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Top 10 mistakes made by Manhattan apartment renters!

By Val Schultz | Published on June 9,2010 at 9:10AM

 So you've decided to rent an apartment in Manhattan. Congrats! Here are a few tips on making it a whole lot easier;

1.       Preparation - Finding it and Getting it – which is harder? Yes, you will need paperwork. Yes, you will need certified funds. Yes you will need it fast! Each apartment is different and every Manhattan apartment owner has his own shtick of which hoop is important for an applicant to jump through in order to prove worthy of living in their coveted NYC apartment building. The basic requirements are similar. Proof of employment which includes length and income and if you do not qualify for the income requirements, you’ll need either extra security and a guarantor (same paperwork is required) for more on this topic visit this Manhattan apartment Rental Guide page.
2.       Seeing (in person ONLY!) is believing! Truth in advertising seems harder to find than a sweet deal on an apartment in Manhattan. There are plenty of agents who compete in the Manhattan apartment rental market place while maintaining their integrity and following the law regarding truth in advertising. Is is also true that inventory changes so quickly that an active agent would have to spend half their day updating their advertisements for 100% accuracy. What else is true is that many agents don’t care enough and they will stretch the truth so aggressively that the apartment is no longer recognizable, the pictures displayed are a collage of the best photography available and the price is a distant relative of the original listing. This all leaves you with a frustrating user experience that can only be resolved by doing the leg work – your legs that is.
3.       Know what moves you! Don't come up with the solutions - stick to the source, the dream, the want then let a pro find you the solution. "I need a safe building!" is very different than "Doorman, is a must!" Plenty of rental buildings are on very safe blocks and have video intercom systems etc. "I need a bright apartment" is very different that "I need open river and city views" a southern exposure 4th floor walkup can be brighter than a 24th floor, North Western view of the tip of the Chrysler Building and a piece of the River. "I need a local bar" is very different than "I want to be in Murray Hill" there are plenty of bars all over New York City– finding you an apartment near one of them should not been difficult. Once you lock yourself into Murray Hill, Gramercy, the West Village, Chelsea or the Upper West side you are now limiting your apartment search and the rental listing options that will be available to you.
4.       Wants Vs. needs – know the difference! Everything affects size, availability and price. Here is an example, one of my favorites; "I need a view!". View was never an issue for you. While searching apartments you entered one that had a stunning view of the Manhattan Skyline. Now all of a sudden - you NEED a view! - Well, do you? same story, different amenity; "I want a gym with a pool in the building". You haven't been to your gym since you signed up in January and you hate what the chlorine does to your hair, but now you need a gym with a pool because the apartment you saw, and BTW, didn't like, had one...
Here's another, but this one has a few twists to it; "I NEED an extra room for…" here are 3 common options;
A. Baby. Need or want? Some parents will say NEED others will be ok till the kid is about 2yrs old.
B. Home office. Need or want? Well, do you work from home and NEED the space or do you just WANT a designated area for your laptop?
C. Guests. NEED = My annoying brother will stay with me on the weekends or Want - I like to have the option of inviting guests over (Guests that BTW will never leave and that by the time they do you’ll probably need therapy, not the extra space…)
Now, why is this an issue? Because one wrong word to a broker and that’s it, now they’ve taken what you said at face value. You said; view, pool and extra room - so now you need to spend $3,500 for a not so luxury Upper East Side apartment in a relatively basic rental building on York Avenue which happens to have a view and a pool, and you can't figure out why the broker is sooo off base and how they could be so excited about this overpriced dump...
5.       Square footage – your arch nemesis!  Ah, the favorite word of the “savvy” New York City apartment hunter: Square Feet or as often referred to as “SqFt” – this abbreviation is so much better than spelling the words out because it leaves you with a 4 letter word as so appropriate for this duo of words.
The truth is that most professional real estate agents could not correctly estimate the square footage of an apartment which could be the source of the often dramatic difference between the quoted SF of an apartment and the real living space available to you. But this is only one source of the discrepancy. Sheer exaggeration for the purpose of making an apartment sound bigger is not the only source either. Is most commercial leases the landlord reserves the right to re-measure the SF of the rented space and to actually change the rentable SF on the lease. WHAT?! Yes. How SF is calculated can include common areas like hallways, elevators, walls, columns, bathrooms and closets which most people do not realize or take into consideration when trying to figure out how much space they need. Stick to room dimensions using a reference point such as the first apartment you viewed rather than using an estimate or even as exact SF quote which can vary from building to building due to the variety of reasons mentioned above.    
