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How To Find An Apartment In NYC: The Definitive Guide

New home! New neighborhood! New life! These words sound really exciting, but a lot of people will tell you that finding an apartment in NYC is an absurdly stressful and unpredictable process. It’s so hard to find a place within your price range and expectations. That’s why you have to be smart and fast, or someone else will get your dream new home.

It’s no wonder that finding an apartment in NYC is such a big deal. There are more than 8 million people from all over the world calling this place home. Plus, renting is more common than buying a place, so the number of apartment hunters is huge.

Here’s a guide to find the best place for you. Let’s divide it into several steps.

Step 1. Know the Geography and Culture

You’d better know New York well. Learn everything you need about its boroughs. Each of them, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island, has its own culture, personality, and rhythm. Go to the borough you think you’d like to live in, and try to get as much details as possible. What are the residents like here? What’s an average rental payment for an apartment? How close is it to the place you work? What are the compromises you’ll have to make to live there?  Choose the most comfortable neighborhood for you to move to.

What is the best place to live in NYC?

Let’s take a closer look at the boroughs:

  • Manhattan is the most well known borough of NYC, home to major tourist landmarks. It offers a high variety of entertainment and nightlife. Extremely high rental rates are the reason not so many people can afford living here. Still, you may find a place within your budget.
  • Brooklyn is the most populated borough of New York, formerly a separate city. Brooklyn is known for its ethnic diversity. You’ll find plenty of communities there, including one of New York’s Chinatown, as well as Ukrainian and Russian communities. That’s the reason you will find plenty of restaurants with a cuisine from almost all over the world. The borough has become very popular during the last decade. It’s interesting not only for families from Manhattan looking for more space, but also young professionals and creative energy. But, as you know well, high demand leads to high prices, so the rents are expensive here.
  • Queens, to the east of Manhattan, is the home of two major airports, as well as the New York Mets. Queens is a highly diverse region in terms of various cultures living there. Its neighborhoods differ in style in rental rates. If Brooklyn is too expensive for you, check out Queens and find your apartment there.
  • The Bronx is the forth-largest borough of NYC. Since it has a historically poor reputation, rental rates are most affordable here. If you have a tight budget, give the Bronx a chance. Besides, it is home to the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Garden, and Yankee Stadium.
    Yankee Stadium

    Photo credit: m01229 via Foter.com / CC BY

  • Staten Island is the most suburban, and the least populated of NYC boroughs. They sometimes even call it “the forgotten borough”. It’s also has a mix of cultures living there. Thanks to the Staten Island ferry, it is the only borough offering free transportation to Manhattan. If you look for an apartment here, it will be quite a cost-effective step.

Step 2. Know Your Budget

It’s no secret that rent cost pretty much in New York, so you should. Figure out the maximum you can spend on rent. What is your salary after taxes? Remember that NYC taxes are extremely high. They could take up to 35% of your income. A rule o thumb says you’d better not spend more than 30% of your income on rent. Of course, if you have just moved to New York, it may be a bit more than that.

Landlords have really high expectations, especially in Manhattan. Below are some requirements they want renters to meet:

  • There’s this “40x” rule that says that renters should have the annual income of at least 40 times the monthly rent. So, if the rent is, say, $2,000 per month, you should be making at least 80k a year.
  • You should also prove that you pay your bills.
  • Provide Bank Statements
  • Have a Reference letter from your former landlord.

You can either find a broker or look for apartment yourself. Keep in mind that brokers are expensive. As a rule, you will have to pay them 15% of annual rent. For example, if the rent is $3,000 per month, you’ll pay $5,400 as broker’s fee. A lot of people think it’s a bit too much. By the way, only 30% of people look for an apartment with the help of a broker, the remaining 70% find an apartment by themselves.

It is a well-known fact that apartments are cheaper in winter, than in summer. Wait till the summer rush calms down if you can.

Calculate all the numbers carefully and find the apartment that won’t make you spend way too much on your new home.

Step 3. Make a Proper Search

 It’s better to begin searching a month before the move. Use all the available means to look for your apartment. There’re plenty of applications, social media and websites to help you out. They say it’s better to look for an apartment at the end of the month, as rent rates are a bit lower during this time. Landlords are a bit desperate when no one is moving into their apartments at the end of the month.

Word of mouth can be really useful. Let everyone know that you’re looking for an apartment. 30% of all apartment hunters find a place through an acquaintance.

28% find a place through a website. Craiglist is extremely popular for this matter. Hundreds of new apartment listings are added every day. Unfortunately, there are scammers, so watch out. If you know the market will, you’ll see when the apartment is too good to be true.

Walk through the neighborhood you’re planning to move to. Enter the lobbies of the buildings you liked, you can find a landlord’s phone number and find out about available apartments.

If you have found a perfect apartment in the listing that gives you its address, find some information about the building as it may have some violations or complaints. In this case, you shouldn’t rent an apartment there.

If you can afford paying a broker, your search will be easier and you’re going to have more variants. Besides, a broker will save you a lot of time.

There’s no perfect way to find an apartment in NYC. Choose your variant and hurry up!

Step 4. Be Smart And Fast

 You have to do be very fast, as the rental market is highly competitive. As soon as you’ve found the perfect apartment, call them at once. If you don’t see the apartment today, it may be taken by someone else tomorrow. If you like the place, it’s better to sign the lease agreement almost immediately, or the next apartment hunter will grab it.

Do your best to impress the landlord, so that you could get it before another apartment hunter does. Show them all your better sides, including the stable income. Tell them you’re a non-smoker. Don’t have any pets? Great! Don’t forget to mention that either.

Have some things in common with the landlord? Wow, that counts as a plus! Listen carefully and show your respect. Be that perfect tenant for your landlord.

Step 5. Negotiate

Rental rates are high, so it would be great to lower them a bit, right? Use your chance to negotiate with the landlord.

First of all, you should know the market really well. Do some research to know the price of similar apartments, in similar neighborhoods with similar criteria.

Both parties of the deal should get something from it. So, make it a win-win situation. Offer the landlord to sign a two-year lease instead of one-year. You can also offer paying bigger security deposit in case the rent gets a bit lower. In case you don’t have a car, you won’t use their parking space. Anyway, use all your charm and tricks to lower the rent.

P.S. Get The Most Use Of The Internet

 To make your search easier, we’ve decided to provide some useful links.

  1. NakedApartments.comfind apartments with no-fee rentals here. Click on the “Filter” button, and select “No Fee”.
  2. Craigslistdespite the fact that there are a lot of scammers on this website, it is still one of the most used ones for finding an apartment.
  3. NYBits.com – use it to deal with no-fee listings.
  4. UrbanEdge – a search site with listings from owners and property managers only.
  5. Hotpads  – will be useful if you want to see where the apartment you chose lies on map
  6. ForRent – allows you to make a video tour of the browsed apartment.
  7. ListingsProject – get a weekly e-mail of no-fee apartment listings. In fact, you can even list yourself as someone looking for a place.
  8. AddressReport – a database of apartments and neighborhoods.
  9. Google Street View – will help you to have a look at a particular address.
  10. NYC website for crime statistics – will tell how safe is the neighborhood you’ve found an apartment in.

 We really hope that our guide for finding an apartment will be helpful and make your search easier and less stressful. Good luck, guys!

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