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What You Need To Know

Fee vs. No Fee Explanation

For starters one must understand that the overwhelming majority of apartments that are available at any given time in Manhattan are FEE apartments. What this means is that if you use a broker to find your new apartment, the broker must be compensated for their work. They must charge their client a fee; this fee is normally 15% of one year's rent (for a $2,500 apartment a 15% Fee would be $4,500). In most markets in the country, this fee does not exist, instead agents are paid by the apartment owner to find a qualified tenant; New York City is an anomaly in this sense.
Being a broker, I know that, yes, there are clients for whom it makes sense to pay a fee (due to time constraints, among other things), as well as agents who have worked diligently and responsibly for their clients and deserve a 15% fee. That being said, while working as a broker, I have often found apartments for my clients in 10 minuets for which they end up applying and renting. For this I am paid a 15% fee, totaling in the thousands of dollars. Is it fair to charge a client a rate of $3,000 an hour, if the end result is the client has a new apartment with which they are happy? That is for you to decide

There are two ways to go about avoiding paying a fee.

One way is for you, the potential tenant, to rent an apartment directly through an owner (as you will now be able to with Urban Sherpa).  The other is if an owner offers brokers an OP (owner payment) for an apartment, thereby compensating the broker so they do not need to charge the tenant. 

An OP is normally equal to one months rent, or 8.33 % of a year’s rent.  Again, the reason an OP can mean no fee to the tenant is because the broker is being compensated for their work by the owner, not by you.

What Is Rent Stabilization?

The laws concerning rent stabilization and rent controlled apartments can be quite complicated.  To simplify the important information as much as possible, we believe you need to know the following:

If an apartment is rent stabilized, the rent can only be increased between three and five percent per year (depending on the year), unless one of the following occurs:

  • The apartment is renovated.  If a rent stabilized apartment is renovated, 1/40th of the total cost of renovation can be added to the apartment’s monthly rent.
  • (If the rent for an apartment is $1,000 and an owner spends $8,000 renovating the apartment, the owner can add $8,000/40 = $200 to the rent for a new total rent of $1,200.)

  • If there is an MCI (major capitol improvement) to the building, the cost of this improvement can be added to the rent of every apartment located in the rent stabilized building.

    (The formula for calculating the exact increase is quite complicated, but a basic example is as follows: the owner replaces the roof of a building with 100 apartments at a cost of $20,000.  The owner can then increase the rent of each apartment by $20,000/100(apartments) = $200 (per apartment)/12(months) = $16.66 per month rent increase to each apartment in the building.  Again, this is a very simplified version of the actual formula.)

  • If the owner of a building decides to inhabit a rent stabilized apartment themselves for a period of two years or more, when they leave the apartment will no longer be rent stabilized.

How Important Is My Credit Score?

A credit score is a key piece of information owners use when deciding whether or not they approve an applicant for an apartment.  Knowing your credit score is important when applying for a new apartment.  If you know you have bad credit, you should expect to do one of two things:

  • Be prepared to pay more than the customary one month rent for a security deposit.  In the worst cases, I have seen owners ask for an entire year’s rent upfront, although usually they will only require one or two month’s rent for extra security.
  • Offer to pay a slightly higher rent for the available apartment to compensate its owner for the increased risk they are taking by renting the apartment to someone with bad credit.

There are two golden numbers when examining your credit.  The first number is 680.  If you have a credit score of 680 or higher, your credit is fair or better.  With a score of 680, you can usually qualify for small loans with little or no penalty.  You will generally be considered a low risk individual and should not have trouble renting an apartment.  The second number is 720.  If you have a credit score of 720 or above, you are considered an extremely low risk individual.  When applying for a mortgage or other loans with this score, you will likely be able to receive the best interest rates available and should have no problem whatsoever renting an apartment.

What Paper Work Will I Need?

Each owner requires slightly different information from an applicant.  Below is the most exhaustive list of what could possibly be needed although most owners will not require all of what is listed below.

