SO YOU’RE PLANNING TO MOVE TO THE BIG APPLE, CONGRATS!
Whether it’s a temporary move for the summer or a permanent relocation, finding your dream NYC apartment requires strategy and plenty of organization.
I remember the amazing feeling of finding my perfect studio apartment I’ve now been in for three years! My sister recently moved to her second apartment and couldn’t be happier with her amazing 2-bedroom she shares with a best friend.
After receiving several questions about how I found my apartment & knowing many of you are looking for a place during the summer for an internship or for post-graduate reasons, I figured this was the best time to share the best tips on finding your ideal space.
Both my sister and myself did our own research when finding our dream spaces and dealt with our fair share of disappointments & frustrations in the process. You truly don’t understand how much finding an apartment can take out of you, especially if you don’t know what to expect.
Since my sister is more tuned into finding a place to call home in NYC and has been through the process now twice, I’ve asked for her insight and perspective on how to make the most of your time and effort when looking for an apartment. Consider this post as a courteous “heads up” of what to expect when you’re apartment searching in NYC.
Ps. this post can apply to any other major city in terms of the tips shared & the questions to ask, but since we’re both only familiar with NYC apartment searches that’s why it’s specified in the title.
DECIDE WHAT YOUR PRIORITIES ARE
Whether you’re moving for reasons of employment or not, determining what your priorities are when finding your ideal space is crucial to your apartment search.
In NYC, you usually have to compromise between PALS:
Price, Amenities, Location, and Space.
Ask yourself what’s most important to you. For me, finding a place that was close to my office so I could walk every day was #1 so I could save $ on commuting – yes, even the subway, bus, and/or taxi adds up. For my sister’s first place, she needed an apartment close enough to a subway line that would take her directly to Columbia University for her evening classes.
I also wanted to find a place that was affordable & had a fun, young atmosphere surrounding it OR close enough to walk to. That’s why I ultimately chose Murray Hill. It met my budget & fulfilled my weekend expectations. Plus, being close enough to the 4,5,6 subway line was a perk I came to appreciate when “making my way downtown” – shoutout to Vanessa Carlton!
Be advised, the more “popular” or “luxurious” the area – such as the West Village, Flatiron, or any locations on 5th Avenue, Madison Avenue, or Park Avenue – the more expensive they tend to be, especially during the summer season.
SEARCH APARTMENT LISTING WEBSITES
I found my apartment on StreetEasy.com but there are several websites you can browse to find apartments that are available in NYC:
Naked Apartments | Rent Hop | NY Bits | Zumper | Triple Mint
* Even your Social Media Feeds (Facebook, Instagram) are great word-of-mouth platforms to check
Both my sister and myself found StreetEasy to be the best of the sites because you can filter apartments that offer the amenities you want – such as doorman, laundry in building, gym facility, pets allowed, etc. Plus, you get the exact building location of the apartment you’re viewing as opposed to some other sites that don’t disclose such information.
* If you find a building you love, try calling it directly and ask what apartments are available. Some listings on StreetEasy aren’t always up-to-date and/or not all rentals that are available are advertised.
FEE VS. NO-FEE APARTMENTS
Obviously a no-fee apartment is ideal because you won’t be stuck paying a broker fee which comes along with condo/co-op/most walk-up apartment buildings.
*There’s a filter on StreetEasy that allows you to view no-fee apartments only which is very helpful.
On the topic of fees, be advised there are additional “fees” to consider that might factor into your overall budget; such as application fees for each tenant/guarantor (credit or background check usually done by a third party) or an amenities fee (such as those for a gym or rooftop).
IMPORTANT THINGS WHEN SIGNING A LEASE
Apartments are listed and rented out as quick as a blink of an eye in NYC, so it’s important to be prepared to sign a lease IMMEDIATELY and ON THE SPOT if you find your dream space. Chances are it will be gone the next day, no exaggeration.
Be sure to have a mix of these items at the ready when viewing an apartment:
– Checks for security deposit, 1st month’s rent, last month’s rent, 1st month’s electric, etc. (each apartment will be different)
– Copy of government-issued photo ID
– If employed, letter of employment and two most recent W2s
– If self-employed, CPA letter stating annual income and two most recent 1040 forms (first two pages of the tax return)
– If student, proof of school enrollment (such as welcome letter, transcript, or tuition receipt)
– (3) most recent bank statements (first page only, with name, address, account number, and balance)
THINGS TO CONSIDER
If you move in the middle of the month, likely that the rent will be pro-rated so keep that in mind for your budget, as well. Sometimes they are willing to negotiate on certain things such as the amenities fee — so ask!
If you’re going to go with a broker, standard broker rate is between 12-15% of the 12-month lease, so re-adjust your budget accordingly. Here’s a site that can help you do just that.
Unfortunately, most apartment rental rates go up during the spring & summer months so be prepared to spend a little more if you find your ideal location. There’s nothing worse than settling for something cheap and living in the ruins of a neglected apartment space; you’ll end up spending more time (or money) on the repairs.
* The cheapest months to sign a lease in NYC are between the months of December – March. No one wants to move during the winter so most apartment buildings and/or landlords are generous with lowering the prices if faced with limited viewing or rental action.
SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK
What is included in the rent? (usually, it is only heat and water, but not always — electricity is usually not included)
Is the apartment wired for Spectrum or Fios? (if you have a preference, almost all apartments are wired for Spectrum, but not all for Fios)
What are the application/ amenities fees, if applicable?
What items are needed to sign the lease? (who to make the checks out to, security deposit, etc.)