Apartment Hunting in The Big Apple

by on December 18, 2012 · 2 comments

Brooklyn Apartment Building

When I first came to New York City, finding an apartment was exciting. But after 3 weeks, 25 apartments, 45 minutes in an elevator and a call to 911, I was pretty much over the whole experience.  I learnt that at some point, optimism has to give way to realism. For anyone attempting to find that elusive apartment, you know the one – a lovely well maintained and spacious one bedroom brownstone with great light and a romantic stoop on a quiet tree lined street in the West Village for a reasonable price (with no broker fee – which I will get to), here are some tips:

  1. Forget about finding that apartment – it only exists on television.

The March rental market report from Citi-Habitats reported average rents in Manhattan of $1953 for a studio, and $2747, $3865 and $5107 for 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments respectively. And they are only rising. In the West Village the average rent for a one bedroom in March was $3559.

  1. Don’t restrict yourself to one neighbourhood – Be open to other possibilities.

This article is a couple of years old but can give you a great idea of the other great neighbourhoods in New York. Yes, even outside of Manhattan!

  1. Use a broker

Many apartments are only available through a real estate broker, as it is easier for the building management company or landlord to let someone else deal with finding a tenant.  The downside of a broker is the commission fee which you pay once you rent an apartment. The fee can range from 1 month’s rent to as much as 18% of the year’s rent, with most quoting 15%. On the upside a good, honest broker will know the neighbourhood, the buildings and the market, and will work for you (and so they should with a fee like that)!  I can’t promise it will work, but don’t be afraid to try to negotiate the fee.

  1. Or don’t use a broker

If you have the time, the patience, the perseverance and the optimism you can try to find an apartment without a broker.  This website has some great advice on how to do so.

  1. Have a high paying job and a good US credit history and, failing that, guarantors

Most landlords require that a tenant has a good credit history in the United States and has an annual salary of 40 times the monthly rent.  For an Australian moving to the US this may be difficult.  If you don’t have a trusting and eligible US based friend or relative, or employer to act as a guarantor or you could be asked to pay as much as a year’s rent up front. Seriously! The other potential option would be to use a guarantor service such as this one (with which I have no experience).

And my final piece of advice – Don’t get into any dodgy elevators. And if you do, and happen to get stuck, call 911 sooner rather than later or risk being dragged out by a building super with a white, sweat drenched (and now see-though) shirt barely covering his bulging belly rather than, for example, the lovely uniformed firemen who arrived seconds after our release.  Of course I mean no disrespect to this man who toiled for 45 minutes to get us out – he just didn’t quite fit my preconceived notion of a knight in shining armour.

Anyway, happy apartment hunting to you!

Some rental search websites (some with the option to search for no fee apartments)
Naked Apartment
Street Easy
Urban Sherpa
NY Times

Do you have some tips for apartment hunting in New York City? Let everyone know in the comments below.