What to Expect When Renting in New York City

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Moving to the Big Apple is exciting and filled with fresh prospects. Finding an apartment to rent, however, can be challenging and the process of it at times surprising for those who have previously rented in other locations. Not only are rents significantly higher but apartments are in short supply. New York City has a very low apartment vacancy rate. Here are some points to keep in mind so you’re not totally surprised once you begin the search for that perfect home in New York:

NYC Apartments Don’t Last Long    

In New York City, there are more people than apartments—or so it seems—so naturally rentals go fast. Be ready to make decisions on the spot, as you’ll rarely have the chance to go look at a place and have it be available again. 

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Watch out for Descriptive Keywords When Looking at Apartment Rentals

Ads can be misleading and for those of us who have lived here for a while we know that  “quaint” means small and “charming” can translate to run down. Similarly, some brokers and landlords will mislead potential renters by inaccurately naming certain neighborhoods as though they fall in more desirable adjoining area. Always go see the places to make sure the descriptions are accurate and check on maps so you can zero in on the location. 

Renters Pay Fees

In most places, landlords pay realtor fees to have their units rented, or owners sell directly to renters without brokers. In New York, it’s pretty rare to find a decent place without a broker, and here there are often two realtors involved. We used https://revaluate.com/blog/nyc-broker-fees-explained/ to break it down for us. The owner uses one to sell and renters need to hire their own realtor to find them the apartment. The financial burden of the broker fee is on the renter in NYC for both brokers.  The fee varies from broker to broker, but expect to pay an average of 15 percent of the annual rent due in full prior to signing the lease.  Assuming the average rent in Manhattan and Brooklyn, which is now nearly $4,000 per month, a 15% fee would equate to a payment of $7,200. We know, yikes!  But consider that brokers spend a majority of their time dealing with clients who never actually finalize a transaction. Using an agent will probably actually save you time and money in the long run. When renting without an agent, the owners often transfer their fees into your monthly rent, so you’re paying for it anyway.

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Security Deposits are Limitless, So Renters Need a Large Chunk of Change Upfront

In New York, there is no legal limit to how much a landlord can charge tenants for security deposits if the apartment is an unregulated (market rate) apartment. They will often ask for first and last month’s rent in addition to a one month security deposit. If it is a rent regulated apartment, the amount of a security deposit is limited by law to one month’s rent. These places are hard to find, however. Be prepared to need a money roll the size of Tony Soprano’s to rent in NYC. Visit the Metropolitan Council on Housing  for more info on security deposits in New York.

Pets Make it Harder to rent

As if the New York City rental market isn’t bad enough, if you have a cat or dog, your options will be more limited. Cats are easier to get through but with a dog you might have to look harder than others without furry friends and you may need to add a “Pet Deposit” onto your already insane deposit. In New York, there is no statute on pet deposits or additional fees. Some pet owners in the city recommend preparing a package - almost as if you were applying to live in a co-op - on your dog if it is a large breed or one that some consider aggressive. Have an online photo album of it interacting with other animals and people to show it’s friendly and socialized. You can even get a certificate from a dog training course to show it’s a well trained animal and that will show you care a lot about your pet. If you’re having a hard time finding landlords that are pet friendly, go to dog parks in the area you want to live and talk to other dog owners and get recommendations.

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Renters Must Have all Docs Ready

Always have your pay stubs, bank statements, check book and whatever else potential landlords need to take an apartment on a first visit.  If it’s a fit, take it. Bad credit? Try offering the landlord a few months rent up front if you have the cash. This tactic works surprisingly well. 

Consider Roommates

Sometimes you need to get a roommate to get the place you want. Some people find this highly motivating to push themselves to earn more money so they can one day have the place to themselves or with a partner.

Count On a Smaller Place

When moving from out of state to NYC, don’t be surprised by what the same amount of money gets you in terms of size or location. Sometimes you have to pioneer a bit and tackle foreign lands to get a decent sized place. Be strategic and try to find a neighborhood you feel may be up and coming. Moishe’s.com has lots of blogs on finding furniture that doubles as storage - here and here, how to make the most of a tiny kitchen, and clever ways to store bathroom items.

What About Renter’s Insurance? 

Do you own a lot of electronics or collect vintage guitars? Do you want your grandmother’s priceless platinum art deco bracelet and ring covered in case of theft? There are a few things to know about renter’s insurance and questions you should be asking but might not think to. This blog from Brick Underground covers the basics and will hopefully lead you in the right direction, especially if you intend to move into uncharted territory in search of cheaper rents.