Many feel it’s not glamorous to be a rental agent, especially when you have to work with a non-US resident. Every Manhattan real estate agent jumps to work for the foreign buyer, but doesn’t want much to do with the foreigner who wishes to rent. I on the other hand, enjoy working with the foreigner who decides to rent, and it isn’t an easy task—renting to someone from a foreign land without a social security number and US credit, both of which are required by most landlords in NYC.
So here is my recent journal entry of working as Rental Broker for a foreigner:
I receive a request from a corporation to find an apartment for their employee who is relocating to New York from France. I will refer to this incoming foreigner, soon to be expat as, Jacques. I promptly, send an email to Jacques, introducing myself, as well as, a bullet list of documents he must bring to Manhattan in order to secure his future apartment. Upon which, he responds, “Do I really need to bring these things? I’m not purchasing, I’m renting.” I reply, “Yes. I was informed that you are renting (please read the attached guide). Please bring all of the requested documents…See you next Thursday!” I make plans to pick-up Jacques at his corporate apartment twenty-four hours after his arrival on US soil. His company doesn’t offer settling-in services with his corporate relocation package, so I decide to throw in the settling-in service for him, gratis.
I meet Jacques in the lobby of his corporate rental, where he has thirty day stay, paid for by his company. We exchange a “Bon jour.” He realizes that I don’t really speak French, and I realize that he doesn’t really have a good grasp of the English language. But that’s okay, because I do speak real estate and NYC matters, fluently. I try to make out what he is asking me. It turns out that a friend of his in Paris said that he must check-out the Spotted Pig in the West Village. He wants me to take him there first (keep in mind it’s 9:30am!). I tell Jacques that we will do that later on because my first item on our itinerary is to show him how to get to his office from his Midtown corporate apartment (he is here for work after all!). I navigate Jacques through the chaos of walking commuters for about six blocks in order to introduce him to his company’s New York headquarters. He is looks up at the forty plus story building with a big smile. I can tell this Manhattan experience is becoming very real to him, and this excites me.
We walk back to the location of his corporate apartment building, just to make sure he knows his way to and from his office.
Back in the neighborhood of his corporate apartment, I escort Jacques to the nearest grocery store, explaining the difference in cost between the corner store and the actual grocery stores. He understands. I take him to a dry cleaner on the same block as his corporate housing, pointing out to him that it is cheaper to have his laundry sent out to the local dry cleaner, who will charge one dollar per pound, instead of doing the laundry himself (in his corporate apartment building), where it costs $3.75 to wash and $2.50 to dry per load. He likes the idea of sending the laundry out, having it returned within twenty-four hours, clean and folded, at a reasonable rate. He sets up an account with the dry cleaner.
It’s time to introduce Jacques to the Subway. We stand at the automated kiosk, as I explain the difference between the monthly unlimited card and the pay as you go card. As I’m going through the process, pushing all of the prompts of the kiosk, I suggest to him that since he will be walking to and from his office for a while, maybe he should just purchase the pay as you go card, while he is in corporate housing. He agrees and whips out his credit card to purchase a $20 dollar Metro card. I hit cancel on the kiosk screen, which prompts him to ask, “Why did you do that? I want to buy.” I inform him, “I know, but I want you to act as if I’m not here, and start from the beginning of the screen.” We stand there for a while, as he attempts to become fluent in buying a Metro Card. Now, there are others behind us, waiting to purchase their cards, and Jacques is getting a bit frazzled because he doesn’t want them to know that he is a foreigner who doesn’t know what he is doing. I tell him to relax and not worry about those behind us. After many attempts, and few hits of “cancel,” Jacques now owns a $20 Metro card, which he acquired on his own. He keeps looking at his card, smiling, and I know this is a special rite of passage for him. But, now I need to show him how to use it, navigating through the underground tunnels—no easy task. I hand him a Subway map that I picked-up for him. I briefly go over it. We get on an express train heading downtown. We decide to get off the train in Greenwich Village.
We stop at Starbucks to get a cup of coffee. We sit down at a table with our American lattes, so that I can review the Subway map of Manhattan. I write the different areas on the map for him to review later on. We discuss his monthly budget for an apartment, as well as his requirements. He then advises me that he doesn’t want to start looking for a place until his corporate apartment stay is completed (he reminds me that he has thirty days for free.) I have to inform him that we can’t or he will not have a place to live in thirty days. Also mentioning again to him, that we have much to do in thirty days in order to get him an apartment: go to social security, set-up a New York bank account, and look at apartments—and he does have to work!
