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Tips for First-Time NYC Renters or Those New to New York

First-Time NYC Renters

Securing an apartment in New York City can, at times, be a rather stressful task. This stress has the potential to become magnified if you are entering a major transitional stage of your life, whether you’re graduating, starting a new job, moving to the city from a very different environment, or all of the above.

We asked two BOND agents, Sara Kyle and Michael Chadwick, who frequently work with first-time renters –whether they are students, new hires, or relocating for any reason–in NYC for some tips on how to secure a great first rental. They offered expert advice on renting an apartment in Manhattan.

“Many people come to NYC for the first time having no idea what their budget will get for them. Every week I preview new apartments all over the city and put up videos on my Youtube and Facebook pages, in order to give people all over the country and the world a chance to vicariously come to NY, see what they can rent, and where. I even have a Skype account so international clients can contact me. It can be so frustrating for a student, new hire or first-time NYC renter to browse through an endless sea of ads online, never knowing what’s real. BOND agents are always happy to meet clients at the office to go over every option available in a renter’s price range,” explains Michael Chadwick.

“In addition to my usual advice, when I am working with a client who is going through a major transition, I like to put extra emphasis on the importance of maintaining a healthy mental and emotional disposition. Being prepared for a successful apartment search means more than just taking the time to think about what kind of apartment you’d like to rent and coming to the table with appropriate financial documentation. If you are going through a major life transition, chances are that your emotions are running high, so you must prepare mentally and emotionally,” advises Kyle.

“One of the most important things you can do is to keep things in perspective. If you can’t afford your dream apartment right now, you can still find a great apartment that you will be happy in. If you’re tired from running all over the city looking at the apartment after the apartment or daunted by the paperwork involved in the application process, don’t get discouraged. Be patient, but be ready to move quickly when you find something you like. Find a great agent who you are comfortable with, who is committed to supporting you, and who exhibits true expertise. Trust your agent, and above all trust yourself. Securing an apartment is a big decision, and can be an intimidating process, but with forethought and mental preparation, it can help ensure that you have a positive experience.” Kyle continues.

1. Make a “Wish List”

Kyle says, “Think comprehensively about your ideal apartment. When would you like to move? What neighborhoods are you interested in? What size apartment are you looking for, and what would you like it to look like?”

2. Determine Your Budget

Chadwick adds that it is most important to figure out what your budget is, “Avoid wasting time and energy viewing apartments you cannot afford or will be qualified for.”

3. Prioritize

“Once you have compiled your apartment “wish list,” rank the attributes you have listed in order of their importance to you. What is a must-have? What is a must-not-have? Set standards that you are comfortable with, but think carefully about those standards in the context of your personal situation as well as the current marketplace, which your broker can assist you with,” says Kyle.

4. Keep an Open Mind

Flexibility is key. Kyle continues, “By ranking your priorities, you are priming yourself to be more flexible, allowing you to optimize your apartment search. If you are willing to bend a bit in terms of one apartment attribute, you may find that you gain a lot in another area. Equally as important is flexibility in terms of scheduling. With tight inventory, landlords don’t have much incentive to show apartments “after hours.” It is a good idea to schedule showings during regular business hours if possible so that you can see as much quality inventory as possible.” “You don’t have to see every apartment in NYC. Just go with your gut; you need a safe place to sleep close to transportation that is within your budget,” concurs Chadwick.

5. “Read Everything You Sign”

“You will be given several documents you may be unfamiliar with. Take the time to carefully read them, including your broker’s fee agreement and lease,” says Chadwick.

6. Ask for Referrals

“Don’t blindly trust all online ads, especially those on sites like Craigslist,” cautions Chadwick again. Read about your broker’s firm, ask friends who they rented their apartment with and be available to meet with your broker at his office so you can go over what your needs are and get a realistic view of the market.

7. Have All Documents Ready

“Make sure you have everything your broker tells you that you may need to apply such as a US bank account, ID, fee for a credit check, proof of income, information on guarantors, etc,” says Chadwick. Different landlords ask for different supporting paperwork, although all landlords and management companies want to know that they’re receiving applications from responsible tenants who have acceptable financial profiles.

8. Act quickly

“Jump on it! As soon as you see an apartment that you want, rush back to your broker’s office to get your application and deposit in before someone else does.”

Bonus: When your new place is secured, act quickly again by booking your move with a professional mover in NYC before the best rates and peak dates are sold out.


This article was contributed by BOND Magazine, the blog of BOND New York, the fifth largest residential real estate brokerage in Manhattan with seven offices and over 500 agents. If you are interested in buying, selling or renting in NYC, contact [email protected].

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