Earn/Save Money

5 Point Checklist to Save Money Before Renting an Apartment

Renting an apartment isn’t a good decision just because you can’t afford to buy. Especially living in an expensive city like NYC, as much as I would love to buy my own apartment instead of sinking thousands (and thousands and thousands) into rent – investing in buying a shoebox studio just isn’t a smart choice. That being said, I wanted to share some very valuable advice from Nicole Lapin that I found in her new book, Rich Bitch. Before you sign your soul away in that lease agreement – do this checklist first:

1. Be prepared with your documents: In competitive markets like NYC, you should go prepared to all viewings with your documents so that you are ready to apply on the spot if you find something you love. Most landlords will require proof of employment, one or two of your most recent bank statements, and a photocopy of your driver’s license or passport. You should also have a check ready for the security deposit, since this way you have a record of it for when your lease is over.

2. Keep an open mind: Don’t be an apartment snob and skip over what may look like less desirable units. You can often get a good deal on a lower floor or a place at the back of the building that may not have a great view. Especially if you are looking to save money and not sure what your income will be like in the next couple years, make the sacrifice of a few amenities until you know for certain that you can afford something better.

3. Double check for issues: Take a close look at all of the rental’s fixtures, tiling, AC/heat units, floors, paint, and ensure they’re all in good shape before you sign. Turn the shower on to check the water pressure (especially on higher floors). Also count the electrical outlets since some smaller or older apartments might have only one or two, and you’ll find yourself dangerously overloading your extension cords. Landlords are more likely to fix any problems—and fast—if they think that not doing so might be a deal breaker on signing the lease.

4. Get your negotiating on: If you think you’ll stay in one place for a while, ask your potential landlords if they will lower the monthly rent if you sign for longer than twelve months. An eighteen-month or two-year lease means less work for them trying to find a new tenant, touch up the apartment or home, and market the property at year’s end, all of which could translate into major savings for you. If you plan on staying for a while and there are improvements you’re willing to pay for, such as installing a dishwasher, ask the landlords if they’d split the cost with you (usually by forgiving part of your rent). They may go for it; after all, they ultimately get to keep the improvement.

5. Don’t rule out new developments either: Sounds crazy, right? Although most new developments and high-rises are more expensive, if there’s a grand opening, some management companies will want to fill a building as quickly as possible to boost it’s profile and exclusivity. It’s simple: empty apartments don’t turn a profit. Pay attention to when new apartment buildings hit the market, and you may be able to sneak in under the listed price. Yes, sometimes newer can be cheaper.

Goodluck on your search for your new home! I’ve lived in 5 different apartments in almost 11 years in NYC – so I definitely know most of the tricks to ensuring you get the best deal. Already renting? Check out my post on How to Negotiate Your Lease Renewal.


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