How to Find Housing
Use the resources listed on this page to find housing. You’ll want to avoid housing that requires you to sign a long-term lease. Be cautious if you see an ad that seems too good to be true or that requires you to wire money. Remember, your housing should be within reasonable distance to your employment site and in an area with regular, safe, and affordable transportation options.
Once you have decided where you want to live, you may be asked to sign a lease. This is a contract between you (the tenant) and your landlord. Read the lease thoroughly, make sure you understand all of the terms before you sign it, and make sure the landlord has signed it. At this point, make a copy for your records. A lease is a record that you have rented a house or an apartment. Without it, you may not be protected. If your landlord does not require a lease, you may request one.
Your landlord may request a portion of your rent in addition to a refundable security deposit, which may be due when you sign your lease. Please bring enough money with you to cover these costs. Information regarding the deposit should be clearly outlined in the lease and should include information about the return procedure, including when and how it will be returned. It is never safe to wire money to someone you don’t know, so if you cannot view the property in-person, ask someone you trust to go and confirm it's for rent. Or wait until you have arrived in the U.S. so you can see the property yourself. This is the best way to confirm the legitimacy of the landlord and the property.
Upon move-in you should take note of any pre-existing damages and send an email or letter to your landlord with the information. Keep a copy for yourself. Be sure to also take pictures and/or videos of the damage and condition of the housing. If it’s not provided in your lease, ask your landlord for their full name, email address, and phone number, in case you have any issues with your housing.
5. Respect Your Housing
Don’t forget you are leasing your housing, you do not own it. It is extremely important that you treat it with care to ensure the return of your security deposit. Be respectful of your neighbors, and keep noise to a minimum to avoid any fines.
6. Paying Rent
Make sure you know when your rent is due to avoid late fees. No matter which way you pay whether it is via cash, credit card, or check, you should always get a receipt upon payment. Save the receipt for your records.
Arrange a walkthrough with your landlord. A walkthrough allows both you and your landlord to view the condition of the housing together. We recommend taking pictures and/or videos again upon move-out. If you move-out before the agreed upon date in your lease, be aware that you may forfeit your security deposit.
8. Return of Deposit
If your housing was left in good condition, you should receive your deposit back. If outlined in your lease, a portion of your deposit may be nonrefundable. Talk to your landlord before you depart the U.S. about when and how the deposit will be returned.
NOTE: This list is not exhaustive and is only meant to summarize the rental the process.
Housing options vary across the U.S., so some of the following options may not be available where you will intern or train. Consider how much you are willing to spend, if you wish to live alone or with others, and how far you are willing to commute each day.
Start by talking to your host employer about the city or neighborhood where you will be working and the neighborhoods they recommend: What are the best websites, apps, or other resources people in the area use to find housing?
While renting on your own allows for the most freedom, it can be expensive.
Sharing or subletting an apartment are more economical options. Subletting is when you take over an apartment lease from a tenant who leaves for a few months or longer. You assume the responsibilities of paying rent and bills and the original tenant assumes all responsibilities under the lease. If considering a sublet, ask if the tenants have the legal right to sublet the apartment; if not, you may need to move earlier than intended.
A cost-efficient way to live in a large city like New York is to share an apartment with other people. You agree to divide responsibilities and payment of rent and bills. You may have your own bedroom or a shared bedroom, depending on the share arrangement.
To rent, share, or sublet an apartment, you are typically required to provide a photo ID, a letter from an employer with salary information or proof of sufficient funds from home, bank account information, and checks/travelers’ checks.
- Pad Mapper
Homestays offer participants the opportunity to improve language skills and sample American culture by living with a U.S. family. Participants will typically have their own bedroom and arrange to have some meals with the family each week.
Hostels are great for temporary accommodation while you look for something more long-term. Hostels typically require you to share a bedroom and bathroom with other residents, but they also provide opportunities for meeting other young people and making friends.
- The Bed Bug Registry: It’s a good idea to make sure the building you’re considering moving into hasn’t experienced problems with bed bugs recently.
