Written by Co-Founder and C.E.O Rodolfo Delgado
If you're from abroad or have never lived in New York, chances are you have no idea of where "Morningside Heights" is or what "Convertible" means when looking for a rental apartment. Don't worry, I know exactly how you feel. I was there not so long ago, which is why I have created this guide to help you through your journey.
Keep in mind this guide was designed and tailored for people looking to rent an apartment for at least one year. If you want to buy an apartment, you can contact me here and I'll make sure you're well taken care of.
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First things first
There are several things you should think through before your arrival to the Big Apple. Doing so will save you a lot of time and money. Some of these things are:
Where are you staying while you look for an apartment?
Hotels can be very expensive (especially near the areas you're likely to know best, like Times Square). So, knowing where to stay is key to avoid paying thousands of unnecessary dollars. For a guide of hotels and places to stay, click here.
Do you know anybody in the city who can guide you at first?
Having a friendly face in the city is always good. Asking them if you could crash their couch for a couple of nights can save you valuable money and might help you bond with someone who can teach you the way through the city, best spots, restaurants, etc.
What are you coming to the city for?
If you're coming to New York for work or for school the requirements you will have to meet to rent an apartment might vary. I have created this guide with the most common requirements that you'll come across.
Let's look at Manhattan's map
Google Maps View
The first thing I would recommend is for you to search where your school or company is. If you don't want to necessarily live close to work or school that's fine and it's up to you. My recommendation is to think in which area of the city you would like to spend most of you time, and that's where you should live.
First: Hotel accommodations while searching for an Apartment
and some tips on Airbnb
When I initially arrived to New York, I naively stayed at a hotel near Times Square and had to pay over $300 a night while looking for an apartment. I had no idea where to start!
In retrospective, this was not the best option. So, if I can help you avoid that, I will.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and might not have the most accurate information on this. I might not be right and I strongly encourage you to look for more information on Airbnb laws to solidify your opinion on this.
Airbnb offers great services. It is convenient for short terms hospitality and, from what I've heard, they do an incredible job to guarantee that the information listed on their app is accurate and well represented.
To my understanding, for this option to be legal, the owner or representative of the apartment has to be living there during your stay for it to be okay. For example, if the owner lists their 2 bedroom apartment on Airbnb and he or she is living on one room while you rent the other, that is completely fine. I believe that if you chose to stay there for over 30 days that's fine too, even if they are not there.
However, if they profit from renting their entire apartment to you while they are not there, I believe (again, I might be wrong) this is not legally allowed. This might vary between states or even boroughs. Again, I am no lawyer, but this is what I've heard.
If you're a representative from Airbnb and would like to add, delete, or correct information stated above, please contact me here and I'll happily make the necessary changes contingent the information is proven accurate.
We've also created a list of trusted hotels with different price ranges so that you're better guided while looking for an apartment. You can find that list here
Renting an apartment in New York is more difficult that almost any other place in the world. but there's a reason why. Once you have taken possession of the apartment and have started living in it, there are many many laws that protect "the little guys" from "big landlords" who own many buildings.
Landlords may take 60 days, or sometimes years to be able to evict a tenant, even if the tenant hasn't paid their rent. Because of this, landlords are generally more scared of you than you are of them. They absolutely need to make sure you'll be nice and take care of their property and your rent, which is why the renting process here is so thorough.
Documents you are likely to need to apply for an apartment:
1) Visa + Passport + Photo I.D
This should be obvious but I'll write it down just in case. Every type of I.D possible that will validate that you are in the United States legally will be necessary. Bring it with you. If you are a Student, you might want to print your acceptance letter and bring it with you as well.
2) Student I.D or Employment Letter
Any landlord who is trusting you with their property wants to know your story to feel safe knowing that their property is in good hands.
If you're a student, go to your university as soon as possible and ask for your Student I.D card. They should give you one right away. If they don't, print your acceptance letter and a screenshot of your classes this semester - this will help you during your application process.
Every landlord will want to know who you're working for, how long have you been working there, what is your current position, and what is your current salary.
They want to understand your story to make sure you'll be able to afford paying the rent and that you're place of business in the U.S is legitimate and valid.
3) Bank Account
To rent an apartment in New York and put the lease under your name, you are likely to need an American Bank Account. The first thing I recommend you do after you land and check in your hotel is go to a Bank of America or Chase bank and open your bank account.
