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I’m finishing up my freshman year of college in NYC, and want to leave the dorm to rent my own apartment next semester. I’ve been saving up money—I inherited a trust from a family member I’m planning to cash out—and should have about $100,000-$150,000 saved up in my account by the time I’m ready to move. But since I’m a student and won’t have a steady income, especially not the standard 40 times the monthly rent that landlords require, will I have trouble getting past the application process?
Well, file this one under “problems we wish we had.” While your application for a rental apartment in NYC won’t be a standard one, you’re starting out in a pretty good position. In the real estate world, cash is king, and while different landlords will approach your situation in different ways, there are a few likely options for how you can handle this.
[Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post was published in June 2018 and has been updated with new information for April 2019.]
To start, you could throw money at the problem, either by paying an entire year’s worth of rent up front, or paying a much larger security deposit than usual, say six months’ worth of rent instead of the standard one month.
Need help finding a landlord with flexible requirements? The rental experts at Triplemint, a Brick Underground partner, know exactly where to look. If you sign up here, you can also take advantage of Triplemint's corporate relocation rate—where you'll pay a broker's fee of 10 percent of a year's rent on open listings instead of the usual 12 to 15 percent. Bonus: The agents at Triplemint are a delight to deal with.
You could also find a guarantor, usually a parent or relative who lives in the tri-state area and who can co-sign the lease with you. They must earn at least 80 times your monthly rent—or have that in their bank, savings, or stock market accounts if they’re retired.
If you don't have anyone to act as a guarantor, you can consider Insurent Lease Guaranty, which essentially insures the lease for the landlord.
In this case, the one-time fee for Insurent could be as low as 60 percent of a month’s rent, says Charles Schoenau, managing director of Insurent, a Brick Underground sponsor. Insurent recently lowered rates for applicants across the board, Schoenau says, and fees are generally about 60 to 100 percent of a month's rent for U.S. renters, 95 to 110 percent for non-U.S. employed renters, and 98.4 percent of one month’s rent for international students.
Another option you may want to consider is looking for an apartment in a building that’s run by just one landlord, as opposed to a larger-scale management company, who might be more willing to work with your unique situation.
Long story short: You might have to shop around a bit more than usual, but if you use your cash creatively, you shouldn't have any trouble landing an apartment.
Keep in mind, however, with that kind of money in the bank, low interest rates, and NYC’s real estate market currently favoring buyers, it might serve you better to use that cash for a down payment (and mortgage payments) on a starter apartment instead of expensive rent, especially if you still think you are going to be living in New York City five years from now.
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