Below is an outline of the rental process - what you can expect and how to be prepared:
The Move Date
When do you need to move?
This is the one piece of information that the entire rental search is based around. Do you have a lease that is coming to an end? Are you selling your current apartment? Are you starting work on a certain day? Basically…What is the reason that you need to find a new home and when do you need it by?
The answer to this question is the starting point that will determine the plan we put in place. The key element here is that we want to save you as much money as possible and one of the ways to do that is to not have a lease starting before the day you need it.
In New York City, rentals landlords/management companies want any tenant to start a lease anytime from roughly immediately to three or four weeks from when you apply for the apartment. At the same time they will start a lease any day of the month and pro-rate the rental amount. Therefore the time to look for your new home in Manhattan is roughly about one month before you need to move.
The Required Paperwork
Here is a complete list of the documents you will need in order to apply for an apartment in Manhattan:
Letter of Employment – This should be on company letterhead stating salary, position, length of employment, and any other details that indicate you are gainfully employed, and all the income you draw from your employer. This must be signed by a supervisor, manager, or HR representative. If you are self-employed, a CPA/accountant letter is needed stating all the same information.
Most Recent Pay-Stubs – Please gather at least your last two pay-stubs, but four would be preferred. If you get paid via direct deposit, please provide proof via account statement where funds are deposited.
Tax Returns – Must be the most recent year’s tax returns, but last two years are preferred as some owners/landlords will look for salary history as a means of financial stability. If you have not filed your most recent tax returns, then a W-2 showing gross salary from previous year will suffice as the most recent year, but you always want to show at least one year of filed tax returns.
Bank Statements – Again your most recent two or three bank statements are needed to show liquid assets. Any account you show should have several months’ worth of rent at a minimum.
Landlord letter – While not always needed, a letter from your current/most recent landlord(s) stating you pay your rent on time and have been an overall superb tenant will only help come approval time.
Business Reference Letters – These are letters from colleagues at work who can verify your professional character. Usually only needed with Condo/Co-Op rentals.
Personal Reference Letters – These are letters from friends and family that will indicate to a board your personal character. Usually only needed with Condo/Co-Op rentals
Photo ID – Must be a valid form of ID. A driver’s license usually used, but passport will suffice.
The reason why owners and landlords have the financial and paperwork requirements they do is because in New York is it incredibly difficult and cost-prohibitive to evict a tenant - Even if the owner/landlord has a legitimate claim to do so. Therefore they just want to be sure that whatever tenant they accept has the means to pay the rent and a history of paying it on time.
To look for an apartment without having all paperwork already gathered together and ready to go is to do yourself a disservice. Remember that the best apartments, the apartments you will be most excited about, are going to have multiple people interested in them soon after they come to market, and most of those other people will have their paperwork together. Therefore you don't want to risk losing an apartment you love simply because of something you could have organized before.
In addition, not only is having all your paperwork together possibly the difference between securing an apartment or not, but it can also assist in negotiating the terms of the lease. In real estate, verbal negotiation is never as powerful as showing a landlord/management company how organized, pro-active, and what a strong candidate you are financially. To be able to make an offer and accompany it with a qualified and complete application package not only increases our odds of being approved for the apartment you're most excited about, but might also be able to get that apartment for less than the listed rent.
The bottom line...Make sure you have all paperwork together prior to starting your search.
Moving to New York can feel like a daunting task by itself, and if you are from overseas it can seem even worse. Most NYC landlords do not want to accept a non-US citizen on their own because it is very difficult for landlords/owners to get a legal judgment against an international citizen.
That said there are solutions for non US-residents and here are the best three:
Find a US citizen to be your guarantor: Most tenants who need a guarantor use a family member, but you may not be related to anyone who is a US citizen and qualified financially can be your guarantor. If you have a friend, colleague from work, acquaintance, or anyone else who is qualified, they can be a guarantor/co-signer on your behalf.
