Tips for finding your next apartment

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Shawn Paik

There is a lot of work to do before taking the keys to a new apartment.

By Nina Jang, Deputy Features Editor

As the school year quickly draws to a close, waves of students scramble for places to call home in preparation for the start of the new school year in the fall. Most rentals in the city are listed as immediate sale, so they don’t go on the market more than one month in advance — looking just a little over a month before your desired move-in date is fine. There is hope and time for finding an ideal apartment in a great location, all without breaking the bank. So before diving headfirst into the process of scoring a place, focus on a realistic budget and completed paperwork.

Paperwork intact

Keeping organized and prepared will give you a leg up in the eyes of landlords. Having all the paperwork on file is essential because rental applications in the city cannot be complete without proof of employment, tax returns from the past two years, three recent bank statements and a copy of government-issued identification such as a driver’s license. Having these on hand will not only assure the landlord of your seriousness, but also speed up the processing.

Power of the Internet

The Internet can be a powerful tool to become familiar with a location and find available apartments without broker fees. To find information on a neighborhood, including nearby public transport, a site like streeteasy.com can save some time and effort. Even better, apartment listings are included on the website so everything is highly accessible. Apartable.com, which shows only no-fee listings, has an abundance of apartments located in Manhattan and some in Brooklyn and Queens. The site determines the exact distance from the nearest subway line and includes access to previous building or landlord complaints. Check out nybits.com to beat the competition for apartments that have yet to be advertised and for mostly no-fee listings.

Brokers worth a shot

Dishing out money while saving for rent may turn many people off, but paying for brokers can be useful in the process of seeking an apartment. To be realistic, brokers usually charge about 15 percent of the yearly rent or a fee of at least one month’s rent. The fee is negotiable, however, and in some cases the landlords will cover broker fees. Often brokers specialize in certain neighborhoods so their extensive knowledge can be an advantage. Nakedapartments.com includes a large inventory of listings that charge a broker fee, but some at lower rates such as 9 percent. It also has some apartments whose fee is covered by the landlord. It might not hurt to consider recruiting some extra help.

Walk the talk

Get out and proactively seek potential apartments by looking specifically at smaller privately owned buildings to meet with prospective landlords in person. Avoid large apartment towers that are run by big management companies — they leave little leeway around criteria such as a minimum income, which makes you less likely to stand out among other prospective renters. Because landlords prefer the annual income of tenants to be at least 40 times the monthly rent before accepting any applications for an apartment, the landlord of a smaller building may be more responsive to payment negotiations to maneuver out of this tight spot for potential negotiations. Never ignore word-of-mouth, because a friend might know of a perfect available apartment.

Read between the lines

Most importantly, once you find that place with a reasonable balance of budget and needs, don’t forget to read and reread the conditions of the lease before signing. Because it is a legally binding contract, the lease should be examined closely for basic information, such as the due date for rent each month or any confusing aspects that require explanation. Be diligent now so that, when you finally move in, you can relax in full confidence that your new home is truly yours.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, March 26 print edition. Email Nina Jang at [email protected]