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7 Tips for Apartment Hunting in New York City
Trying to find the right apartment anywhere can be a stressful experience, but trying to find the right apartment in New York City can be an overwhelmingly stressful experience. I’m here to help! I have moved around this city more than a couple of times and also have worked as a real estate agent, so I’ve learned a thing or two. Here are 7 tips for apartment hunting in New York City. 1) Give yourself no more than two to four weeks for your search In the city, landlords are looking to get their units rented as soon as possible. When I was an agent, I often had people calling me in June wanting to rent in September. My response: “Call me back in mid August.” If you’re on the rental search, don’t do it too far in advance. This is typically how it goes: in the summer, landlords would like a move in date no more than two weeks after an application is approved. So for example, if you’re looking at an apartment to move into by July 1st, you don’t need to start looking until Mid June. If you’re looking in early June and find the perfect place, be prepared for the landlord to want you to move in by June 15th. In the winter, landlords are a bit more lax, as apartments don’t move as quickly. So you can give yourself two to four weeks for your search. Bonus tip: winter is a great time to move as rent prices are typically cheaper! 2) Have your paperwork ready to go This is key. When you find the right place, you’re going to have to turn in a mountain of paperwork to prove your income, credit, and identity. Be prepared! Have it in your purse, your backpack, or in a zip file on your computer. Any way you want to store it, make sure when you find your apartment, you can apply right away. Your real estate agent will love you, and it’ll show the landlord that you’re serious and ready. The list of paperwork usually includes: Government Issued Photo ID Copy of your Social Security card W2’s Bank Statements Pay stubs Letter from employer 3) Figure out if you need a guarantor If you don’t have a great credit score or don’t make enough money to qualify for an apartment on your own, you may need a guarantor. To qualify on your own, you’ll need a credit score around 680 or higher and an annual income of 40x the monthly rent. If you don’t fit that description, you’ll need a guarantor. They’ll need a good credit score and to make 80x the monthly rent. They need to provide the same paperwork I listed above, so make sure they’re prepared. Don’t call Aunt Shelly the day you’re applying to tell her she needs to dig her Social Security card out of her attic. 4) Know the right questions to ask This may be a no-brainer, but don’t forget to ask some key questions while on your apartment search. “Is heat and hot water included?” “Does the Super live in the building?” “Where is the closest subway?” Write them all down so you don’t forget. If you’re unfamiliar with the neighborhood, ask your agent about where the closest grocery stores, laundromats, coffeeshops are located. Bonus tip: walk around the neighborhood! Often times, my clients would ask me questions about the area in which they were looking. I always suggested they get to know it themselves, so wherever you’re looking, don’t forget to take time to get to know the neighborhood. 5) Understand Fee vs. No Fee This one is important. Okay, let me break it down for you. A “fee” is the commission that is paid to the real estate agency for locating and securing an apartment for you. They typically range from one month’s rent to 15% of the annual rent. Most agents will want to negotiate with you, so it never hurts to ask if there is any wiggle room. Keep in mind that this is someone’s job and most of them are only getting paid if you rent something with them – agents don’t typically get an hourly wage or salary. They work hard and deserve to be paid. Even still, a lot of agents realize how much 15% can be, so they’re willing to compromise on the commission. A “no fee” is an apartment in which the landlord pays the commission. But here’s the catch: your rent may be higher. Here’s an example: let’s say you find an apartment that is $2,000 per month with a fee of 15% paid by you. This same apartment as a “no fee” (meaning the landlord pays the agent) might be upwards of $2,300 per month, with a fee of 0% paid by you. You are essentially paying for the fee over time as the landlord is sort-of including it in your rent. “No fees” are great if you don’t have the money upfront and are only looking to stay somewhere for a year. Fee apartments are great if you can pay the fee and are looking for a more long-term situation, as your monthly rent will most likely start out at a lower rate. More explanation of this can be found here: Brian’s Nerdy Insights. 6) Have a flexible needs and wants list Oftentimes, people have a very set list of things they need to have in their apartment. Well, unless your budget is upwards of 10k per month, I doubt you’ll find a doorman building, in Tribeca with a rooftop pool. So redefine, what you need to what you want. Depending on your budget, you may not be able to find an apartment with laundry and a dishwasher, or either. You have to be realistic. So make a list of wants and wishes and be flexible. Your list may have to change based on what you can afford. If you’re willing to up your budget, your options will open up. But if you really can’t budge, don’t get hung up on what you think are must-haves. 7) Working with one real estate agent is really helpful People often hop from agent to agent because they think they’ll see more apartments that way. I personally think that is exhausting and a little unnecessary. If you stick to one agent that you trust, they get to know you and what you’re looking for. It is a huge help to work with one person instead of ten. Also, you’ll feel a lot better about handing over a commission check to someone you got to know as opposed to someone you met for twenty minutes. Happy hunting!!