2. Focus Your Search According to Your Budget
New York City is an expensive housing market and you will likely be forced to make compromises in your choice. Monthly rents will vary depending on several factors; the most important of which is location, followed by apartment size and then amenities.
Consider Where You Can Afford to Live - Manhattan apartments are in the greatest demand and consequently rents are the highest here compared to other boroughs or nearby suburbs. In most areas of Manhattan, you will have great difficulty finding a studio apartment for less than $1,400-1,500 per month. In contrast, there are areas just outside Manhattan (within a 30-40 minute commute) where you can find a decent studio apartment to rent for $850-1,000 per month.
Determine What Size Apartment Fits Your Budget and What Amenities You Can Do Without - Squeezing into a smaller apartment than your ideal and a willingness to accept some commonly perceived flaws such as lack of view or natural light, street noise, etc., may save you some money. In addition, rents will vary with the type of building in which the apartment is located such as, whether or not the building has a doorman or an elevator.
Decide If You Are Willing To Share An Apartment - You can sometimes cut costs by sharing a large one bedroom, where you can build a wall in the living room to create a second bedroom for your roommate (management allowing, of course).
3. Methods of Searching - Fee v. No Fee Rentals
If you can afford to pay a broker's fee, searching with a broker is highly recommended for convenience and is the most common way of finding an apartment. Brokers often have access to good rental options, can guide you in your search, and make the paperwork easy for you.
Brokers charge a
commission for their services. In Manhattan, expect to pay between 12-18% of the year's rent, typically 15% of the year's rent as a commission. That means if your rent is $1,000 a month, the broker's fee works out to $1,000 x 12 x 15%, or $1,800. Fees outside of Manhattan are usually less, ranging from one month's rent to 12% of the year's rent. The fee is payable only at the time of
The larger Real Estate firms have Web sites where you can search their listings in advance of contacting them. You can also check their most updated listings in the classified ads in The Village Voice, The New York Times.
4. Financial Requirements and What to Bring on Your Apartment Search
In order to rent an apartment, you will be asked to complete an application form by your prospective landlord. You may also be required to pay between $50-$200 for credit reports and / or application fees. Landlords are mainly concerned with you and / or your guarantor having steady income and good credit.
Financial Requirements - Most landlords require that the prospective tenant have an income equal to 40-45 times the monthly rent in annual salary (combined income is used for roommates). You and your roommate will need to have all of your income verification paperwork readily available upon application for an apartment.
If you are a full time student or do not meet all the financial requirements, most landlords will require a lease co-signer or guarantor. A guarantor is an individual, typically a family member, who preferably lives in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut. Guarantors are asked to disclose detailed financial information and have a credit report run on them as part of the approval process. The guarantor's income needs to be at least 75 times the monthly rent and they will also need to submit the paperwork listed below.
Funds - When the landlord approves your apartment application, be prepared to pay the first month's rent and the security deposit upon lease signing. Most landlords require that these funds be paid in the form of separate certified checks or money orders. Landlords will not accept personal checks or credit cards. An additional certified check or money order will be required at the time of lease signing to pay the broker's fee.
Necessary Documents - Bring the following items with you when you start looking for apartments:
- Letter from your current employer stating your salary or from CPA if freelance or business owner
- First two pages of last year's tax return
- Most recent bank statement(s), bank account numbers and credit card numbers
- Most recent pay stub(s), names, addresses and phone numbers of previous landlords
- Names, addresses and phone numbers of personal and business references
- Photo I.D. such as driver's license or passport
5. Lease Signing
Leases are important for clarification of the responsibilities of the landlord and tenant. If you don't have a lease, the landlord could ask you to leave or raise your rent on short notice. In addition, factors such as when your rent is due, if pets are allowed and who is responsible for maintenance need to be clear. The type of lease you will be asked to sign can vary with the type of apartment and building in which it is located. Any changes to the standard lease are usually included in a separate lease rider. Leases are for one or two years and generally begin on the 1stth or the 15 of the month.
Typically, the apartment will be located in a rental building that is owned by a landlord and all of the apartments are available for lease. These buildings may be protected by rent regulations. A rent regulated apartment is subject to limits on the amount that owners can raise the rent for vacant apartments and renewals of existing leases. A tenant in a rent regulated apartment has the right to renew the lease indefinitely and the right to sublease the apartment with the landlord's permission. For more information about rent regulated apartments, visit the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). Non regulated apartments are known as market rate. They are easier to find and more expensive than rent regulated apartments.