The Market

Veteran NYC renters speak: Their best advice

By Mayra David  | September 10, 2013 - 8:59AM
Many things are said about the process of finding a decent rental in the city and living happily ever after (many of those things are said, in fact, right here on BrickUnderground)--and for better or usually for the worse, most of the crazy/frustrating/outrageous bits are true.
To help smooth your way, we asked a few veteran New York City renters to share their best tips on conquering one of the most competitive rental markets in the world.
1. If you're dealing directly with the landlord, remember that they have feelings--and egos
“Landlords are people, and like all people, they enjoy being praised. Mention how much you love the building, if they own the whole building, or the apartment. Once you're moved in, thank them profusely when they take care of a maintenance issue for you. Just be careful not to go too far, as they will think they can raise the rent on you when your term ends.” -- Lee B. 3 rentals, 10 years
2. Brokers are a fact of life and you just need to deal with it.
“The truth is, fees are just part of the game, and it’s good to accept that. And in most cases, you get what you pay for. For every good no-fee apartment, there are ten godawful ones. The best rentals will want to market through a broker anyway in order to get the best tenant, e.g. somebody who can afford a fee and is too busy with their steady job to search for a rental themselves.”  -- Lucy R. 3 rentals, 6 years
3. When you're looking for  a place, do your homework and bring it too
“Have your paperwork ready, so you are ready to show them how fabulous a tenant you will be on the spot. Make sure that you can afford the place you’re looking at, and that your credit rating and financials prove this, or be prepared to get a guarantor. Basically, be able  to answer all their questions confidently and be prepared to back it up with employment letters, recommendations and bank statements. I mean, you don’t have to go nuts and have two years’ tax returns on you. You don’t want to seem that eager. But let the landlord know you’re stable… and that you have nothing to hide.” -- Jen R. , 5 rentals, 15 years
4. The Internet is your best friend. Use it
“There are a lot of rental websites out there that can be used as tools in your search, or just as a 'refresher course' on what the market is doing.  Other than the usual  suspects like Craigslist and the New York Times, there are newer, lesser known sites that all have slightly different approaches. Use them all and become a NYC rental ninja.” --Gyutae P., 3 rentals, 3 years
5. Play the field.
“I don’t like working with a broker. But I don’t mind working with many brokers at once. I know it’s not something brokers like and that they probably don't work as hard for you if they know you are working with another broker, but that’s how I like it. That way, I don’t feel compelled to stay loyal to one person, or rely on one person to find me my home.  I think this is also why I’ve managed to negotiate a lower fee of 12% as opposed to 15%. It’s business, not friendship. I just keep track of what broker showed me which apartment so there’s no confusion about the fee. It’s a bit more work for me, but not as much as if I were doing all on my own." -- Vlad G., 5 rentals, 12 years
6. Take advantage of your personal/professional network.
 “If you like a friend’s apartment, reach out to their landlord, or ask if that landlord has any friends who are looking for tenants. This is especially useful when looking at apartments in brownstones... the less the potential tenant seems like a total random, the better. Remember: in most cases these houses are an owner’s home. They may be just overseas for a few years, or they may be living on one of the other floors. They’ll like a renter who came to them through their personal (albeit a widely cast) network. Any personal reference give you an edge.” -- Rachel L., 3 rentals, 7 years
7. Cash talks and it has a commanding voice.
“If you can afford it, pay six month or even a year in advance. Obviously make very, very sure you want the apartment because you’ll likely get that apartment.”  -- Kwaname  J., 3 rentals, 5 years
8. Keep your social network persona squeaky clean.
“The first thing many landlords or even brokers do is look you up online. Don’t be fake, of course. But maybe not too many muscle-flexing, or bikini-in-the-bathroom mirror selfies. You don’t want people thinking you’re going to be an Amanda Bynes.”    -- Alicia U.,  8+ rentals, lifelong New Yorker
9. A word to the not-so-wise
“DON’T RENT OUT YOUR APARTMENT ON AIRBNB!!!!”  It's illegal in NYC right now. --Alina E., 3 rentals, 7 years
10. Lock in a long lease. 
“In rental buildings, you may be able to negotiate a lower rent, with no rent increase, if you agree to a two-year lease. In co-op or condo buildings or townhouses, they may not even want to give you a long lease. I say, don’t be afraid of signing a long lease… who wants to move every year anyway?”  -- Heather C., 7 rentals, 20 years
11. Breaking up doesn’t have to be that hard to do. 
“Breaking a lease can be tricky, but if you are prepared to market your apartment on Craigslist or StreetEasy and find a replacement tenant, then your landlord won’t fine you if you have someone ready to take over you lease. Another angle to play is to show your landlord comparable rentals in your neighborhood that are renting for above what you are paying. The rental market is hot right now and if you can show your landlord that they can make more money with a new renter in this market then they should be happy to see you go. It’s the rental equivalent of ‘You’ll be better off without me.’”  -- Brad B. 4 rentals, 10 years


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