Eight Tips for Finding an Apartment in NYC


First of all I would like to say I am sorry for not being more active on here in the past month or so. Jesse and I have been going through the very stressful process of apartment hunting, which has taken up a lot of our free time. Which is a perfect segue into today’s topic! There is so much I have learned from this process, and I want to share it with all of you, in case you too are thinking of moving to NYC, or are already here and are looking to find a new space. So below I will be listing eight tips that I have learned during this stressful process that I hope will be able to make your experience a little easier!

Tip #1: Decide if you are going to look for listings yourself or hire a broker.
There are definitely pros and cons to both options, but when you begin looking for your apartment, you should probably decide one way or the other at the beginning of the process whether you want to look for the places yourself, or hire someone to help you.

Jesse and I looked for a place ourselves, and while it was time consuming, it was great to not have to spend the extra money on paying the broker and broker fees. It is already so expensive to move in NYC, we didn’t want any extra fees tacked on. There are quite a few options to aid you in looking for a place on your own, but my best recommendation would be to use Street Easy. This is in no way a partnership or sponsored post, I just personally found that Street Easy was the easiest and most helpful website to use when I was looking for places. It is free to use their services, and it is so helpful and easy to navigate their site. You can specify your searches to your specific needs including locations, amenities you would like, price point and more. You can also use their very handy feature of only showing you places with no fees attached to your lease which is great. However, using Street Easy meant I had to spend nights after work searching for places, contacting the realtors, and making appointments to go see places by myself. If this is not something you are comfortable doing or have the time for, then I would suggest hiring a broker.

Now since I didn’t end up hiring a broker, I don’t have much advice in this department as far as where to look for one. However, there are a ton broker agencies in New York, so a quick google search will probably bring you up some fast results.

Tip #2: Have your documents ready at the beginning of your search.
This was not my first apartment I have lived in, so I figured I knew the drill when it came to the documents I would need when filling out an application. For my apartment in L.A. I just needed to send in some recent pay stubs, bank statements, and they ran a credit check on me. But New York is a whole different ball game. For this application I needed: a copy of my drivers license, tax return forms from the past two years, a letter of employment from my company, a reference letter from a previous landlord, recent pay stubs, recent bank statements, and had to have a background check and credit score check done. In my experience apartment hunting, I have learned that this is pretty standard for most apartments in NYC. So I highly recommend that you have all of these documents ready before you start looking, then when you find the place you want you are ready to go with your paperwork. Jesse and I learned this the hard way when we only had a day to scramble and get everything together to get our application in on time.

Tip #3: Be prepared to pay a big sum upfront.
Most places in New York will require you to pay first and last months rent and a security deposit to them all up front. So if you are paying $2,800 a month for rent, that would come out to paying $8,400 all at once. So make sure you consider this when saving up to make the move. It is a pretty big sum to pay up front, but the bright side is when you move again, you won’t have to pay rent the final month, and you will most likely get the security deposit back.

Tip #4: Test out possible routes to work.
The first place I went to look at I was so excited that I had found a place in our price point and in an area that we liked, that I didn’t think to look into routes to work from the location. So when it came time for me to leave work and head over to my appointment, I was not to pleased to realize that the closest subway station to the apartment was about a 20 minute walk. And it was on the L subway line, which will be closing down this upcoming April 2019. So this meant that if I were to get that apartment, come April, I would have an even further walk to a subway station to get to work. This was obviously not ideal, and something I wish I would have thought of before making the appointment, because I honestly might not have gone to see the place if I knew that from the beginning. So make sure once you find a place you like, you do some research into what subway lines or other transportation are near the location, and if you can use them to get to work easily.

Tip #5: Narrow down your search by researching areas ahead of time.
If you are newly moving to New York, you may be unfamiliar with the different areas that New York is split into. NYC is broken down into five major boroughs which are Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx, which all vary in price point and vibes. For example, I live in Manhattan, which is usually the more well known part of NYC because it is where the majority of tourist attractions such as Radio City Music Hall, Times Square, Central Park and more are located. It is also where a lot of the bigger companies and corporation headquarters are. Because of this, it is one of the more expensive options of living. Once you figure out where your job will be, and what borough fits you best, you then have to learn the different areas of each borough, as they also differ in price points and unique characteristics. For example in Manhattan you have Soho, Tribeca, The Upper and Lower East and West Sides, Midtown, The Financial District, and more. Each area has its own unique qualities and pros and cons, so do some research to consider which areas you think will suit you best at the beginning to help narrow down your search.

Tip #6: You will mostly likely have to choose between space and amenities.
It is no secret that New York apartments are very small, despite what you might see on an episode of Friends. However it is possible to get a bit of a bigger space in your price point, but you will most likely have to give up some amenities. Things like a dishwasher, laundry, and air conditioning are all considered extra amenities that will cause your rent price to go up with the addition of each one. So if you don’t mind washing your dishes by hand, or having to go to a laundry mat to do wash, then you will probably be able to get a bit of a bigger space. But if those things are not ones you are willing to give up, you will probably loose some space in order to stay within your budget. However this also varies depending on what location you are looking for your apartment in.

Tip #7: The market moves very fast.
The most stressful part of apartment hunting in New York is how fast the market moves. I am the type of person who likes to plan and have things figured out far in advance, which does not really fit into how the NYC housing market operates. I needed to find a place with a December 1st start date, so I began looking for a place at the end of October. I quickly realized that this was not a great idea. There were almost no apartments available for a move in date that far away, so I decided to wait until November. Then when November hit, I was still not seeing that many places for December yet. As I said, the market moves very fast, which means you will probably only have a few weeks in which to look for a place and get in your application. Just remember this when you decide to start looking!

Tip #8: You may need a guarantor.
A lot of places in NYC require that you make 40x the monthly rent in order for your application to be accepted. So again let’s say your rent is $2,800 a month, that means that you would have to be making $112,000 a year in order for your application to be accepted. Now if you are living with a roommate, this would obviously be a requirement for the two of you to meet together, meaning that in total the two of you would need to make $112,000, which for most is the more realistic scenario. However if you are living alone, or together you and your roommate/s do not meet this requirement, you will most likely need a guarantor. A guarantor is basically just someone who signs onto the lease with you even though they will not be living there, and is a backup for the owners in case you are unable to pay your rent. They would then go to the guarantor and get the rent money from them. This could be a parent or someone else you trust and would be willing to put their name down in this position. It is also worth noting that if you end up needing a guarantor, they will also need to fill out quite a bit of paperwork, so make sure they know this ahead of time, and can get their papers in order.

So there you have it, all of the tips I can think of from my experience looking for an NYC apartment. Now obviously these points are only from my own personal knowledge, so not all of them may ring true to every person, but I do think that they are things worth noting and knowing ahead of time. Thankfully Jesse and I found a great place that we are very excited about, and I can’t wait to share pictures of it here on the blog once we finish getting the space together. If you are moving to the big city, I hope that these tips helped you, and if they did make sure to give this post a like and let me know in the comments below!