NYC Apartment Hunting is Serious Business

July 28, 2014

Brooklyn brownstone

If I think about the combined effort it took to rent all of the houses I’ve rented in my whole life before moving to NYC, it still wouldn’t come close to what’s needed to rent one dang apartment in this city! I’m telling you, renting in NYC is a crazy business.

Since we’re back on the hunt for a new apartment (only 5 months after moving in to our current place), I thought I’d give a peek into what it takes to rent an apartment in New York City. Finding our first apartment was, according to NYC standards, “easy.” Easy in the sense that it only took a few hours to find the apartment and we were approved to move in within a couple days. The bad part was that we got totally screwed by our broker (these people are the exact reason why brokers get that sleaze ball rep) and ended up paying way over what we should have for a short-term lease. Hey, you live and learn (and still get pissed about it 5 month later), right?

So, now that our short-term situation is coming to a close, I’ve been scouting apartments in Brooklyn for the past week. Our short wish list for this next apartment includes: A bright, well lit studio or one-bedroom in Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Greenpoint or Williamsburg (or somewhere close to one of those neighborhoods), and access to the roof deck or even a garden or backyard space (shared or private) would be amazing! I was lured out to Queens last week as well. We know someone who knows someone who has an apartment in Queens and since it’s all about who you know…but after checking out the apartment and realizing that Dan’s commute to the Financial District would be an hour each way, we decided to steer our search back to Brooklyn.

Along with the actual act of seeing each apartment (which requires emptying your paycheck into your MetroCard), most landlords require the following documents (for each potential tenant) to be submitted for consideration to rent:

  • Last two pay stubs
  • Letter of Employment including your yearly salary
  • Bank statement from the last 2 months
  • W2 Tax return: showing total income
  • Photo ID
  • Credit report/background check: landlords or brokers sometimes insist on running credit reports and background checks themselves (and they charge you anywhere from $25 – $75+ for each report), but we ran our own reports on for $1.00/report (PDF) and that’s been enough so far…but it really depends on the broker/landlord

A few other (annoying) things: The general rule of thumb is that tenants must make 40x the monthly rent. (For example, say we find an apartment for $2k/month. To qualify to rent the apartment, Dan and I combined must be able to prove that we make $80k/year.) If tenants do not make 40x the monthly rent, a guarantor is required to sign the lease along with the tenants. A guarantor must make 120x the monthly rent (!!) and is also required to supply tax returns, credit reports, bank statements–the works. Crazy, right?

Then, let’s say you jump through all these hoops and actually–by some stroke of luck–are approved for an apartment, you’ll be expected to pay the first month’s rent and a security deposit of the same amount at signing (some places ask for the last month’s rent too). Oh…one other thing: If you worked with a broker, you can expect to pay a fee of 12 – 15% of the yearly rent (in some cases, brokers are more reasonable and charge “only” one month’s rent or 10% of the yearly rent).

Are you still with me? Are you doing a rough calculation of just how much money it costs to rent an NYC apartment? Did you just pass out? …I thought so. Wish us luck, friends.

And, hey–good luck if you’re currently hunting for a place in NYC–we feel your pain.

(Photo taken this past weekend while apartment hunting in Brooklyn.)



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