1. Recognise you have to make a trade-off, balancing what you can afford versus where you want to live. Leave plenty of time for research so you don’t get pushed into something you’re going to hate. Build a data base of rental costs in likely areas.
2. Make a decision whether you will use a broker. You may see more properties if you use one but you can bet you stand a good chance of being screwed. If youd decide to go it alone leave yourself plenty of time.
3. Recognize that in a market as tight as NYC the landlord has all the advantages so you have to provide what will make him feel secure renting to you. You have to prove to him you can pay his exhorbitant rents: pay slips, bank balance, letter of employment, sparkling credit rating, tax return and if your income doesn’t cover the rent, a letter of surety from a well heeled guarantor. Carry all this with you so if the right apartment materializes in front of you, you can close the deal pronto.
4. You will need approximately $10,000 up front for security deposit, first month’s rent and sometimes last month’s rent also, brokers fees if you use one, any other fees building management people throw at you, moving in fees, application fees etc. It’s better to plan for the highest amount than miss out because you haven’t prepared.
5. Inspect potential rentals with all your paperwork and certified checks with you so you can grab the great apartment etc, etc. Realistically you may just have to settle but the capacity to plonk it all down may determine whether you get your ‘good enough’ apartment or someone else does.
6. Do not sign a rental agreement until you have gone through it with a fine tooth comb and made sure you are not being cheated in any way.
7. Do not think you can move in straightaway. A condo can take 10-30 days. A co-op can be a nightmare 30-45 days and it warrants a whole post of it’s own, which is coming up.
8. What about nabbing a rent-stabilized apartment? Yes they are out there but they are unicorns: wonderful and glorious if you find one but so rare they are mythical.
9. While it is true that fairy-tale rental stories do happen (wonderful apartment, rent low enough for you to afford, close to subway etc, etc,) the reality is much. much more likely to be a lonely introduction to the horrors of NYC’s rental cut-throat competition. Excellent luck my friends and may that unicorn jump right out of the bushes and buzz your cheek.