Lessons from First Time Renting

Hi everyone! Over the last month a friend and I went apartment shopping and have secured our living space for the next year. This will be my first ever apartment that is not a part of the FIT residence halls, and I am very excited about it. Since I was new to the apartment search process, my friend did a lot of the heavy lifting, but I still learned a lot throughout the process. Hopefully this can help you out if you ever look for an apartment in NYC one day.

1. Timing of market listing

Apartments come onto the market roughly one month before the expected move in date in New York. I was looking for a move in of mid-May, so we were looking at the market and started viewings around the very end of March/beginning of April. It took a week from our viewing to have all the necessary paperwork turned in and have our sublease signed.

2. Viewing and off-market on same day

My roommate and I viewed several listings and for every apartment that we viewed, within the first hour, someone had put down a payment to secure it, taking it off the market. In an extreme case, someone put down a payment 3 minutes into the open-house viewing. Sort out financial details and know what you can afford before viewing, and make a list of what you want your place to include. Ask questions about these details at the viewing, and if you are interested, let the broker or owner know right then and there or shortly after your viewing, otherwise someone else will.

3. Up-front deposit

Renting requires a deposit in the first month that can be a large portion of your total cost. In the long run, the money spent in the deposit evens out, but it is a lot of money all at once, so be prepared for that. Usually these deposits include: brokers fee, first months rent, and second (or) last month’s rent.

4. Guarantors

Building owner want to rent out to people that they can trust to pay their rent. This means that you need more money (usually several times more than the annual rent) than you will actually spend on rent to make them feel that you are a safe person to rent to. As a student, it is highly unlikely that you will have all the finances required to qualify. This is where guarantors, who are usually parents, come in. If you ever fail to make your rent payment, expenses will then be charged to the guarantor to make up for the shortage.

There is a lot to learn about the technical and social aspects of looking for an apartment to rent and the best tip is to trust your gut. If you feel like a place won’t work out or you don’t like the building owner or the person that showed you the apartment, there are underlying reasons that made you feel that way. In the end, you want to live in a place with management that you can trust and feel like you are in good hands. No one wants to be cheated out of their money.

Do any of you have advice for people looking to rent an apartment?

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