New York City is an expensive—and tricky—place to rent. If you’re on a budget (like most people) you need to know exactly how much you are going to be paying every month. But sometimes the rent you see advertised for an apartment that you have your heart set on is not the rent you end up paying—ouch!

That’s because when landlords have vacant apartments they may offer concessions in order to fill them. Some NYC landlords offer a free month or two when the market is soft or the apartment is difficult to rent (like when it’s on the ground floor), which is a good thing for you as a renter.

[Editor’s note: A previous version of the article ran in May 2021. We are presenting it here with updated information for May 2023.]

Here’s where it gets tricky: Landlords use that concession to advertise the apartment at a lower, net effective rent. Essentially this means they take the discount and shave a little off each month, so when they advertise, it looks less expensive than it actually is. So an apartment that’s advertised with a net effective rent of $3,300 with one month free on a 12-month lease may actually have a lease that says it is $3,600 a month.

Even if you set your search parameters to fit your maximum budget of $3,300, the results you get—and what you may unwittingly fall in love with—may actually be that more expensive apartment.

To be clear, it’s not a scam to list an apartment by its net effective rent, but it can feel like something akin to a bait and switch. If you’re not paying attention, or you lack the patience or math skills required to calculate the actual rent, you will be in for a nasty surprise. It’s also important to consider: When you renew your lease and the landlord decides to raise the rent, it will be based on the higher, actual rent, called the gross rent.

Fortunately, it takes only a couple of seconds to figure out the real-deal rent using Brick Underground’s Gross Rent Calculator, below. Bookmark this page to keep the calculator handy as you navigate and compare listings that advertise net effective rents versus the amount you’ll need to fork over each month. And be sure to check out Brick’s guide to finding no-fee rentals to keep even more money in your pocket. 


Brick Underground’s

Gross Rent Calculator