 in credit checking and application fees to the landlord. Even apartments listed as “no-fee” may have broker’s and move-in fees, so don’t let those words fool you.
You Must Act Fast
While many college towns have students secure apartments up to 11 months in advance of their move-in, New Yorkers have about 15 days to find and pay for a new apartment. If you’re starting a new lease, the move-in date will probably be on the 1st or 15th of the month, so plan accordingly. In addition, have all your rental application paperwork in hand when you visit apartments, because you’ll be racing to the landlord’s office if you find a place you want. If you want to secure a lease for July 1, two weeks before that is the time to get serious. Of course, looking at real estate listings even before and checking out an apartment or two can be helpful to see what is in your price range, or if you want to find a new neighborhood, but don’t burn yourself out! You’ll only be able to secure an apartment right before your move in this quick-paced market.
You’ll Probably Need a Guarantor
Know that many apartments require that you earn 40x the monthly rent to qualify for the lease, so if you want a $2000 apartment, you better have the pay stubs to prove you make $80,000/year. If you don’t, you’ll need a guarantor, usually someone who makes 80x the monthly rent or $160,000. What makes finding a guarantor even more difficult is that most large landlords want the guarantor to live in the Metro NYC area. It’s unlikely, but you may get lucky and find a building that doesn’t enforce these difficult requirements. One way around the income guidelines is to offer to pay 6-12 months of rent upfront or use an outside service, such as Insurent, to insure your rent payments.
You Need to Be Flexible
When looking for an apartment, know what neighborhood you want to live in, but try and be flexible. If you’re working with a realtor, tell them how many rooms (flex or no flex), your price range, and streets you want to be between, for example, 1 bedroom, under $1900, between 3rd Avenue and Avenue B, below 14th, above Houston. This gives you some flexibility, and won’t waste either of your time.
If you want more for your money, considering living in the so called outer boroughs: Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx are all within minutes of Manhattan and offer a lot more space for your money. Staten Island is even more affordable but has a difficult commute, often requiring a bus-to-ferry-to-subway trek. Depending on your commute and willingness to take the subway most days, the boroughs may be your best option! Greenpoint and Bushwick in Brooklyn and Astoria and Long Island City in Queens are all popular neighborhoods with twenty-somethings who don’t want to live in the standard Manhattan closet-sized, high-priced apartment.
Don’t Expect to Negotiate with the Landlord
Speaking of wasting time, be sure you only look at apartments you can afford with all the fees. Don’t expect to be able to negotiate anything– it’s a competitive market! Don’t get your hopes up for an apartment that’s out of your price range.
You May Need to Settle for a Roommate Share
As a newcomer, you will meet less onerous financial requirements by opting for a roommate share. If you take over a share in an existing roommate house or apartment, someone else has the lease and has met its qualifications. You’ll still need to be able to pay your first month’s rent and the security deposit, but there should be no broker’s fee involved.
To feel better (or worse) about your NYC apartment hunt, check out the blog Worst Room, which features some pretty dismal accommodations in the city that never sleeps… And feel free to share your own experiences — good and bad — in the comments below.
(Once you get your NYC apartment, you’ll need Alissa’s tips for surviving in NYC on a budget.)