How to Get an Apartment in New York Right Out of College

Ruth Shin
Ruth Shin

RENT

Chelsea, New York City

After being asked the age-old question "What are you doing after graduation?", you've decided that moving to New York City is an exciting and promising prospect. With a population of about 8.5 million and a metropolitan area that boasts over 20 million, the Big Apple offers the most opportunities out of any urban area in the entire nation. 

Whether you’ll be continuing your studies in graduate school at one of New York’s fine institutions, or starting a brand new internship or career, you’ll need a place to call home. 

Finding that home can be a daunting task, to say the least. 

Budget Appropriately

Counting pennies may be a must for most in their first year in New York. Consider yourself one of the lucky few if you have a trust fund, can stay in your family's pied de terre, or have parents who can help buy a place for you. But if you aren't in that boat that shouldn’t mean you can’t have a great first year in the big city. Some will be coming into the city with a job offer and salaried position, others with a scholarship and/or monthly allowance, still others with no idea what they will land. With over two-thirds of the entire housing market in New York devoted to rentals, there must be something for everybody. The trick is finding it.

Follow the Formula

The rule of thumb landlords are following is that you earn or having liquid assets that equal at least 40 times the monthly rent. This means that if the rent for an apartment is $2,000 per month (not at all an unfeasible gross rent for something as small as a studio), you will need to be earning a minimum of $80,000 a year in annual income or have at least this amount in savings or checking. Using this metric, you can successfully calculate how much you can afford for your first place.

Your annual incomeMaximum monthly rent you can afford
$50,000$1,250
$60,000$1,500
$70,000$1,750
$80,000$2,000
$90,000$2,250
$100,000$2,500
$110,000$2,750
$120,000$3,000
$130,000$3,250
$140,000$3,500
$150,000$3,750


Following this formula is not just helpful to a landlord but it’s also helpful to you living your first year in the five boroughs. Using this amount will allow for a good safety measure for not only being able to afford your rent, but being able to budget for other living expenses, which may include but not be limited to groceries, utilities, wi-fi, transportation, R and R money, student loan payments, and other bills. We advise that you don’t use something like a temporary student loan payment deferment to go crazy on spending. Budget wisely and always plan for the future.

Where in NYC Should I Live?

Manhattan can be an attractive and alluring siren call, especially if you want to experience all the city has to offer including its vibrant nightlife, shopping, and culture. For more affordability, look to north Manhattan around Washington Heights and Inwood. However, living in the outer boroughs might be a better budgetary solution rather than splurging for the "ultimate" New York experience. Remember you can still have a full and rich experience living outside of Manhattan, notably if you are residing in relatively close proximity to the main island. 

That’s not to say neighborhoods like Williamsburg, DUMBO, and Long Island City are exactly affordable for most, but within the five boroughs, there are really great options for budget-friendly living. You can even on occasion find a door-busting deal in the Manhattan, sometimes in a prime spot! But if you do, be prepared for the unit to either disappear as instantly as it appeared or have some real compromising features, i.e. a terrible roach infestation, the much-dreaded sixth-floor walk-up, the fact that it’s the size of a walk-in closet, or all the above or worse!

Average Monthly Rental Prices in New York City 2018

Studio1 Bedroom2 Bedrooms3 Bedrooms
Manhattan - All$2,550$3,500$5,150$7,890
Manhattan - Tribeca$3,700$4,850$8,480$14,800
Manhattan - Gramercy Park$2,590$3,700$5,140$8,120
Manhattan - Murray Hill$2,590$2,870$4,050$7,550
Manhattan - Kips Bay$2,450$3,260$4,450$5,540
Manhattan - E. Greenwich Village$2,350$3,120$3,690$4,960
Bronx - All$1,510$1,790$2,260$2,690
Bronx - Fieldston$1,580$1,830$2,290$5,660
Bronx - Riverdale$1,490$2,010$2,950$3,850
Bronx - Spuyten Duyvil$1,490$1,930$2,730$3,090
Staten Island$1,630$1,980$2,630$2,560
Brooklyn - All$2,300$2,620$3,100$3,480
Brooklyn - Dumbo$3,210$4,460$6,220$13,100
Brooklyn - Brooklyn Heights$2,300$3,000$4,680$7,930
Brooklyn - Fort Greene$2,400$3,040$3,980$5,350
Brooklyn - Williamsburg$2,640$3,190$4,090$4,870
Brooklyn - Park Slope$2,060$2,570$3,230$4,100
Queens - All$2,040$2,390$2,910$3,110
Queens - Long Island City$2,440$3,070$4,180$6,380
Queens - Sunnyside$1,680$1,980$2,440$3,280
Queens - Astoria$2,000$2,290$2,700$3,210
Queens - Forest Hills$1,550$2,030$2,710$3,370
Queens - Kew Gardens$1,550$1,910$2,370$2,940

Get to Know the City Before You Get Here

Do some research online, follow blogs or social media feeds, and ask New York-residing friends or family about possible neighborhoods. Carefully consider your commute to your job or school. If you don’t know what you’re going to be doing yet, try to select areas that have access to multiple trains or buses, or offer a train line that can take you to a major hub.

