Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

How To: Rent in NYC as a College Student


Tired of dorming as an upperclassmen? It might be exciting to imagine yourself living as a young adult living in your own NYC digs. But, how do you even get there? It can take a bit of work to get those keys in your hand, but a snazzy apartment in the city can be more than just a daydream.

1. Roommate? Housemate? Suitemate?

Finding a place that you like and that falls within your budget is very possible, but let’s face it – It’s going to be a lot more difficult if you want to go solo. Not everyone wants to share their space with others, whether it be with their closest friends or strangers. It’s important to realize that there are a few things to consider when looking to find your ideal spot. First, you should decide whether not having a roommate is your number one priority. Roommates can actually be the best. They don’t always have to be your best friend, but they’re someone you can make dinner with or be the person you watch your favorite Netflix show with. You should all ensure that you’ve laid the ground rules and know what to expect from one another as roommates, not necessarily just as friends. Always be open, honest and don’t be afraid of conflict.

Where to find them?

NYU also has a helpful guide in finding the best roommate and a roommate agreement document!  

2. The Money Situation

The budget. Probably one of the most important things to decide when starting your apartment hunt. There are many facets to consider as well – does your budget include only the rent? Does it involve utilities and fees associated with renting? Is your budget flexible? Will your annual income be sufficient for the monthly rent?

Here are some fees that you will have to pay when renting:

  1. Application fee and credit check authorization fee: It covers the costs of running a credit check, verifying employment, and rental history. Whoever is leasing the apartment must pay it, which usually costs around $60-$150 per person. If your application is rejected, you will not get this amount back.

  2. Deposit to hold the apartment: It’s given to the landlord which holds the apartment while your application is in review. It could be the cost of one month’s rent or more. However, you will receive this amount back even if your application is denied. But remember, if your application is approved and you don’t want the apartment anymore, the landlord has a right to keep this amount. Only put down a deposit for a place you want to move into.

Monthly costs that may not be included in your monthly rent: heating, electricity, phone, cable, and internet. Transportation costs can also be significant if you opt for the $121 monthly Metrocard. Remember to take these into account when thinking about your total monthly budget for your living expenses.

Your application is usually approved based on the following:

  1. Annual income. Sometimes your annual income needs to be 40-50 times the monthly rent if living in Manhattan. It could go down to 30-35 times the monthly rent in other boroughs or in New Jersey. With roommates, this requirement usually goes down per person. Grants, scholarships, stipends, and fellowships can be considered a part of your annual income.

  2. Credit. Your credit rating helps landlords determine your level of financial responsibility. A lower credit score of 550 or below can hurt your application, so it’s important to ensure your credit rating is where it needs to be. If you don’t have strong employment records or no credit scores, then landlords may ask for 6-12 months of rent upfront. If you’re comfortable with this, it’s important to have everything in writing and recorded!

  3. Guarantor. A guarantor is a co-signer, someone else who signs the lease agreement with you. They are liable for paying the rent if you are unable to. Multiple guarantors can be a possibility of the landlord agrees and there is an agreement among the guarantors if one roommate defaults on rent. If your annual income isn’t sufficient or credit score isn’t great, a guarantor will definitely help your application. But sometimes, a guarantor combined with a larger deposit may be required. Guarantors must also fulfill the following requirements:

  • Make 80-100 times the monthly rent (or have sufficient savings)

  • Live in the tri-state area to sign the lease

  • They must provide: letter of employment, 4 recent pay stubs, 2 years of tax returns, recent bank statements, SSN, documentation of stocks, securities and bonds if applicable

You can even pay a fee to find a guarantor. However, every site has different requirements for US citizens and non-US citizens, so make sure to read up on all the requirements. You can start your search by using the following sites:

3. Location and Transportation!

Flexibility will only help you. If your budget is tight, it can be hard to find what you want in Manhattan. Venturing into Brooklyn, the Bronx, or Queens (maybe Staten Island?) can be pretty cool. You’ll be able to experience a new neighborhood and force yourself to get out of the Manhattan bubble. But again, remember, commuting will probably become a regular part of your life if you’re outside the NYU campus. The maximum amount you want to commute should also be incorporated in your search, which can help narrow down to some neighborhoods. Based on where you rent, make sure you are not jeopardizing your safety in any way. NYU has a compilation of resources to inform yourself of your rights and additional resources.

4. Amenities & Features

There are more amenities and features to consider than the ones previously mentioned. Would you require a concierge or doorman to your building? Are you looking for a condominium or a sublet? There are various types of buildings as well as types of apartments. When considering your budget, based on the features or number of amenities, the total monthly cost will go up. Make sure you know what you want and need when searching for your next suite!

5. Where do I search for apartments?

The Housing Registry is a place where NYU students can search for apartments and roommates. Brokers and non-NYU community members can however post on there if they abide by the Housing Registry guidelines. This online search place isn’t under NYU, it’s a third party vendor that works with the Center for Student Life. However, there are other online apartment searching sites. It’s important to use your own judgment when evaluating how legitimate these sites are. Undorm and StreetEasy are a few examples. Look here for more websites!

6. Do I need a broker?  

If the above is a lot to do by yourself, you can involve a broker to help out (with a fee, of course). “Brokers are licensed sales agents who who act on behalf of a property owner and prospective purchasers in real estate transactions.” They will most likely show you properties they represent, but they will make it easier for you. Usually, they’ll take the time to show you 6-10 places that meet your needs, helping you narrow down your search. Make sure to do research on the broker company you’re using to avoid being scammed.

Searching for an apartment in NYC can be intimidating because there are quite a few steps to go through. But if you start early enough and are a bit patient, it’s totally possible. Try to learn and research as much as possible about the steps as well as the resources available to you. Maybe in a few months, you’ll be in your very own apartment!

Image Credits: 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8

Fareeha is majoring in Economics and Public Policy at CAS and only has two more years to go at NYU! Originally, she’s from Bangladesh, a country known for its breathtaking natural beauty and torrential monsoon rains. But she spent a few years in the hot, humid climate of Dubai and on the coastal city of Jakarta. On Her Campus, she writes what she's passionate about; everything from crazy politics to pop culture.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️