Shan Rizwan outside an apartment complex.
Shan Rizwan makes TikToks where he approaches people on the street to ask about their finances.
Often the aim of his questions is to guess how much New Yorkers pay in rent.
His series highlights how much people’s personal networks can determine the housing deals they find.
Two strangers meet on the street. One is Ana, a young woman pushing a stroller with three miniature dogs named Coconut, Margot, and Millicent. The other is Shan Rizwan, a 22-year-old TikToker holding a microphone.
In the TikTok video that captures the moment, Ana appears hesitant when Rizwan asks her three questions: What do you do for a living? What is the most expensive thing in your apartment? And what is your least favorite thing about living in New York?
But then she laughs.
“I’m a hustler. I literally do so many things,” she says. Rizwan is attempting to guess how much she pays in rent. He makes three wrong guesses before she tells him: $3,800.
Rizwan is a first-generation Pakistani-Filipino American living in the heart of New York City. He’s also a TikTok influencer who’s gained more than 831,000 followers with his videos asking strangers simple but telling questions about their finances.
His most popular series is about attempting to guess New Yorkers’ rents by asking them the same three questions he asked Ana. People he finds on the street have an array of occupations, including designers, engineers, and CEOs. Some say they’ve spent a few hundred dollars on furniture, while others say they’ve dropped thousands.
In Rizwan’s videos, two themes remain constant: New Yorkers are willing to pay big bucks to call the Big Apple home, and it’s often their personal networks that determine just how much. As anyone who’s shopped for a home in the five boroughs might guess, Rizwan has discovered that native residents have an easier time finding ideal housing, while transplants like him jump through hoops and face tighter competition.
“It’s really hard to get a good deal in New York City unless you’ve been there for a while or know someone personally,” Rizwan told Insider.
‘My search was better than usual as I had a hookup from a friend’
Rizwan moved to New York from Boston in 2021. To find housing, he relied heavily on his network of friends. His first apartment, a third-floor walk-up in Williamsburg, was less than ideal, he said.
“The odor was so bad, it was unlivable,” he told Insider. Unable to stay in the apartment, he got permission from his landlord to break the lease. He found a complex that had several openings and offered a good rate, so he signed a new lease.
“My search was better than usual as I had a hookup from a friend and we started looking when COVID prices were still a thing,” he said, referring to the period in 2021 when so many people were moving out of New York apartments that landlords were offering astounding discounts on rent.
StreetEasy recently predicted that in 2022 the low prices renters saw at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic will disappear — and that New Yorkers can expect rents and home prices to increase as housing availability declines because of demand. This means renters or buyers, regardless of salary or title, would have to duke it out to find the best spots in the city.
‘I knew people would definitely think rent is an interesting topic’
In a TikTok video that’s received more than 188,000 likes, Rizwan attempts to guess how much Art, a TV photographer who moved to New York in 1956, pays in rent.
When asked about the most expensive piece of furniture in his apartment, Art replies his marble countertop, which cost him about $3,000. Rizwan guesses that Art pays $2,500 in rent, but he’s off by a few hundred dollars. Art says he pays just $1,900 — a contrast to the $3,195 median price that Zumper says New York renters pay for a one-bedroom unit.
In another video, which has received 225,000 likes, Rizwan interviews Kaylan, a software engineer from India who’s lived in New York for five years. Rizwan guesses Kaylan pays $2,300 in rent. He’s is off by $200: Kaylan says he pays $2,500 each month.
His videos suggest that renters who are new to New York are paying considerably more for housing than their local counterparts.
“I think some of the people that have lived here for 20-plus years have signed leases that date back to before I was born,” Rizwan said. “Someone I interviewed said they pay $700 for a one-bedroom in Washington Square Park, which is just unheard of now.” Rizwan said that if a newcomer wanted the same unit, not only would they have a hard time finding the listing but the price would probably exceed $3,000. In the past year alone, rents in Manhattan have increased by 16%, according to Douglas Elliman.
Rizwan’s TikTok rent series highlights how people afford rent in one of the most expensive cities. Whether you’re an executive making six figures or a student just getting by, how much you pay for housing can depend on how long you’ve been in the city and who you know.
Economy, Real Estate, Markets, TikTok, tiktok influencer, Economy
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