As with buying a home in New York City, the number one rule is to be prepared before the search even begins. The rental market moves at lightning speed and is unlike any other rental market in the world. The rules that apply elsewhere do not apply in New York City. I am here to help you every step of the way, but it’s important to know what to expect ahead of time. I’ve put together a simplified overview of the steps involved in renting your dream NYC apartment.

What are the benefits of working with a broker?

While sites like Streeteasy and Trulia will help you know what’s on the market, using them without a broker puts you at a disadvantage for three main reasons: relationships, knowledge, and insider tips.

Brokers’ relationships with landlords and other real estate agents throughout the city serve as references and can seal the deal on a rental transaction. For example,  the landlords I have built relationships with over the last 10 years have gone out of their way to make an appointment for me that a solo client might have to wait a week for on their own, by which time the apartment is often gone. Likewise, brokers often get tips from landlords about homes that are coming on the market soon. Lastly, our vast experience renting and selling in thousands of buildings throughout NYC allows us to know right away what buildings are a good or bad choice based on your preferences. This all equates to a huge time savings and greater access to inventory for clients who work with experienced brokers.

Location, Location, Location

The first step of renting a NYC apartment is deciding where you want to live. Curbed New York puts out frequent rental reports showing average prices per neighborhood and Airbnb has great neighborhood guides that include a description, photos, and testimonials of 55 NYC neighborhoods. Check them out here.

Timing

A rental search should start about 4-6 weeks before the move must occur as this is when most owners receive notice that their apartment will be vacant.

Pricing

Landlords require that a tenant have good credit and make at least 40X the monthly rent in income, so a rental of $5K per month would require an income of $200K total for applicants of the apartment. In some cases, clients who do not qualify for an apartment can pay additional security or additional rent up front in order to meet a landlord’s qualifications. Guarantors are usually permitted as well.

Guarantors

A guarantor is someone willing to co-sign leases and provide all required application documentation in the event an applicant does not qualify for an apartment because of their income or credit rating. Guarantors can be family members or friends and must earn at least 80X the monthly rent in income. Landlords often require that guarantors reside in the tri-state area: New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut.

Application

As with sales in New York City, highly sought after and well priced apartments often fly off the market on the same day they are listed. Preparation is key in order to be competitive in this market. The following documentation is needed and should be prepared prior to viewing any apartments. In some cases landlords will require additional items but these are the basics:

  • Rental Application
  • Photo ID
  • Credit report run by landlord (you cannot provide your own credit report)
  • Employment Verification:
    • Letter of Employment on company letterhead with current date, job title, length of employment, income, and supervisor/HR name and contact information
    • If self-employed, a letter from a Certified Public Accountant on company letterhead verifying the nature of your business and income for the last 2 years
  • Two most recent pay stubs
  • Additional sources of income with the value of assets such as stocks and real estate
  • Expected upcoming bonuses with verification of amount on company letterhead from your supervisor or HR department
  • Two most recent tax returns and W2s; depending upon the building you will either need the entire return or just the 1st and signature page
  • Three most recent bank statements
  • Reference letters
    • Landlords reference stating a history of timely payments, responsible tenancy, and length of residency
    • Professional or personal reference stating your reliability and strength of character
  • Board package: In some cases you will need to prepare a board package which can take several weeks or more than a month to approve

Approval

Once your application is approved, a lease signing will be scheduled. At this point all funds are due in the form of certified checks or electronic transfers. Payment typically includes the first month’s rent, your security deposit, any other agreed upon fees, such as a pet deposit, and the broker’s fee.

Once you receive the keys to your new home, I am still available to answer any questions you have about your neighborhood and building. Please remember that, as my client, you have access to TOWN’s Luxury Attaché concierge services who can also help connect you with settling-in services such as movers, interior designers, dog walkers, dry cleaners, and high quality furniture and home goods options. I look forward to working with you on your next rental search!

Read my article about Buying in NYC here.

Written by Lance Nguyen