I Want To Rent in NYC. What Rent Can I Afford?


We get this question all the time… “What income do I need to live in New York City apartments?”. It’s not such a simple question! It gets complicated because there are so many different neighborhoods to choose from and because you have to pick an apartment that is large enough to fit your needs, but not so large that you can’t afford to to pay the rent over time.

So we’ve come up with some helpful guidelines to get you started:

Want to live in Manhattan? Your first decision is going to be, do you want to live in “Prime” Manhattan or Upper Manhattan.

What’s “Prime” Manhattan? It’s all the neighborhoods that you know and love below 96th Street on the East Side and below 110th Street on the West Side. In short, the areas you first think of when you move to New York.

What’s “Upper Manhattan”? Everything north of 110th Street on the West Side, including all of Columbia University, Morningside Heights, Washington Heights, and Inwood. Also, everything north of 96th Street on the East Side, including all of Harlem.


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Here’s the Authoritative “rule of thumb” for Prime Manhattan:

Your salary should be at least 40 X (times) the monthly rent of the apartment you’re considering. If the rent is $2,000 per month, then your income should be at least $80,000 per year. Yikes! That’s a lot. What if I don’t earn that kind of money?

Not to worry. A lot of Prime Manhattan landlords will accept a “guarantor“, or a co-signer on the lease. Usually it’s a parent or other relative. But here’s the catch… the guarantor will need to earn about 75X (times) the monthly rent. So for your $2,000 per month apartment, dear old mom and dad should have an income of at least $150,000 per year.

But what if mom and dad don’t earn that kind of money either? Is the Manhattan dream over? Not at all. You should contact a company called Insurent.com. They can serve as a corporate guarantor if mom and dad can’t. Insurent charges about a month’s rent to guarantee your lease if they approve you. Best of all, lots of landlords will happily approve you to rent one of their apartments with Insurent being your guarantor.

But Prime Manhattan isn’t for everyone. What other options exist?

Consider Upper Manhattan to be like the other boroughs…

Think of Upper Manhattan as just one of the other boroughs. Rent prices are lower, no-fee-apartmentsand so are landlord’s qualifying standards. Where you need to earn 40X the monthly rent in Prime Manhattan, in Upper Manhattan the standard ranges from 30X to 35X the rent. Similarly, guarantors need to earn somewhat less. A guarantor with an income of 50X to 60X the monthly rent will be welcome to co-sign the lease.

So using a rent of $2,000 per month again, you the tenant should earn about $60,000 per year to qualify and if you need a guarantor, the guarantor should earn about $100,000+ per year.

The Other Boroughs…

Brooklyn: Brooklyn has become too hip. In several neighborhoods, prices are approaching Prime Manhattan prices. Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill,Park Slope, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg are all pricey. Renting in these areas will require about 30X to 35X the monthly rent to qualify.

Boerum Hill, Windsor Park, Ft. Greene, Clinton Hill, and parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant no-fee-apartmentsare gaining a large following and prices are going up. Here, landlords are looking for 30X the monthly rent to qualify.

Most other neighborhoods are bobbing along, enjoying slower, but steady increases in rents. You’ll probably qualify to rent with 25X to 30X the monthly rent in these areas.

Queens: The Prime neighborhoods of Queens are Forest Hills, Astoria, the Long Island City waterfront and Jamaica Estates (where there are few rentals). These neighborhoods look for 35X the monthly rent to qualify.

Most of the rest of Queens is in the 30X category of qualifying.

Bronx: With the exception of Riverdale and Fieldston, the Bronx is the area for the most affordable rents in NYC. Think of Riverdale and Fieldston as extensions of Prime Manhattan, but with lower rents. The rest of the Bronx, with the exception of City Island, will rent to you with 25X to 30X the month rent.

So how will you know how many times the rent each landlord is looking for?

When you work with an apartment rental service like RDNY.com, you will see, on every listing, how many times your income the landlord would like to see before he/she will rent to you.

Of course, landlords take other factors into consideration as well. Most importantly is how good your credit is and if you use a guarantor, how good your guarantor’s credit is.

Here’s a final thought: If your income and/or credit are right on the edge of what a landlord will consider acceptable, then you need to present yourself on your application in the most favorable light possible. We have some good thoughts on how to do this. You can find them in our valuable renter’s guide.

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Written by Lorenzo

Lorenzo has been hanging around the RDNY.com office for the past 24 years, and, in the process, has become the president of RDNY.com, Rent-Direct.com, and Acmelistings.com. His mission is to build RDNY.com into New York's largest no fee apartment rental service. Before RDNY.com, Lorenzo was a Regional Sales Manager for Time Equities, Inc., one of New York's largest converters of rental buildings to coops and condos. Lorenzo was once a part owner of Swift & Watson Real Estate in NYC's Greenwich Village.

This article has 1 comments

  1. Jenny Rizzo Reply

    Wow, that is a lot to pay for an apartment. I always heard that life was a little more expensive in NYC, but I am not sure that I could live there. Earning just $50k per year myself, that would be a tough payment to make.

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