How To Rent in New York City for Expats


Understanding the New York City rental market and its nuances can be overwhelming and time consuming for expats. After helping hundreds of expats find apartments, we've learned how to make the process as fast and painless as possible.

1) DETERMINE YOUR BUDGET:

Most people spend 25% to 35% of their monthly gross (before tax) paycheck on rent. Most landlords prefer tenants who earn 40-50 times the amount of their monthly rent to meet their strict financial eligibility requirements, with the annual salary of a guarantor equal at least 80-100 times the monthly rent.

For example: 50 x $2,000.00 (monthly rent) = $100,000.00 (annual salary)

2) PREPARE FINANCES:

Try to establish a New York bank account before you begin your search. If not possible, talk to your bank about setting up a wire transfer. You can also bring enough travelers checks to cover the costs of two month’s rent (which must be converted into certified checks). This comprises the first month's rent and one month's security.

Also, have funds for the following:

  • Funds to cover the broker's fee if your company is not paying the fee. In New York City, you, the tenant, pay brokerage fees. These fees are due upon signing of the lease.
  • Funds to cover a Credit Check: $60 to $75.
  • Funds to cover possible move-in/move-out fees from $250 and up. (Refundable if there is no damage)

Being prepared is vital to renting an apartment in New York in a timely manner.

3) SET A TIMELINE:

In most cases, 30-45 days before you plan on moving in is enough time to find a rental property and sign your lease. The New York market moves fast, you don’t want to find the perfect rental and realize you are not ready to sign your lease.

4) FIND AN AGENT:

New York has an especially complex real estate market. When finding an agent or broker, do your research. Asking for recommendations from friends or colleagues can help point you in the right direction. Researching REBNY (Real Estate Board of New York) Members is also a great way to find a broker or agent.

An experienced agent will help you narrow down your favorite neighborhoods and clarify the amenities you seek in a rental. You will likely view rental buildings, condominiums, or cooperatives.

5) APPLICATION FOR THE RENTAL: 

Most landlords require an application to be submitted so credit checks can be made. (Cooperative buildings can be particularly demanding-potential coop renters follow the same steps as a purchaser.) Your agent or broker can help you with this application. Usual application fees for Rental Buildings are $50 and up, for Condos or Co-ops, $150 and up.

6) SECURING THE RENTAL:

Most rentals will require a security deposit, which is refundable if you don’t get approved for the rental.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, pay taxes outside of the U.S. or do not have any credit history in the U.S., you may be required to pay additional security at the time of lease signing. This can be as much as two to twelve months rent in advance, depending on how hot the market is and how strict the landlord.

You must also provide the following: Original letter of employment and salary verification on company letterhead (a signed offer and acceptance letter is not sufficient). The letter must state:

  • Position
  • Salary
  • Length of employment
  • Expected bonuses
  • Relocation bonuses
  • Bank account numbers (checking and savings)
  • Credit card numbers
  • Additional sources of income (with verification)
  • Personal identification (with photograph)
  • Tax returns (most recent 1st page & signature page)
  • Bank statements (2 most recent)
  • Pay stubs (2 most recent)
  • Credit report (Credit reports should be clean with prompt payment history. If applicant/Guarantor has any collection accounts, liens, or judgments against them, some landlords will require an official letter of satisfaction. If unsatisfied, the landlord may at his or her discretion require extra security deposit, a guarantor, or reject the application.)
  • Self employed? You will also need: Original copy of letter from Certified Public Accountant or Lawyer on company letterhead verifying nature of business and income amount for the last two years.

For new employees, include a copy of your employment contract or letter of employment.

The following are also helpful (and should be provided in English):

  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of previous landlords. Certain landlords are more demanding than others in terms of information needed to secure an apartment.

  • A letter from your bank stating your average monthly balance.

  • A letter from your landlord in departure city indicating prompt payment of rent.

  • Three months of credit card statements showing ability and willingness to pay debts in a timely manner.

If financial conditions are not met, a landlord may require a lease cosigner, or guarantor. Landlords prefer guarantors to be family members who live and own property in the Tri-State area.

7) SIGNING THE LEASE:

Once you approved, you will be asked to sign the apartment lease. To sign the lease, you will need some form of personal identification, preferably a driver's license or a passport.

Be prepared to write out certified checks, money orders, or set-up a wire transfer from a New York area bank. When the lessee signs the lease, the following fees are paid on separate checks:

  • First month's rent
  • Security deposit (usually 1 or 2 month’s rent)
  • Real estate fee/commission: 15% of the first annual rent for a lease of one year or more, or, one month rent for a short term lease of 3-6 months

8) MOVING IN:

The landlord may require advanced notice to schedule the move in or out of your personal belongings. Check with the managing agent or the superintendent for details.

Companies like Manhattan Mini Storage can arrange movers. If you are storing items,, they might off-set your moving charges if you book a storage unit. Your new building might also have approved movers.

Make sure the movers sign/fax the certificates the landlords need. Some building superintendents will make the movers wait at the door until the paperwork is approved.

8) FIND THE BEST TAKEOUT AND ENJOY!

Questions on this process or listings available? Call or email us today.