How to rent an apartment in New York City

  • 23.03.2021 23:41
  • Category: Finance
Photo: Ruurd Dankloff/Getty Images

Someday the quarantine due to COVID-19 will end, all borders will be reopened, and no one else can interfere with your movements.

So you've decided to visit, and maybe even move to New York City! Congratulations - you'll love it here (although it may take a while).

Once your decision to travel to the Big Apple has been made, you will have to overcome one of the main obstacles: finding accommodation. And unless you have a couple of hundred thousand dollars (or better more) lying around to buy your own apartment, it is very likely that you will be looking for rent. And you will be in good company: over 60 percent of the city's residents are tenants.

Photo: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Renting an apartment in New York is no easy task. Going alone often means facing numerous dead ends and unforeseen circumstances that you've never thought about. But if you have the right guidance, finding a great rental apartment that you enjoy shouldn't be that hard.

As in any other city in the world, the search for housing can be reduced to four options: through a real estate agent (broker), through websites and applications for real estate search, through friends, or through direct ads on social networks.

It is worth noting that it is quite difficult to find housing in New York on your own, without the services of a broker (but you can!). In any case, you should know that in most cases, when renting an apartment through a broker, you will have to pay him a commission. Although the fees vary depending on the specific circumstances, for example in Manhattan it usually ranges from 12% to 17% of the annual rent for an apartment.

Photo: Facebook

If you are traveling as a tourist, then Airbnb, or Couchsurfing will definitely be your main friends.

Now let's talk about the option when you come to the city for a long time and are going to live here.

Set your budget

Cost is often the biggest concern when looking for an apartment, as most of your cash will likely end up going straight to rent. The general consensus among locals is that no more than a third of your annual income should go towards your housing costs - if you pay more than that, you are officially “saddled with rent” - and in New York, most homeowners will only approve applications from tenants whose the gross annual income will be 40 times the monthly rent, says the New York Times.

Knowing roughly how much you might pay can help you decide which areas to focus on. New York newcomers can only think of Manhattan when they imagine a city, but the average rental price in the area averages above $ 3,500 per month, although the real estate market there has now dropped by as much as 71% due to the coronavirus and landlords are trying their best to lure to own new tenants.

Photo: Ny.Curbed

The outer areas are also not much better in terms of cost. Average rents in Brooklyn topped $ 3,000 a month last year. Of course, you can find housing here much cheaper, but, nevertheless, it is useful to know some established average prices.

Expand your search

There are many websites and apps you can use to find your perfect apartment: StreetEasy is one of the largest apartment aggregators, and various brokers - Corcoran, Compass, Triplemint, and others - have their own websites with many apartments (which often show there before they get into those very aggregators). There are also the most famous options like Craigslist and Zillow, or non-traditional sites like Listings Project,, RentHop, Naked Apartments, and NYBits.

The fact of the matter is that no site will have all the rental options like no broker. So try all the tools you have: the ones that will help you find self-contained accommodation, commission-free apartments, unconventional living conditions, and more.

Photo: StreetEasy

Remember to also check out Facebook or Twitter, especially if you don't want to start with your own apartment, but rather try to rent with someone by renting a room for yourself.

See the place in person

Visit every rental property you are considering. This is critical for several reasons: it allows you to make sure the apartment is in line with what the ad promised. You can also check the site for any defects, learn a little more about the neighbors, and explore the surrounding area.

If you're lucky, you might even run into a local who will be ready to answer some questions about the building, its tenants, and your potential landlords.

Prepare your documents

Let's say you've found your dream apartment. Now is the time to apply - but as any New Yorker knows, a good apartment can be lost in a split second. If you are fortunate enough to find something that you think is the perfect option, you better put all the required paperwork together. Take the following documents with you every time you go to look at a new apartment:

  • Passport or driver's license.
  • A letter from your job on letterhead. Make sure you include your salary and start date. If you are going to go to college or university, prepare an acceptance letter.
  • Copies of recent payment receipts and bank statements, usually three months are sufficient.
  • A letter to the landlord (where you write that you are the ideal tenant, that's right, yeah?)
  • Depending on the level of housing, you may need other letters of recommendation, but this is not often required.
  • While the management company will likely do a credit check as well, it doesn't hurt to run the check yourself first to make sure there are no obvious problems on the horizon.
  • If for whatever reason, you do not have any of these financial documents, you must have a first-class guarantor, that is, someone (possibly parents) who will pay your rent if you run into problems.

Once you have decided on a location, the management company or landlord will most likely ask you to fill out an application. Prepare to also have enough cash to cover the first and last month's rent and a security deposit (which can be equal to but not more than one month's rent). There is a possibility that you will pay a commission to the broker, although this has already been agreed upon separately. And landlords can only charge $ 20 for registrations under the new rental laws.

Photo: Zillow

Know your rights as a renter

Let's say you signed a lease for a place you like - congratulations! Now is the time to understand your rights as a tenant. If the apartment you dreamed of suddenly runs out of hot water for several days, you have problems with electricity, or some other unpleasant thing happens without hearing a word from your landlord, you have the right to file a complaint (at least to the manager building) and get help in a timely manner.

Prepared by: Alina Shvetsova