Top 7 Important To-Dos that Make Life Easier When NYC Apartment Hunting

Moving to New York City is super exciting – think of all the adventures you will have! What might be less exciting is NYC apartment hunting. But when you find the perfect place, it all seems just to fall into place. To make this part of the journey a little easier, Realty Collective has come up with our top seven things you should consider when renting an apartment in Brooklyn. 

1. Have your paperwork ready!

According to many New Yorkers hunting for apartments, having your paperwork ready and on hand is essential. You don’t want to let that perfect apartment slip through your fingers cause you weren’t prepared. Apartments go fast in the big apple, so we recommend having all potential paperwork ready. 

Don’t believe us? Head to YouTube or TikTok and find real life examples of people losing out cause they couldn’t fill out the rental application right then and there. 

Here is a list of documents you will need to have on hand and include in your application: 

  • Employment verification letter, including your job title, job functions, salary, and length of employment — signed and on company letterhead
  • Paystubs — the three most recent
  • Bank statements — the three most recent
  • Federal tax return, including your W2 or 1099 form
  • Copies of two forms of photo ID (Drivers license and Passport)
  • Application fee

Landlords also may ask for the following:

  • Recommendation letter from a prior landlord
  • Summaries of savings accounts and liquid assets
  • Copy of your social security card
  • Proof of past rent payments

Note: the application process varies by apartment and/or if you are using a voucher. Make sure to read up on the new tenant laws from 2019.

2. Check Your Credit Score

Before starting your NYC apartment hunting, give your credit score a look. Most NYC landlords will pull a credit report. Landlords like to see a minimum credit score range of 675 to 700. Why is this important? The more boxes you tick off with the landlord, the better your chances of getting the apartment you want. 

For citizens new to the US, advice differs. A credit card from a different country is meaningless. Many suggest starting a line of credit immediately when you move to the US. Make sure to purchase with it and pay it off regularly. 

We recommend that if you have exceeded 15-30 percent of your available credit, to start paying off your debt before finding a NYC apartment. If there are any errors on your credit reports, get them corrected and get letters explaining any significant issues. 

There are many ways to check your credit report. Every 12 months, each credit reporting company gives you a free copy if you ask. Those included are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. We also recommend if you are looking to keep track of your budget, to use Mint by Intuit. You can see your updated credit score and keep track of your savings and spending there. 

3. Finding the right place with a realistic budget

One of the first questions you ask yourself is what to look for in an apartment. That is totally up to you but keep in mind the prices. When searching for your new apartment, compromises will be made. You want to set your expectations before looking. You should make a list of must-haves and things you can live without. 

For example, finding a washer and dryer in the unit is like a 1 in a million chance. Think about your future a little. Do you want pets in the near future? This will limit you a little in your search. A doorman or elevator might sound nice, but it also comes with extra expenses. Compromise to a walk-up to save money; honestly, it is a right of passage for any NYC resident. 

NYC.gov gives a great list of places you find housing: 

  • Real estate apps and websites 
  • Brokers
  • Word-of-Mouth
  • Classified Ads 
  • Walking Around
  • Housing office 
  • Finding a vacant apartment in your current building
  • NYCHA or New York Housing Authority
  • Community Groups

4. Understand all the fees you’ll have to pay

You should know about fees before becoming a New York renter. For example, the broker fees. A broker’s fee is typically one month’s rent or up to 15% of the annual rent. Even if you don’t use a broker yourself, watch out for these fees. A landlord could hire a broker, and renters are often responsible for the feed evolved. An option would be to find a no-fee rental. 

You will also have to pay application fees, which are capped at $20 for rental buildings. Be aware, though, if renting from a co-op or condo. The board is entitled to charge move-in or sublet fees. 

The good news is that new rent laws have recently been established to protect renters. For example, you can no longer be asked to pay more than one month’s rent as a security deposit. The goal is to reduce the upfront costs of renting in NYC.

5. Get recommendations from a Renter’s Agent in New York City

A renter’s agent will find apartments that fit your budget and needs. They will also help you avoid the craziness of your NYC apartment hunting. Agents often have established relationships with landlords throughout the city. They can ensure your application is as strong as possible, increasing your chance of finding the place of your dreams. This is a big help, especially during the busy season (typically during the summer months). 

6. You might need Guarantor in NYC

If your income doesn’t meet financial requirements, you might need a guarantor in NYC. A guarantor (usually an older relative or friend) acts as a co-signer on a lease. Having someone who will promise to pay rent on your behalf by default rescues the risk for the landlord and makes your chances stronger of getting the apartment. If you don’t have or can’t find a guarantor, there are other options, like companies that will act as a guarantor for a fee. 

7. Consider getting a roommate or two

Sharing is an obvious choice when you don’t meet income requirements alone. To find a roommate, we recommend checking out roommate search websites. Online roommate matching services make finding the perfect roommate easier. Some of these services even will help you create a roommate contract, but we recommend having one anyway. 

Why have a roommate agreement? 

First, there will come a time when tensions rise, and it is nice to have a clear-cut plan in place. Also, the lease states that everyone is jointly responsible for paying rent. Still, if one room is bigger than the other or has a private bathroom, that roommate may pay more, which can be laid out in the roommate agreement. 

BONUS: Make sure you reach out to your personal networks! Getting the word out there at least 60 days before your search gives your network some lead time to do some searching for you. Maybe a friend has an opening in their building, or someone else saw a post in their Buy Nothing group… you just never know!

Are you stuck in your NYC apartment hunting? Check out our rental listings or get in touch to work one-on-one with one of our experienced Renter’s Agents. We can make sure your application is in tip-top shape and scout out your perfect Brooklyn apartment!


Ready to buy your own place? Download our free Buying Into Brooklyn Ebook to get a step-by-step guide on the buying process and decide if now is the right time for you.

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