How to find an apartment in NYC
Marian(n)a's 2 Cents
Published: Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Updated: Tuesday, September 21, 2010 11:09
We are both two transplants from California, and have lived the misery of finding a place in NYC for the first time. If you have not figured it out yet, we warn you; it is not easy, it is not cheap, and you might have several nervous breakdowns along the way. To help in your efforts, we have made a list of suggestions with varying degrees of effort needed in your part to be successful. Be mindful that brokers (the mafia that holds the apartment rental industry in NY) can be sneaky, conniving, and downright ruthless, so you need to learn the system quickly to avoid loosing your mind.
1. If you are independently wealthy and/or lazy, use a broker. You will have to pay a several thousand dollar tip for someone to show you a few places in a couple of days, but it is, no doubt, effective. Remember that the percentage you pay is negotiable, and the average is between 10-15% of a year's rent. You can either ask people for a referral, or go to the NYU housing office to get a list of NYU-friendly brokers.
2. Visit www.jarfly.com and click on "NYC Home & Rentals" beneath CATEGORIES, then click "JarFly No-Fee Rental List" under New York City No-Fee Rentals MNGNT List, then click the area you want to search in. There you will find a list of apartment management companies that you can call directly, or visit their website, and get a list of their available apartments. Some may have a small fee to apply for an apartment, but in general, if you go through the leasing company, you don't have to pay a broker's fee.
3. www.craigslist.org is also a good resource, except it takes sifting through muck. You can find people looking for a roommate, as well as apartments for rent with and without broker fees. (A good tip to find a place in the East or West Village is to type "village" in the search box). You can further narrow the search to the listings of apartments without broker-fees, however, please note that just because they are listed in that category doesn't mean it is not listed by a broker. Some of the ads were placed by a broker so that you call them, then he/she will tell you that the apartment is no longer available, and they suggest you look at the other apartments they have that do have a fee. It's bait, if you will. But some ads are legitimately advertised by the landlords and should not have more than a minimal fee for the credit check. These are few and far between and go fast, so you should run and see a place once if it is listed. Also, if a place is being showed as an open house, be there early, schmooze like a well-trained MBA student, and make sure you are remembered by the manager. Many people can show up and turn in applications, so you need to stand out if you want to get the offer.
4. Go the NYU housing office - they have brochures and other suggestions we didn't cover. The website is www.nyu.edu/housing/offcampus/ or visit their office at 4 Washington Square Village (Northwest corner of Mercer and Bleeker).
5. Classmates are always a good resource for keeping in the loop on apartments becoming available. Notify people in your block of your apartment search about a month before you plan to move out of your old digs. Chances are someone will have a roommate moving out, or has a friend who's looking to sublet in his or her place. This situation is ideal... it's convenient for both parties since the renter avoids a break-lease penalty and you don't pay a broker's fee.
6. Unless you're an international student moving from Japan, your square footage expectations are probably waaaay too high when you first arrive to New York. Not only do you expect to have bright and airy rooms with a view, ample closet space, onsite washer/dryer, but also hope for an elevator building with a doorman... and all this within walking distance of the Village. Yeah right, not gonna happen! Set your priorities and cut them in half. The Big Apple is about compromises, but with the right attitude, you are bound to find a place to call home.
7. Lastly, if you have time and patience, you can go door to door to the apartment buildings in the area you are interested in, buzz the apartment manager or superintendent, and kindly ask if they know if any apartments are or will become available.
Final tip - most places will ask that you pay with a cashiers check for the first months rent. If your bank doesn't have a branch in NY, ask the rental agency if you can pay with a money order. Money orders can be purchased from any post office, and have a fee that is generally much smaller than the fee you would pay at a bank.