Below are a few tips for navigating the NYC rental market, including the basics of apartment hunting in the city and typical financial requirements for renters. You can download a printer-friendly version of this guide, as well as helpful checklists for when you begin your apartment search, in our Pathways to the Private Market brochure.
The New York City Rental Market
New York is a city of renters, with 68% of residents renting compared to 33% nationwide. Monthly housing rates vary from borough to borough and neighborhood to neighborhood, but overall rates in the city are higher than anywhere else in the nation. As a result, New Yorkers typically pay more for less space than they would find anywhere else, but many consider it a trade off for living in one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
The Upper East Side of Manhattan—the neighborhood surrounding Weill Cornell Medicine’s main campus—is one of the more expensive rental areas in the city, as are the nearby Upper West Side and Midtown East. Neighborhoods north of 80th street in Manhattan, such as Harlem and Morningside Heights, offer more reasonable rents, as do neighborhoods in the outer boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island. With some exceptions, the further away you are from Manhattan, the lower your rent will probably be. You can get a sense of prices in your preferred neighborhood on apartment search websites, or if you're interested in Manhattan, Queens, or Brooklyn, you can find monthly rental market reports online.
The Basics of Apartment Hunting
When to Start Looking
Most apartments in New York City aren’t listed until about a month before the available move-in date. You can start browsing earlier if you want to get a sense of pricing in different neighborhoods and apartment styles, but it’s unlikely that anything will be available when you’re ready to move. A few New York rental search websites include:
Brokers & Fees
One of the first decisions to make for your housing search is whether you wish to use a real estate broker or agent who can help you navigate the rental market and application process. If you choose to use a broker or agent, you will owe them a fee once you secure your apartment, which is typically 15% of the annual rent. Some brokers are open to negotiating their fee, but you should discuss this fee before you begin your search.
If you choose to go with a broker, keep in mind that you will need to have more money available for payment upfront to cover their fee, so it may affect the price range of the apartments you can afford.
If you prefer to search on your own for “no-fee” apartments, you can go straight to landlords and building offices or search for no-fee apartment listings online. There are also some brokers whose fees are paid by the landlord or building.
Weill Cornell Medicine’s Preferred Broker
If you wish to use a broker, the Housing Office can refer you to our preferred broker. We will collect some information about your housing preferences and needs, and if we believe our broker may be able to assist you, we will make a referral on your behalf. The broker understands the needs of our employees and has identified neighborhoods that may be well suited to members of the Weill Cornell community. If needed, they will try to negotiate a more favorable rent or a lower income requirement with the landlord.
Our preferred broker offers a fixed fee of 12% when applicable, but also may have some apartments that have no fee. The Housing Office will confirm this with the broker when they make the referral.
To be approved for an apartment, you may need to meet certain financial requirements.
- Annual Salary: Many landlords require residents to make between 40 and 50 times the monthly rent. The requirement in Manhattan is typically around 45 times the rent, while in the outer boroughs, such as Queens and Brooklyn, it’s closer to 40. If your salary does not meet the requirement, some landlords will consider the combined salaries of roommates or significant others living together.
- Credit Check: Most landlords require a credit check to assess your financial history and ensure you will be a reliable tenant.
If you do not meet salary or credit requirements, you may be able to ask someone you know to serve as a guarantor. Typically, personal guarantors must earn 80 to 100 times the rent, be a United States citizen, and live within the tri-state area. You can also purchase guarantor insurance through companies like Insurent at www.insurent.com.
Living With Roommates
Many New Yorkers live with roommates to help reduce their living expenses. Unless specifically prohibited in your lease, the New York City Roommate Law permits you to have a roommate.
If you plan to live with a roommate, they will also need to have their documents in order before you begin apartment hunting. Also, keep in mind that you will all be responsible for the monthly rent, so if one roommate is unable to pay their share, you all will be in violation of the lease.
If you plan to reside with non-human roommates, make sure to look for apartment listings that state that they are pet-friendly. Many buildings will specify which types of pets are allowed (e.g. cats, but no dogs), and some may even specify breed and size restrictions. If you find a pet-friendly building, note that some landlords require detailed information about your pet as part of your rental application, including reports from veterinarians and other references.
Create an Apartment Search Profile
With all of the parameters of the NYC housing market in mind, ask yourself a few questions that will help determine your ideal price range, apartment type, and neighborhood:
- What is my annual salary? If I am living with roommates or a significant other, what is our combined annual salary?
- How many bedrooms do I need?
- How long am I willing to commute to work/school each way?
- Do I want to live in a specific school district or near certain child care centers?
- Do I prefer walk-up, brownstone/townhouse, or high-rise buildings?
- How important are the following apartment features to me? Doorman, pet-friendly, laundry, fitness center, elevator, outdoor space, parking, easy commute
Once you have a sense of the type of apartment you’re searching for, you’ve decided whether you’ll use a broker, and you’re within a month of your desired move-in date, you can start identifying apartments you’d like to see in person.
- Try to bundle visits together. Apartments go quickly New York, so try to see a number of different apartments in a single day. If you space out apartment visits over the course of a few days, the apartment you saw on day one will probably be gone by day three.
- Be flexible. If an apartment you’re interested in has a current tenant, the landlord or broker must plan around the current tenant’s schedule. As a result, many apartment visits take place before 6 PM on weekdays and during limited hours on weekends.
- Budget time for travel and delays. If you plan to see multiple apartments in one day, make sure to set aside enough time to travel between apartments on foot, train, or cab, and to account for any delays at each building.
- Confirm where you’ll meet the landlord or broker. If you are visiting a no-fee apartment, you will typically meet the landlord or superintendent at the building. If you are working with a broker or agent, they may not share the exact address of the apartment before your visit. Rather, you may meet them at their office or a public location near the apartment and then head over to the building together.
The Day of Your Visit
- Bring everything you need to submit a rental application. If you don’t secure an apartment you like right away, you could lose it, so make sure to bring everything you need for a rental application whenever you go on a visit. Review the checklist on page 6 of the Pathways to the Private Market brochure for more information on typical New York rental application requirements.
- Be open to unique layouts and apartment features. If you’re embarking on your first New York apartment search, you may find that apartments at your price range are a bit cozier than you’d find in other locations. Also, as a city with a rich history and many buildings that date back over a century, you may be pleasantly (or not so pleasantly) surprised with certain apartment features or layouts. Consider creative solutions to challenges if an apartment in your price range meets the majority of your requirements, but may have a few quirks.
- Get into the details. An apartment lease is typically a 12-month commitment, so make sure to get all of the important details from the landlord or broker so you can make an informed rental decision. The checklist on page 5 of the Pathways to the Private Market brochure includes a list of details to confirm during your visit.
Note that inclusion on this Weill Cornell Medicine website does not imply endorsement. Weill Cornell and its employees do not represent any landlord, management company or owner, nor guarantee the suitability of the properties, listings, services or companies included here. All prospective tenants are encouraged to exercise their own judgment when evaluating a prospective rental unit or landlord.