Pay upfront rent/security: If you are from overseas and don't know anyone from the United States who can be your guarantor, then another potential way to be approved for an apartment is to pay additional rent and/or security upfront. Not all landlords will accept upfront rent/security, but if they do this is a very common option that applicants without guarantors use to be approved for an apartment in New York. How much extra rent/security you would need is determined on a case-by-case basis, but you should be prepared to pay the entire lease term upfront.
Insurent: In the past few years a company was formed specifically for people looking for an apartment in New York City who are not qualified financially. This company is called "Insurent" and they essentially act as a "3rd party guarantor" for anyone who was unable to secure on their own. Insurent is basically an insurance policy for your rent that you pay a small premium for. This then provides the landlord that extra level of confidence in case that you cannot live up to the provisions of your lease for any reason. You can find out more here: www.insurent.com
In New York City, landlords and owners have certain criteria they expect from any tenant in order for them to be approved for an apartment. Here are the three qualifications landlords are looking for from a tenant in order to be qualified:
Income - You should be making 40 times the monthly rent of any apartment annually. For example, if your budget is $3,000/month, then you should be earning about $120,000 for the year. Usually only base income is accepted as part of this formula. If you earn bonus or commission income then you typically need to show a few years of consistent or increases in income for the supplemental income to be accepted.
Assets – You should be able to show a few months worth of rent in liquid assets in a bank account, stock portfolio, mutual fund, etc. The reason for this is if you were to unfortunately lose your job, a landlord would want to make sure that you could continue to live at the apartment while you look for new employment.
Credit – Each landlord views credit differently, but usually the better landlords want better credit (and income/assets) from any potential tenant. Usually a 700 FICO score is the dividing line between what landlords consider good or bad credit. While there isn’t much you can do to change your credit at the time you apply for an apartment, it is important to let us know of any credit issues you may have so we know how to present that to any landlord. It's always better for landlords to know about any credit issues upfront as opposed to them finding out on their own.
If you are not financially qualified on your own to get a New York City apartment, then a possible solution is to secure a “guarantor” or “co-signer.” This is someone who is extremely financially qualified that can serve as your financial backing to be approved for an apartment. Any guarantor would only need to fill out an application, provide the necessary paperwork, and sign the lease. After that the only way they would ever be involved again is if the tenant they were acting as a guarantor/co-signer for did not pay the rent. If such a situation arose then the landlord would then look to the guarantor to cover any and all unpaid rent.
Here are the qualifications needed for a NYC Guarantor:
Must be a US Citizen. In some cases a landlord will want a guarantor to be a New York or Tri-State (NY, NJ, CT) resident.
A landlord understands that any guarantor has their own housing/expenses to account for, and therefore requires them to be doubly as qualified as the regular tenant. That means they are expected to earn 80 times the monthly rent and have liquid assets and credit in line with that amount.
Any guarantor/co-signer must provide all the same paperwork the tenant is required to have. For a detailed list of all paperwork required see the required paperwork section to the left.
The Brokerage Commission
New York City is unlike any other city in the country in terms of real estate. One specific element to the NYC rental market that is unique is that incoming tenants typically pay a brokerage commission (also known as the "broker fee") when they employ a real estate agent to find them an apartment. There is a good deal of misinformation about how this works so let's clear it up...
When the topic of a broker fee comes up it makes a lot of people feel like it is some sort of "real estate tax" that entirely goes to New York City or a large real estate firm. Basically it feels like getting bill in your mail. While a portion of the brokerage commission does go to the real estate company the broker works for, the bottom line is that brokerage fee is how real estate agents earn their living. If you work with a real estate agent/company that doesn't care about your needs, doesn't treat you with respect, isn't honest, and makes you feel like a burden, then unfortunately it's easy to understand why a brokerage commission is something you would want to avoid paying.
However at The Berkson Group we pride ourselves on seeing the needs of our clients from their perspective. Finding a new home and moving can be stressful, exciting, emotional, overwhelming, and we want to help guide you through that process to make it as seamless as possible. Any broker can open a door and turn on some lights, but how many really listen, are worthy of your trust, & truly negotiate on your behalf? We do.
