How has the process of renting an apartment in Brooklyn changed because of the economic crisis?
June 24, 2009 9:36 AM   Subscribe

How has the process of renting an apartment in Brooklyn changed because of the current economic crisis?

I'm moving to Brooklyn at the end of the summer and planning to visit in mid-July to hunt for apartments. How will the process be different now that rents are falling all over the Big Apple? What do I need to know?

I've been reading metafilter posts on the seemingly insane (to this Midwesterner) process of finding housing in NYC. (Bring your passport! ID! First born child! Be ready to light thousands of dollars on fire-- on the spot!) I'm hoping that the current economic situation will make finding an apartment a bit more pleasant, so I ask ye Brooklyn MeFites: has anyone rented in the last couple of months, or is moving now and noticing a chance in the process? Should I still plan to hunt 4-6 weeks before my move-in date? Anything I should be prepared for? How can I maximize my pennies?
posted by airguitar2 to Work & Money (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
If you see a place you want, jump on it. That's true more than it ever has been. A lot of people are moving right now to take advantage of lower rents if their landlords won't lower it where they currently live. My boyfriend's former landlord lowered the rent by $200 and accepted pets to keep his roommate from moving out. We just found an apartment in Queens after a week of searching and missed out on three apartments that had been shown and applied for minutes before we saw them--and this wasn't that old broker trick where they tell you that and it's not true. Literally, you walk in, you like the place, you take it NOW. Prices are ridiculously cheap (we found a rent-stabilized place, doubled my square footage, and added a closet, an elevator, and laundry in the building for about $200 more than I had been paying--unbelievable).

Take with you: a few pay stubs, a copy of your credit report (not all brokers/landlords will accept your own copy, but it doesn't hurt to ask), checkbook or a few hundred in cash for an immediate deposit. We also took a camera and a measuring tape.

4-6 weeks is a little early--we started three weeks before we wanted to move and ended up signing from the 15th of June instead of the 1st of July--they wanted someone locked in asap. Most of what we saw was empty and waiting to be moved into.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:51 AM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

It is very hard to find an apartment in NY more than 6 weeks in advance. That's just the way the rent cycle goes here.

A few things have happened in the last year or so. First, rents have come down, considerably and vacancies seem to have gone up. I got my new apartment for several hundreds of dollars less than the previous tenants in a very nice neighborhood. Of course, this means people are moving like crazy, so there is still competition.

Second, brokers have reduced their fees from evil to simply despicable, meaning the whole 15% of the yearly rent nonsense is a out the door. Many people will advise you to not use a broker, and I haven't always, but there are some good ones. I paid my broker one month's rent for my new place, but he also talked down my landlord price by an additional $150/month off the rent, so I will make it back pretty quick. If you're looking to stay in a place over 1 year, sometimes brokers are worth it.

Third, you can qualify for apartments more easily. People are more likely to rent to you now even if you don't have a credit score of 835.

The most important thing I have found in renting apartments in NY is my credit score. If you have a good credit score, they are likely to accept a lower income. But, even with a high income, some landlords are wary of 650 credit scores.

The trick I have found for securing the apartment I really wanted was making a little folder of all my info, including printouts of credit report with score, pay stubs, bank statements, most recent lease and cashed rent checks, letter of employment, etc. I don't show people my taxes, but they always ask. Having all this info ready really helps when it comes down to securing an apartment. It also impresses landlords, so they are more likely to rent to you.

And lastly, do not give people money for a credit check unless you are also putting down a deposit on an apartment. People are crazy with collecting the credit check fees. You'll go broke if you give it to everyone that asks. Just have your printout, and if they want to verify it as a last step, well, that makes sense, but collecting $50 for every applicant is bullshit. They pocket that money right quick.

Oh, and of course, keep your eyes on craigslist non-stop.

Good luck!
posted by milarepa at 10:04 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you are new to renting in the NYC (Manhattan/Brooklyn) area and use a broker -- I would ask neighbors a little more re: the apartments.

When I moved here, I used a broker and believed a lot of the garbage I was told about my current apartment. Now that this same complex is having a hard time finding renters, I can hear all the lies the brokers tell potential tenants: "The waterfall runs throughout the year and is an important part of the aesthetics" (Truth-it is never on, unless they are showing the place to lots of tenants); "The concierge is available 24 hours per day" (Truth-definitely not present at night, and probably absent 1 to 2 days per week); "the only people allowed in the building and the courtyard are tenants" (truth - anyone and everyone walks in from the surrounding areas, including the housing projects located next door, which most tenants don't see becaus ethe brokers take people around and through the building rather than through te front door of the building where they would see this).

Anyway, if it were me -- anything you are told by a broker, ask someone who lives there. Read reviews of your apartment, too, if possible. A lot of the problems in my current apartment were listed there.
posted by Wolfster at 10:19 AM on June 24, 2009

Just want to add that while higher priced rents have come down considerably the market for cheap rents has gotten a bit worse. There is simply more competition for the cheaper places now than there was three years ago. However if budget isn't a huge concern for you, you can make a killing.

Definitely be prepared to put down a deposit *right then* and don't deal with anyone who wants cash up front even for a credit check before taking your deposit. do not let reactors take you to apartments in neighborhoods you don't want to live in. Of course you are not going to find a great apartment for 950 in park slope but they are just trying to get rid of the less desireable shit first and will waste your time. Craigslist is awesome and I'd recommend it over dealing with realtors, who tend to be really scammy and unhelpful, and cost like 1500 to boot.

And yeah, 4-6 weeks is way too early. Things generally get rented within a few days of going on the market. You will probably be extremely worried but you will find a place in time--probably like 2 days before you need to move in.
posted by shownomercy at 10:53 AM on June 24, 2009

Write a check for your deposit! All the advice here is good advice.

However, last year we found a place we loved and handed over a 500$ deposit in cash. We showed up later in the day to sign the papers. While we were there it rained. Inside. Literally, water POURING down the walls, from the light fixtures. Ugh. Ruined, the ceiling in one of the bedrooms collapsed, haha.

Anyway, getting the deposit back was a nightmare. It took a lot of yelling and eventually a stern letter from a family-member/lawyer. Would've been nice to just cancel the check and call it even.
posted by GilloD at 12:12 PM on June 24, 2009

Thanks, all! I'll bring tons of paperwork and be ready to say "yes" on the spot. I think I'll switch my visit to last week of July, and hope to find Aug. 15th or Sept. 1 rentals then.
posted by airguitar2 at 8:42 AM on June 25, 2009

Yeah, just to second what shownomercy said -- I'm moving next week, and when I started looking I was sure I'd be able to negotiate rents really easily; but it turned out that my price range was so low to begin with that there was plenty of competition and I pretty much just had to jump on it when I found a place I loved.

Also, just FYI -- since I had a (really recent) printout of my credit score and report, the broker didn't even need to run a credit check, so I saved that fee at least. No idea if that's common, though.
posted by eleutheria at 10:26 AM on June 25, 2009

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