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Renting an apartment shouldn’t be difficult, but in NYC, I’d be lying if I said no renter has ever come up to me and told me that trying to find an apartment can be extremely complex and frustrating. I made this rental guide to help prepare you for your rental search to the best of my ability.

Please note that the fees, security deposits, and incentives buildings offer have likely changed since 2019 due to real estate laws and COVID-19, so please reach out to me to get up to date information on the rental market. The last thing I want is for you to be misinformed. Why is it so difficult anyways? First off, depending on what season it is, an apartment might only be on the market for a few days, or maybe even just a few hours. Because of this, there is a lot of competition for each unit.

Have your paperwork ready

I’ve had several clients in the past who did not have their paperwork ready until they saw an apartment they wanted to put an application on. This despite me telling them over and over to get everything together. While you might be able to get away with this, I STRONGLY recommend you don’t wait until you start looking at apartments. There’s nothing worse than missing out on the apartment of your dreams because you weren’t prepared.

What does the paperwork entail?

Before we get into that, please keep in mind each management and building has its own rules, so this is all just a generalization. Always check with your broker and/or the management to see what the exact requirements are so you have a complete understanding as to how to get approved and move into your new home.

In general, here’s what you’ll need:

Photo ID
Bank Statements (Both Checkings and Savings)
Employment Letter on Company Letterhead with annual income
Tax Returns - the last two years
A landlord reference letter
If you are an independent contractor or sole proprietor, then you may need a CPA letter as well

If you are applying to a condo or co-op rental, they may ask for additional information.

Generally speaking, the person or persons applying for the apartment must earn a yearly salary of at least 40-50 times the monthly rent combined. If using a guarantor -- someone who would be responsible for the payment of your lease should you default -- they must be making over 75-90 times the monthly rent combined. The guarantors almost always have to be in the United States, and sometimes they need to be within the tri-state area to be eligible to be used as a guarantor for the apartment.

Also, you need to have good credit. I cannot stress this enough.

If you fall short with income or credit requirements, you may have to pay a certain amount of months up front which is applied to your rent or security. Some buildings may not even give you this option, especially when it comes to poor credit.

Understand what is important about your new apartment

These are some questions you may want to consider:

When do you need to move by? Do you have any flexibility?
How much are you willing and able to spend?
Location. Location. Location! What is it about your potential location that is important to you? Is it night life, available transportation, or proximity to work, friends or family?
Do you have pets? What type and how much do they weigh?
What amenities do you need in the building? Do you need an elevator and doorman? What about a roofdeck and a gym? Perhaps you just need laundry in the building or maybe it’s important that you get lots of light and have a great view!
Do you need the building to allow walls or partitions? In New York City it is not uncommon to have more than one person living in a one bedroom apartment. When brokers refer to a flex or convertible apartment, it means that 1 or more extra bedrooms are being created by using a partition.

Hire A Broker

Brokers have access to several more listings than a typical renter, are familiar with the managements and understand what it takes to get their clients approved for an apartment. With that comes a fee that may range between $50 to 15 percent of the annual rent. You have to talk to your broker about the fee as it may vary.

Fill Out the Application and Submit Your Paperwork… Quickly

Some managements will have you print out applications and fill them out, some will give you the applications in person, and others have you fill them out online. Whatever the case is, make sure you fill out the application and submit all necessary documents as soon as possible. Some managements might take the property off the market if you send partial information in, depending on how the market is, but others will keep showing the apartment until they have all necessary information. If you followed step 1, then you should be ahead of the game.

With the application, make sure you include the length of your term (generally 1 or 2 years), when you would like to move in, and what your monetary offer is. If the apartment is listed for $7,500, I wouldn’t advise putting an offer in for $2,000.

Waiting for the Landlord to Approve, Reject or Give Stipulations

If your credit is strong, the leaseholders meet the income requirements, your move-in date is reasonable according to the management and you applied for the apartment at a price close to the asking amount, then you should be approved without any issues. But if not, the management may reject your application or say you are approved under certain conditions such as having a different move-in date, or getting a guarantor if you didn’t have one already.

