We get it, you're new to New York City, and the learning curve for the real estate world is pretty steep. But if you're going to survive renting in this city, you need to be realistic. To help you adjust your expectations of this market accordingly, we polled veteran agents and asked them to share some of the head-scratchers (a.k.a. unrealistic requests) they hear from renters:
Perks are perks for a reason—and a price
"The most common ridiculous question is if the bedrooms fit a king-size bed, often with inquiries for neighborhoods like the West Village, where apartments tend to be small," says one broker who asked to remain anonymous. Also, he adds, "college grads almost always want private outdoor space. I always tell them that they should treat the parks as their outdoor space like everybody else in New York City." Another one he hears a lot: "Does the apartment come with free WiFi?" The answer: No.
Appliances are included (we're not that bad)
"I’ve had clients ask me if the fridge comes with the apartment," says Jessica Kaufman of Citi Habitats. "Apartments don’t always come complete with appliances in other states/countries," but here they actually do.
The 1990s are long gone
Douglas Wagner of Bond New York says he often hears something along the lines of: "My friends moved to New York in the last few years and got a huge apartment for much less rent." But, he says, "a) There are no huge starter apartments in prime New York City for budget prices and b) the market prior to 2015 did see some lower prices, which have increased exponentially since 2015. Even in a market where 20 percent of the listings offer tenant incentives, prices remain near historic highs."
Wagner also tells his clients to forget about finding a gem of a fixer-upper if they're renting. "We get the aspirational DIY architect/designer types who are looking for a beat-up apartment or loft which they want to try to renovate themselves to make a dream pad—if the landlord will give them a huge break on the rent," he says. "We have not seen opportunities like this since the mid-1990s. Most landlords have recognized the rent increases they can enjoy by keeping their renovations up to date, and most starter apartments are already renovated to the maximum extent that makes sense for the landlord. Also, most landlords won't allow unlicensed contractors to make alterations to their apartments."
There's little wiggle room on financial stability
Jessica Milton, an agent with Mirador, says the most common question she gets asked is whether a renter actually needs guarantor if their roommate has one. "Leases cannot be guaranteed in part," she says. "If you all don't make 40 times the rent combined, then you all need a guarantor(s) who earn 80 times." And, she adds, "this year, a lot of first-time apartment shoppers seem to be looking to move in and then think they can just sublet for the summer and move back in come September. While this is possible, it's not practical and most landlords will not allow this."
And while some people will ask for a rent concession in exchange for paying a year's rent up front, it's probably not going to happen, says Wagner. "Most landlords will consider the pre-payment as a way to offset their risk with a tenant who is financially unproven, but there is usually no cash discount for paying up front," he explains.
Finally, the notion that "good credit should be enough to qualify for a lease" works most places in the U.S., but not in New York City, says Wagner, adding that newcomers are usually not prepared for full financial disclosures required of them and their families at the time of application. "Landlords want applicants to prove their income, their assets, their credit history, and their housing history in order to secure a lease. This lack of preparation and mismatch of tenant and landlord expectations creates some of the greatest stress," he says.
Don't ask your broker for sex advice
"I was showing a young 'straight out of college' woman a lofted studio on East 22nd Street and she climbed to the loft area to see if a mattress would fit," says Shannon Aalai of Citi Habitats. "She sat down and said, 'It may work, but how would you have sex up here without hitting your head?' I thought she was trying to be funny. But no, she was actually looking at me and waiting for my response. 'Um, Have sex on the couch down here? I said and she shrugged saying 'I guess that could work.'"
Think about whether your question makes sense before you ask
“Today I was asked by a client if they would get not only their security deposit back when they moved out of an apartment they were considering renting, but if they would also get their first month's rent back as well," says Molly Franklin of Citi Habitats. "I never thought I would have to explain that first month's rent due at signing would be used to pay the rent for the first month they lived in a new home.”
Don't ask for the impossible (or entitled)
Christopher Wilson, a broker with Citi Habitats, worked with a new grad who was touring a West Village apartment. When faced with brick walls (considered a perk by many renters looking for so-called charm), the would-be renter replied: “Ew. Can we knock down these exposed brick walls and put in something else upon move in?” Wilson's answer: “You could, but you’ll lose your security deposit, and potentially collapse the apartment. So I wouldn’t recommend it.”
"Just last week, I had someone that wanted to just pay rent for the weekdays, as she stays with her boyfriend over the weekend," says the agent who wished to remain anonymous. But that's not the most outlandish: "Last year I had an inquiry to see if the landlord would walk the dog if they had to work late," he says.
A little advice: Your landlord is unlikely to do you any personal favors.
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