If you don't have a credit history, it is highly likely you won't be eligible for a credit card, but you can open a debit card with as low as $500. When you go there to open your first bank account, they'll ask for your passport, visa, and photo I.D. Having a copy of each and bringing the originals with you might help. Be prepared ;)
From what I have heard, Chase is one of the toughest banks when it comes to applying for a new account. You might want to start with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, or others, but this is up to you.
It is also highly likely that when you apply for an apartment, there will be fees involved that will need to be payed in the form of a "Certified Check" made payable to a company. Because of this, make sure your Bank account has the money you are likely to need. If you have about three month's rent's worth, you should be fine.
Example: if you're looking for a $2000 a month apartment, you (or everyone involved in the rent of the apartment combined) should have around $6000. why? Because when you rent an apartment, they might as you for the first month's rent + one month security deposit + last month's rent.
there of course might me other fees involved which I will try to explain later.
4) Bank Statements from back home
You may or may not need these, but I'd recommend you bring some bank statements from back home just in case, they might come in handy.
5) Guarantor's documents or others
More details of this to follow.
guaranteeing the apartment
If you're making 40 times the monthly rent (Example: if the apartment you want to apply for is $2,000 a month, and you make over $80,000 a year) chances are you will not need a guarantor. Most landlords ask that the renter make 40 times the rent. Some landlords might ask for 45 or even 50 times the rent.
If you do need a guarantor:
Think about it from the Landlord's perspective: if you're going to rent your apartment to somebody you've never met, you have to make sure that if they don't pay, somebody will! Somebody needs to be responsible for that money and pay you, the landlord, the rent.
This is why Landlords ask that renters have a guarantor, or a person who will claim the liability should you stop paying rent.
Ah! But being international sometimes means not having anyone in the United States to act as a guarantor for you. This is a topic that varies greatly between each landlord. Most landlords require the guarantors to be paying their taxes within the United States (although there might be a few exceptions who might accept international guarantors). There's also some landlords that go even further, and require the guarantors to be within the Tristate area (New York, Connecticut or Long Island). Some other landlords accept guarantors from all the U.S except some states like Texas or Florida (they have a reason to do this, and that's because these states have specific laws that protect the guarantor if they enter in litigation - but I won't get into much detail here).
What you have to know is that there might be other options to securing your dream apartment, and these are:
1) Paying extra security deposit
Some landlords might ask for 2, 3, 6 or even a whole year as a security deposit to guarantee you'll pay your rent in time. Every case will vary and I've seen many of each, so they are all relatively common.
2) Paying a year up front
Some landlords allow this, some don't. And there's a reason for this as well - I won't go into much detail but sometimes landlords have "rent controlled" apartments (google it) and are by law prohibited from receiving payments of rent in advance. If this is your favorite option, tell the Real Estate Agent you're working with this from the beginning so they can concentrate on showing you apartments in buildings in which landlords allow such a thing - it might save you a lot of time and energy.
3) Paying a company like INSURENT to act as a guarantor.
Yes, there are companies who's sole existence is to act as guarantors. One of the ones I'm used to working with the most is named "INSURENT" and they will charge you around one month's rent per year in order to guarantee your apartment.
If you have enough capital to pay extra security deposits or the year up front, I would recommend doing that, if not, Insurent might be a great option.
Keep in mind that if you decide to use a guarantor, the landlord will highly likely ask for him or her to make 80 times the monthly rent a year.
Example: if the apartment you want to apply for is $2,000USD a year, the guarantor (or combined guarantors in a case in which the landlord allows this) will have to earn over $160,000 a year to act as your guarantor.
Something you might want to know:
No real estate agent should ever tell you that a neighborhood is predominantly "young" or "gay" or "rich" or "poor" or "white" or "black" or anything of the sort. That is called "steering" and is prohibited and illegal as it promotes segmentation. Fair Housing laws prevent agents and brokers from steering people away from or towards certain neighborhoods because of age, sex, sexual orientation, color, marital status veteran status, amongst others.
In New York, we are extremely proud of our diversity and we're happy and proud of coexisting with members of different backgrounds, cultures, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, financial status, etc. This is, at least in my opinion, what makes New York rich. Teams and communities with diverse backgrounds who collaborate tend to offer different experiences, cultures and perspectives and build the best results.
If you'd like to know more about the neighborhoods you're interested in, there are some things that might help you know a little bit more about the general energy in there. For example: Areas near universities will tend to have students living nearby. If you want to know more about crime rates in a certain neighborhood, you can ask the police or google them. Do you want to know if a certain area is more or less "family friendly"? look around and search for strollers or schools on the streets.
The best way to know more about different neighborhoods is to visit them during the day and then at night. Feel free to ask your friends as well or people who live there.
