Life After College Series

A Newbie’s Guide to Adulting After College: Housing in the City

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HOUSING. Here’s my personal story. I moved back to NYC, lived with a so called aunt for two weeks, and couldn’t handle the living arrangements due to conflict and decided to go back to the burbs to figure it out. I commuted to work for about 6 weeks before I realized traveling 2.5 hours each way to and from the city everyday was not a sustainable life. So I started apartment hunting after work each day and realized I couldn’t afford an apartment in NYC (no sh*t huh). I started searching on craigslist for sublets, and about three weeks after that I secured a subletting situation. About 2 months later, my roommate decided to move out of state to be with family. I was SOL, I almost cried… actually fam I’m lying. I cried. Many times. In the heat of busy season (an accountant’s worst nightmare). However, I was able to start a new lease as there were no potential tenants at the time. And here I am today still in the same apartment.

They were the best of times, they were the worst of times.

architecture, building, high-riseIf you thought you could stroll into a major city, such as NYC or even San Francisco, and just find a place to live, guess again. The market is out of control. No one will help you and some might even try to take advantage of how naïve you are and charge you double. You might even need a guarantor. A guarantor? I didn’t know what that was either. Most NYC landlords require that a tenant earn 40 to 50 times the monthly rent. AKA, good luck if you wanted to be a teacher or an artist of some nature (hence why they are usually called ‘struggling artists’). If you don’t make that much, NYC landlords will require you to have a guarantor who makes 80 to 100 times the monthly rent and who promises to pay the balance of your lease if you default. Now really think about this.

Let’s say you find a decent one bedroom apartment for $1,600 a month. You need to make at least $65,000 to $80,000 a year. Definitely attainable dependent on your job. But if not, guarantor it is. Your guarantor needs to make about $130,000 to $160,000 a year! I don’t know about you, but my mother did not make anywhere near that. So what the heck do you do with that information? Cry. Not really. Well, maybe just a little. But then again, for those not in the NYC this may not be a situation you face. So please do your research.

Oh, for those who actually make that kind of salary, I have bad news for you too. You just graduated college and are now making that salary. That means, no work history. Landlords and Brokers love to see at least 1 year of work experience, while some require 2 years. So you are pretty SOL too.

Now, forget all of that. Maybe it does work out for you that you can secure a place. Here’s another curve ball. You may even need to pay a Broker’s Fee, in most cases actually. A broker, is someone that works for a real estate company who does the work for you in terms of finding a spot and sealing the deal. A broker’s fee can be anywhere from 1X one month’s rent to about 2X one month’s rent. So you secured your $1,600 apartment. But on top of first month’s rent and the security deposit, now you owe a broker fee worth another month?? That is at minimum $4,800 you have to cough up before you take a step into your new place. Yes, this is for real. No BS here.

I’ll tell you what. I DEFINITELY did not have money saved like that (my rent now is almost half of that). I can only make so much in college as is. And a single mother with three kids couldn’t be able to support me with that. No way, I wouldn’t ask her too. So what did I do?

Researched. I hope you all do the same. If you want my opinion, I vote subletting for the first few months to get your feet wet if you can’t secure an apartment on your own. There is many ways to go about this, but the easiest way to find a sublet is through Craigslist, which I did. You just have to be careful on which posts to consider and not. There’s a lot of spam on there. Be wise. If it looks and sounds too good to be true, It is.

Also, another word of the wise. Do not go for the $1,600 one bedroom apartment. Save your money, get a roommate. If it’s a large city, you’ll barely be in your apartment anyway. So take a look at the different neighborhoods. You’ll be surprised at what you can find. I like using AddressReport to check out details about different building in different neighborhoods. In NYC, I would say Harlem, some areas in Brooklyn, Astoria, and some areas in the South Bronx are great choices price wise depending on the location and distance from your work location. A website I always found helpful for apartment hunting was StreetEasy. Another one I have used is Trulia. There’s plenty of websites but those two definitely seemed stocked.

Once you have a little bit of work experience, and hopefully the salary fits the rent, you have more leverage to get a lease. But remember, this is just my point of view. Please take time to do research in your respective area and always consider your options.

Your Options are Endless. And so is food.

I hope you know what’s coming next.

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