Renting in New York City: How to find your perfect home

31.08.17
5 minute read
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Infamous for its high rent prices, finding the perfect place to live in New York City can seem like a daunting task. Especially as more and more young people flock to the city, the competition for entry-level apartments grows every year. It’s important to be prepared - make sure you have a budget in order, all the right paperwork and a list of needs in order to make your home hunting process as seamless as possible.

The median studio apartment in Manhattan will set you back a cool $2,300. If you want to live in a trendier neighborhood (Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Park Slope) you’ll face a similar price tag. Another variable to consider is the relatively high cost of utilities, which are often upwards of $200/month. Perhaps the most efficient option for housing in NYC is finding a no fee apartment that cuts out one of the biggest cost barriers to moving into an apartment.

All that being said, living in New York City isn’t as expensive as many people believe. There are few other places in the world where you can still buy pizza for a dollar or a beer with a five dollar bill, and all of the things you need are at your fingertips 24/7.

Whether you’re moving to New York for a job, to start a business or just to give life a shot in the concrete jungle, one of the biggest challenges can be finding an apartment. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about finding a home to rent in the big apple.

What are my housing options in NYC?

New York City offers every housing option in the book. From studios to houses to room-shares to college dorms, there’s something for everyone. Because many New Yorkers are college students or travel a lot for work, there are both furnished and unfurnished options available at all times during the year. There’s a considerable summer rush when apartments are at their most expensive, and it’s more common to find no fee apartments after Thanksgiving. Many, if not most, New Yorkers live with at least one roommate. When rent is so high, it’s often the only affordable option people have. Luckily, because roommate-hunting is so common for New Yorkers there are lots of ways to search for and find a roommate in the city.

Brokers and Agents - How to Find a No Fee Apartment

One of the biggest “sleeper” fees you’ll get hit with when searching for an apartment is a broker’s fee. This fee is the commission a real estate agent earns when they’re helping you find an apartment, and it can come with a price tag anywhere from one month’s rent to 15% the annual rent. This fee is pretty standard in NYC.

There are two ways you can escape the broker fee. The first is to deal with a landlord or management company directly. This avoids involving a broker in the first place and therefore avoids the fee. The second way is to find an apartment where the landlord agrees to pay the broker fee themselves.

Where to Find a Rental in NYC

Browsing online is often a great first step when you’re looking for a place to live in NYC. The main advantage of online searches is you’re much more likely to find a no fee apartment - many people who post are the landlords or management companies themselves.

  • NYBits.com - this site specializes in no fee apartments. Most of their listings don’t require a broker’s fee.
  • CityReality - with their “no fee apartment” filter, you can maximize your chances of finding the apartment of your dreams at a price point that won’t destroy your budget.
  • Social Media - a great way to find a no fee apartment is to get to the landlord themselves. If you let your Facebook friends, Instagram followers and the world of Twitter know that you’re looking, you never know who might come out of the woodwork with your next apartment.
  • UrbanEdge - a relatively new site, but they only allow property owners to post listings. This guarantees that every apartment listed on their site is a no fee apartment.
  • StreetEasy - this site has a wonderful search function and has thousands of units listed.

Where to Find a Flatshare or Roommate in NYC

If the pill of typical New York City rent prices is a little tough to swallow, roommates might be the best option for you. Luckily, there are plenty of other people just like you who are looking for someone to share their living space with, so there are a lot of services available to aid in your search.

  • Symbi - like match.com but for roommates! This service lets you customize your search while also getting to know potential roommates - they have detailed questionnaires and require each roommate to be vetted, keeping the risk of scams to a minimum.
  • Diggz - this site also services Jersey City and Hoboken.
  • Craigslist - a tried and true favorite. Craigslist is a popular option for finding roommates in NYC, but beware of scammers and always look out for your own safety.
  • Social Media - just like your Facebook could help you find a flat, it can also help you find a roommate. Sometimes you don’t know who’s looking - your old friend from High School might be looking to fill a room or a friend of a friend could be needing a subletter.

What Do I Need to Know About the Market?

Many NYC landlords have strict income requirements and will require you to provide a credit score and proof of income before signing a lease. The rule of thumb is a tenant must earn a yearly salary that’s 40x the monthly rent, meaning that to afford NYC’s $2,300 median monthly price tag you should be earning $92,000 per year.

If that price tag induced some sticker shock, there are ways to soften the blow. You can co-sign the lease with a guarantor, someone whose income will give the landlord a guarantee that the rent can be accounted for.

Another thing to be aware of is that apartments in NYC go fast. When looking at apartments make sure you have the necessary documents with you at all times:

  • Bank statements
  • A “clean and clear” copy of photo ID
  • A job offer letter countersigned by both the employer and the employee

Once you find an apartment, you’ll need to immediately provide a check for the first month’s rent as well as a security deposit in the same amount. Sometimes they require a physical check, other times online payment is possible.

Luckily, many apartments offer the ability to pay your monthly rent online or through direct deposit. If you’re paying for rent using an account from another country, use TransferWise to get the real exchange rate and cut out expensive international bank transfer fees.

With that, you’re ready to start your search. Good luck with your move to New York City!

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