We walk through Greenwich Village. I point out places, such as restaurants and boutiques, he might enjoy. He wants to go shopping in one of the boutiques, but I tell him we don’t have time right now. I ask him if he is hungry; he isn’t, so we keep on walking.
Finally, we come to the corner of The Spotted Pig in the West Village. He is surprised that it isn’t a very big restaurant. We keep walking, north, passing through the Meat Packing District, and then I guide him through Chelsea. I notice a hardware store, which prompts me to ask him if he has the proper electrical adapter for his electronics. He advises me that the one he purchased in France does not work. So now, we shop. After we make sure the convertible adapter is suitable for his blow-dryer, he purchases it. Now he will be presentable for Monday morning at his office (I don’t think that I mentioned that his hair was a strange mess when we met that morning!). We decide to take another train. I have him look at his Subway map, planning our trip back to his corporate apartment.
I drop Jacques back off in the lobby of his corporate apartment. We make plans to go to social security and to open a New York bank account the following week. I make sure he has my mobile number in case he gets lost, touring other neighborhoods on his own, needing me to guide him via mobile.
I send Jacques a follow-up email, highlighting everything we discussed earlier in the day, an outline of places we passed, and some useful New York websites.
Received a call from Jacques that he went to a few places, which I recommended (restaurants & stores), and he liked them very much. He toured a few neighborhoods, taking the subway, getting lost a few times, but has narrowed down the areas, where he wants to find an apartment. This is all great news for me.
I receive an email from Jacques that he was informed by colleagues that our plans for Wednesday to go to the Social Security office is too soon because he is supposed to wait ten days—for immigration clearance. Knowing that he arrived to the US via JFK Airport, I inform him that Wednesday gives the proper time for his clearance. He responds back “OK. Can we go in the morning instead of at 3:30pm?” I inform him that if he doesn’t want to be sitting at the Social Security office for 2-4 hours, it is best if we arrive at 3:30pm, plus he will not miss a full day of work! We agree to stick to our original plan.
I meet Jacquess in the lobby of his office building. I ask him if he has his passport and the other documents needed for the day. He advises me that he does, so we walk to the nearest Social Security office (5 blocks from his office).
We arrive at the Social Security office and I retrieve a ticket for his turn to apply for a card. I help Jacquess complete his application until his number is called.
We leave the Social Security office with Jacques’s confirmation paper, proving he has applied for a social security number. Now he can open a New York bank account. We head over to the bank, which is two blocks from his office, meeting with the foreign national banking representative.
Jacques has a new bank account. Now we make plans to view apartments over the weekend.
Jacques and I tour apartments in Downtown Manhattan that allow foreigners as renters (many building do not allow non-US residents). After looking at ten apartments, he is a bit discouraged by the amount of space for his budget of $3,500 per month. He informs me that he would like a one bedroom apartment, similar to his corporate apartment—it is more his style. I advise him that an apartment like that is a little over $5,000.00 per month. With some shock, he asks, “Non, vraiment?” Since spending time with Jacquess, I’m not sure if I’m now understanding French or if his English is better because our communication seems to be very good, as I respond, “Oui!”
We look at three more apartments and Jacques is coming to terms with the size and space for his budget.
I come across a new rental listing in an online database, which appears to be perfect for Jacques and slightly under his budget, so I send him an email to see if he has time to view it–after he is finished with work. We agree to meet and I do not tell him that I have a good feeling about this apartment—I’m pretty sure, “It’s the one!”
Jacques loves the apartment! It has almost everything on his “wish list.” We request an application from the listing agent and head to a quant bistro around the corner to complete it. I was impressed with Jacques because he had with him all of the supporting documentation, which I requested that he bring from France, as well as a copy of his social security number and his New York bank account statement. Just the way I like it: He is prepared!
I call the listing agent, informing her that I have a completed application, supporting documentation, as well as the application fee for her (and the owner) to review. I leave Jacques, beaming at the bistro, to take the paperwork to the agent at her office.
Jacques was approved by the owner to rent the apartment! We make plans to sign the lease on Saturday.
I help Jacques with setting-up his utilities for his new place, for where he will be moving into two days before his corporate apartment term expires. He’s happy and I’m happy.
Helping foreigners find their way in NYC is very rewarding for me.
For a checklist of items to bring to NYC prior to your relocation click here: HL BISE LLC EXPAT GUIDE