There’s a lot of stressful things about moving in general, but moving in New York City is…the worst. Okay, maybe not the worst but it’s definitely not easy. Luckily I’ve done it twice. And I have finally nailed the most important 5 tips for successful apartment hunting in NYC. Keep reading to master your move.
I recently moved into my second NYC apartment! And let me tell you, it was quite the process. Less than 3 weeks ago of posting this article, I was lugging countless boxes and items from my old Hell’s Kitchen apartment to my new Hell’s Kitchen apartment (I love the area okay?). I was exhausted, my legs were completely bruised (walk up probs) and I was mentally spent. However, after a few days of settling into my new space, I knew that all the exhaustion, both mental and physical, was well worth it.
That being said, the months leading up to moving into my new apartment were no walk in the park. Apartment hunting in NYC is no joke and after doing it twice, I’ve learned a lot about the process. There are so many details that you don’t think about until it punches you in the face. This is why I wanted to share this information with you in hopes that it will make your apartment hunting process as easy as possible.
Whether you are moving to New York City or you are moving throughout New York City, I have a ton of factors that you need to consider in order to make the transition as smooth as possible. I don’t want to make it seem like it’s a horrible process, because it’s not! There’s a lot of excitement and “what if’s” involved that make it fun. However I’m an extremely realistic person, I don’t like to sugar coat things and I’ll always be honest with you guys. Shit is not easy. See below for things you need to consider to make it as easy as possible.
Determining Your Budget
The most important thing you need to do in order to start your apartment hunting journey is to establish your budget. I know, it seems kind of obvious but this part is super crucial because your budget will determine a bunch of things, especially the location and any amenities which I will touch on below. But in order to determine those things, you first need to set your budget.
I recommend establishing a range of prices that you are willing to work with. DO NOT go too low because you will end up in a shithole. NYC apartments are not cheap, but you definitely get what you pay for. For example, if your budget is $1500 and you find an apartment for $900 that seems great, there’s probably something wrong with it.
In order to determine your budget, I recommend reading this post and figuring out the best price range for you based on the tips I provided there.
Choosing A Location
In regards to location, I recommend being as flexible as possible especially if you don’t have a big budget. When I was searching for my current apartment, I narrowed down my desired locations to the East Village, LES, UWS below 80th, and Hell’s Kitchen. I desperately wanted to stay in Hell’s Kitchen because I love the area and was so comfortable with it, however, I knew that it would be tricky to find a place in this area within my budget. Luckily, this is where I ended up (thank god) but I was fully ready to potentially move to those other locations.
If you’re moving to NYC from another city or state, I highly recommend doing your research about different neighborhoods in NYC. Manhattan has a bunch of neighborhoods with different vibes but is overall more expensive whereas Brooklyn and Queens are a touch more affordable for those on a strict budget. It honestly comes down to personal preference because depending on your age and income, you may feel more comfortable in one area than others. For example, the East Village is perfect for 20 something-year-olds who enjoy going out. But if you’re a homebody who enjoys peace and quiet, the East Village may not be for you.
Establishing Your Priorities
This is where things can get a little tricky, especially if you’re apartment hunting with roommates. There are MANY factors you need to consider when finding your apartment. Accessibility to these different factors will depend on the location you choose and your budget, so you have to be ready to compromise. I’ve listed below the most important factors you should consider before moving into an apartment.
- Walk up or elevator? If you’re living on the 5th floor or higher in a walk-up building, you need to be prepared to have an asthma attack walking up your stairs every day (just me? Ok). But you will have some mean glutes after a year of living there! An elevator is preferred for most people, but an elevator means higher rent.
- Doorman or no doorman? Okay, this is definitely for people with shmoneyyyy. But it’s a valid thing to want in your apartment building! My first apartment had a doorman (mind you I was living in the tiniest room in the world) and it was beyond convenient. I always felt safe arriving home late at night and I was never worried about my packages being lost or stolen. Unfortunately, these are real concerns in my current apartment, but there are easy solutions like getting a PO box or simply tracking your packages like a hawk. Odds are you won’t have a doorman, but you’ll be fine. Promise.
