New York Apartment Rental Guide


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Moving to New York City is an exciting challenge. It's not for the faint of heart!  In some cases, it would be easier to buy an apartment than rent, as there are a lot of nuances in the renting process that many other cities just don't have. This step-by-step guide is based on our many years of working with our clients who move here from all over the world. Some just travel a few miles from within the tri-state area, while others travel thousands of miles, and from every continent. We believe if you follow these steps, check the boxes, and make your move as smooth as possible. Our detailed knowledge of the New York real estate market and how to make moving here as smooth as possible make this guide essential reading.

We know, and you know, that your time is valuable. You need a right-the-first-time system for moving to and renting an apartment in New York. This is it. 


The Rental Guide Two Sections


  1. Broad topics such as knowing your priorities, reasons for working with a Broker, and choosing the right neighborhood, etc.
  2. Narrow topics such as standard lease terms and the lease application process.


1. Looking to Rent an Apartment in NYC? Know Your Priorities


Decide how important each topic is to you, personally.


  • Commute time to your place of business. Subway, train, and bus distances matter both in terms of the time you will spend getting from home to your office and getting to and from your stops in bad weather. If you will travel everywhere by cab or bicycle, public transportation is less important.
  • Shopping and dining options. Everything is deliverable in NYC, so where grocery and other stores are may be less important but if you want to do it yourself, check out where they are compared to your apartment building. Dining, bars, entertainment, other social venues, or libraries and college locations may also matter, so check these too.
  • The neighborhood's general ambience may be important if you work late, often do some work at home and you want quiet neighbors. Well-lit streets or easy access to open spaces may also matter.
  • If you prefer a self-sufficient lifestyle, then the tenant facilities and amenities in your building may be at the top of your list of priorities.


Your priorities determine the neighborhood and the building you finally select.

2. Choose Your Broker Well


Vacancy rates in NYC run at about 3%. Getting the right apartment in the right place at the right time takes experience, effort, systems, dedication, a solid reputation, and good contacts. You want your Broker to:


  • Discuss everything with you so it is clear and understood.
  • Convert your goals and priorities into a plan of action.
  • Base the plan on your practical needs and wants you must satisfy so you achieve your goals.
  • Match your needs and wants to specific locations, buildings, and apartments.
  • Set up appointments to view apartments so you use time efficiently and make decisions effectively.
  • Know of suitable apartments that may become available but are not yet listed for rent.
  • Assist with lease preparation and getting approval by the condo or coop board in the building where your chosen apartment is.
  • Provide you with any other support such as lists of reliable professionals you may need to call on, advice and ideas to make your move as easy as possible.


It is worth noting that there are a lot of Brokers and real estate companies in NYC. Some focus on earning the fees as quickly and efficiently as possible. We focus on meeting our client's needs and helping them achieve their goals.


As one of NYC's major brokerage companies with a global client base, our focus is on earning the right to a long-term business relationship. Many of our rental clients become property owners, and many of them become landlords who want us to find quality tenants. Building those relationships takes professionalism, commitment, and client care. That is what we bring to every transaction. To us, finding you that perfect apartment is just our Step #1.

3. Learn Enough About NYC


Some people who move to NYC come from small towns and some from major global cities. NYC is a fast-paced, multi-faceted metropolis. Approximately 3 million New Yorkers came from somewhere else. NYC will be ready for you, so do your part to be ready for it!


Remember that where you live will probably be determined by where you work. Within each neighborhood there are smaller districts. Most New Yorkers spend much of their time in, maybe, a 10 to 20-block area of their office and their home.


You can't choose the office location, so spend time choosing your home' location. How lively or quiet, what are the preferred cultural traditions, what are the dominant ethnic groups? Consider these as you look at apartments.


Help us to understand your preferences and we will build them into the plan of action.


Manhattan Neighborhoods


To help you get a feel for local areas you may want to do some advance research. These websites may help you:


Google Earth let's you take a virtual tour of any city and neighborhood.


Localize. City will tell you about any construction projects, views from buildings, etc. in an area.