Lease Signing - Bring checks

Generally speaking, at a lease signing you will need to bring a minimum of the first month’s rent and one month security in the form of a bank certified check. Do not bring a personal check. Also, if there is a broker fee, you will be paying the fee at this time as well, unless the broker said otherwise.

Move In

You might need movers, a place to buy furniture, an interior designer, or other things to get your apartment looking at its finest. If you need me to put you in touch with someone, please feel free to reach out at [email protected] and I can give you references.

So let’s go over everything again very quickly…

Step 1 - Have your paperwork ready
Step 2 - Understand what is important about your new apartment
Step 3 - Hire A Broker
Step 4 - Fill Out the Application and Submit Your Paperwork… Quickly
Step 5 - Waiting for the Landlord to Approve, Reject or Give Stipulations
Step 6 - Lease Signing - Bring checks
Step 7 - Move In

If you got to this point, congratulations! You have found your new home! This is a very exciting time for you!

Will you be paying all cash or will you be financing or borrowing money from a financial institution? The last thing you want is to find the perfect place and realize you aren’t qualified enough. A worse situation is when you are qualified, but don’t have everything you need in place and lose the apartment to someone who is 100 percent prepared.

If you are not paying all cash for the purchase of your new home, make sure to first speak with a mortgage broker, mortgage banker, or lender to get a pre-approval letter. This very simple and quick process gives you an idea as to how much you can realistically finance. If you are not a US Citizen, however,this process might be a bit difficult, and there may be other avenues you may have to explore.

If you need to get in touch with a mortgage broker, banker or lender, feel free to contact me and I can give you a few options.

The next part of getting qualified is having a real estate attorney. Imagine — You’re walking around one day and randomly stop into an open house and fall in love with the apartment. You put an offer in immediately and it gets approved. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a real estate attorney, or if you don’t find one immediately, the seller might go with another buyer because they are unable to send contracts out to what should be the buyer’s attorney. Always be prepared and have a real estate attorney at hand.

If you need to get in touch with a real estate attorney, feel free to contact me and I can also provide you with some options.

Even before you figure out where you want to live, you need to determine whether ideally you would like to live in a condo or a co-op . What are the main differences? I’ll give you a brief overview here, but you can also check out my “Co-ops vs Condos In NYC” video for a more in-depth description. When buying a condo (or a condominium), you are buying an individual piece of real property. You own the apartment in addition to undivided interest in the common area. You are responsible for paying both real estate taxes and common charges. Also there is no underlying mortgage. When purchasing a co-op (or a cooperative), you are buying shares in a corporation versus owning real property. You pay maintenance, instead of common charges and real estate taxes, which is partially tax deductible. About 75 percent of apartments for sale in NYC are in co-ops whereas about only 25 percent are in condos. Aside from this percentage, there are many factors that may come into play when deciding between a co-op or a condo. Here are a few:
  • First is understanding your timing – When do you need to close by?
  • Second – How much money are you able to put down?
  • Third – Do you plan on using the apartment as a pied-a-terres
  • Fourth – Do you plan on subletting your apartment in the near future?
  • Fifth – How much are you willing and able to spend?
  • Sixth – Are you buying the apartment for yourself or for someone else? (The difficulty of getting approved)
Generally speaking — and please understand that each building has its own market and its own rules — a condo takes about 1-2 months to close from the day contracts are signed, you usually have to put 10 percent down, pied-a-terres are allowed, sublet policies are pretty lenient — generally offering 12-month leases at a time — it can be 30-40 percent more expensive than a co-op if everything else is the same, and the approval process is much easier since there is no board interview and co-purchasing and guarantors are allowed. In general with co-ops, it can take from 2-4 months to close from the day contracts are signed, you have to put a minimum of 20 percent down and sometimes up to 50 percent or higher, many co-ops do not allow pied-a-terres, sublet policies can range from being very strict to not allowing sublets at all, it can be 30-40 percent less expensive than a condo if everything else is the same, and the approval process can be significantly more complex and difficult, some of the reasons being because you have to supply much more financial and background information, co-purchasers and guarantors are often not allowed and you have to go through a board interview.