- How close is it to the train? If you find an apartment that seems perfect and you say “what’s wrong with it?”, it’s probably 400 miles from the train. I personally prefer the train within 10 minutes walking distance from me. Luckily in Hell’s Kitchen, I have nearly every train within a 10-15 minute walk but when you move to less busy areas you definitely want to figure the train situation out. Especially if you commute to work. Do your research B.
- What’s the laundry situation? One of my biggest desires, when I was apartment hunting recently, was to have laundry in the building. I got extra lucky because I found an apartment with laundry in unit. Yup, I don’t have to leave my apartment to do laundry which I’m MEGA grateful for. However, this is typically not the case for New Yorkers. So I suggest researching the closest laundromats and also researching their wash and fold prices. Wash and fold means that you drop your laundry off and they literally wash it and fold it. Easy peasy. It’s a little more expensive than what you’d pay to do laundry yourself but from what I’ve heard from people, it’s well worth it.
- Where’s the nearest grocery store? This is especially important to me, mainly because I love Trader Joes more than anything on this planet. I know this may not be a big deal to some people, but I highly suggest researching the nearest grocery store to any apartment you’re looking at. Sure, it doesn’t need to be a Trader Joes. But you can’t rely on the corner bodega to carry everything you could possibly need.
Using A Broker
I have used a broker both times I’ve moved throughout New York City and let me tell you, they make your life wayyyyyy easier. Here are a few things a broker will do for you so you don’t have to.
- Find apartments that fit your criteria (although you should absolutely be on the lookout too).
- Schedule viewings and appointments.
- Find apartments that aren’t advertised to the public.
- Help you figure out the application process. This one is particularly important because things can get tricky fast, especially if you need a guarantor. And if you’re in your 20’s and you’re not a millionaire, you will likely need a guarantor to sign for your apartment. This means that if you do not make 40x the monthly rent, then someone will have to sign for your apartment that makes 80x the rent. It’s fucking ridiculous but it’s necessary, unfortunately. Because NYC apartments are so expensive, I’ll likely be using my parents as a guarantor for the next few years. No shame. But you should be prepared to ask someone who is willing to sign for you. If you don’t have anyone who will qualify, then you may need to use a guarantor service such as Insurent or The Guarantors. This will cost you a pretty penny though, so be prepared.
I know what you’re probably thinking, “a broker isn’t in my budget” but that’s okay! They don’t have to be in your budget because with brokers, there’s the option to avoid a fee by finding a no-fee apartment. This means that if an apartment is listed as no fee, the building will pay the broker rather than you. However, keep in mind that this will narrow down your apartment options even further. If you are willing to pay for a broker, you need to be ready to pay anywhere from 10-15% (roughly) of your annual rent. This means if you’re looking at a $4000 apartment, be prepared to pay $4800-$7200 in broker fees (yikes, I know).
If you need a broker, feel free to message me here and I will give you the contact information of mine. He’s fantastic and busts his ass to make sure you find the right apartment for you.
Finding The “Perfect” Apartment
The last tidbit of insight I have for you is that you will never find the perfect apartment. Not to be a Negative Nancy, but even if your budget is one million dollars month, you will always find something wrong with an apartment. For me, it’s that my current apartment doesn’t have a ton of living space. We have a cute dinner table in the kitchen, but that’s about it. However, my gigantic bedroom, in-unit laundry, dishwasher, and location make up for that. Moral of the story, you need to figure out what’s a dealbreaker and what you can live without. And regardless of what those things are, you will find an apartment that will work for you. Promise.
Let’s Wrap It Up
If there’s one thing I can leave you with, it’s that everything eventually falls into place. There were times when I was apartment hunting where I felt hopeless. Like I was never going to find a place that worked for me and what I wanted. However, I didn’t give up hope and I eventually found the awesome place I’m in right now. As I type this article away in my bedroom, I’m beyond grateful to be where I am. If you’re struggling, I encourage you to put some good energy out in the universe. Say out loud “I found the perfect apartment” as if you already have. Speak it into existence. Make it a reality and I guarantee the universe will reward you.
And that’s my schpeel for today. Thank you so much for taking the time to read, you’re the shit. Message me here if you need any more help and/or advice about apartment hunting. I got you!