Before you can find your feet, you need to find a place to rest your head. Renting in New York can be as intimidating as its people on first attempts. There are all sorts of conditions you’ll have never heard of before, unexpected fees, dodgy landlords and fraudulent Craigslist ads to navigate even before you have any income rolling in. Here are a few things we learned along the way.

Have a temporary place arranged before you land

If you are lucky enough to have friends or family here, use the connections. If they live in Manhattan, chances are they live in a broom closet, so you’ll be lucky to leverage a patch of floor and an air mattress. The best-case scenario is to arrange an AirBNB in an affordable neighborhood for the first two weeks to a month (budget dependent). This will buy you time while you try to secure your first paycheck, because agents won’t even look at you if you aren’t making coin.

Showing Proof of Income

Like back home, you need to be able to show you can afford to pay rent. If you’re not yet employed, this will be a huge hurdle. If you’re on a Green Card, you will have a better chance to pick up work of any kind. Being a creative person, I was able to register with creative recruiters, with some putting you on their books when organizing longer freelance stints. This is a kosher way of showing an income and a salary band. If you’re on an E3, you’re going to ride the rollercoaster. As a non-resident to begin with and with no definite gig lined up (assuming you’re not lucky enough to have wrangled something already) you may face issues. Some places demand up to six month rent up front or a guarantor – a parent or someone willing to bare the financial fallout if you can’t pay for your rent (and this means paying the whole lease out). Also be prepare to have similar issues without credit history.

So How Do You Get A Room?

A lot of new arrivals will bounce from sublet to sublet via Facebook groups like Gypsy Housing. The transient nature of a global capital like this means people are always moving on and others are scurrying to find someone to fill a room. Many times, you will still need to sign a subletting agreement and this will also mean showing some level of proof of income and credit history – but that doesn’t stop most – but expect adventures, rip-offs, rollercoaster rides and the occasional horror story as “He Died With A Falafel In His Hand” has nothing on the big city.

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