5 Keys to Finding the Right Apartment in New York City

<b class="credit">Shutterstock</b>When looking for a place to rent, New York City dwellers encounter a unique set of circumstances
ShutterstockWhen looking for a place to rent, New York City dwellers encounter a unique set of circumstances

By Niccole Schreck

Apartment hunting can be stressful for any renter, but New York City dwellers encounter a unique set of circumstances when looking for a place to live. Every seasoned New York City renter has a horror story -- whether it's the time they lost the perfect apartment or a blacklist of brokers they refuse to work with again. While the process may feel like survival of the fittest, with these five tips, you'll be one step closer to finding a great place to live, even if it isn't rent-stabilized.

1. Get your paperwork in order before you see the place. Renters who are unfamiliar with the New York City rental market are often blindsided by how quickly rental inventory is snatched up by eager city dwellers. With such a competitive market and quick rental turnover, being organized and having%VIRTUAL-pullquote-With the demand for rental units as high as it is in New York, it's no surprise that you'll run into a scam or two along the way.% your paperwork ready to go before you look is a necessity, not an option.

When it comes to paperwork, there are also some differences in New York rentals vs. the rest of the nation. Many buildings have requirements that go beyond professional and financial qualifications, so renters looking for a new place need to be armed with the right documentation in order to snag their dream apartment. Consider bringing along a copy of your most recent paystubs, your co-signer's contact information (if necessary), tax returns from the past two years, a color copy of your driver's license and/or passport, a list of personal and professional references, and a current credit report in order to get a leg up on the competition.

2. Beware of bedbugs. It may be the city that never sleeps, but you don't want to be kept up at night thinking about bedbugs. Before pulling the trigger on your new place, do your due diligence and research the building for any recent bedbug registrations before sealing the deal.

Unlike other markets, New York City landlords are required to provide a bedbug disclosure form alerting renters if bedbugs have been detected in an apartment or the building. If bedbugs have been detected, the landlord should be upfront about how the building is dealing with the issue. If this information isn't readily provided, that is a red flag that bedbugs may be a problem, or the landlord isn't dealing with the situation properly and you should take precaution before signing a lease.

3. Bring along your skepticism --and your cash. With the demand for rental units as high as it is in New York, it's no surprise that you'll run into a scam or two along the way. Does the deal seem too good to be true? Look out for words such as "cozy," "charming" or "unique." They could translate to shoe-box sized apartments, old and outdated features, or bizarre layouts that makes fitting furniture impossible.

Another term to be aware of is "converted," which means an additional bedroom has been created using a fake or temporary wall. So a converted two bedroom means you're actually renting a one-bedroom apartment that has been rigged with walls that weren't there originally. Other alarming red flags to back away from: if you're asked to wire funds; if the landlord or broker is employing high pressure tactics; or if someone is attempting to sublet or rent out a place that belongs "to a friend." All of these are signs that things may not be quite right, and you should take precaution.

Once you find a place that is legitimate, bring along a bank-certified check to make sure you can quickly seal the deal. Below are some fees to be aware of that may be associated with New York City rentals:

  • Broker's fee (if applicable) is 10 to 15 percent of the yearly rent

  • Security deposit (one to two month's rent)

  • First month's rent

  • Move-in and or move-out fees

  • Superintendent fees

4. Salary insufficient? You may need a guarantor. Most New York City landlords require a resident earn approximately 30 to 50 times the monthly rent. If you don't, you'll be required to have a guarantor or cosigner whose salary is 80 times the monthly rent and who is obligated to cover the rent if you happen to default. It's no surprise that meeting these requirements can be challenging for renters, so do some research as there are a handful of services that can help you qualify for an apartment if your income doesn't fall within the required range.

Given that, don't limit yourself to the city's most desired neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village, Gramercy or the Upper East Side. Being on the outskirts of a popular area allows you to get more for your money -- whether it's more space or a quieter location. Be sure to check that you're not more than a 10-minute walk to the nearest subway and that the neighborhood is safe by searching the New York Police Department website for crime statistics. Other things to consider include the number of local restaurants, grocery stores or bodegas, laundry services and drugstores to make sure theneighborhood you're considering provides the convenience you'll need.

5. Don't forgo renter's insurance. Once you have finally found your new home and signed the lease, be sure to get a renter's insurance policy to protect your new place. A recent Rent.com survey found that 60 percent of renters do not have renter's insurance, even though the average policy is only about $15 to $30 a month, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Renters in New York are already investing a lot to live in one of the country's most expensive cities -- why wouldn't you want to cover potential damages to your belongings?