New York City Resources
Dormitory/University Style Apartments
Dormitories typically have a greater sense of community and social interaction and will allow you to meet other students and young professionals. Most often, dormitory-style and university housing will require you to share a bedroom and bathroom with other individuals. Most dormitories also provide essential housing needs, such as furnished rooms, Internet access, kitchen and laundry facilities, and, in some cases, even meals.
- Webster Apartments (Female Only): Use our promo code “IE100OFF” to receive $100 off the application fee!
- Outpost Club: Use our promo code “INTER25” for $100 off your first month’s membership or $250 off your last month’s membership!
- EHS (Educational Housing Services)
- 92nd Street Y
- NYC Intern
NYC University Summer Housing
San Francisco Resources
Los Angeles Resources
Once you identify a potential apartment, schedule a viewing before signing anything. You can use our Housing Checklist when visiting properties to ensure they meet your needs.
When you rent an apartment, there are some items that your broker, agent, or landlord will require. Each management company or landlord may have their own specific requirements or request additional documents, but below are the most common documents you will be asked to provide when you apply for housing.
Rental application: This form will ask you basic information about yourself, including address/contact information, occupation, and rental history. It will also likely ask for some references. Unless they specify, you could include your former landlord, host employer or former employer, former roommate, or friend. You should ensure any reference you list speaks English in the event the landlord wishes to contact them.
Identification and/or Social Security Number: You will need a valid form of I.D. and your Social Security Number (SSN), which you can apply for once you are in the U.S. and activated in SEVIS. You can find more information about the SSN in your Participant Handbook and in our Resource Center.
Credit Score/Credit Check: Your landlord may ask for a credit check. As a J-1 exchange visitor, you may not have a credit history but there are many ways to rent an apartment without a credit history. Some resources include:
Guarantor: Renting an apartment in NYC can be difficult if you’re only staying short-term and don’t have U.S. credit history. For a one-time fee (around 8% of the annual rent), TheGuarantors will act as your lease guarantor and get you approved, so you can enjoy life in the city. You can get pre-approved online before you even arrive in New York, and you won’t need to pay the fee until you’re ready to sign your lease. TheGuarantors can help you find a no-fee apartment that you qualify for, communicate with the landlord, and make the apartment-hunting process as easy as possible. Apply online in minutes, and arrive in New York ready to sign a lease and move in.
Bank Statement(s): Landlords usually want to see a recent statement - usually last two month - from your bank showing your available funds. If you are low on funds, you may need to consider providing this document from a parent/family member.
Letter of Employment/Pay Stub(s): Your potential landlord wants to know that you have a steady income. If your internship/training program is paid, ask your host employer to issue you a letter of employment that states your stipend/salary. If your program is unpaid, you may need a letter of employment or pay stub from a parent/family member.
Keep in Mind:
Since you are relocating from outside of the U.S., prepare your funds and documentation ahead of time. Consult our Budgeting & Cost of Living Guide and ensure that you have English translations of all your documents.
Costs: You will usually need to cover two months’ rent, any brokerage fees, an application and/or credit check fee or any additional fees up front. Most landlords will only accept certified checks from a local bank. Learn more about U.S. bank accounts in our Resource Center.
Once you’ve signed a lease, you may want to consider purchasing renters insurance. Renters insurance will cover loss or damage to your personal belongings due to events such as fire, theft, vandalism, etc. Often your belongings are covered even outside of your home. For example, if your phone is lost or stolen at a restaurant, your renters insurance policy may cover the cost of replacing your phone.
NOTE: Your accident and sickness insurance will only cover your medical bills if you get sick or injured. If you’d like to cover your personal belongings, you will need to purchase a separate insurance policy such as renters insurance or travel insurance. Renters insurance can cost as little as $15 per month, so it can be an inexpensive way of protecting your personal belongings while in the U.S.
If you’d like more information, the finance blog, Nerdwallet, has a useful guide on renters insurance and how to purchase it.
Roommates can be found through word of mouth once you arrive in the U.S. or through professional services, like Roommates.com or Roomster.com. Craigslist.org also has a section specifically for rooms and shared apartments.
