Congrats, grad! So you’ve got the diploma and now you’re ready to move into the real world — but navigating the NYC rental market is your next step. While the city’s bustling economy and abundant job opportunities attract many recent graduates every year, it’s also one of the reasons New York has some of the highest rents in the country. It’s generally recommended that renters keep annual rent expenses below 30% of their income in order to achieve long-term financial goals, though the reality is many New Yorkers spend much more than that on housing costs.

Rising rents have also made it more challenging for recent college grads to find affordable rentals in the city. As of May, about 1 in 5 market-rate NYC rentals were affordable to recent college grads earning the median income of $62,000 for those aged 22 to 27 with a bachelor’s degree in NYC (based on the Current Population Survey by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics). Considering this median income for new grads living in NYC — which works out to roughly $4,000 per month after taxes, but before any expenses — the current citywide median asking rent of $3,700 can seem daunting.

To help narrow the search, we’ve uncovered the top 10 NYC neighborhoods for new grads, which offer the highest share of rentals affordable to this cohort on a per-bedroom basis. In each neighborhood, the annual median rent per bedroom falls within 30% of NYC’s median annual income for recent grads.

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NYC Renting 101

Aside from knowing where to look, New York City’s real estate market can be…complicated. Here are a few things recent college grads should know before beginning their search:

  • Most landlords require applicants to make 40x the monthly rent. The standard that most landlords look for is that applicants make at least 3x the annual rent (approximately 40x the monthly rent). That’s because the commonly accepted threshold for rent burden is 30% of household income, meaning if you’re spending more than that on housing, you’re at risk of not having enough to spend on other basic necessities. Some landlords will accept guarantors, but keep in mind that minimum income requirements are much higher for guarantors — generally about 80x the monthly rent.
  • Factor in application fees, security deposit, and broker fees to your expected moving costs. Application fees are legally limited to $20 in NYC, and security deposits are limited to one month’s rent. In addition, many landlords will ask renters to pay a broker fee, which can range anywhere from one month’s rent to 15% of the annual rent. This is a fee you’ll have to pay upfront along with your first month’s rent and security deposit at the time of lease signing. However, there are also plenty of apartments where this fee doesn’t apply, known as “no-fee” apartments. A recent StreetEasy analysis found that about 50% of listings on the site at any given time were designated no-fee. You can filter for these listings on StreetEasy by ticking the “No Fee” box during your search.
  • Prepare to act fast. NYC real estate moves fast — really fast. Before you even start seeing apartments, gather all your documents so that you’re ready to apply right away after the tour. The documents you’ll need to apply for an apartment may vary, but you’ll generally need an employment verification letter, three recent bank statements, three recent pay stubs, your most recent tax return, and two forms of photo ID. Some landlords may also ask for a copy of your Social Security card, a recommendation letter from a past landlord, and proof of past rent payments.
  • Know your rights. It’s important to be aware of your rights and protections as an NYC renter, from anti-discrimination laws to warranty of habitability. This knowledge will help you avoid being taken advantage of or treated unfairly. Consult our guide, NYC Renters: Know Your Rights, for more information.
  • Establish yourself as a good tenant. Being a good tenant will benefit you not just now, but also years down the line when you apply for a new apartment and need a recommendation from a previous landlord. Paying your rent in full and on time, complying with the rules of your lease, caring for the rental property, and being a good communicator are generally all you need.

Check out StreetEasy’s ultimate guide to renting in NYC for more information on what to expect.

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More Tips for New Grads

Here are some additional tips for recent college grads to make your NYC renting experience smooth and enjoyable — now and for years to come.

  • Find a roommate. Realistically, NYC is an expensive place to live, and a studio or one bedroom isn’t feasible for many young people just starting in their careers. Anticipate living with roommates for at least a few years, so you can devote less of your income to housing and more to the reasons you want to be in the city in the first place! See our detailed guide for tips on finding and vetting roommates in NYC.
  • Scope out the neighborhood. You want to make sure your neighborhood offers more than just a place to sleep and work. Beyond the apartment itself, look for neighborhood offerings that speak to your interests and preferences. Now on the StreetEasy app, you can search for apartments based on proximity to desired neighborhood amenities, like restaurants, bars, gyms, coffee shops, parks — and don’t forget laundromats. You can also check out StreetEasy’s neighborhood guides for more inside scoop.
  • Don’t forget to check nearby subway lines. Access to public transit is key in choosing where to live in NYC, since you can expect to take the subway, the bus, or walk pretty much anywhere you go in the city. On StreetEasy, you can filter listings based on which transit lines you want to be near. A good rule of thumb is to be within a 15-minute walk (about a mile) of the nearest subway stop. Don’t forget to check your commute time to the office, too!

Check out StreetEasy’s comprehensive guide to moving to NYC for even more tips!

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To identify the NYC neighborhoods where recent college graduates are most likely to find an affordable market-rate rental, we looked at percent shares of affordable homes in May 2023 by neighborhood. We define “affordable” homes as rentals costing less than 30% of annual wage or salary. In addition, we looked at prices per bedroom to account for recent graduates living with roommates. Recent college graduates are defined as those aged 22 to 27 with a bachelor’s degree only. The median income of this cohort living in NYC with a full-time job in 2022 was $62,000, according to StreetEasy analysis of the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed via IPUMS. 30% of income is often considered a threshold of affordability by federal and local housing agencies. While college graduates can find more homes by spending a higher percentage of their income on rent, it is generally recommended that they keep housing costs below 30% for long-term financial planning, such as saving up for a down payment on a future home. 

Disclaimer: The information provided is intended for informational purposes only and intended to reflect a snapshot in time.

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