Address Report will create maps around a specific address so you can learn about local parks, commute times, etc.


The New York Sightseeing Pass has a lot of information about NYC, the subway system, etc. you can download to your phone or laptop.


Moving to NYC Apartment Rental Guide

4. Know the Kind of Apartment You Want


Check out photographs to get a feel for the sort of apartment you want – size, floor level, view, natural light, etc. When you are about to visit possible apartments get a copy of the floorplans if available. Floorplans show the exact room layout, sizes, locations of windows and doors, etc.


This "high-level" exploring will help you to prioritize possible units, help you to plan furniture positioning, appliance locations, and so on. When you visit each apartment you will already be familiar with them, so making a decision will be that much easier and certain.


5. Renting Before You Buy


If one is to spend millions of dollars on an NYC real estate investment, it's wise to do some research first. Just as there is only so much you can tell about someone from their resume, it's important to know how a neighborhood stands up beyond the statistics. There are personal, subjective elements to every property that some buyers are finding they can only appreciate from living in the area first - by renting. A few months in a nearby flat can make all the difference when deciding where to buy.


To address this need, there is a new phenomenon that is popping amidst real estate in Manhattan known as condo-rental hybrids. By renting first, buying later, the selective investor has a chance to build a relationship with the management, to ease them into the buying transition. It also allows them to know exactly what to expect with their apartment, and the new neighborhood surrounding them.


Buying residential real estate in Manhattan can be an emotional affair, especially when families are involved. By easing into their new neighborhood, it eliminates some uncertainty and anxiety. Once a family has settled in, it becomes just a matter of paperwork to finalize the transaction.


Others prefer to rent in a nearby building. By taking a few months close by they are able to scope out potential weaknesses to use for bargaining advantage. Kim Kardashian and her party pals dance to loud music all night across the street? Strange smells from the back alley? Too close for comfort with the Occupy protestors? These become arrows for the quiver in the negotiation process. A shrewd investor knows his product inside and out, and that knowledge becomes key when striking down a realtor’s bluffs.


However, there has never been a worse time to rent. Rents are at record highs, and they keep getting higher, with the median rental price shooting up 7.9 percent from the same quarter last year. But, for someone looking for their primary home, then renting before you buy can be a very savvy thing to do. Keeping things in perspective, a few thousand dollars in a new neighborhood is a drop in the bucket for the serious multi-million dollar investor. A little reconnaissance to feel the pulse and some feet-on-the-street time could be the best investment they’ve ever made.


6. Know the Rental Process


NYC's laws protect tenants' rights. Federal laws such as The Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act also ensure that everyone is treated fairly, honestly, and courteously. American citizens will already be familiar with our laws, but as an overseas tenant it is good to know we have it all covered.


Our laws make renting an apartment safe from hassle, but it also means landlords check carefully to make sure the tenant will satisfy all the rules and regulations and will live up to their side of the lease agreement.


Management companies select trustworthy, credit-worthy, financially sound tenants who will respect the property and the neighbors who own or rent in the same building.


The management company will handle all tenancy issues from lease application to lease-signing, financial arrangements, board approvals, property maintenance, etc. Management companies owe a responsibility to the property owner, to all the building's other residents, and to each tenant.


Sensible tenants choose a Broker to represent them who is already familiar, not only with this kind of structure, but will also know the personnel in the management companies. This level of association smooths the process and saves you time, effort and disappointment.

7. The Lease Document


The Real Estate Board of New York publishes standard lease documents. Many management companies use the same document but may add specific clauses and conditions to suit a building or a landlord.


We will give you a copy of the standard lease so you can become familiar with it, and to make it easier for you to check the specifics of a particular lease agreement, later.


Check the document (or ask us) whether you can sublet the apartment, whether you can decorate with or without permission, etc.


We always recommend you have a real estate attorney explain the fine print and to make sure your tenant interests are fully protected. Knowing your rights and responsibilities is good business sense.


New York Apartment Rental Guide

8. Lease Duration


Most leases are for one calendar year. Leases longer than two years are not common.


