Finding a Rental: The Basics

Finding an apartment is almost like having a second job. It takes time, money, and energy. We can help you cut to the chase. 

Why Use a Broker?

Working with a broker takes a lot of day to day work off of your plate. If you decide to search on your own, a lot of your free time will be spent going over apartment listings and coordinating viewings. If you work full time, you’ll probably need to take time off, or use your weekends to view apartments. Many landlords keep regular business hours, so it can be hard to schedule showings in the evening.   

Apartment hunting without a knowledgeable agent simply isn’t easy, and it can get pretty stressful. Most people who end up overpaying for apartments are the ones who negotiated rent on their own. Add to that the fact that some landlords withhold bits of information, post misleading apartment photos, and don’t communicate everything upfront, and you start to see exactly why working with a licensed broker is the preferred method.

These agents live within the market on a daily basis, and their knowledge is invaluable and unparalleled. They know what’s currently available, what’s becoming available, and which apartments simply aren’t worth looking at.

Search Criteria

Budget: You don’t really get to pick your own budget. You can only afford so much, and while most people can be a bit flexible on the size, location, condition, and features of their apartment, price ends up being a determining factor in your final decision. We recommend that your maximum monthly rent does not exceed 33% of your gross income.

Location: Most cities have a bunch of neighborhoods, each with its own personality and feel. You might want to be close to work, restaurants, nightlife, or school. You might want to live somewhere quiet, or someplace family oriented. You’ll want to find the sweet spot between what you want and what you can afford.

Size & Amenities: Do you need a one or two bedroom apartment? A large living area? A home office? Are great views important? While determining which features are important, always keep in mind that there is a price for each one and therefore prioritize them based on how much you are willing to pay for each.

We recommend starting at the lowest price point—the studio apartment—and working up. Features like location, doormen, more rooms, updated fixtures, granite or stainless steel countertops, and the like will end up adding to your rent. Scale up until you’ve found what you need and can still afford.

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Building Ownership

There are two major ways buildings are owned in most cities. They differ in regards to the approval process you need to go through in order to live in them, as well as other related requirements. Apartments are slightly easier to get into, as condominiums sometimes have associations which govern parts of the application approval process.

Rental Buildings: A single landlord typically owns these properties, which can be rent stabilized or non-rent stabilized depending on the local real estate laws. Landlords typically require the standard paperwork (discussed above) and a credit check, as well as one month’s rent and one month’s security deposit, for you to be approved to move in. The approval process can take anywhere from one day to one week, but usually no longer. It is more likely that maintenance will be left up to the tenant in many cases.

Condominiums: Each unit is individually owned and can either be used as a personal residence or rented out to somebody else as an investment property. Regulations for moving into a condo are set by the board—a governing body for the building made up of individual owners. As long as owners follow the board’s regulations, they can set their own rental price and lease length. Owners will typically require you to furnish the standard paperwork, plus whatever additional information they feel necessary for approval.

Generally the board does not have the right to turn down an applicant that an owner is willing to rent to. Tenants are generally required to pay application and/or board and move–in fees, as well as additional security if required. With a condo, the approval process can take anywhere from one week to one month.

Making a Final Decision

While many renters will immediately walk into a unit and know it’s for them, others have to weigh the pros and cons of multiple units. Here are some important things to consider:

Are you comfortable with the neighborhood?
Will you be comfortable living in the apartment?
What is the parking situation?
What, if any, are the rent increases after the first lease term?
Is the layout of the apartment functional?
Is there a move in fee or security deposit?
Is it pet friendly, and is there a weight limit on pets?
Are any major repairs needed?
Is there enough closet space?
Can you afford the unit WITH utilities?
Are any utilities included in the rent?
What amenities come with the apartment? (Fitness Center, Doorman, Sundeck)
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