It’s true that the real estate market has softened and virtually ground to a halt in some cities with no sign of life. While New York remains one of the most expensive cities in the country and on a short list of the priciest cities in the world, it’s also seen a dip in its real estate revenue. But for the average renter, that just means it may not be quite as cut-throat competitive to secure an apartment. It still means a race to find the few affordable units in your price range and sign for it before someone else pounces.
Keep in mind that real estate rentals are a booming business in New York. Unlike most cities where the assistance of an agent or broker is free to find an apartment, brokers in New York charge 12-15% of the annual rent, or sometimes a 1-month fee. It is possible to rent directly from landlords and management companies, however, you’ll find the best apartments on the market with a broker. Most landlords don’t want to deal with finding tenants and hire a broker to take care of the credit check, lease, and general paperwork.
You’ll also be expected to pay first and last month’s rent and a security deposit equivalent to a month’s rent. Occasionally the last month’s rent is waived, which can make all the difference in the world if you’re on a budget. A $2,000 one-bedroom apartment starts to add up when you’ve already shelled out a whopping $6,000 just to get inside the apartment. Not to mention a potential broker’s fee toppling $3,000. But with some work and ingenuity, it is possible to successfully rent an apartment without a broker’s fee or added expenses.
To help along your New York apartment rental experience, here are a few tips to get started:
*Scour Craigslist.com’s “No Broker Fee” section for rentals and sublets and email or call affordable leads immediately. Competition for affordable apartments is fierce and your best chance is contacting the landlord early.
*Consider taking over a lease for someone else. Usually a renter looking to get out of a lease is desperate to find someone as quickly as possible and allows flexibility for security deposit and other fees.
*Post flyers in the neighborhood you want to live in with your phone number and the type of apartment and rent you’re looking for. This actually works and can be the easiest way to securing an apartment.
*When you’re viewing an apartment, make sure you’re ready to sign. A quality rental in a hip neighborhood will get snatched up quickly. While you don’t want to rush into singing a lease if you’re not ready, you won’t have much opportunity to “sleep on it.” Instead, have a checkbook handy and know that you have enough reserves in the bank for the required rent and fees. Keep in mind you might be required to pay for your own credit check and the landlord may want a cashier’s check instead or personal.
*If you’re new to the city, and new to your career, you’ll probably need a guarantor to sign your lease with you. The guarantor is responsible for paying your rent if you default and therefor is usually a parent or relative. Unfortunately, some landlords require you to earn 10 times your rent to sign the lease on your own. Of course if you earned 10 times your rent, you would probably have a nicer apartment in a better neighborhood. I’ve personally discovered that once I hit my late 20’s and established sparkling credit, I was no longer asked to have a guarantor regardless of my salary.
*Do some research on your real estate broker before you sign. Make sure they don’t have any negative reviews on sites like City Search. You can also ask for recommendations for friends, colleagues, and in the Craigslist.com housing forum. It’s also imperative to get the broker’s fee in writing. It’s not uncommon to be promised a 1-month fee, and then get hit with a bill for 15% of the annual rent.
*Consider renting a sublet through Craigslist.com to avoid the hassle of long-term leases, fees, and extra month’s rent. It’s a smart way to get to know the city better, establish references, and meet new people who can potentially point you to your own apartment. In this city, apartments are often rented through word of mouth.
The name of the game in New York apartment rentals is tenacity, persistence, and organization. Keep your eyes and ears open and your checkbook ready.