Renter’s Guide, Part 1: the Money

How do you live in NYC? How do 8 million+ people do it?  We understand living in New York might seem daunting, even if you are already here, but we are here to lend a hand. We will help you with your most important decision—finding the right home for you.

We at have created a guide to renting in New York. We breakdown 3 essential components for you:  the money, the process (what you need to snag a place), and the local vibe (overview of neighborhoods). In other posts, we will cover many topics on housing and living in the city.

Part 1:  the Money

■       How much can I afford?

As a rough guide, you should budget 25% of gross annual income on rent in NYC. That means if you make $60,000, you should budget $15,000 annually or around $1,250 monthly. Some people value location and style of apartment more than others, so they might spend above 25% of income. BluClover does not recommend spending over a third (33.3%) of gross annual income on rent because you might be stretched beyond your means. Alternatively, people prefer to split rental costs by sharing space or moving a little further from Manhattan.

■       What is the price of a rental?

Of the five boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island), Manhattan generally has the most expensive rents. There has been continuous movement from Manhattan to the outer boroughs, particularly Brooklyn and Queens, for cheaper rents and slightly more space. Furthermore, landlords can use their discretion to offer lower rents during low season (winter: Jan through March) and to responsible tenants with good payment histories. The below chart shows average rents by borough and by number of bedrooms. Note there is a wide variance in the NYC rental market—there are “deals” and there are penthouses.

Market-Rate Apartments Median Monthly

Studio 1 Bed. 2 Bed. 3 Bed. All Apts.


















Staten Island












■       What is included in rent? What is not included?

Typically, heat and water are included. Assuming a 1 bedroom apartment, you will likely pay on top for:

–     gas/electric- ~$80 per month (annualized)
–     internet and cable tv- ~ $90 per month
–     internet [no cable tv]- ~ $50 per month

Some landlords offer bundled deals with many of the above items included. If you are going to “convert” an apartment, e.g., make a 1 bedroom into a 2 bedroom apartment by putting up a wall, the wall costs around $1000. Sometimes there is a one-time application fee of $100 or less.

■       Why is rent so expensive?

Demand for market priced rentals—many people want to be where you are and there is only so much supply of market-based housing. New York City subsidizes a percentage of housing for people in need or those who have lived in New York for a long time. Here’s New York City’s guide on rent stabilization. Typically, finding a place on this list takes time and persistence.

From a global rental market perspective, you are better off in New York than in London, Tokyo, or Hong Kong. Have you seen the prices elsewhere? Yikes.

■        What income do landlords require?

The basic requirement is that you earn 40 to 50 times the amount of monthly rent annually and that you have a good credit rating (above 650). So, if your rent is $1,250 (from ex. above), a landlord would typically want you to make at least $50,000.

■       I don’t make enough money to sign a lease or am fixing my credit, what should I do?

You can get a guarantor (relative, mentor, etc.) who is willing to guarantee your lease. The guarantor is responsible for all the terms of your lease and guarantees not only your share of the rent but the entire lease – if in a share situation. Students might need a guarantor. If you cannot find a guarantor, you can find a third party guarantor through

■       What do I pay when I sign a lease?

–     Two month’s rent. First month’s rent + the amount of first month’s rent for a security deposit, which will be given back to you when the lease ends unless you trash the place.

–     A broker’s fee (typically one month’s rent) if you chose to have a broker’s expertise in finding a place.

–     Occasionally, some places ask for first AND last month’s rent + security deposit—that’s three months’ rent up front.

** It ain’t so bad. In Spain, for example, landlords ask for as much as 6 months rent up front! Whoa.

■       How do I pay?

A check, typically. But you should ask your property manager to set up an electronic payment because it’s paperless (green) and convenient (no check/mail nonsense).


About Tina Shah

Hi! I’m in my 30’s learning how to breathe properly. Read Tina's Story in the menu bar to learn more.
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