As you’ll already know from my last post, I recently moved into a new apartment in the NYC area. Initially, I found the apartment search so overwhelming. I had pretty much no clue what I was doing since the requirements for landing a place in NYC are totally different from what you need to do in Indiana.
Lucky for me, I got tons of great advice from friends and family for finding my dream apartment, and I can happily say that I moved into my current space after less than a month of searching! To make your lives easier in future apartment hunts, here are my best tips for finding an apartment in NYC.
Decide what you’re looking for
Figuring out exactly what your dream apartment should look like is both the most important and the most difficult part of the entire apartment search. I spent quite a bit of time before the big move waffling over whether or not I wanted to live in Manhattan or one of its boroughs. After poking around the city a bit, I realized Manhattan and its immediate surroundings weren’t my speed and settled on the Jersey City area instead, which made the apartment search much more manageable.
Keeping a maximum number of roommates in mind will also help narrow your apartment search even further. I knew that I wanted at least one roommate, but was willing to live with up to three other people, if need be. I lived with four other girls in Germany and knew that five people under the same roof was a tad much for me, so three roomies seemed manageable.
The last thing to really consider is whether you want to rent out a single room in an already lived-in space, or if you want to find a place with a group of people and decorate at your own will. I personally wanted my own space to start afresh, both because I wanted an apartment that was 100% my own and also because I know I’m a bit picky about how others maintain an apartment. Call me high maintenance, but at the end of the day you have to know what exactly you’re looking for.
Find a roommate
My quest to find a roommate definitely involved some major elbow grease. It felt great once I knew exactly which area I wanted to live in, but it’s rather difficult to move into a 2+ bedroom apartment by yourself.
If you’re apartment hunting in the NYC area, I recommend joining as many Facebook groups as possible. Finding an online community of apartment seekers will make the process of securing a roommate and an apartment infinitely easier, and the group will likely flag any frauds present and can offer recommendations on the best areas to live. The primary Facebook group I used was “Gypsy Housing,” which is catered towards those in the theatre community. Really though, if you can get someone to accept your invite into the group you’re good to go.
Another great roommate tool is RoomZoom, a lesser known website that allows you to mark exactly what you’re looking for in a roommate (how often they should do dishes, whether or not they can smoke, etc.). Basically, RoomZoom allows you to search for roommates based on all the questions you need to ask a future roommate, but feel too awkward to bring up when you first meet them.
As a last resort, Craigslist can be a wonderful tool for finding a roommate. Be careful though, as you’ll likely get some perverted emails in your inbox in addition to legitimate roommate requests.
Scour the Internet
This seems like a no-brainer in the apartment search, but you really need to spend some quality time with your computer if you plan on finding a place in NYC. My favorite site to use was Trulia, as it had the most listings in the area I was looking for. Hot Pads and Zillow are also great online resources to use.
I’d also recommend finding specific realty companies whose listings you like. Apartments go like hotcakes in the city, but you might be able to view an apartment before anyone else if you reach out to a specific realtor and tell them what you’re looking for (in detail!). Realtors will call you as soon as something goes on the market and will prioritize your application if they know you’re really interested in a place.
When in doubt, contact more realtors than necessary. You can always change your mind about seeing a place, and it’s better to not want to visit an apartment versus not being able to visit one you think you’ll love.
Utilize your friend network
The Internet is great and all, but your friends and family are really where it’s at. Almost everyone I talked to about my move to NYC mentioned a friend of a friend or a distant relative who also lived out east. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to this list of strangers, but once I moved to the city I began making phone calls to these people to ask about where I should live. Getting their feedback was incredibly helpful in deciding where I should settle down, and I narrowly escaped living in some sketchy areas because of their advice.
Forget about free time
I’ve lived in NYC for a little over one month, and I’ve explored the city for fun exactly one time. Yes, that sounds terrible, but it was completely worth it. Because I kept my weekends free, I was able to visit the apartments I was interested in and scope out areas I thought I might want to live. After work, I’d keep doing apartment research online and talked with as many locals as possible on the best places to live and the best resources for finding the perfect place.
Always visit an apartment in person
When I was still living at home in Indiana, I was convinced I didn’t need to visit an apartment in person to love it. Oh, it’s New York, I love all of New York! Wrong. As it turns out, many of the areas I thought I’d love ended up being my least favorite. Visiting the apartment in person and at different times of the day is key to securing your dream location.
My current roommate drove out to a few apartments with her dad late at night to get a feel for the area. It’s because of that that we knew our current apartment was in a super safe area. Moreover, visiting an apartment in person means you can measure the square footage of a place and see if you’d need to sell any furniture before moving.
Come prepared with security deposit in hand
If there’s one thing I learned during my intense one-month apartment search, it’s that you should always come prepared to put money down on a place if you love it. If the realtor doesn’t have a security deposit and your application in his hand when he leaves the building, you can kiss that beautiful apartment goodbye.
After having a nightmarish cashier check experience with one realtor (he lost all my checks, I went to the bank every day for a week to sign all the paperwork, etc.), I can’t tell you enough how important it is to have personal checks. Hopefully most of you are reading this and thinking how stupid I must be to not have personal checks (no seriously, that means you’re a lot more forward-thinking than I am!).
More importantly, I can’t stress enough the importance of avoiding using money orders. Personal checks give you an extra layer of monetary security, and your bank can help you out if any issues arise.
Seal the deal!
After all the blood, sweat, and tears that you poured into finding the perfect apartment, don’t forget to turn in all the paperwork! When it’s time to put down the security deposit, your realtor will likely need a copy of your driver’s license, your last few bank statements, a letter of employment, and possibly other materials.
Always check with your realtor before you visit an apartment to ensure you have everything ready to go when it comes time to hand over your life savings security deposit.
And that’s it! Congrats, you’re now (fairly) qualified to look for an apartment in the Big Apple.
Have you had to look for an apartment before? If you have any tips to make our lives easier, please leave a comment below!