1. What a guarantor is and why you might need it
Apartments in the city are notoriously expensive and to rent one by yourself, you need to prove to management that you make enough money to pay for it. A guarantor is someone who is legally on the hook for your rent if you fail to pay it.
To qualify for NOT having a guarantor you must make 40x the monthly rent. So for example if your rent is $3,000 a month, you need to be making at least $120,000 a year. You'll also need a guarantor if you have bad/no credit, lack rental history, don't have a job or are right out of college. (I had to have my parents sign on my Chelsea Studio). If you're signing with a guarantor, they need to be making 80x the monthly rent. Aka your $3,000 will require someone who's making at least $240,000 a year to help sign.
But a guarantor doesn't mean that they are paying your rent, they're their to back you up in case you can't pay rent. Parents or close relatives are usually ones helping sign but there are also some agencies and investors that will help with this too.
2. You will have to compromise
Compromise is the key to the game because you're not going to get everything you want out of your apartment! Manage your expectations and write down some non-negotiables. During my first move my non-negotiables were: close to work, cats allowed and doorman building. This time around my list was: cats allowed, doorman building and water view.
After your non-negotiables are set, write down a few more things you'd like to have but aren't make or break to your search. These for me were close to the ACE (subway line), big closet, open kitchen, new appliances, big windows and laundry in unit.
Getting everything you want in an apartment (that is within your budget) is harder than one would think so be willing to compromise. Maybe the laundry isn't in unit but on your floor or maybe three smaller closets will make up for the lack of a walk in. Things like that!
3. Things are not as they seem
If there is one thing I've learned from my past two searches for apartments is that photos lie and listings are not as they seem. You might fall in love with one place online and then see it in person and realize they aren't actually showing you YOUR apartment but another one. Or you find out the photos are really old and the building isn't as clean as you wanted it to be.
My advice is to obviously see the apartment before you rent it (duh) and don't get your hopes up. I've only been on the hunt twice for apartments in the city but I have some horror stories to tell! I fell in LOVE with this one apartment that had everything I wanted (and then some) so much so I decided to not renew my lease on my current place. It was honestly beautiful online and I went to go see it, ready to buy and was SO UNDERWHELMED. Ugh. The building was not kept clean the apartment was dingy and small and the people in the building were mean. It was so deflating.
So keep your mind open and the search strong. See as many places as you can until you find "the one" (and it will happen)!
4. Listings will go FAST (have your paperwork ready)
Vacancy in the city for rentals is less than 1% so when I say apartments go fast, I mean they go fast. You can be looking at the apartment and IN the apartment and it can sell from underneath you. So many of my friends has fallen in love with a place to only go home and get their paperwork ready to find out the listing has sold.
It's a dog eat dog world and you need to be prepared. So come with paperwork in hand -- it will make your life SO much easier. Get ready to give these people an arm and a leg because this is all the paperwork you'll need with you (for you AND your guarantor):
- Employment letter - with salary, job title and length of employment printed on company letterhead (they will also need a name, address and phone to call and verify).
- 2-3 recent pay stubs
- 2-3 recent bank statements
- Most recent W2 tax form and tax return
- Copy of photo ID
- Reference letter from previous landlord
Sheesh, right? They'll also perform a background and credit check that you will pay for (and not get refunded if you happen to be decided). The only thing they don't ask for is your unborn child's name.
5. It’s going to cost you a lot of money
On top of all the money you're already spending, you need to budget in the extra costs. Things like a brokers fee (if you're using one) -- which is anywhere from 1-3 months rent, application fee which can be anywhere from $50-$200 per person (you, your roommate, your guarantor), a security deposit (1 months rent) AND the first month up front.
So if you're looking for apartments be sure to save up a lot on top of what you're putting aside for rent. Also be very up front with whoever you're working with to see what fees are included in applying and getting the apartment. Everyone will be very honest with you.