TENANTS:

  • Completed Application form
  • Letter of Employment stating time at the company, position, direct supervisor contact     information, and annual salary.
  • Prior Year’s Tax Return
  • Prior Year’s W-2
  • Three most recent pay stubs
  • Three most recent bank statements

GAURANTOR:

  • Application form
  • Letter of Employment stating time at the company, position, direct supervisor contact information, and annual salary. (If self-employed, letter from a CPA verifying prior years earnings).
  • Prior Year’s Tax Return
  • Prior Year’s W-2
  • 3 most recent pay stubs
  • 3 most recent pay stubs

Lease Start Dates - Elaborated

Most owners and management companies start their leases on either the 1st or 15th of each month.

It is also worth noting that owners like to have leases end during the summer, as that is the time when they can get the highest rent due to the increased volume of clients seeking apartments at that time.  I often use this as a negotiating chip with owners.

Renting An Apartment During the Summer vs. During the Winter

Nearly 70% of the rental transactions that occur in Manhattan happen between April-October.  During these months, there are far more available apartments and, simultaneously, far more apartment hunters.  This causes the market to move significantly faster.  If during the winter season (November thru March) an apartment was on the market for two weeks, during the summer the same apartment probably wouldn’t stay on the market for more than a week.  Also during the summer season, there is a 10% increase in apartment prices.

When Do I Begin Looking For My Next Apartment?

Most owners and management companies start their leases on either the 1st or 15th of each month.

It is also worth noting that owners like to have leases end during the summer, as that is the time when they can get the highest rent due to the increased volume of clients seeking apartments at that time.  I often use this as a negotiating chip with owners.

Where Do I Begin?

The first thing a perspective tenant should do when beginning their apartment search is separate their needs vs. their hopes and decide on a budget.

 There are all kinds of metrics used in New York to help you understand how much you can afford (i.e. 25% of your annual income, monthly income minus monthly payments multiplied by 30%), but the only thing that matters is that you arrive at a budget with which you’re comfortable. It is important to note and understand that the average apartment hunter in New York ends up spending 20% MORE than the expectations they had when they started their search (reference Citi-Habitats B&W Report.) 

Rarely does anyone get everything they want in an apartment.  It is my belief that if you are getting 60-70% of what you hope for in a rental you are doing quite well.  As a result deciding what you really need (be it a doorman, an elevator, or great sunlight) is extremely important to distinguish from what you would simply prefer.

What Qualifications Must I Meet?

In general, landlords in New York City care about three things: guaranteed future streams of income, your credit history, and liquid net worth (operative words here being guaranteed and liquid.)  In other words, if you can show that your steady and stable job guarantees you an income of more than 45 times the monthly rent, a FICO credit score of at least 680, and/or a liquid net worth of one to two times the annual rent – any landlord in Manhattan will likely accept your application.  If you do not meet the above qualifications and are not sure if you’ll qualify, the best advice is to be prepared and have a guarantor lined up with paperwork in hand.

What’s A Guarantor?

A guarantor is someone willing to be a co-signer on a lease with a person who is applying for an apartment.  The reason you would need a guarantor is if, for whatever reason, you do not meet an owner’s qualifying criteria for an apartment.  Guarantors are typically required to make 80-90 times the monthly rent, have excellent credit, and be financially stable.

What If I Don't Have A Guarantor?

A unique new program - The Insurent Lease Guaranty Program - can act as a guarantor for your apartment lease. This Program is accepted by many large and small landlords throughout the NYC metropolitan market. The Insurent Program primarily underwrites creditworthy college & professional graduates entering the workforce with jobs or job acceptance letters, non-U.S residents moving to the United States with no U.S. based credit history, high net worth individuals, relocating executives, self employed and retired individuals. Assuming you have good credit and your annual income is a minimum of 27.5 times the monthly rent (substantially lower than the 40-50 times of the monthly rent often required by landlords), Insurent can pre-qualify you in less than 2 hours after filling out the online application. After validation of your employment and identity as well as payment of the guaranty fee (typically 78% of one month's rent), the landlord will receive an Insurent Guaranty for your 1 year lease. Even if you have an individual co-signer/guarantor for your lease, many parents who could financially qualify as guarantors may opt to utilize the Insurent Program and pay the guaranty fee for their son or daughter to avoid subjecting themselves to the burdensome, time-consuming and invasive process of providing 2 years of tax returns, net worth statements, brokerage reports and bank statements typically required by landlords. With the Insurent Program, the renter only needs to give the landlord the first month's rent, and only 1 month of security upon signing the lease.

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