Finding An Apartment In NYC

This is part of my Living in New York series. Read the first part here, and the second part here

There are hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of jillions apartments in New York City. But, the amount of apartments for you? One, if you're lucky. Just kidding..kind of ;-)

New York's real estate is insane. It's competitive. It's expensive. It's super shady. As I'm writing this, I'm pretty sure that I blocked out finding an apartment from my memory, and my experience really wasn't that bad!

The first thing you need to do is write a list. Well, actually multiple lists. Decide what are your mandatories, what are your no-nos, and what are your 'nice to haves'.

But, be realistic! A dishwasher is usually not mandatory (or common) for NYC residents. Instead, consider placing it in 'nice to have'. Are stairs a no-no for you? Write that down. Is being close to a particular subway line necessary for you? Write that down. Is a view of Central Park necessary for you? Then we need to be friends and I demand to be your first house guest (I'll even bring wine!).

Just be prepared that unless you're rolling in the dough like my girl, Taylor, you're going to have to compromise with any apartment.

You also need to be honest and realistic with what your budget can afford. Your paycheck will probably have a lot of taxes deducted from it (Federal, Social Security, Medicare, NY State, NY City, and NY SUI/SDI). My taxes on average are 30% of my paycheck. Therefore, it's common to spend 50% of your paycheck (minus taxes) on rent. I've seen lower places, but I would plan on spending between $1,200-$1,500 minimum for your monthly rent, including utilities and cable. The more people you live with, the cheaper your rent, so consider getting roommates.
This is all average though, and my experience, so you may fall below or above any of the numbers above, and that's fine! It's just to give you an average idea of what the costs are here. 

With your budget in mind, be realistic and open to living outside of your dream neighborhood. NYC is constantly changing, and honestly, there's really not a 'bad' area to live in (except 35th-42th St & 9th-10th Ave - and even that will be completely awesome once Hudson Yards is built). Queens, Harlem and Brooklyn are having their shining days. Even Jersey City is now being called the '6th Borough', though I don't think that will go mainstream, but JC is pretty awesome. Regardless, be open to other neighborhoods to call home.

Whenever you're asking someone for advice on where to live, they're going to tell you their neighborhood is the best (HK all the way!!). So, consider who they are, what they like to do for fun, and how they live, and take that into account when taking their 'advice'. If you like to run in the park, have sunshine stream in through your windows, and love to have elderly neighbors, then Financial District is probably not for you. Also, if you are not a celebrity, then TriBeCa is probably not for you.

The good thing about finding an apartment in NYC is that there are a lot of routes to go down, so chances of you finding an apartment through the way that works well for, are high.

Alright, now that you have your list and budget, it's time to consider how to get that apartment! 

Broker or no broker?

Totally up you. I personally never went through a broker, however, I've definitely had friends who have. I would say that if you have the time to hustle, a broker isn't needed. If you don't, get a broker. The good news is that they'll do the dirty digging for you, and set up appointments. The bad news is that they usually charge a 15% fee or 1 month's rent. It's pretty insane, and now I'm wondering why I'm not a broker? ;) The one thing to watch out for is shady brokers. I don't think NYC has a very strict rule on who can be a broker and who can't. So try and find one that's recommended to you by someone you know and trust, or turn to your handy Yelp reviews. 

If you don't use a broker, these are the most popular sites:

  1. Streeteasy: You can put your parameters in the search function, and boom, all your apartments pop up. The best thing is that you can view the apartments listed on a map, so you can see right away where they physically are.
  2. Craigslist: You'll have to do the most digging on this one. It's flooded with spam, but there's gems hidden throughout it. We actually found our first apartment through this, but that was in 2012 (a lifetime ago). Also, if it sounds too good to be true, or everything is in all caps, or you've seen the same stock photo in 10 posts, it's probably not real. Don't get scammed! 
  3. Trulia: Pretty much like Streeteasy, but with a little higher priced options.

Each neighborhood in New York also has acronyms because New Yorkers are just too busy. The good thing is that they're pretty informative. Soho doesn't just sound cool, it stands for SOuth of HOuston (pronounced HOUSE-ton). UWS doesn't just look like someone's monogram, it stands for Upper West Side. You can see some others here

If your cash flow has lots of 0's behind it, then negate all my advice because you can just build your own residence, and therefore your life will be blissful and happy and full of dishwashers for every dish you have!

Also, in your quest to find an apartment, if you come across a person with a boat, email me immediately!

The Living In New York Series originated from a desire to share my learnings and experiences of living in NYC., hopefully to make your experience easier. All of these suggestions are based solely off my experiences, and therefore only my opinions. If you have another positive opinion, I would love to read it in the comments!