You’ve probably heard that finding an apartment to rent in New York is no easy task, and that’s putting it lightly. With steep income requirements, heavy competition, and a host of document requirements (almost as much as you’d need to buy a home), it’s not a task for the faint of heart. Moving to NYC is a dream for many people, but when it comes to finding an apartment in the city, that dream can quickly turn sour.
Fortunately, you can do it with the proper guidance, a clear plan, and a burning sense of determination. This guide will walk you through all the essential things you’ll need to have before starting your search for a rental apartment in the Big Apple. Once you have all your ducks in a row, you’ll be much more likely to find success.
1. A Set Budget1. A Set Budget
We’d all love to find an apartment with the perfect location, size, and amenities. But as we all know, your budget will force you to compromise on some of these things. Your budget will have to account for the rental price and the broker’s fee, security deposit, renter’s insurance, administration fees, and the first and last month’s rent. Start by getting a clear sense of what you can realistically afford.
You’ll also be restricted to apartments where you make 40-50 times the monthly rent. For an apartment that costs $2,500 a month, you’ll need to earn $100,000 a year. The income rule is unavoidable, but there are options if you don’t make the required amount. Most people use a guarantor (a family member or friend who earns 80-100 times the rent) or a roommate that you can split the income requirement with.
2. Photo ID2. Photo ID
You’ll need some form of identification, either a driver’s license, a passport, or a government-issued identification card.
3. Letter of Employment3. Letter of Employment
Your employment letter will be an essential document that any landlord will want to see before considering your eligibility as a tenant. Most landlords require a letter of employment on a company letterhead that mentions your salary and duration of work. Ask your employer for a hard copy of one.
For self-employed or when operating a business, you can provide a CPA letter as an alternative. Your CPA letter will include information about the nature of your business and how long you’ve been working on it.
4. Pay Stubs4. Pay Stubs
In addition to the employment letter, you’ll also need to provide pay stubs going back at least a month.
5. Bank Statements and Savings5. Bank Statements and Savings
Your landlord will want to see that you have a bank account in good standing with no overdrawn fees or outstanding debts. They’ll also want to know that you have enough savings to keep up with rental payments if you lose your job. How much savings you’ll need will vary from one landlord to another. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to have enough savings to cover at least six months’ worth of living expenses. The more, the better.
6. A Good Credit Score6. A Good Credit Score
You may be thinking, why does my credit score matter when looking for a rental apartment? After all, you’re not planning to take out a loan or anything. The truth is, a good credit score is still important. Your landlord will want to pull your credit as part of their screening process. Doing so will allow them to see how you’ve managed money in the past and whether you might be a responsible tenant. Every landlord is different, but most will want to see a score above 600. Having a low score doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get the rental. But it does mean the landlord will have to consider others things in your rental application, like your savings or employment verification.
7. Landlord Reference Letter7. Landlord Reference Letter
Not every landlord requires a reference letter from your previous landlord. But they will want some proof that you’re not likely to cause problems and will pay your rent on time each month. If this is your first-ever rental, you may be able to get away with using a reference letter from a previous employer, a teacher, or someone else of good standing who can vouch for you.
8. A Real Estate Broker8. A Real Estate Broker
It may seem strange to think you’ll need a broker to find a rental apartment, but the truth is it’s both necessary and highly recommended. The NYC market can move quickly, and agents control the most desirable apartments. Most people only go through the rental process once every few years; rental brokers go through it almost every day. They know all the red flags to avoid and will have access to rentals in all buildings and neighborhoods that someone working on their own won’t know about. If you’re serious about finding an apartment that you can be truly happy with, then don’t skimp on paying for the services of a professional real estate rental broker. Rental broker fees range from 1 month to 15% of the first year’s rent depending on the property. The alternative would be looking for a No Fee apartment to rent if you cannot afford a broker, but this will limit your options further.
9. Flexibility9. Flexibility
It’s no secret that NYC is a popular place to live. With more than eight million people living here and more arriving every year, finding a suitable apartment is difficult for everyone, no matter your income level. You’ll need a degree of flexibility and a willingness to compromise. Instead of looking for the perfect home that ticks all boxes, focus on those that cover your most pressing needs. For example, what’s more important, an apartment with a view or a convenient location?
10. Perseverance10. Perseverance
Along with flexibility, you’ll also need a strong sense of perseverance. Things move very fast in NYC. That apartment you visited in the morning could be gone by the afternoon. Instead of letting this despair you, accept it for its reality. It can take days to weeks or even months to find a suitable apartment for some people. Just know that act fast and decisively when you find the right place. You have to be both tenacious and quick on your feet to beat out the competition here.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
Getting your own NYC pad can be a journey with high competition, high rental requirements, and a low vacancy rate. You’ll be better prepared if you have everything lined up before starting your search. Once you’re ready to start the search, read up on everything you need to know about signing a rental lease and the current rental laws. You can act fast and decisively when a suitable apartment lands in your lap.
Renter’s ChecklistRenter’s Checklist
- Letter from employer stating position, length of employment, and salary.
- Landlord reference letter including; Name, address, and phone number of the previous landlord.
- Tax returns from the last two years
- Last two pay stubs
- Asset Verification – stocks, real estate, etc
- Bank statements from the previous two months
- Two professional reference letters
- Two personal reference letters
- Photo identification: Driver’s license, a passport, or a government-issued identification card.
- First month’s rent
- One month Security deposit
- If applicable, brokerage fee ( 1 Month’s Rent or 15% of the annual rent).