Yes, broker fees exist. In most cases for a reason.
The standard brokerage fee in New York is 15% of the first year’s rent and is paid by the tenant unless the landlord is paying the Broker.
If you're not from New York, chances are you have no idea how to navigate the city and how to get your application for an apartment to the right hands. A broker can come in super handy for you because their expertise will allow them to show you apartments in which your probabilities of being accepted is higher.
If you don't have a guarantor, or want to pay the year up front. If you're the owner of a Startup and are not receiving any income. If you're an international student, you need somebody to tell you which buildings are easier for you to apply for so that you can narrow your search and focus on the best options for you.
Yes, there are also "No Fee" apartments - kind of.
When an agent or broker shows you a "No Fee" apartment, chances are they are being compensated by the landlord instead of you. Which likely means that the landlord has already taken that payment into account and added it to the monthly rent. You see, in the end it's all the same.
what it means
What "No Fee" means for you
Many advertisements you see will have a special sign saying "No Fee". This means that the representative of this apartment is being paid by the Landlord, and not you.
Does "No Fee" mean that you won't have to pay any fees? Not necessarily.
It will usually be the case, but you should always verify.
"No Fee" basically means "No Broker Fee", and in this scenarios, the agent/broker will receive their fair compensation by the Landlord and not you. However, there are many types of buildings in New York: Rental Buildings, Co-ops, Condos, amongst others. When looking for an apartment, chances are you'll stumble mainly upon Rental buildings, but there are other types of buildings that often require "Move-in Fee" or "Move-out Fee", these are regularly Condos or Co-ops. In those cases (of course) the agent/broker is not expected to pay these fees. Either the landlord or you have to pay them, so you might want to ask your agent which types of buildings they are showing you and if there are any other fees associated with moving into that building to clarify from the beginning.
In the Replay Listings App, the "No Fee" listings are shown with the following icon:
Listings with this icon in most cases have no extra costs for you, but if you want to be 100% sure, just ask the agent the following question:
"Is this a Rental Building in which you'll be compensated by the Landlord?"
The answer will very likely be yes. If the answer is no, that's fine - but ask for any other fees, like this:
"Is this a Condo or a Co-op and, if so, are there any other fees associated with me moving into this apartment?"
vs low season
Price might vary depending on the time you rent.
As you may imagine, there are "high seasons" and "low seasons" for renting an apartment in New York. High season tends to be in summer, which is when there's many new students starting school, people starting new internships or just relocating from different cities and offices.
Every Ivy league student is in town looking for the exact same thing - so prices go up.
During high seasons, prices can go up 10% or even 15%. Landlords also start offering less concessions, so it's harder to stumble upon deals that include "One month free", "Free gym membership", or "No Fee" deals.
From June until September will tend to have higher prices or less concessions, while October until March will have the lowest prices and most concessions.
Low season tends to be closer to New Years Eve. This might be due to the fact that people are on vacation, the weather is usually cold (and rainy) so nobody really wants to be visiting apartments, and/or there is less movement in terms of schools/relocation.
A Common term when you search for apartments in New York
Get used to that word, "convertible". Chances are you'll hear it a lot when searching for an apartment.
By law, New York State requires each room that will be called a "room" to have a window.
So if you see a "One Bedroom Convertible", this means that there's enough space for tenants to put up a wall and create a second room, kind of "converting" the one bedroom into a two bedroom. The difference is that in some cases, that conversion means that the extra room might not have a window or might have a thin wall.
Many people recur to this in Manhattan because of the super expensive prices. If there's two roommates looking for a two bedroom, they will very commonly search for a "One Bedroom Convertible" instead, making their rent much lower and more affordable.
In the Replay Listings App, this is shown in the form of the following icon:
A Message of Transparency
While building the very foundations of Replay Listings, our most important value has been transparency, both within the company and with our clients.
We take this very seriously, which is why everyday we work very hard towards creating more guides for both agents and renters to improve the way people find their new home.
Thank you for taking your time to read this guide, keeping in mind that even though it comes from years of experience on my side doing real estate, there might be updates or mistakes. So please don't solely rely on this guide. Do your due diligence and ask your agent of trust.
Remember that Replay Listings App is available for download in the App Store, and it is a listing platform that focuses only on showing you uninterrupted and unedited videos of apartments in New York. Download the App, try it out and I'm sure you'll be able to find your next home with us.
I'm happy to help you should you need anything. You can reach us at and we'll answer any questions you might have.
Co-founder and C.E.O of Replay Listings
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