Best Neighborhoods for Nightlife & Average Monthly Rent Prices

NeighborhoodsStudio1 Bedroom2 Bedrooms3 Bedrooms
Williamsburg, Brooklyn$2,640$3,190$4,090$4,870
Downtown Brooklyn
Brighton Beach, Brooklyn
Astoria, Queens$2,000$2,290$2,700$3,210
Long Island City, Queens$2,440$3,070$4,180$6,380
East Village, Manhattan
Meatpacking District, Manhattan
Bushwick, Brooklyn
Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan
Greenwich Village, Manhattan$2,350$3,120$3,690$4,960


Be Flexible with Commuting Options

Don’t sweat it if your commute time can potentially be beyond thirty minutes. The average commute time for a New Yorker is approximately 40 minutes, and with mass transit issues the time can be longer. While this means there are people with a 15-minute commute, that also means plenty of people are commuting for well over an hour. There’s nothing wrong with getting up earlier! New York City is also a very bike-friendly metropolitan area with ever-evolving new traffic laws and bike paths. It’s great for nice weather and good exercise.

Why is My Credit Score so Important?

While there are still old school landlords in New York that will just take you at your word and require nothing more than a deposit and first month’s rent to lease their apartment, the majority of landlords and management companies will be looking for good credentials. Most of them are going to be relying on your monthly rent as certain income or money to pay creditors like banks for loans they have taken out. They’re all certainly relying on the income to pay out property taxes and any renovation and maintenance expenses.

Credit is the first place most of them are going to turn to determine if you are a good payor or not. The higher the credit score, it shows lenders and landlords that you can pay your bills on time and in the amount that is required. It doesn’t matter if you simply have the income. Plenty of people have solid earnings and still don’t pay their bills on time. This is why credit is a paramount part of the application process.

What If I Have Bad Credit or No Credit?

FICO Credit Score

Because you’ve graduated recently there’s a good chance you don’t have any credit, or maybe you’ve messed it up early, or you have a ton of student loans; after all, it’s likely that no one’s shown you the ropes in good budgeting and money management. Don’t despair at this point. The most important thing is that you open up a line of credit and start on your credit score or work on repairing it. 

Ways to Get Around Bad Credit

If you need to apply for an apartment, you can either put up extra security deposits, pay a half to full year upfront, or use your parents or someone close to you as a guarantor. Your guarantor will be co-signing on the lease and guaranteeing it. They should have excellent credit meaning at least 700 and above. There will be management companies and landlords that require a 740 and above and well as up to 80 times the monthly rent.

Check Your Credit Report Regularly

Some recent graduates may have great credit, in which case, you’re all set in that department. Let that be a positive launching point for your adult finances, on which you can build. Check your credit score at least once a year, or check it online every few months (make sure when you do it’s “soft pull” meaning it won’t affect your credit score and considered a serious credit inquiry) to stay on top of it. You can also call your bank or research online on how you can improve your credit rating as well. Whatever you do, do not take your score for granted in thinking it’s great. Credit companies and banks do make errors, relatives may put bills under your name that can bring your credit score down considerably. If you want to apply for an apartment and the landlord sees you have a poor credit score due to an error from a bank, they are probably not going to give you chance to correct it (it can take several weeks), so make sure it’s in good standing before you do apply.

Rooms Vs. Apartments

While having an apartment is a great luxury if you can afford it, it probably won’t be feasible or sustainable to the majority of young people entering the workforce in New York City, or even attending school. If you already have a group of friends moving to the city, it might be possible for you to go it in together, by combining your resources. 

Pros and Cons of Living with Friends

Living with someone can be an intimate experience and you may discover unpleasant things about even very close friends or you may discover that you are completely incompatible in a living situation. Unless you already have had a positive experience living with the same friends, it may end up ruining your relationships. For some living with strangers may be more suitable especially if that means you can keep the apartment environment according to more measured boundaries.  It’s definitely a gamble either way. 

Many people use sites like Facebook and Craigslist to track down potential roommates. Always be wary of who you are agreeing to look together with. It would be wise to conduct your own prescreening of potential roommates that not only includes your likes and dislikes but also information about their employment and their credit. While it's not absolutely necessary to conduct an FBI-level investigation, it's definitely smart to know if your potential roommate even qualifies for an apartment.

Leasing a Room on Your Own

Because of the huge demand, leasing rooms in shared apartments have become a separate market in the real estate biz. Many people can’t conjure up roommates instantly and leasing a room may be the best option. It makes living in New York not only a possibility to some but it’s also a great money saver, especially if you have a job that requires a lot of travel. Remember that you will still be required to submit credit and financial information, but you will not be held individually responsible for the rent. Legally, landlords must put all tenants as equal parties on the lease, meaning that if one person skips out on the rent, the other tenants will also be held liable for that amount. 

Make Smart Rules

If you want to rent a room with others, whether they are friends or new acquaintances, make legal signed agreements amongst yourselves. Lay down not just house rules for cleanliness, chores, noise, etc., but also ground rules for bill and rent payment. Make sure there is transparency in paying utilities. Likely, the bill will be put under one person’s name. Place the monthly bills in a common area where everyone can clearly see the amount due and split it equally or according to your agreement. If one person is paying the rent or a utility, have the person post the payment receipt for all to see.

Hopefully, these suggestions will help make your first year in New York City as painless and as enjoyable as possible.  All things are within reach. It just takes good planning and taking good advice.

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