Roommate Agreement: When living with a roommate or multiple roommates, issues can arise. Before finalizing your housing situation, it’s a good idea to sit down with your roommate(s) to discuss apartment/house rules and delegate responsibilities.
Roommate Conflicts: Even if you get along well with your roommates and abide by your house rules, conflicts can always come up. It’s important to communicate with your roommates to avoid escalating a problem. You can also contact InterExchange for advice regarding a housing conflict.
There are a lot of housing scams, so you must conduct your housing search carefully. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. This will allow you to see the property and meet your landlord/lady or prospective roommate(s) without requiring you to wire large sums of money to someone you have never met. If you absolutely must secure permanent housing before arriving in the USA, it is recommended that you look for an established university or residence facility rather than an individual apartment owner.
If you find you have been the victim of a housing scam, report it to the FTC and/or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Please make sure to read the information/instructions first about what to include in the report.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) outlines some telltale signs of scammers:
They want you to wire money. Do not wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, or first month’s rent. Wiring money is the same as sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back.
They want a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease. It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it’s for rent. If you don’t know someone who can do this, wait until you are in the U.S. so you can visit housing locations yourself. In addition to setting up a meeting, do a search on the landlord and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.
They say they’re out of the country, but they have a plan to get the keys into your hands. It might involve a lawyer or “agent” working on their behalf. Some scammers even create fake keys. Be skeptical, and don’t send money overseas. If you can’t meet in person, see the apartment, or sign a lease before you pay, keep looking.
Never share your personal information, including your bank account or credit card numbers or Social Security number.
Check out the following websites for tips on avoiding fraud:
Also read this blog from another InterExchange participant who was the victim of a fraudulent housing offer from an agency in her home country.
Know your rights and what you’ve agreed to — read your lease!
Questions to Ask
- Cost of housing per week or per month?
- Cost of housing deposit? Refundable under what conditions?
- Is housing arranged by employer?
- If yes, employer-owned or owned by someone else?
- Is housing an apartment, house, or motel?
- Is cost of housing deducted from paycheck? If yes, pre-tax or post-tax?
- How many bedrooms?
- How many students per room?
- How many beds per room?
- Are male/females living in the same accommodation?
- How many people total will be living in the housing?
- Do tenants have a lease?
- Are utilities included?
- What are transportation options from housing to job site, city center, etc. ?
- Is it easily accessible?
- Cost of transportation?
- Will you need a bike or car or are most things within walking distance?
- Is transportation arranged by employer or by someone else?
Safety should be a high priority when looking for housing. It is recommended that you visit a neighborhood before moving there. You should also visit websites like City-Data for information on crime statistics, median income, and other factors.
When evaluating housing options, consider the neighborhood and if there is public transportation nearby.
- Is there easy access to public transit?
- Will you need a bike or are most things within walking distance?
- Will you need a car?
- Find out which utilities (heat, electricity, water, cooking gas, cable, internet, etc.) you are responsible for paying, as it will vary from apartment to apartment. You can get a list of local utility and cable companies from your landlord.
- Cable, internet, and phone services can often be purchased together from one company. Assess what is most important to have at home before buying a monthly package, as they can be expensive. Ask your colleagues what is typical for your host city in terms of securing utilities.
- Average monthly cost of housing really depends on location, the type of housing, and what is included (furniture, utilities, etc.).
- A security deposit (equal to one month’s rent or more) as well as the first and sometimes the last month’s rent are due when you sign your lease.
- Often, a one- or two-year lease is required when renting an apartment, but depending on your selected housing arrangement, you may be able to negotiate a shorter lease or a month-by-month lease. This is important in case you need to leave the U.S. early — there may be a fee for leaving before your lease ends, so be sure to discuss this before signing a lease or housing agreement.
- You will be able to find both furnished and unfurnished housing options in the U.S. A furnished room or apartment will often be more expensive, but it can also help to reduce the costs of purchasing furniture and apartment necessities after you arrive.
- If you need to furnish your apartment, you can find inexpensive furniture and kitchen supplies at places like Target, IKEA, K-Mart, Walmart, and Bed Bath & Beyond.