The truth is that most anyone can find an apartment on their own, while at the same time most real estate agents are average and don't justify their fee for service. So for a real estate agent to be worthy enough to work with, they have to be able to provide a service above and beyond what anyone else in the market does.
At The Berkson Group that is exactly what we do. Here are just some of the services we provide to our clients:
Finding the ideal home - In our database we have access to all the best apartments on the market any day of the year, but we want to make sure that we listen to make sure that we match you with the ideal one.
Saving you time - Your time is valuable and we plan on finding you a new apartment the first, and hopefully only, time we take you out looking. The only reason an apartment search should take longer is if you tell us you need more time to make a decision.
Qualifying landlords - All NYC landlords want you to jump through hoops to qualify for one of their apartments, but who's qualifying them to make sure they are a quality landlord that will treat you right? We are.
Neighborhood Information - We work with clients from all over the world and recognize that for many of them this will be the first time they live in New York. Therefore we plan to provide as much information as we can to make sure you feel both comfortable and excited with not just your new home, but surrounding neighborhood as well
Utilities - Prior to moving in we will make sure you have all the utility information you need so that they are all set up as soon as you move in.
Real estate vendor referrals - Whether you need movers, cleaners, a locksmith, or any other real estate service, we have access to a vendor that can assist in making your transition a smooth one.
Availability - The most exciting part of our career is the day we can hand you keys to your new home. While the average agents' work is done at that point, we will always be available to you no matter what your future needs are.
A great real estate agent should be providing you with a great service and the brokerage commission is the fee for that service. At The Berkson Group our fee for service is 15% of the annual rent. Those who have worked with us before know that we work as if that rate was much higher. We not only want to be your "one-stop shopping" for everything real estate in New York, but want to form a great working relationship so that the next time you, or anyone you know, needs to rent, sell, purchase, or invest in real estate, you're as excited to work with us again as we are with you.
Moving In Services
Once we have not only found you your new home, but also assisted you throughout the approval process, then comes that exciting time when you can start planning your move. At The Berkson Group even after we hand you keys there is so much more we would like to help you with. We want to be your "one-stop shopping" for all your real estate needs and have great relationships with any real estate vendor you might need to help make your move go as smooth as possible including:
If there is any other service you need just let us know and we will help find it for you. Once you are finally situated in your new apartment and happy to come home each day, then we will also be happy. We very much recognize that the moving process can be a stressful one, but we also know through years of experience that it should also be a very exciting one. At The Berkson Group we want to take all the moving stress off your plate and allow you to focus on what is hopefully a very exciting new chapter in your life.
In Summation and The Future
From the moment we start our working relationship our goal is to provide you with all information possible about New York City real estate so that you can make the best decisions for you. There is a lot of superb information right here on this website, but nothing is better than speaking on the phone as we can provide so much more of that information once we know about your specific needs.
At The Berkson Group we believe that 90% of the work going into finding an apartment occurs prior to ever actually searching for an apartment. We believe strongly in this philosophy, which is why we typically find our clients a new home on the first, and only, apartment tour we take them out on. The reason is because we're prepared.
We're not about pressure...We're about information. And after over a decade of success with that philosophy, we're supremely confident that if you'd like to work with us that you will not only want to apply for an apartment we find for you, but will also be excited to do so.
Once that moment happens and you let us know you've found your new home, we want to apply immediately as we never want to risk losing an apartment you're excited about calling home. At that point you will fill out an application and submit an offer with all terms from pricing, timing, and all other particulars for the deal. We not only want to make sure we secure your new home, but also want to get the best terms as possible for you.
Shortly after submitting an offer we will receive word from the apartment owner/management/landlord that our deal is accepted and then we set up a lease signing. At that time you then will get checks for rent, security, & brokerage commission in for the form of certified funds (bank/cashier's checks). While you can pay all future rent with personal checks, during the application process through lease signing, personal checks are typically not accepted in the New York City lease signing process.
We are not only are working with you, but will be there throughout the process all the way through handing you keys and beyond. Again we want to be your brokers for life, and if you haven't worked with us before we invite you to join us to see how smooth an apartment search can be.