Find a real estate broker. While you can decide to look on your own, there are many advantages you gain by working with a broker. Can you theoretically find an apartment on your own? Of course! But just a few qualities a great broker will have include understanding the market, being able to negotiate the price and terms of the apartment, having access to properties not currently on the market and helping you through the process, which is very underrated. Working with a buyer’s broker is at no cost in almost all cases, so if you’re going to be making one of the biggest investments of your life, why not use someone who is a real estate expert?

What type of apartment are you looking for? – The truth of the matter is that in the beginning of your search, you may want a 2 bed, 2 bath apartment in a new high-rise building with tons of amenities in Midtown West and may end up living in a 3 bed 3 bath walk-up on the Upper East Side. However, it’s important to have an idea as to what you absolutely need versus what you want. Let’s go over the checklist together excluding what we went over in the co-op vs condo section.

  • How big of an apartment do you need in terms of square footage and bedrooms / bathrooms?
  • Do you have pets?
  • Are you trying to find a sponsor unit? (What is a sponsor unit)
  • Do you need a pool, gym or basketball court?
  • Do you need a washer/dryer in the apartment or at least in the building?
  • Do you need an elevator?
  • Do you need a doorman?
  • Are you looking for a particular view or exposure?
  • How important is the proximity of public transportation?
  • Do you need a garage attached to the building?
  • Do you need specific finishes?

From Making An Offer To Getting Contracts Signed – This is the most exciting, but potentially nerve racking time of the entire process. Prior to making an offer, make sure you have your REBNY financial form filled out and delivered to your buyer’s broker (if you are using one) or to the listing broker if you are not being represented. This shows the selling broker that you are potentially qualified enough for the apartment.

When you make an offer through another broker, the broker is legally bound to submit that offer to the owner. If the offer is low, the owner may counter the offer. However, if the offer is too low, the owner might not respond at all because they are offended by the lowball offer. If there are several offers close to or at the asking price, a bidding war may ensue, driving up the price of the apartment.

After the owner accepts the offer from the buyer, contracts will go out to the real estate attorneys representing the buyer and the seller. Once the language is agreed on by both parties, — which includes closing date, contingencies, price and other terms — the buyer puts an earnest deposit down, contracts are signed and the deal moves onto the next step…

Building and Management Approval Process

Depending on how strict the building management is and whether you are applying for a condo or a co-op, this can be the most time consuming part of buying an apartment. Your broker should send you the application and board requirements. While it varies from management to management, you will most likely need to include tax returns, a financial statement with supporting documentation, bank statements, and letters of recommendation along with other information that should be provided on the application form. Condos and sponsor units won’t require interviews, but co-ops will. If you get to the interview part of the co-op process, this is a great sign! After submitting the application and/ or having the board interview, hopefully you will get notification that you have been approved! Now it’s time for the best part…

The Closing –

The day is finally here! All that hard work has paid off! The day of the closing is pretty straightforward. You will have a walkthrough of the apartment to make sure that everything is in working order. Then the attorneys, seller, buyer, title rep, buyer’s and seller’s brokers will all meet in a room, drink ice water and tea, and talk about their lives to help pass the time until funds have transferred and everything is signed. Once that is completed the buyer will receive the key and is ready to move in.

If you got to this point, congratulations! You have just purchased your new home! This is a very exciting time in your life!

This is just an overview, but if you have additional questions about the buying process or you are looking to find someone to represent you in buying an apartment, please contact me at [email protected].

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[ Our Services ]

What Can We Offer

  • Rentals: 1- to 2-Year Leases
  • Sales: Buying and Selling
  • Leasebreaks: Helping You To Transfer Lease
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  • Office: Class A, B and C Buildings
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  • Rentals: 1- to 2-Year Leases
  • Sales: Buying and Selling
  • Leasebreaks: Helping You To Transfer Lease
  • Furnished Apartments: Short- and Long-Term Leases
  • Office: Class A, B and C Buildings
  • Retail: Mall, Strip & Power Center
  • Industrial: Light Assembly, Bulk Warehouse, Manufacturing
  • Investment Sales: Capital Gain, Income Growth, Income Stability
  • Collecting Rent
  • Handling Building Maintenance
  • Leasing Apartments
  • Coordinating Renewals
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