There will be a clause in a longer lease enabling a change in rent after the first year. The way the rent change is calculated should be explained in that clause.


An apartment in a building constructed before 1974 with six or more units may be subject to rent stabilization. The regulations limit by how much a rent may be raised each year, and they guarantee lease-renewal for the tenant.

9. Lease Application Process


Rule #1: Plan ahead. You must be satisfied with the building, the apartment, the tenant amenities, the management company, and the lease agreement details. The landlord, condo board, and management company must be satisfied with you.


It pays to have everything in place before you submit your application. Apart from the obvious, it shows everyone your professionalism.


The management company will carry out a full background check and submit it to the landlord and condo board, so provide all necessary information without error or omission.


Have a US bank account showing suitable funds. You will need, as a minimum, an amount equal to the first and last month's rental amount, plus the security deposit (usually equal to one month's rent) plus lease agreement application fees, etc.  It makes sense to have a higher balance than this to cover utility, living and other expenses, and to indicate financial stability.


You may be asked to make a refundable "good faith" deposit, for the landlord to take the apartment off the market until the application process is complete.


Acceptance can take up to a week after submitting your application.


On acceptance, the rent and security deposit will be paid over. Personal checks are not acceptable. Management companies accept either bank-guaranteed checks or confirmed wire transfers.


Lease Application details include:


  • Applicant's full name.
  • Current and previous address.
  • Past and current employer details (to confirm your status.)
  • Social Security Number, tax id, New York State id, or other suitable identification (visa and passport details, etc. if you are from overseas.)
  • Proof of annual income
  • Asset verification paperwork such as stocks and bonds held, real estate owned, etc. including 2 - 3 months bank statements, etc. It is important to show your income is about 40 - 50 times the monthly rent. For example, if you are just out of college music freelancer, or currently have a very low paying job, you will need a guarantor.
  • References and employment verification documents from your current (or previous) employer and previous landlord(s) including their contact details.
  • Prior years' tax returns (the first two pages only, to show gross and taxable income.)
  • Authorization for the management company to carry out a credit check


Guarantor Details


An overseas applicant with no US credit record, or someone with a blip in their credit background, may need to provide a guarantor so everyone knows that, in case of default, the rent and other committed expenses will be paid on time.


Guarantors must show they are financially secure and that their income is 80 – 100 times the monthly rent.


We can discuss this possible need with you long before you apply. We will also know how to translate your overseas' employment and credit history, etc. into something that will help to meet the "financial status and ability to pay" conditions.


If necessary, there are companies that, for a fee, will act as an official guarantor. Again, as your Broker, you will get all the detailed support you need with this.


Board Approval


Some building entities, such as a co-operative rather than a straight forward condominium (condo) may want a personal interview to meet you and review your application paperwork in person. If this is the case, we will help you prepare for the meeting to make sure everything is in order and you know the sort of topics they will want to discuss.


"Difference Between Condo and Coop"

10. Paying the Rent and Other Charges


Set up automatic payments directly from your bank account.

11. Tenant Insurance


Take out insurance to cover loss and damage to personal items as well as to, say, cabinetry in your apartment. While fixtures and fittings belong to the owner, you may be liable if you damage them.


The USA is a society where litigation is often used to solve problems. It may be prudent, therefore, to include personal liability cover in case a visitor injures themselves in your apartment. Many people also carry low-cost umbrella insurance cover.


Your insurance agent will discuss everything in detail so you can decide on the appropriate cover and premium payments.

12. A Final Comment


This NYC Apartment Rental Guide covers the basics of relocating to Manhattan, finding an apartment, and understanding the lease application process, and tenancy details. You will have many questions, so please remember we are here to support and advise you, so you make all the right decisions.

Our goal is to make sure you achieve your goals as our first step to building a long-standing business relationship.

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Whether you are looking to rent our purchase an apartment in Manhattan we are here to help.


Moving from across the globe or even just across the country comes with its own unique circumstances. Our relocation team has dedicated itself for almost two decades to ensure your move is a smooth and memorable experience.




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