Real estate in New York City is a blood sport: the market is extremely competitive and you have to move fast regardless of whether you plan to rent or buy. A property you see in the morning could be taken by the afternoon, so it's important not to deliberate too long if you like the place.
As prices in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn and Queens skyrocket people are moving into neighborhoods farther from the center of the city. While this cycle drives up prices in those neighborhoods eventually as well, they are typically more affordable. It's best to determine what's important to you in a neighborhood and then explore those areas to find your favorites before you start the process of finding a home. (You can use our Neighborhood Explorer to help.)
RENTING IN NEW YORK
There are a few important things to be aware of when looking for a place to rent:
WHAT YOU'LL NEED TO RENT
In order to rent a property you first have to submit an application. It's best to have copies of the required paperwork with you when you visit a property. Below are the documents you'll need:
And while not required, it's also a good idea to have letters of reference from previous landlords and or your employer.
Landlords will run a credit check on you and anyone else who will be living with you. Obviously, if you're new to the country you won't have a credit history here. Talk to the landlord or broker about alternative options, such as showing bank statements for the past few months, providing a bigger security deposit, or getting a guarantor for your lease.
If you get the property you'll meet with the landlord to sign the lease for the property. Leases are typically for a one-year period. At the time of signing you'll need to provide the first month's rent and a security deposit equal to one month's rent. The security deposit is returned when you move out provided you didn't cause any damage to the property. You'll also need to pay the broker commission at this time if you used a broker who charges a fee.
BUYING IN NEW YORK
There are no restrictions in the United States on foreign citizens owning property. You'll generally need to work with a real estate agent and a real estate lawyer to complete the transaction. Foreign buyers are often required to provide a larger down payment than domestic buyers (30-40% versus 20%). A commission of 6% of the value of the sale is typically paid to the real estate agent.
HELPFUL REAL ESTATE WEBSITES
StreatEasy - This site gets properties from all the major brokerages in the city, so has a great inventory of sales and rentals. It lets you set alerts for properties that meet your criteria so you don't have to spend your time scanning the website.
Naked Apartments - This site only lists rental properties that don't have any broker fees.
RentHop - This site lets you search for rental properties and narrow your search down by criteria. Their proprietary HopScore rates a property to let you know how trustworthy the property manager/owner is.
Craigslist - This is not just a place to find a home: you can find pretty much anything you can think of on Craigslist. But it can be a great place to find a rental or a roommate. Just be more careful with the properties you see here since there is not a lot of quality control for brokers posting here.