6.       Split efforts = Splitting headache! Very few people decide on apartments by themselves. Roommates, partners, mothers /parents, girlfriends and just friends all take part in the decision making process. Here is the part to pay attention to. This is a process. If your decision making partner – whoever that may be, is not with you for the entire process, they will not know what you do when it’s time to make the decision. What will end up happening is that you bring them in to the process at a stage which is much more progressed than the one they are at. When they say: “but you wanted outdoor space, didn’t you?” they don’t mean to set you back. But they weren’t there for the awakening that at your price point, the sacrifice of a balcony you will probably use only once or twice a year, is a smart choice. The same and even worse goes for members of the same group who will be living together. Couples, roommates etc. splitting your efforts will not help you find an apartment faster. It will usually work to the contrary. The more concentrated the effort, the more efficient your search.
7.       Liar, Liar – the price you’ll pay is higher… Not that your broker is a doctor, but if he were, would you lie to him? Misleading your broker by omission or intention is ultimately a boomerang that will cost you in time and frustration. Believe it or not most real estate agents couldn’t care less if you rented a $2,800 dollar apartment or the one for $2650. If your budget is $2800 it would be wise to share that information with your agent rather than saying “I can do $2500 max!”. If your time is valuable and you truly desire to find an apartment in NYC, and if you are working with a competent agent, you’ll save your self time energy and money if you help your agent help you.
8.       Prepare to compromise L Get your priorities straight. When you want something badly enough - it can turn into a need. Well, what happens when you want a doorman so badly that you decide it is a need but that need is in the way of 2 other very important apartment needs of yours: Budget and size. well, simply be an adult, get it together and decide what is more important to you? Which will you be happier with? if that doesn't work, which will you be less miserable without?
9.       Letting someone else decide for you… You found your Anchor agent who has listened to you and shown you a few great apartments which you could surely fall in love with if you allowed yourself to make a decision. “Let me sleep on them and get back to you tomorrow” you tell your friendly agent. “sure, take your time, but know that what is available know may not be here tomorrow”. In your head the little voice says “it’s ok, I have 2 or 3 great apartments here, what are the chances that all 3 will be gone by tomorrow?” Now, if you allowed your little voice to continue speaking before dismissing him in favor of avoiding the internal debate and coming to a decision which would actually commit you to an apartment, what that voice would really say is; “Dude, less than 3% vacancy in the most desirable city in the world and you have 3 viable options available to you?! Grab one, you’ll sleep when you’re dead!”
All kidding aside; will all 3 apartments be gone by tomorrow? Maybe, and maybe not. But “Murphy” wrote the law while looking for apartments in New York and the one you decide tomorrow that you want is surely the one that will be taken by someone else who just decided for you that you will be living somewhere else.
10.   If you don’t ask, the answer is always no! Hey, if you like the apartment you are in but are leaving because the landlord sent you a renewal letter with an increase, try negotiating. Not asking and leaving an apartment you like is both costly and often un-necessary. As the market is getting scorching hot these days, some landlords will be less flexible, but remember that you can’t always see the full picture as there may be more inventory coming on the market and a landlord may just be testing the waters. If you renew with out even asking, the landlord wins. If you ask and the landlord agrees to either no raise or even a lower raise this is a win-win situation. One last note, sometimes the increase in rent will still be better than what the market has to offer for a comparable apartment and even with the increase it would be a good idea to renew. Asking a friendly Manhattan apartment specialist of their professional opinion is a much more accurate way to survey the market than to go apartment hunting online or in person.
Val Schultz - President & Founder of Anchor Associates, a premier Real Estate Brokerage firm serving New York City since 2001; Where our Passion is Service and our Focus is You!
"With 13 years of New York City Apartment rental brokerage experience, I have seen trends, peaks, lows, high's and many various shifts in the dynamic Manhattan real estate scene. I share this insight with love and will gladly respond to questions or comments you may have. NYC is amazing - Live it - Love it!"

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