Whether you’re a first-time renter or a seasoned pro, finding an apartment in New York City can be one of the scariest, most stressful and challenging tasks you’ll take on in your adult life — and doing it as a student with little credit history and a smaller budget is even harder.
Luckily, we’ve compiled the top 3 tips for getting an apartment in New York City as a student. Read below and take notes! What will your first step be?
1. Find a Roommate & Make a Plan Together
Before you find your first dream apartment, you should find someone or even more than one person to live with. This will help you understand your budget, bedroom requirements, and desired neighborhood.
You should plan to sit down and talk about everything you want in a desired apartment. Make sure you are compatible and have similar habits. A bookworm might not want to pair up with a musician. Choosing a neighborhood is equally as important. You will need to inform your broker what your target neighborhoods are so that they can better help you with your search. It’s also helpful to be open with them about where you are commuting to and from everyday so that they can potentially make recommendations on neighborhoods that you were not previously considering. For example, did you know Long Island City is just 10 minutes to Midtown via the N, Q, R trains?
Having a roommate and plan will make things easier in every way.
Pro Tip: Did you know that many landlords will convert traditional apartment layouts into larger layouts? For example, a large 1 bedroom apartment can be converted to a 2 bedroom apartment with a temporary or semi-permanent wall installed in part of the living room. This means that you and a roommate can split the cost of a 1 bedroom without having to share the one bedroom. Those days from childhood sharing a bedroom with your sibling are over!
2. Understand Finances & Budget
New York City rent is not cheap and chances are you will not be able to afford the rent on your own when you’re in school or just graduating. Luckily there are two ways to help with that:
1. Apply with a guarantor. Most landlords require you to make 40-50x the monthly rent a year. That’s not chump change and you’re likely not making that now. Guarantors are typically family members such as parents or guardians. Make sure you get their permission first before applying. “Guarantors will need to sign paperwork, produce pay stubs and other financial documents such a tax returns that show they make at least 80 times annually the monthly rental price. That’s right. That $3,000 apartment you want but can’t qualify for on your own will require your guarantor to show they make $240,000 a year!” (Cross streets)
Living with roommates and having multiple guarantors (both of your parents/guardians) can often times increase the odds of getting accepted.
2. For those who do not have a guarantor, there are Lease Guarantee Companies who will help. Insurent is one of the largest in New York City and will act as the guarantor on your lease as long as you make 28x the monthly rent.
3. Get Help from a Broker
Navigating New York City real estate as a first time renter alone is not recommended. Not only is it overwhelming, but there are a number of scam or fake listings out there. Many listings will over-promise (loft penthouse for $1,500!) or show fake pictures (new construction with floor to ceiling windows in a walk up?) to get you to respond. Dealing with fake listings only takes away time that you could be spending on your actual search.
A broker will guide you through every step of the process including a meet and greet to understand your needs/wants in an apartment, perform a search for you, accompany you to apartment showings, and may even have access to off-market listings (new apartments that haven’t been listed on the web yet). Not to mention that a broker will help you compile paperwork when you’re ready to apply, act as the liaison between you and the landlord, and can help negotiate rent if applicable.
The best part? It might even be free! Brokers work for a fee or commission but it’s not always paid by the applicant (you). “No Fee” listings indicate that the landlord pays the broker fee which means that it’s free for you. Many new construction buildings in New York City advertise no fee buildings and also offer flex layouts.
But perhaps the biggest tip? Act fast and don’t wait around. New York City has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the world and apartments are rented in days (some even hours). Get your roommate, make your plan and budget, and find a broker to help you search.