Finding a home in New York City: A guide

 

Finding an apartment is never easy. Finding an apartment in New York City, well that’s a whole other level of difficult. Fortunately, with a bit of flexibility and some research, anyone can find a place in the Big Apple to call home. Here are some tips:


Get a lay of the land

Begin researching neighborhoods as soon as you decide to make your move to New York. First pinpoint on a map the area you need to be close to—be it for a job or other commitments. Then note nearby and accessible neighborhoods. Pay attention to walking distances, subway proximities and crime reports.  It’s also worth thinking about what you desire in a neighborhood. For example, if you prefer lots of cafes and activity with a younger demographic, the East Village could be a good fit for you, whereas if you prefer a more family atmosphere, maybe consider Astoria in Queens.


Budget

Get ready to be shocked: The median rent for a 1-bedroom in New York is $3,000.  Now, take a deep breath and decide what you’re comfortable spending. Then factor in your security deposit—typically first and last month’s rents—and potential broker fees.  At this point, you might be rethinking your move, but even in New York, there are still deals to be had—move a bit farther from the subway or the new hotspot and you can snag something more financially palatable or consider sharing a space with someone.


Requirements

In addition to monetary requirements, you’ll need to have a decent credit score and proof of financial stability in the form of a job, savings, or cosigners. Get your paperwork ready beforehand to save time when you want to snag a deal.


To Broker or not Broker

It’s almost a knee jerk reaction to dismiss a broker and go apartment hunting on your own. But it’s an option that could prove beneficial should the broker find you a deal. Brokers typically charge you around 15 percent of the yearly rent.  It’s a chunk of change, we know—but if they find you a good apartment with reasonable rent and you stay a year or two, you might end up ahead as opposed to finding a home on your own. Either way, do the math and don’t rule any option out. Be warned however, to not pay anyone—broker, agent or landlord—until you have researched their backgrounds and signed documents.


Begin search

Apartments in New York come on the market about 45 days in advance of move in dates. By then, you should have a game plan and should be looking for one diligently several times a day. Keep your eyes peeled on sites such as StreeteasyCraigslist and Trulia.

 
Schedule visits

Brokers and landlords often have open houses. See if you can get an appointment beforehand to beat the crowds. Prior to your appointment, visit the neighborhood, walk around to get a feel for the environment and figure out your commute.


Be ready to sign as soon as first showing

Apartments go very quickly in New York, we mean in hours, sometimes in minutes. When you go for a visit, have all your paperwork ready and bring a checkbook. If you like it, take it, because it likely won’t be there the next day.

 
Be Open

There’s more to New York City than Manhattan. Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, among others, are each home to variety of neighborhoods that’ll be good fits for different personalities with varying tastes. Don’t discount other boroughs; you might actually like them better than Manhattan. And remember, just across the Hudson, New Jersey’s Hoboken, Jersey City and Weehawken, among other towns, offer you a 15-minute commute onto the island.