1. Set Your Apartment Budget
Before you begin your NYC apartment search, you'll want to set a budget and ensure that you meet the rental requirements. Typically, landlords will want to see that you make at least 40x the rent. So, if the unit is $2,000 per month, that means you must make at least $80,000 per year. You can often use a guarantor if you don't make that much, but guarantors typically must make at least 80x the rent. So, in the same scenario, your guarantor must make at least $160,000. But, this could be combined income if you have more than one.
Different landlords have different requirements. For example, some may only require 35x the rent, and others may let you slide if you are below 40x but still in the ballpark.
2. Prepare Your Documents
Renting in NYC can be almost as strenuous as getting a mortgage. Most landlords will require you to pass a credit check and provide income statements, tax returns, bank statements, and pay stubs. That way they can verify your income and make sure you make enough to afford the unit. Plus, you will have to pass a credit check to be approved. Most landlords require a credit score of at least 680. But this can vary depending on the situation, and you may be approved with a low credit score if you can show more income.
It's best to prepare the paperwork ahead of time so that you can act quickly once you find a suitable apartment.
3. Decide on Where in NYC You Want to Live
Once you know how much you can afford, it's time to decide what parts of NYC you want to live in. There are plenty of wonderful neighborhoods throughout NYC, offering something for everyone and every budget. Of course, you'll want to choose a neighborhood that you can afford and which has the amenities you need, whether that means safety, great schools, world-class entertainment, or an easy commute.
If you're not familiar with the city, check out our article on the best neighborhoods in NYC.
4. Search Available NYC Apartments
Now it's time to start searching for rental apartments in NYC. As the market is competitive, you'll want to look for apartments in multiple places. To start, check out our list of the best rental websites in NYC. Many of these sites also offer mobile apps, so you can conveniently search while on the go. One of the best ways to get an edge is searching for NYC apartments is to sort by places that just hit the market. You can also create alerts for new listings that match your needs.
If you're working with a rental broker, you can also have them send you apartment listings.
5. Apply for the Apartment
Once you've found your dream apartment, it's time to submit your rental application. NYC landlords have stringent requirements, so be sure you submit everything they ask for promptly. If you take too long to submit supporting documents, someone else might apply for the apartment and snatch it from under you.
Once you submit everything, you can expect to get a decision within a day or two.
6. Sign the Lease and Schedule Your Move-In
Once your application is approved, it's time to sign your NYC apartment lease. When you sign your lease, you'll also be expected to provide checks to the landlord. Typically, you'll pay the security deposit and broker fee (if there is one) at lease signing, but some landlords will also ask for the first month's rent.
After signing the lease and providing the checks, you should also finalize the move-in details. The move-in date is often the same as your lease start date, but that depends on your schedule.
Renting in NYC can be stressful if you're not used to the market. But as long as you are fully prepared and have realistic requirements, you shouldn't have too much of a problem. Here are a few tips for making the rental process run a bit more smoothly.
Be Prepared To Act Quickly
The rental market in NYC moves very quickly. If you come across your dream apartment, you may have to put down a deposit that same day to avoid losing it.
You typically have a few days up to a week to get your paperwork together before they start showing the apartment again. But the quicker you can submit the application, the better your chances of being approved.
Be Ready To Move By the End Of the Month
In many other cities, you can secure an apartment months in advance. But in New York, things work a bit differently. Most landlords are looking to get their units occupied as soon as possible – which means that you may be expected to move in by the next first or fifteenth of the month.
So, if you are looking on January 2nd, you may have to move in on January 15th to secure the apartment. Some landlords may give you until February 1st, depending on the demand from other renters. But, the longer the unit sits on the market, the more money they are losing. So, if you want to secure a particular apartment, be prepared to move quickly.
Consider Hiring a Broker
One of the ways to get ahead in NYC's competitive rental market is to work with a real estate broker. While it's simple enough to rent an apartment in NYC without a broker, having a professional in your corner can help you get a place if there are multiple applicants. Agents can also arrange access to apartments, schedule showings for you, and help with the application process. If you can afford to pay the NYC rental broker fee, and want some extra help, hiring a professional might be worth it.
Make Sure Your Expectations Align With Your Budget
Renting in NYC is more expensive than paying a mortgage in many parts of the country. So, be sure that your expectations are realistic before you begin your search.
There are plenty of great neighborhoods where you can get a fantastic unit for a reasonable price. But if you're expecting to live in a luxury apartment in midtown for less than $2000 per month, you're going to be very disappointed.
Renting in NYC isn't all that difficult if you have the funds and paperwork prepared and a realistic budget. But it may be a shock if you're coming from out of state and not used to the competitive nature of the NYC apartment market. Following these tips will help you be prepared and avoid feeling overwhelmed.